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.