It's a lovely time of year to be at the Mills, trees bursting into life, birds busy catching food for their young, the deer in their smart summer spotty coats and of course, some nice warm sunshine. In the last issue I mentioned that a Starling was checking out the Cordite press as a potential nest site, well it did choose to nest there in the end and has been very successful. A pair of crows nesting nearby usually sit on top of the press, each time they did this it did stress the Starlings out somewhat so perhaps they will think twice about using the press in future. 
Around the corner from the Starling nest is a Great Tit nest which happens to be inside a road cone. I went to move the cone out of the way and a Great tit flew out sounding its alarm call. I carefully placed the cone back down and thankfully the Great tit came back. Always goes to show how careful we have to be when moving things as wildlife seems to make a home out of anything left in place for some time. I usually check under road cones for voles, I certainly wasn't expecting a bird to fly out of it. Here's a photo when it had just come out of the cone.
Our swans have had 8 cygnets hatch. Unfortunately one has disappeared, but this is why birds have so many young to ensure a good survival rate. I love to see the cygnets, they constantly chat to each other and the parents take great care of them. There is also another swan family in the Abbey Gardens. This is an area that our swans would normally take their cygnets to visit, but due to swans being so territorial they will have to choose another area, possibly the flood relief channel which is on the west side next to the Mills.
I have seen a few Muntjac deer around the site, often just glimpses, but this time one looked at me a little unsure...what am i, which gave me a good opportunity to get a photo or two. These deer are also known as Barking deer due to the sound they make when alarmed, quite often mistaken as a dog barking. I experienced this a few weeks ago where the Muntjac was actually barking at me and stomping its feet! I have always heard them bark, but never seen it with my own eyes before. Here's a couple of photos, one barking and one not. 
Our herd of fallow deer are enjoying all of the new grasses and shoots. They even nibble the tops of nettles, not sure whether it's because they are tasty or whether it helps with digestion. I have found a few cast antlers on the ground, how strange it must feel for them to have them drop off. This is the only time of year that I see them huddle together, knowing that they can't harm each other. They look like quite small without them. Here's a photo of them relaxing on the Long Walk.

I have seen a Green Woodpecker quite a lot, but it's always one step ahead of me when it comes to getting a photo. I have tried to creep up on it without any luck, but this one chance I had I was lucky enough to be inside a building and it didn't see me. It pays to have my camera at hand. It was probing the grass with its beak looking for ants along the edge of a kerb stone. For just about every second or two it looked up for danger from above. I can remember very early on when I first came to the Mills that I saw a Sparrowhawk chase one. It was so very close to catching the woodpecker, but the woodpecker managed to escape in 
the nick of time. This photo looks like I got very close to it, but I did zoom the camera quite a bit.
I have placed a wildlife camera in position in the hope to catch an Otter passing through. I will be checking it soon. We have not yet had our Barn owl boxed checked for young, hopefully this will happen soon and I will have some photos to share with you next time. Until then I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more wildlife photo opportunities to share with you all.
Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist