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New re­serve would prove a boon to birdlife

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: MATT MER­RITT

Will you help to sup­port a cam­paign to cre­ate the UK’S largest wet­land re­serve?

BIRD­WATCH­ERS ARE BE­ING urged to get be­hind an ap­peal to help cre­ate one of the UK’S largest wet­land na­ture re­serves, in Suf­folk. Carl­ton Marshes is a Suf­folk Wildlife Trust re­serve, just out­side Low­est­oft, and only a few me­tres across from an­other re­serve, Oul­ton Marshes. Now, an ap­peal is in full swing to raise £1 mil­lion, which will se­cure a grant from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund to buy farm­land ad­join­ing the re­serve. The money needs to be raised by next spring. The even­tual goal is to cre­ate a 1,000-acre re­serve that will act as a haven for wildlife in the Broads. Some of the new land – Peto’s Marsh – would be used to cre­ate an ex­ten­sive reedbed, which it is hoped would at­tract breed­ing Bit­terns (males have been heard boom­ing a short dis­tance away) and Marsh Har­ri­ers. Cranes, now breed­ing in good num­bers in Nor­folk, are an­other tar­get species for the fu­ture. The ex­pan­sion will build on work done at the re­serve in re­cent years, cre­at­ing new scrapes, which has boosted breed­ing waders, as SWT Broads war­den Matt Gooch ex­plains: “The scrapes are do­ing well. We’ve had Black-winged Stilts here, plus Cat­tle Egret, Great White Egret and Ruff, stuff like that, and there are plenty of Lap­wings and Red­shanks. Marsh War­blers reg­u­larly stop off here, too, and we get all sorts of wild­fowl and waders pass­ing through.” As I watch with Matt, a Hobby swoops low over the scrapes, ap­par­ently try­ing to flush some of the small birds such as Sky Larks from the ad­join­ing grass­land, rather than chas­ing the Sand Martins and other hirundines; but there’s also plenty of drag­on­fly prey for them. Barn Owls breed here in good num­bers, and Cetti’s and Sedge War­blers are nois­ily ob­vi­ous through­out our walk around. As well as birdlife, the re­serve is no­table for sup­port­ing a good pop­u­la­tion of Wa­ter Voles, plus the UK’S largest spi­der, the Fen Raft Spi­der. It’s re­mark­ably bio-di­verse and gen­uinely wild, even though it’s on the edge of a large town. The fu­ture plans also in­clude work to im­prove the re­serve for vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a new visi­tor cen­tre. It has the po­ten­tial to make na­ture ac­ces­si­ble to large num­bers of peo­ple, be­ing ac­ces­si­ble by foot, cy­cle, car, bus and train, or even, as I did, by boat from the Waveney River Cen­tre (waveneyriver­centre.co.uk), just across the River Waveney. The cen­tre of­fers a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion, from five-star hol­i­day lodges and ho­tel rooms to camp­ing pitches, pods, and glamp­ing yurts, and of­fers su­perb views out across the re­serve.

Plans are to turn Carl­ton Marshes into the UK’S largest wet­land na­ture re­serve

Breed­ing Bit­terns could be at­tracted to a new wildlife area

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