Towards the end of last year the Mills had an otter survey done which is part of the Lee Valley otter survey. One area under a bridge showed that otter activity was present so I decided to put a trail camera out next to the water. I checked it for a few weeks with no otter results. Plenty of ducks and swans and the constant dropping of autumn leaves triggered the camera until finally an otter showed up. This was very exciting news. We have about 4 photos at night time and are amazed that the otter has chosen to come and visit the site and hopefully keep the area as part of its territory. The hope now is to get a daylight photo, perhaps on a summer evening when it's quiet. The night photo is black/white as the infrared takes over in the dark. I've added an arrow to the photo as the otter isn't obvious to everyone.

Our resident swans seem to have parted company from each other. The male was spotted at the north end of the site on the track. We went up there to rescue him as the high fence was preventing him from returning to the water. We brought him back to the southern end and released him. His mate was nowhere to be seen and when she did finally show up a day or so later she had a new male with her. This explains why our resident male left, possibly chased away by the younger, stronger male. Our male has been around ever since I can remember so it will be a shame not to see him anymore, kind of felt sorry for him, but I guess that's life in the animal world.

We've had a pretty mild winter and it looks like spring is well and truly on its way. We have snowdrops out and some daffs too. I've seen a Brimstone butterfly which is one of the earliest ones to emerge after winter. I have yet to get a photo of one as I've never seen them sit still. I also saw my first bumble bee of the year. Blue tits are checking out the nest boxes on the trees and the Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been drumming on the trees and the metal lampposts.

Heron activity is going on all over the site, they are never far away and on occasion I've seen a single Red Kite checking out the area. The main difference between the Common Buzzard and the Red Kite is the forked tail which you can see in the photo whereas a buzzard has a fantail shape.

The deer seem to have spent most of the winter keeping tucked out of the way. They are normally creatures of habit, but this winter has seen different patterns in their grazing habits by mostly staying in the woodland when we're on site. There is one female deer that is nicknamed Dolly, she is bolder than most and certainly knows when the food is being put out. Here she is enjoying an apple.

Most of the site has been filled with the usual flocks of siskins, goldfinches and chaffinches feeding on the Alder seeds. Many of the birds flock on the ground to pick up the already fallen seeds. I was trying to get some photos of them when they suddenly took off. Then there in front of me flew a Sparrowhawk very low to the ground.

It was an unsuccessful hunt and it sat in a tree for a moment and looked back at me as if it was my fault that it missed out on breakfast! Not my best photo of a Sparrowhawk, but it is my only one. Just goes to show that if you're in the right place at the right time wildlife will surprise you in the nicest of ways.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist