Some of the wildlife activity has quietened down since the colder weather has arrived. Young birds that fledged their nests will hopefully survive their first winter. A lot of birds fluff up their feathers in the cold weather, this keeps them warm as air gets trapped between the layers which helps to keep them insulated. They quite often have the appearance of looking like they've swallowed a tennis ball as you can see from this Robin.

Our usual winter flocks of Siskins have arrived mixed with Goldfinches and Chaffinches. I love watching the flocks go from tree to tree to feed on the Alder cone seeds. Whilst they are feeding in the trees many of the seeds fall to the ground and you can hear them land on the leaves. It sounds like it's raining, but it not, very strange as you can't even see the seeds falling.

The rut season is over once again for the deer. Some of the big males look very tired. They will be busy concentrating on regaining some body weight now to help them through the winter months. In a couple of weeks' time we will have their haylage delivered. Haylage is a bit different from regular hay. It is cut earlier and then wrapped is several layers of polythene. This keeps it from drying out and therefore keeps hold of its nutrients, it is also more digestible than hay. Haylage is a much better quality of feed. This deer in the photo has obvious signs of taking part in the rut, he does not have any injuries, but just some fur missing on his neck.

Ring-Necked Parakeets are around the Mills on a daily basis. This seems to be more so in the winter than any other months. I haven't seen more than about 6 in flight together, but I do think that the numbers are increasing slowly. Here's a group hanging out in one of the Alders. I saw a squirrel try to chase one out of a tree the other day. It was quite amusing, the parakeet didn't seem bothered at all and would just hop out of reach each time.

Talking of squirrels we've had quite a friendly one around Walton House recently. I haven't seen it for a while, but it did stay around for a few weeks waiting for some peanuts. I would come outside to find it waiting patiently, perched on something different every time.

I haven't done an evening wildlife watch for ages, but I can tell that the badgers are still very active. You can see where they forage for worms all along the roads edge, shovelling scoops of soil to dig them up. Earthworms make up a large part of the badger's diet, about 80% in fact. They will also eat berries, nuts and fruit and are partial to some carrion too. When it snows I often look out for badger paw prints, they look like a mini bear print.

During the winter badgers may stay in the Sett for several days if it gets too cold, but they do not hibernate for all of the winter. This time of year they are quite likely to be out as soon as it gets dark. Here’s one from a few years ago with its fox and muntjac friends eating deer food.

I will be looking out for some more photo opportunities to share with you all again soon.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist