Searching for signs of spring across Lowestoft

Aerial view of Carlton Marshes by John Lord

Signs of spring can lift your spirits when the days are still so bitterly cold. Whilst we're all huddled inside, the wildlife at Carlton Marshes is just getting on with it! Read on for wildlife news from across the Suffolk Broads and to hear about the volunteers that make it all happen.

I always find myself desperately searching for signs of spring at this time of year, and I'm particularly eager to spot these hopeful signs during this winter lockdown. Plants like primroses, lords and ladies, lesser celandine and snowdrops can now be found, although you'll still be lucky to find one flowering. For me just the splash of vibrant green amongst the leaf litter excites me about the spectacle of colour to come. In a month or so Gunton Meadow nature reserve in the middle of Lowestoft will be carpeted in flowering primroses, one of the earliest flowering plants.

Listening for the sounds of spring can often be the most rewarding, such as the thrill of hearing the first great spotted woodpecker drumming. Male woodpeckers start drumming to define their territories and to attract a mate as early as December. Now in early February you can listen for their distinctive call wherever you take your daily exercise, as these birds can be heard across the landscape, at nature reserves but also in small patches of woodland in towns or cities. The harsh alarm call of the mistle thrush can also be an early sign that spring is on its way, as they can start nesting as soon as February high up in the canopy of woodland. Disturbed mistle thrush make a distinctive rattling alarm call which is often the first thing to alert you to their presence. Mistle thrush are named for their favourite snack, the berries of mistletoe. If visiting Carlton Marshes for your daily exercise look out for both the mistle thrush and mistletoe high in the poplar trees.

Habitat management works are continuing across the reserves, albeit without the helping hands of volunteers. Willow and alder scrub along dykes and pond edges at reserves such as Castle Marshes, Gunton Meadow and Darsham Marshes has been removed. Removing young scrub allows more light to reach the water as well as reducing leaf litter which builds up in the ponds and dykes, this improves water quality making these places better homes for all sorts of amphibians, insects and mammals. At Gunton Warren work has been carried out to widen the fire breaks on site. Although summer feels a long way off, this essential work should help reduce the risk of large summer fires developing on the heath and cliffs.