Mini Beasts on Southampton Common

DSC_0378DSC_0378_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 320, f14, 1/40

Last Thursday I was standing in Southampton Old Cemetery enjoying the sunshine and the return of the bees. Just three days later the Mini Beast from the East had arrived, and we were back in midwinter.


DSC_0281DSC_0281_2Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 800, f11, 1/125
DSC_0074DSC_0074_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f14, 1/20

The Mini Beast brought with it just enough snow to transform Southampton Common into a glittering wonderland, and on Sunday morning I had about an hour to explore the magical world that had appeared overnight before some slightly less glistening activities kicked in.

DSC_0109DSC_0109_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 250, f14, 1/25
DSC_0025DSC_0025Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 320, f10, 1/40

The arrival of snow seems to cause us to become unusually friendly and helpful to our fellow beings. Instead of studiously avoiding eye contact with strangers we smile at everyone we see; exchange pleasantries with people whom we have never met before; and discuss the current snow, our cold weather attire, memories of the last time it snowed, and future possibilities for snow with just about anyone whose path we cross (including people whom we usually actively avoid). If we see someone who is in need of assistance, or looks as if they might be in need of assistance, we rush to their aid, with no concern about looking foolish or nosey if they turn out to be perfectly OK. Generally, this is one of the things that I love about snow days. Everyone in Southampton is my friend and wants to make sure that I am safe and well cared for.

DSC_0035DSC_0035_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f10, 1/40
DSC_0095DSC_0095Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f14, 1/40

However, on this occasion I was presented with a slight dilemma as I was out and about with a camera and limited time. As a result, I spent much of my snow play time torn between the urge to join in the general camaraderie and good will and the desire to find photogenic spots with reasonably pristine snow in order to justify lugging a camera through the icy streets between my house and the Common. Consequently, I became a somewhat bizarre snow character, marching around the Common with a permanent precautionary grin on my face, speaking in a rapid but upbeat manner to anyone I encountered, whilst using my tripod as a makeshift speed-walking aid.

DSC_0436DSC_0436_2Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 500, f11, 1/80


DSC_0083DSC_0083_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f14, 1/40
DSC_0338DSC_0338_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f13, 1/25

Notwithstanding my personal peculiarities, the Common was beautiful on Sunday. People of all ages were having fun, sledges of various styles and sizes were out in force, and a range of snow sculptures adorned the main field. We rarely get snow in Southampton, and it is almost all gone now, which is kind of sad. Nonetheless, much as I loved the Narnia-style blanket that it spread over the Common, I am glad to see the spring flowers and blossom peeping back through. Now I can rewind my thinking back to the mini beasts of Spring and Summer. As an extra bonus, my train was delayed this morning and things were slightly chaotic at the station. This created one of the few other circumstances in which English people spontaneously and animatedly talk to complete strangers.

DSC_0210DSC_0210_3Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f13, 1/60
DSC_0034Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 500, f14, 1/60
DSC_0159Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 800, f14, 1/400




A tiny pleasure on Southampton Common


DSC_0036DSC_0036_1The swans dominated the news at the beginning of this week. On Monday morning I stopped by briefly on my way to work, and was rewarded by the sight of the pair on the Ornamental Pond mating. The female swan has since been spending some time sitting where their nest is usually located on the island, so no doubt some serious building will begin soon. Looking back, their schedule is very much the same as last year, so perhaps I should book a few days leave for when the cygnets might hatch.DSC_0587DSC_0587





Meantime, there has been plenty of action elsewhere on the Common, and I have (again) made the mistake of trusting the weather forecast. This morning I set off for my weekly promenade with my friend attired for clouds and rain. Initially, this was exactly what was on offer, and I arrived at our rendezvous point at the Ornamental Pond just as a sizeable downpour began. Huddling under the slight shelter of some trees waiting for her I tried to talk myself into believing that today would be an excellent opportunity to practice taking shots of the shady woodland areas.

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However, as we set off on our constitutional the rain receded, and by the time I bade her farewell and went to the Old Cemetery the sun was shining, I was overdressed, and the bees were making an appearance. The longish semi –macro lens that I use for insects who do not like photographers was standing safely on the table at home, and I berated myself (possibly aloud) for trusting the gloomy bee-less forecast. Nevertheless, with the blossom cheering up the soggy pathways, and four Brimstone butterflies flitting past, I was very happy indeed and promised myself that I would never again leave that particular lens at home between now and November.

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After a brief stop at the Cemetery Lake for some mildly disapproving looks from the ducks and an impressive bit of splashing from a coot I trudged away from the Common muddy of boot but light of heart. I was really very glad that I had not been consigned to a morning in the undergrowth, and despite the snow that is forecast for the weekend I know that the macro season is pretty much here. For the next few months I can spend many hours throwing my happiness on the mercy of tiny, unwilling subjects. Won’t that be fun?!


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Spring has returned to Southampton Common

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Spring is definitely back on the agenda in Southampton after last week’s snow. The catkins are appearing, there is blossom on the trees,  flowers are popping up everywhere, the birds are singing happily and I am down to just three pairs of socks with my boots. This is brilliant news because my winter coat is in a disgraceful state, I have only three gloves left in my possession(none matching), and have had to resort to wearing a very strange bobble hat. But I absolutely refuse to get new winter clothing until October.

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At the Ornamental Pond every day has been different: sunshine, mist and clouds. The birds are all enjoying their new found ice-free space and the swans have been basking and stretching in the early morning light. They are also starting to prepare the ground for making a nest on the island, which means that it will not be long until the great annual cygnet watch begins.

