Spring... a sign that winter is behind us, birds singing territory songs, woodpeckers drumming, the odd bumble bee here and there, daffodils almost about to burst into flower and then we all get walloped with a huge dumping of snow and freezing temperatures. It must be very confusing for all animals, but they seem to adapt and cope and hopefully most will survive. I saw a muntjac the other day which had already started to moult, it looked like it only had half it's winter coat left. I bet it felt the cold when the snow arrived. Here's a photo of one that's managed to hang on to it's winter coat.

There has been an increase of Parakeet sightings over the last few months. I'm not sure if they've taken up residence at the Mills or whether they are just passing through. Sometimes when I'm out on site they land in a tree nearby and check me out which gives me photo opportunities. They seem to be on the move quite a lot going from tree to tree and although they are very active and can be heard all over, the most I've seen grouped together is 4. I actually saw 3 Parakeets chasing a Buzzard away, but they didn't get too close, just bombarded it with a lot of squawks.

I went looking for signs of spring before the snow arrived and found cherry blossom in bloom, lots of snowdrops in the woodland and Herons picking out favourite fishing spots. I've heard the Kingfisher calling up and down the waterways and recently had a Red Kite soaring above me, what a lovely sight to see. The birds have been singing their hearts out and large flocks of Siskins mixed with Goldfinches and Chaffinches have all been feeding on seed in the Alder trees. Here's a Blue Tit that had just had a bath somewhere along the edge of the car park. I can recall how cold it was, but they still need to keep their feathers in good condition.

The deer probably don't know whether they're coming or going with the recent weather. Some days have been extremely windy bringing down trees and they seem to know that it's best not to stay in the woodland so they gather on Queens Mead. This little pricket decided to get comfortable and sit in a clump of sedge.

We have taken good care of the deer during the snowy weather and made daily trips to ensure that they had food. A special dry feed and fresh carrots helped greatly to keep them going with large stacks of haylage placed in the woodlands. I normally give a couple of calls and they mostly come running - including muntjac and a pheasant. I'm sure that the deer can't wait for the grass to start growing again and perhaps a bit of warm sunshine would top it off nicely.

I'm hoping that our resident Robins that like to nest in our store area will have a nice surprise if they return this year. I have placed a robin nest box in there for them in the hope that they will use it. I will be keeping a close eye on any activity.

Let's hope that the winter is behind us now and I'm sure that it's not just the wildlife that will appreciate some nice warm sunny days.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist