Wildlife at Carlton & Oulton Marshes

Azure damselfly by Mike Taylor Reed bunting by Darin Smith Bearded tit by Matt Fidler


The reserve provides valuable habitat for many species of birds with over 150 species recorded on site.

Breeding birds include barn owl, lapwing, redshank, reed, sedge, grasshopper and Cetti’s warblers, marsh tit, kingfisher, linnet, reed bunting, skylark, bearded tit and treecreeper.

Regular visitors include hobby, marsh harrier, hen harrier, snipe, garganey, shoveler, wigeon, teal, short eared owl, bittern, avocet, spotted redshank, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, common sndpiper, woodcock and whimbrel.


For botanists, Carlton & Oulton Marshes is one of the best places in north Suffolk for the sheer variety of plants.

The dykes support important aquatic plants such as frogbit, water soldier and river water dropwort. The dykes are fringed with species rich edges with species such as tubular water dropwort and flowering rush.

The grazing marshes support an abundance of plant species such as marsh pea, yellow loosestrife, purple loosestrife, ragged robin, southern marsh orchid, marsh marigold, marsh valerian, bogbean, fen bedstraw, carnation sedge and tussock sedge.

Butchers Marsh plant list 2010/11


The dykes support 17 species of dragonflies and damselflies including nationally rare Red data book dragonflies – Norfolk hawker and scarce chaser.

Aquatic invertebrates

47 species of mollusc have been recorded including three Red data book species of freshwater snail – Anisus vorticulus, Segmentina nitida and Pisidium pseudosphaerium.

Aquatic invertebrate study at Oulton Marshes

Reptiles & amphibians

Common lizard, slow worm, common frog, common newt and grass snake are present on site in good numbers.


Water vole, otter and water shrew have populations on site alongside harvest mouse that use the reedbed and river wall sections of the reserve.


Moth survey Carlton Marshes 2010

Fen raft spider

Brought back from the brink of extinction through a project of captive breeding and translocation, the fen raft spider is now thriving at both Castle Marshes and Carlton & Oulton Marshes.

Browse the news items below to find out more about the fen raft spider project:


Since 2007, 10 separate land purchases made possible by legacy gifts, have transformed Carlton & Oulton Marshes, piecing together fragments of flower-rich fen and grazing marsh into the magnificent wetland landscape we can now enjoy. Read the story of how this reserve has evolved over time.

Carlton & Oulton Marshes in 2000 Carlton & Oulton Marshes in 2008 Carlton & Oulton Marshes in 2015