Exciting winter wildlife at Carlton Marshes in 2020!

Come to Carlton Marshes in 2020 for otters, short-eared owls, huge numbers of lapwing and a winter egret roost, to name a few wildlife highlights. 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!

Heading down to the marsh at the moment you have a good chance of seeing short-eared owl. These beautiful birds are a favourite subject of local photographers, so to find the birds, follow the photographers! Walk past the new visitor centre, along the path past Sprat's Water to the poplar path to get to the spot where short-eared owl are being seen regularly. This winter egrets have returned to roost again in good numbers, with as many as 25 little egrets and one great white egret. Last year cattle egrets joined the roost too, but how do you tell these similar looking birds apart?

Little egrets are the most common and they are little, being smaller than a heron, with a black bill and legs and yellow feet. Great white and cattle egrets are much rarer, mostly winter visitors to the UK, however both species have bred here in recent years. Cattle egrets are a bit smaller than the little egret with a yellow bill and yellowish legs and as the name suggests they spend a lot of time with cattle, picking up insects disturbed by them. Great white egrets are larger, a similar size to herons, with a yellow bill and yellowish feet. Cattle and great white egret are being seen in greater numbers across the UK, and both may start to breed here regularly in the future. In years to come it may be possible to make direct comparisons of all three egret species as they feed together at Carlton Marshes.

Otters are still being seen regularly here at Carlton Marshes and an otter project here is shedding light on their diet. Volunteers have been analysing otter spraint (poo) to determine what they are eating and have also seen trail camera footage of a few of their meals. Their diet here includes a range of fish, including pike, eel and perch, frogs, newts and invertebrates including diving beetles and dragonfly larvae. Trail camera footage also showed our resident family of otters feeding on a mallard. They certainly seem to have a varied diet.

Throughout winter, as well as seeing wintering birds, you are also likely to hear the sound of chainsaws. Not what everyone thinks of when they imagine a peaceful winter walk in the countryside, but chainsawing is crucial to conserving the range of habitats we have in the broads. In the fen and reedbed habitats we remove some willow and alder scrub every year to stop these areas reverting to wet woodland. This keeps these habitats suitable for Broadland species such as Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit. Other noisy winter jobs across the reserves include hedgerow coppicing and clearing trees around ponds. Groups of volunteers help to clear up when we complete habitat management like this, which often involves burning the material. Material created by management has to be removed to avoid damage to the habitat and in wet fen and reedbed conditions burning is often the best way to do this.

We're looking for new volunteers here at Carlton Marshes! The new visitor centre, hides, paths and habitats mean we'll need new volunteers for a range of roles. From café assistants, helping at events, wildlife surveyors and learning volunteers there are volunteering opportunities for everyone. Meet new people, learn about wildlife, spend time in a beautiful part of Suffolk and support your local conservation charity. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, get in touch and find out how you can help us!


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:

Dog Ambassador - Carlton Marshes nature reserve and across Lowestoft

Otter monitoring volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve

Learning volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve and across Lowestoft

and more... 

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.