I like to always be able to guarantee you will see something amazing, but today's visit will require a bit of patience, as well as visiting at the right time of year to maximise what you will see. The Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Osprey Project is a wildlife reserve dedicated to the local Osprey population, they help to ensure they continue to grow and thrive for future generations. A hidden gem that can be easily dropped into as an addendum to other adventures, this little parcel of land offers the possibility to see some of the most amazing birds you are likely to see on these isles, plus a chance to catch a glimpse of their young too! As a crucial note, the project closes for the season around mid-September, as the Ospreys migrate for the winter and won't return until the following Spring - so timing your visit is essential. Plus, if you want to see the young then you will want to plan accordingly, but more on that later.
Glaslyn Osprey Project is less than 10 minutes away by car from the town of Porthmadog down the A498, after a short drive you will turn off onto the B4410 - an easygoing B-road with two clear lanes, which you will turn off of and onto the car park at Bywyd Gwylt. Parking has a donation box that allows you to support the project, and for such a small and tucked-away attraction there is ample space to find a spot. Public transport links are abundant, being such a short journey outside of Porthmadog there is a bus stop and train halt right next to the Osprey project, listed as Pont Croesor. Most attractions around Snowdonia can prove to be difficult to reach, but no such issues here!
So what is the Glaslyn Osprey Project? Initially established by the RSPB as a reaction to the newly established nest in the early 2000s, before being transferred to the care of "Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife" (a community interest company, a company that exists simply for the public good) in 2013, the main aim is to protect the breeding ospreys in the area but they also act as a source of knowledge on all the wildlife native to the region. They operate a visitors centre, not only to educate visitors to the site but to also organise events and promote environmental causes within the local community. For the ospreys specifically, they are able to record crucial data about their nesting pairs as well as monitor the health of the birds and their offspring - the team is almost entirely voluntary, a respectable endeavour for a wonderful cause.
When you arrive, you must make your way across the train track at the foot crossing before entering the reserve's main grounds. You shouldn't need a walking route for this visit, the area you see in front of you is all there is to navigate, there are two buildings including an information centre and a sizable bird hide as well as a couple of places to get great views out over the Afon Glaslyn. One of the most impressive things to see is the replica of an Osprey nest, the sheer scale of the thing is a sight to behold! The ospreys aren't the only bit of wildlife you might see here, with sightings of otters and even a few insect homes to see which creepy crawlies also call the banks of the Afon Glaslyn home. At the centre of the space is a colossal round table with local landmarks carved into the wood, as to act as a giant toposcope.
As an added bonus, the Glaslyn Osprey Project have a live stream that was overlooking a nest at the time of our visit, not only is that visible on a screen outside the information centre but online too! You can check out their YouTube channel to see the live stream here. Much like your visit, the live stream changes its focus depending on the season, but they do have archived live streams of the ospreys you can enjoy any time - I have embedded one such example below. Their website is also incredibly useful, not only can you learn about the project and the birds themselves but they have this page that details historical data about the birds which are incredibly useful if you wish to see the young in their nest, or just make sure when you arrive that there will be plenty of ospreys to see.
So what is the significance of ospreys in Wales? Well, ospreys have a long history in the British Isles, but the birds were generally limited in number with the largest population in Scotland - they rather unfortunately became extinct in the British Isles around 1916, the birds were hunted by collectors who took their eggs and kill the birds for taxidermy. By 1954, Ospreys had slowly begun to recolonise the isles naturally with nests in the highlands, but the spread south would be much slower. By the 90s, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage teamed up to re-introduce the osprey in a reserve at Rutland Water in the Midlands, this would inadvertently cause the establishment of nests in Wales by the early 2000s. The earliest two nests were seen near Welshpool and at the Glaslyn Osprey Project respectively, which marked the beginning of greater things for the birds in the area - the breeding project would slowly see more and more chicks, and new nests would start to appear around Wales including in Powys and Denbigh. These birds spend the winters in Africa and now return year-on-year to form their nests in Wales, hopefully, to have the next generation of Welsh-born ospreys. The birds have been marked for protection and it is now an offence to disturb them, their nest or their eggs, between this protection and the actions of operations like the Glaslyn Osprey Project, ospreys hopefully have a long future ahead of them on these isles.
It should be mentioned that we visited very late in the season, we were still lucky to catch a single osprey flying around, but if you decide to check out Glaslyn Osprey Project then it should go without saying that you need to time your visit to make the most of it - we can't wait to return in mid-to-late spring in hopes of seeing the osprey population in full swing! That being said, we still had a nice wander around the grounds, spent some time watching the other birds on the river and darting around as well as just spent some time on the river's edge. It may only be a small parcel of land but you could easily spend hours here hoping to catch a snap of the ospreys swooping by, or the otters on the river, I know I am looking forward to trying my luck! Considering it's in such a convenient location, just a short drive out of Porthmadog, you would be missing out if you didn't drop by, if for no other reason than to check out the live stream and talk to the friendly staff. On our visit, we managed to climb Moel y Gest in the morning and then popped into the Glaslyn Osprey Project for a more relaxed afternoon, a perfect combination and a great way to unwind after a tough little climb.