It's been a busy few months trying to keep up with the wildlife on site and remembering all the things that I've seen. In my last blog I mentioned quite a few birds including Barn owls and Red kites, so here's an update on them. Our Barn owl box was checked for eggs and two chicks were discovered and one egg left to hatch.

Our expert bird ringer said he would come back in 3-4 weeks to ring them when they are big enough. On his return he removed 3 chicks from the box and it turns out that the third one was laid quite late so the chick was tiny compared to its siblings and too small to ring. You can see the difference in the photo; the small chick could be a couple of weeks behind the others.

The Red Kite nest was checked and two well grown chicks were sitting in it. They were carefully lowered down in a holdall on a rope by an expert tree climber.

The chicks were tagged and ringed and they looked very healthy. This was a first for the Mills having Kites tagged. Once they fledged they stayed around the nest area for a few weeks and every now and then we hear them calling. One of the chicks was found to have crash landed and seemed to have got its feathers a bit wet and muddy. A volunteer stepped in and brought the bird to us (with great care taken) and we let it dry off for a couple of hours before releasing it. It took to the air without any problems and fingers crossed that it continues to be ok. Here's one of the chicks just about to be ringed/tagged.

Otters have still been visiting regularly and I finally got a daytime photo, it's not the best, but it's the only one I have.

The deer have still been quiet, it feels like they're hiding from us, but there's plenty of evidence to show that they are quite active when we've gone home. Here's a photo of a young fawn about 6 or 7 weeks old. It popped up its head in the long vegetation and stared at me for quite a while. I stood there like a statue so as not to frighten it and eventually it was gone in two or three bounds, vanishing back into the undergrowth.

I'm happy to report that our two cygnets have grown very big and are doing well. It's amazing how fast they grow. Herons have regularly visited the canals on Hoppit Road, standing still hoping that they haven't been seen by us or the fish! What expert fishers they are, even through the duckweed.

We participated in the Big Butterfly count this year and counted 97 butterflies in 15 minutes with two people, pretty good going I thought. There are dragonflies everywhere and a whole lot of other stuff going on in abundance. Yesterday I saw a pheasant with some tiny little chicks, typical of me that my camera wasn't at hand, can't tell you how annoying that is! I'll keep my eyes open for more photo opportunities and wildlife stories to share with
you next time.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist