The start of February saw frosty mornings, with the volunteers struggling to start fires for the work party with frozen kindling. On the reserve numbers of Pink-footed Geese continue to be impressive throughout the lower Waveney, listen out for them and then scan the horizon for these huge flocks, as many as 3,000 have been using Oulton Marshes. White-fronted Geese on the Carlton Marshes scrapes added to the geese interest as well, look out for there obvious white fronted heads and black belly markings. Good numbers of egrets and herons continue to roost on the tidal reedbed, with a Great White Egret recently joining the Little Egrets, Cattles Egrets, Grey Heron, and as many as 9 Marsh Harriers, leaving the reedbed at first light. The mornings continue to be frosty, but spring has come early with warm weather bringing out large numbers of Skylark already singing over Peto's Marsh. Other signs that spring is on it's way include excitable Hares, chasing each other around the marshes and getting some boxing practice, as well as Long-tailed Tits starting nest building in the hedgerows.
From frosty fires to spring sunshine, tree planting and more...
In February mitigation work started full steam ahead to get the reserve ready for diggers, dumper trucks and the BAM Nutall contractors staring in mid-April with habitat creation work. Volunteers have been working hard helping reserve staff with Water Vole mitigation work across the new land. As part of the habitat creation project around 15km of dyke will be created or restored. This work will provided habitat for species including Water Voles, Otters, Norfolk Hawker dragonflies, Fen Raft spiders and so much more. However, whilst the work is completed mitigation work is carried out to insure the safety of species such as Water Vole. Under Natural England license staff and volunteers clear vegetation, mark and search Water Vole burrows, pump water from dykes and monitor these areas for signs of Water Vole. This is all to make them less inviting for Water Voles and displace them from the area during the habitat creation work, ready to return when the work is finished. Staff are so thankful for the help from volunteers during this physically demanding part of the mitigation work.
Tree planting has also been carried out by volunteers as part of the landscaping for the new visitor centre and car park. Holes will be plugged in the hedgerow along the roadside, to shield the car park from local residents and improve it for breeding birds. As well as a mix of Oak, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Holly planted as a barrier between the visitor centre and the railway line. This week volunteers have been erecting rabbit fencing to protect these young saplings.
Meet the volunteers!
Learning volunteers make up another big part of the work force at Carlton Marshes, helping the Learning Officers Jo and Katy deliver educational activities to hundreds of children locally. Sarah Plummer is one of Jo's regular volunteers and has recently started volunteering on Waveney Valley Wildlife Group, which organises wildlife events, talks and walks locally. She told me how she got involved. "I have been a Suffolk Wildlife Trust member for almost 30 years, but for many years my only involvement was occasional visits to family activity days or as a parent helper on school trips. About 2 years ago, a friend suggested that I might like to volunteer for the learning team and the 'as and when' nature of the volunteering suits me very well. Jo emails out to us the dates that she has schools visiting the reserve and we let her know when we are available to help. In the past two years I've enjoyed dyke-dipping, woodland activities, minibeast hunting, Wild Beach and more!"
Ellen Shailes at email@example.com for more information about volunteering across the Suffolk Broads reserves or
Barry Bradnum at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Waveney Valley Wildlife Group
Current volunteering roles:
Conservation work party volunteer - Gunton Warren nature reserve
Bird surveyor - Carlton Marshes nature reserve
Learning volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve and across Lowestoft
Pop up café volunteer - Carlton Marshes nature reserve
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.