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Julie's Nature Column - Autumn 2017

Dec 05, 2017

This summer at the Mills I noticed that there were many butterflies which was quite surprising considering the amount of rainy days we have had.

I always think that too much wet weather could be a poor year for nesting birds as the insects like to lie low, but this year our nesting Robins produced 3 broods. They like to nest in one of our busy areas where we keep some equipment and people are in and out of the area daily, but this doesn't seem to deter them. I often soak dried insect feed for them and the parents happily come down and take it for their chicks.

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Other birds that I have seen include Kestrels, Buzzards, Hobby and the Green Woodpecker. Green Woodpeckers seemed to dip in numbers at the Mills, but this year I have seen more than usual which is good news. I've seen them regularly at the southern end of the site and recently near Walton House a lot.

A few months ago we had our Barn Owl box checked to see if owls were nesting. This was done by someone registered to do so. It was good news and we booked for him to come back and ring the owlets at a later date. The rings are registered to the BTO – British Trust for Ornithology and this helps them keep records and also track if they go abroad.

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We had 3 healthy Barn owl chicks and in the next photo you will see they differ in size. From the smallest to the largest can be about 10 days apart in hatching.

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The deer have just shed the velvet on their antlers which means some order will be restored and the youngsters won't get away with being cheeky any more as the big males won’t give way to them. When they are in velvet the deer have to be very careful not to damage it as it will affect antler growth. The rut season isn’t far away and I can already see that the males are becoming muscular, especially around the neck area. They go through an amazing transformation due to hormone levels changing in the body. Here’s a picture of a deer in velvet.

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I have done a few evening wildlife watches and it’s such a lovely sight to see so many different animals coming together and sharing the same space. There doesn’t seem to be any conflict, they just go about their business, mostly looking for food. The badgers steer clear ifthere are too many deer, mainly to avoid injury, but they hang about until the deer move on and enjoy eating what food the deer have left.

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I have seen so much wildlife that it would be impossible to tell you everything, my sightings include Herons, Kingfishers, Muntjac, Foxes and near the beginning of the year a Red Kite. One thing I can say is that it’s never boring and never lacking wildlife at the Mills, no matter what time of year it is.

Julie Matthews
Mills nature conservationist



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