Dragonfly delights, Fen Raft Spider drama and the visitor centre build begins!

By Steve Aylward

In the heat butterflies, dragonflies and Fen Raft Spiders are out in huge numbers, head to Carlton Marshes for an invertebrate safari. Read on for wildlife news from across the Suffolk Broads, Carlton Marshes habitat creation updates, and to hear about the volunteers that make it all happen!

Young birds are out on the wing across the Marshes and some are extremely obvious as they make their first blundering flights. Young Marsh Harriers can be seen at Castle and Carlton Marshes with their ginger capped heads, making cautious flights between bushes. It's been a good year for Barn Owl chicks too, with 20 Barn Owl chicks across the boxes on the Waveney reserves. Many of these birds are now flying, so are local Barn Owl population will be bolstered until they move further afield. 

As the breeding season ends for the birds it really livens up for the insects. There has been some interesting dragonfly sightings at Carlton, with Vagrant Emperor spotted last week, a rare migrant from Africa and the Middle East and good numbers of another migrant dragonfly, Red-veined Darter. Look out for these as well as our more usual resident species, Norfolk Hawker, Brown Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer. The Norfolk and Brown Hawkers can be differentiated by the famous green eyes of the Norfolk Hawker, however from afar the colour of the wings can be just as useful. The Norfolk Hawker having clear wings and the Brown Hawker brown. Look out too for the Fen Raft Spider nursery webs which can now be seen dotted across the dykes. Only Fen Raft Spiders build their nursery webs in the middle of the dyke in Water Soldier, the crown-like plant emerging from the water. If you see a web, look for the ball of squirming spiderlings inside and their mother won't be far away watching over them, although she may be hidden from sight perhaps even under the water. Courtship behaviour  can be seen as the smaller male spiders approach the larger females, tapping their legs on the water and bobbing their bodies, the females will bob too in response to signal their interest. Head to the bridge on the left of the main track as the first place to start looking for these spider spectacles or if you want more advice on where best to look ask a member of staff.

The Carlton Marshes visitor centre build has started! With the site set up, foundations and landscaping work ongoing. The new centre will be open next year, with a new car park, play area, outside seating, path network and hides to go with it. Similarly to the habitat creation work on the reserve, the site will be mud, dust and diggers for a while, but not for long. The field behind the centre will become a natural play area and network of paths, with earth mounds, trees and areas of meadow. We hope this will become a place for local families to come and enjoy, with the visitor centre being used for school visits, adult learning, local group meetings, perhaps art and yoga classes in the evenings. A hub of local activity and a place for everyone to enjoy wildlife.

The habitat creation work is moving along swiftly, hopefully finishing in the next few months. Path works have now been completed on the section of the Share Marsh track between the bridge and the river wall, so can now be walked again. This week turf ponds are being dug on the fen areas of the new land. These small ponds dug into the peat very quickly fill with life, with a huge array of aquatic insects and plants using these habitats. Some of these turf ponds being dug now will be visible from the new hides that will be built this Autumn across the reserve. 


Ellen Shailes at ellen.shailes@suffolkwildlifetrust.org for more information about volunteering across the Suffolk Broads reserves or

Barry Bradnum at waveneyvalleygroup.swt@gmail.com for more information about the Waveney Valley Wildlife Group

Current volunteering roles:

Conservation work party volunteer - Gunton Warren nature reserve

Dog Ambassador - Carlton Marshes nature reserve and across Lowestoft

Learning volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve and across Lowestoft

Pop up café volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve

Heritage Fund

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and a £4 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, our vision to buy and restore 384 acres of land for wildlife in the Broads National Park is taking flight.