There is something to see every day at the Mills when it comes to wildlife. How lucky we are to have this amazing place full of so much wildlife that chooses to live here, visit or just pass through. Many of our visitors are of course birds, but knowing that they choose to nest here shows just how suitable the variety ofhabitat is for them. We have winter visitors, summer visitors, birds of prey and then what I like to call our residents. Every year without fail we have the beautiful Kingfishers up and down the waterways for most of the year. We have a pair of Swans that nest every year which are in the process of doing their patrols to keep intruding swans away, laying claim to their precious territory so to speak. The Barn owls use the nest box every year even just for a daytime snooze. The Common Buzzard has been breeding on or near our site for the last few years and just recently a pair ofthem have been seen often around the Press house area. Only just last week I saw five ofthem together soaring high in the sky.

Then we have the smaller birds like the Starling, often nesting in old woodpecker nests. The other day I saw a Starling inspecting a potential nest site inside our cordite press outside Walton house, here's a photo of it sitting on top of the press showing off its beautiful colours.

The deer have been a bit more obliging for photos just lately, but once one moves on the others tend to follow. They have been tucking in to the haylage that we provide for them, barely any waste left on the ground which is unusual as they do like to use it to lie on for some comfort. I think that the haylage this year must be extra tasty. As with most animals there is a pecking order when it comes to food, you can see in the photo that the two young males wait for their turn.

Muntjac deer often visit the site, they will squeeze through the smallest ofgaps just to come and forage for some tasty nibbles. They can breed throughout the year and have become very successful in the wild. This young muntjac took me by surprise, I was putting peanuts out for the birds and it was so well camouflaged that I didn't see it until it got up, I have to say it really startled me.

The spring is a lovely time of year, snowdrops on show, birds singing and nest building, bumble bees emerging and woodpeckers drumming. You can feel the Mills coming to life. Great Spotted Woodpeckers started drumming early this year. I have spotted a few new holes in the Alder trees. Of all the tree species on site Alder seems to be the preferred tree for them to nest in. This female woodpecker found some dead wood on the tree and was probing it to find any insects or grubs.

I have seen quite a few visiting Herons fishing our canals. They often take to the air long before I get my camera ready, but every now and then a Heron will just stand there like a statue, hoping that ifthey don't move they can't be seen. It's great for photography as I get plenty of opportunity to take lots of photos. Looking at a Heron head-on you can see that their eyes look slightly turned downwards, I expect this helps them to catch their food in the water.

That's all for now, but I will be sharing more wildlife stories and photos with you all again soon.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist