I've had a few extra walks around the Mills recently to see if I can spot something different and also get a feel for what's going on with the wildlife during the early part of the year. The Red Kites have returned and hopefully they will be nesting again. Their original nest looked full of new branches, but storm Dennis has removed a few. Fingers crossed that this won't put them off and that they will rebuild. I shall be keeping a close eye on the area.

The Alder trees have been full of flocks of Siskins, Goldfinches and Chaffinches. The Goldfinches also have a preference for our London Plane tree feeding on the seed pods outside Walton House, it's really nice to see them thriving at the Mills.

I've had to call out swan rescue a couple of times, once for a cygnet and again for a grown adult. Our pair of resident swans will chase any rivals away, swans are very territorial. The reason for calling out swan rescue is because any displaced swans need to get back in the water to leave the site, but they know they will be chased. The grounds are surrounded by high fencing and there aren't many suitable places for a swan to take flight, being a heavy bird they need a bit of a runway to get airborne. This photo is of a rather large male swan waiting patiently to be rescued.

Our nest boxes on the trees are starting to fill up with Blue Tits. I would be surprised if there are any vacant boxes left. Birds check out nesting sites very early in the year and although spring hasn't quite arrived yet you can be sure that the birds are busy with nest building. I would think that with the recent ongoing stormy weather our boxes will become essential nesting places...worth fighting for.

The two Blue Tits in the photo were doing exactly that, squabbling in the tree with the nest box. They locked together and floated down to the ground right in front of me and continued to fight.

The deer are still keeping a low profile, had lots of glimpses and one nice moment where they came over to me to see if I was putting any food out...how could I not when I'm right near the food store.

Blossom has been out early on some of our trees and on a warm sunny day the blossom is covered in Honey bees. I've seen a few Bumble bees already and the odd butterfly. I doubt that they will stay out for long with the weather being so changeable. A few daffodils and snowdrops are in bloom and it gives the feeling that spring is almost here.

I have spotted a few foxes and muntjac around the Mills, they are normally gone in a flash, but this time I think I took them by surprise as you can see in the photo.

The fox is doing its best to lie low and keep still until the very last moment. It was catching some early morning warmth from the sun. The muntjac was oblivious to me, possibly counting on the fox to react to danger. This is the second time that I've got a photo of a fox and muntjac hanging out together. The fox poses no danger to the muntjac, foxes go after much smaller prey.

I hope to bring you more stories and photos in the coming months. Spring being such a busy time for wildlife will hopefully give me lots more opportunities.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist