Golden ducklings, coot chicks and dragonflies

 

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DSC_0374DSC_0374It’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common: ducklings, baby moorhens and coot chicks. On the insect front the damselflies have been busy ensuring the continuation of their species, for which I am very glad as I like them very much. I have also seen a few dragonflies, although not always in happy circumstances.

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The first mallard ducklings of the season really are looking grown up now, the middle group are getting bigger every day, and there have  been more newborns for me to coo over, including two pure yellow ducklings in amongst the more traditional brown and yellow ones on the Cemetery Lake.

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DSC_0482DSC_0482Unfortunately the male swan, who is busy claiming ownership of the lake in preparation for his own family arriving, has been rather aggressive towards them. I had to tell him off sternly the other morning. This caused a couple of students who were taking a break from classes to slope slowly away from the scene of the strange woman talking angrily at an innocent looking swan.

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DSC_0155DSC_0155Meantime, back at the Ornamental Pond, there have been two sets of moorhen chicks to see, alongside this weeks big treat: six baby coots. They are beautifully and perfectly ugly, and very very cute. Rather like the moorhen chicks, but with the addition of erratic and electric orange hair, and slightly less of the blue eyeshadow look that the moorhen chicks sport.

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DSC_0375DSC_0375These little ones seem endlessly hungry, and I was enjoying watching the parent coots diligently and almost continually feeding their brood of six, until the unfortunate moment when I realised that one of my favourite photography  subjects was being fed to another!

DSC_0402DSC_0402Nature: beautiful, but cruel! And a bit cheeky to do this right in front of me I thought!

 

 

 

More arrivals on Southampton Common

This week I have often been seen standing close to the Ornamental Pond, pointing my camera intensely at what seem to be swaying reeds.

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Despite all the evidence to the contrary, this is not simply because I have finally lost any remote grasp of reality that I ever had, but because within those reeds are tiny treasures: delicate damselflies, who herald just one more sign of the imminent arrival of summer. They bring with them the possibility of their larger cousins the dragonflies, and the promise of happy hours spent hopelessly stalking all things small and winged.

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Aside from my antics, there have been plenty of developments on the ponds over the past week:  one group of ducklings have become teenagers, with beaks that seem way too long for their heads and wings that are hopelessly mismatched to their bodies. The second little family of two that I met last Friday have grown in stature and boldness, and another team of nine have hatched.

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The daily duckling count has become quite complex, and we really do need a notice board, like the ones in stores and restaurants that list hourly toilet checks, so that whoever is passing the Ornamental Pond can update the rest of us on when the little fluffies were last seen.

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And then, as if things weren’t splendid enough already, on Friday afternoon I saw five little blobs lined up on the Ornamental Pond, with an adult moorhen stationed at each end. Moorhen chicks. Tiny, ugly, and beautiful. Wizened bald heads on newly hatched bodies. Adorable in every way. I exclaimed aloud with delight as they approached the reed beds by the side of the pond, causing a few dog walkers to alter their route slightly so as to avoid me.

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Looking forward to next week, there is still plenty of possibility for the equally ungainly but charming coot babies to put in an appearance, and, of course, those cygnets that make us wait every year are still keeping us guessing.

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Bank Holiday Weekend Sunshine on Southampton Common

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Here we are again enjoying good weather on Southampton Common. Astonishingly, it’s a bank holiday weekend and the sun is shining. However, it has been a week of all seasons on the Common: cold, windy and murky, beautiful sunshine, stair-rods of rain, and everything in between. T-shirts and shorts one day and big coat and gloves the next. But for now, we are basking in a taste of summer and I am very happy to have it that way.

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All the rain has made the Common beautifully green. The Ornamental Pond is looking almost tropical, the Old Cemetery is strewn with bluebells, and for those who don’t mind such things (including me) there are mini-beasts everywhere. Bees, beetles and lots of  beautifully elusive butterflies. I spotted one damselfly the other day, but it took off as soon as it saw me, so I am still wondering if I imagined it.

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Meantime, back at the ponds, the ducklings have grown in size and independence, diminished in number, and finally grown in number again. By Tuesday afternoon there were only three of the original eleven left, but on Friday afternoon two new little ones appeared to cheer me up on my way home.

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Both swan couples are still busy nesting, with one of the pair incubating the eggs whilst the other goes off for a preen and a bit of territory monitoring. The coots and moorhens are doing pretty much the same and  I am sincerely hoping that my next blog will be awash with tiny fluffy things, damselflies (maybe even dragonflies if I am ridiculously lucky), and butterflies who want to sit still nicely while I take their photos (in my dreams).

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Meantime, let’s enjoy the sunshine while it lasts, and let’s also take all our litter to the bins or home with us so that the Common remains beautiful!

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Growing up on Southampton Common

 

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Last week’s mini heatwave is over and the weather has been a little less glorious over the past few days. On Friday I had to give in and return to wearing my winter coat and gloves and carrying my trusty flask. However, the Common is still beautiful, if a tad muddy once more, and there was enough sunshine for a few butterflies to be out and about on Thursday when I was wandering in the Old Cemetery.

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The main attraction and sadness for me though has been seeing the ducklings grow and go. By Tuesday their number was reduced to only four, but those four were undiminished in loveliness, although increasing in both size and defiance of danger each day, becoming more adventurous and starting to resemble mini ducks rather than tiny balls of fluff.

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Whilst the ducklings’ parents watch carefully over them the other residents of the ponds continue to be busy: preening, nest building and incubating their eggs.

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The swans on both the Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Pond are now on full time sitting duty. In between their shifts on the nest they are occupied with guard duty and collecting maintenance materials for their nests in the form of twigs, reeds, and the lace from one of my boots, which the male swan from the Ornamental Pond tried to remove the other morning. Luckily for me (and him) he was unsuccessful.

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So, despite the temperature falling back into single figures, spring is still very much in evidence on Southampton Common and the forecast says that there might be a little bit of warmer weather on the way. In the meantime though, I have my big coat and gloves ready for tomorrow morning.

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A mini heatwave on Southampton Common

 

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This week saw what has been described as a “mini heat wave” in Southampton, and the Common has been absolutely beautiful. Apart from all the litter that got left behind every evening. The wildlife could do without this, and it created endless extra unnecessary toil for the hardworking staff who try to keep the Common safe, beautiful, and in order. (I am not one of the staff, I am one of the things that they try to keep in order.)

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The ducklings at the Ornamental Pond who delighted me on Monday have continued to melt my heart all week. They are growing fast, but are still all big eyes, tiny wings and oodles of fluff, getting up to the cutest antics in and around the water and earning plenty of adoration. The Common has been a popular place to come to for a picnic lunch this week, and those who chose to sit beside the Ornamental Pond invariably got involved in duckling worship.

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On Thursday the picnickers included a small gathering of students from the nearby college, who sat down at a bench near to where I was playing. A well-spoken young man from the group approached me and asked if I happened to have any napkins, as they had forgotten theirs. I was very impressed that the youth of today were aspiring to a proper picnic, with napkins, and handed him a pack of tissues (a rather poor substitute, but it was my best offer). He was most polite and grateful, and as I wandered off I considered contacting the college to compliment them on the manners and conduct of their students. As I stood duckling gazing, mentally composing my complimentary email, I heard one of the girls say: “It was really nice of that old lady to let us have these tissues.” I decided, on reflection, that the college probably did not really have the time to deal with an email from me.

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There are nests springing up everywhere on the Ornamental Pond: the coots and moorhens are busy collecting twigs and reeds, and territorial wars have broken out more than once. The swans continue to prepare their nest and to take time out to generate content for it, and soon I think the sitting will begin in earnest.

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As an especially welcome sign that summer is just around the corner the butterflies have begun to appear again. This week I have seen several brimstones, commas, red admirals, and spotted woods. They weren’t feeling too keen on sitting still, but I was still very glad to see them.

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Now that it’s the weekend the temperature has fallen a bit, we have had an impressive storm this evening, and the forecast has less of the sun and a bit more of the rain. But I have seen ducklings and butterflies, and feel that it cannot be long before my beloved dragonflies return to torment me.

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Ducklings

 

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After all that rain, Monday morning came along and brought with it sunshine and ducklings.

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My journey to work was immeasurably improved by the sight of these gorgeous little balls of fluff skimming across and scampering around the Ornamental Pond. They were already a few days old, but undiminished in cuteness.

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The world becomes a kinder place n the presence of ducklings. People who were clearly in a hurry slowed down, paused, and walked gently past the little ones, giving them plenty of room, so as not to alarm them or their mother. Young men cycling along in that special “no hands” way stopped, smiled and took a photo. People who didn’t know each other fell into conversation about how many there were, and had been (eight, and eleven), and how the swans were getting along with their reproductive responsibilities. The day was not quite so replete with bonhomie as it was when it snowed, but it was pretty close.

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Meanwhile, the cause of all this joy played happily around, climbing on sticks in the water, drinking from puddles, playing on the lily pads, whilst their mother kept a watchful eye on the surroundings.

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Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, f9, ISO 1600, 1/640
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I went cheerily on my way to work, thinking what a good place the world was, if you focused solely on ducklings.

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Rainy days on Southampton Common

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Although the sun has come out now and then to give us a tantalising glimpse of what it can do it’s been a fairly wet Easter holiday, and Southampton Common has become a bit of a mud bath. So my wanderings have been curtailed not just by the school holidays but also by the extra weight that becomes attached to my boots whenever I wander even slightly off the paved paths. I have been very appreciative of the trees that have offered me protection from the elements over the past couple of weeks.

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The Cemetery Lake expanded its boundaries for a while, to incorporate the area previously known as “where I crouch down to take photos”, and there have been plenty of puddles around. These have been greatly enjoyed by both those with wellies to play in and those without (the latter having the additional pleasure of displeasing their parents by their actions).

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Despite the somewhat gloomy skies, the rainy weather has given me the opportunity to practise taking photos of raindrops. I’m hoping that this will be a transferable macro photography skill, soon to be used on sunnier subjects, such as butterflies, bees, and dragonflies, rather than a permanent necessary shift in interest.

DSC_0242Nikon D5500 Nikon macro lens, ISO 1000, f10, 1/60 
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All the signs of spring are still here though, albeit shrouded in a thin layer of rain water. Water lilies popping up on the Ornamental Pond …

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plenty of flowers ready for those much desired mini-beasts to feast on …

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blossom glistening under the occasional ray of sunshine between showers …

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DSC_0290DSC_0290Nikon D5500 Nikon macro lens, ISO 1600, f10, 1/125  To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
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and nest building.

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Any minute now the rain will stop and the action will begin…

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