Julie's Nature Column - Late summer 2020 It's been a busy few months for the wildlife at the Mills. Foxes looking for food non-stop to feed their cubs, nesting birds flying constantly to and from their nests to feed their chicks, Herons and Kingfishers fishing our waterways and our lovely deer will have had their fawns a couple of months ago. I've seen a pair of Kestrels flying over the Mead area regularly and I'm sure that leaving the grass and nettles to grow longer than usual has been an advantage for them as voles are more likely to be in longer vegetation. One Kestrel seems to have a favourite tree to perch on, this tree is also a favourite perch for a young Buzzard. They don't seem to mind sharing it. In this photo you can see the Kestrel on the tree and then the Buzzard flying by. I have seen less of the foxes since lockdown ended. Obviously more people and traffic has made them hide away more whereas before they were openly walking around the site during the day and using the areas where people normally would be. Here is one of the fox cubs walking past Walton House while i was standing in the doorway. It soon scooted off once it realised I was there. Bats seem to have moved into the roof of our volunteer base. This is probably temporary, just using it for an overnight roost during the summer months. We have had a Bat expert check it out and he has yet to determine what species it is as there only seemed to be one left using the roost. The plan is for our expert to come back in April and monitor for a return of the Bats. Once we know what species they are and whether it's a maternity roost or not, we can then decide with expert guidance how to use the room alongside them without disturbing them. The deer have been keeping out of the way, most likely enjoying the peace and quiet, but every now and again they pop up, have a good look at us and then move on. They should be losing the velvet on their antlers now, so rubbing on the trees helps them greatly to remove it. They all look to be in good health, lovely shiny summer coats and big round belly's where they've been fattening up on the grass. The males will soon start to develop lots of muscle especially in the neck area in preparation for the rut in the coming months. I'm glad to say that a pair of hobbies have been back this year. I would expect that they have bred, but I haven't been near the nesting site. They are very agile birds able to do acrobatic turns in the air. They are able to catch other birds on the wing and also dragonflies. Our other resident birds the Barn Owls sadly didn't produce any young this year. It seems that Barn Owls in general weren't very successful in raising young, perhaps due to the weather earlier in the year which could have made their food source less abundant. Here's a photo of one coming out of the nest box, not my best photo as i wasn't quick enough, but nice to see that they still roost in the box. Hopefully next year will be a better year for them. I shall be looking for more wildlife opportunities to share with you in the coming months and hope to get some good photos.