Here we are once again in the winter months and with the changing of the season brings the changes in wildlife behaviour. Birds flock together during these months to improve their chances of survival, with the trees being bare they are an easier target for a predator, many pairs of eyes in a flock increases their chances of spotting danger. Roosting together at night can offer some warmth if they huddle together. Our Alder trees already have flocks of Siskins and Goldfinches feeding on the seeds. Flocking together doesn't apply to all birds though such as the highly territorial Robin. They seem to tolerate each other more in the winter and you may well see as many as 3 in the same area, but it can break out into a squabble. Robins are quite often puffed up like a round ball in the winter to help keep them warm.

Other changes in wildlife behaviour may include a change of territory, moving to areas providing more food opportunities or cover from the elements. I have noticed that our visiting Otters are less frequent in the winter months. I don't know if this is because they are less territorial or whether the food supply in the waterway's change. After my attempts for many months to get Otter photos facing the camera instead of their back end, I finally achieved it. One particular Otter seems to stop and rest for a while, a full tummy or a long journey, who knows. I will be interested to see how the next few months ago and whether they stop visiting for a while.

We are hoping to position a Tawny owl box on a tree soon. Placing it at this time of year gives the owls plenty of time to inspect it and decide whether it's a good nesting opportunity for the spring. I know that they have bred in the woodland in the past and they can be heard at night calling to each other. Fingers crossed that we get lucky.

I recently potted 100 Alder seedlings to be planted out at a later date. These seedlings will be planted in a protected area and hopefully regenerate the Alder woodland creating a better habitat for more wildlife to move in.

I'm still seeing Buzzards high in the sky and often when I least expect it they are suddenly overhead. It's a bit tricky spotting them in the trees; it's normally when they take flight that you realise that it was sitting watching you. I did manage to spot a young one land in a tree recently and I snuck up on it to get a photo.

I haven't seen many foxes this year. It could be because I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then out of the blue when I wasn't paying much attention this rather wet looking fox popped up and stopped only for a moment for me to get a photo.

Our beautiful fallow deer have finished rutting. I noticed a few of them have lost quite a bit of weight which is normal, but it's time for them to bulk up before the winter gets too cold. I have been putting out carrots for them which are high in sugar and we have had our Haylage bales delivered and ready to go out in the woodland to help the deer get through until the spring. Haylage is full of nutrition and the smell of it lingers in the wind which should attract them to it straight away. Here you can see one deer enjoying a bit of warm morning sunshine whilst the other is entertaining a magpie sitting on its head!

Well that's all for now, but I will be looking for more photo opportunities and wildlife stories to bring you again soon.

Julie Matthews
Mills Nature Conservationist