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The birds are not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather: yesterday afternoon as I stood watching the swans going about their business a small gaggle of young men from a nearby sixth form college passed by. Encouraged by his peers and the promise of almost instant online fame one young man stripped down to his underpants and jumped into the pond. He clambered out very promptly, indicating that the water had not been entirely to his liking, and berating the nearby coots and ducks for not advising him as to how cold it was. His friends would, I’m sure, have been very sympathetic, had they not been occupied with uploading his plight into cyberspace.

It was probably lucky that he went on his adventure yesterday, whilst the sun was shining. It has been rather rainy today, making the Spring flowers all a bit damp and slightly mud tinged. But Spring is here, and there will soon be those beautifully ugly baby coots for me to admire, so I am full of happy hopefulness, despite a complete absence of sartorial elegance.

To visit the page that includes photos of last year’s baby coots, please click on this link





After the snow on Southampton Common

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After a few days of anticipation followed by freezing excitement the snow that arrived in Southampton last Thursday is all but gone, with just the occasional blob of the slushiest of stuff to remind us of the events of the past few days. The Common was, of course, beautiful, with snow covering the main field and my favourite tree gently daubed with the white stuff. There was also plenty of action: snowmen, an igloo, endless snowballs, and an impromptu sledging resort at the edge of the Boating Lake. The slopes were adorned with a range of sledges, from plastic bags through to state of the art creations, and children of all ages had a great time hurling themselves trustingly downwards.


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A fall in temperature brings out the warmth in people: as my friend and I stood at the bottom of the slope watching our children we cheered on and congratulated grown men for their success in travelling down the slope on pieces of flimsy plastic. We gathered in small groups around complete strangers to admire a particularly splendid sledge or on an especially innovative approach to downhill transport. When we encountered several students carrying trays of snowballs across the Common in readiness to pelt their peers we laughed and wished them luck, instead of tutting at the disturbance they might cause. Snow brought out our good humoured and sociable sides, and Southampton Common became one big community of people young and old having fun on an unscheduled day off work.





But just as we had all begun to get into the swing of having snow, it bade us farewell. By this morning there was only a half measure of ice on the Ornamental Pond, and the swans were restating their domination of the water, reminding any ducks, moorhens or dogs who seemed to have developed ideas above their station about who ruled the Ornamental Pond. As I cycled away, on the clear paths and roads, I reflected that life is a lot easier without the snow, but it was a whole lot of fun while it lasted.


The ice before the storm on Southampton Common

DSC_0076DSC_0076Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f10
DSC_0563Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f10

Just as we thought we were heading to spring, Southampton has been visited by the “Beast from the East”. Elsewhere in the UK the Beast has brought snow with it. So far, we have only had the mildest of flurries, but more is promised for Thursday. In the meantime it’s been a combination of summer and arctic conditions on the Common. Stand in a sheltered sunny patch and you might take off your coat and wonder what all the fuss is about. Turn the corner into a shady but windy spot and you will know. I have been looking even odder than usual, wearing unmatched gloves as I have again lost at least three of mine, and trying to pull my hat down to meet my coat when cycling against the wind. Tomorrow I may borrow one of my son’s go-karting balaclavas, especially if the snow closes the schools and we are out playing.

DSC_0380DSC_0380Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 800, f10
DSC_0834DSC_0834Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f7.1
DSC_0441DSC_0441Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f9

The ponds on the Common are now back down to their usual quota of swans: the new arrivals having departed from the Boating Lake, no doubt as a result of a visit full of heavy hints from the couple from the Ornamental Pond. All three ponds are now frozen over and the wind has been ruffling many feathers amongst the bird population. On the Ornamental Pond the residents are all shoehorned into a tiny channel of water at the island end, and on the Cemetery Lake they are deriving what comfort they can from a tiny trickle of water round the edges of ice sheet.

DSC_0965Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f10
DSC_0033DSC_0033Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f10
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I settled down in a sunny, sheltered, corner by the Cemetery Lake today, accompanied by my comfort items of flask and biscuits. Despite their restricted circumstances the birds were generally all getting on with life (possibly because they do not have the doom saying weather forecast to cheer them up), although the coots in particular seem to find the icy surfaces a bit puzzling. On a positive note, the conditions meant that the shoveler ducks finally deigned to come over to the photgraphable part of the Cemetery Lake again, and a very friendly little robin popped out to see me. So, as usual, life was good on Southampton Common, provided one stayed out of the wind and in the sunshine, and we eagerly await the promised snow and school closures tomorrow.

DSC_0704DSC_0704Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 800, f10
DSC_0110DSC_0110_1Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 800, f10
DSC_0897DSC_0897Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 800, f10
DSC_0170DSC_0170Nikon D5500, lens Nikon 70-300, 1/640, ISO 1000, f7.1


Occupying the ponds on Southampton Common

DSC_0430Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f10, 1/640

I had noticed that the Boating Lake was filling with water again after its annual draining, and wondered if any of the visiting swans had decided to opt for an apparently slightly easier life there. I say “apparently” because although the Boating Lake looks unoccupied at this time of year, this will all change if the two resident swans on the Ornamental Pond have cygnets. The cygnets are hatched on the island of the Ornamental Pond, but are promptly transported across to the Boating Lake, and brought up there. This means that any unsuspecting new arrivals who have decided to make the Boating lake their home will be unceremoniously turfed out as soon as the older pair get wind of their presence.

DSC_0431DSC_0431_2Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f10, 1/640
DSC_0449DSC_0449_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 400, f10, 1/640

Sure enough there were four youngish swans on the Boating Lake, and things weren’t going very peacefully, as both of the males felt that this was to be their new territory. After a short interlude of physical negotiations one pair departed, leaving the winning couple to settle in.

DSC_0089DSC_0089_3Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1250, f10, 1/640
DSC_0087DSC_0087Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1250, f10, 1/640

I returned to the Cemetery Lake, to see if the two as yet unaccounted for visitors from yesterday had managed an overnight stay. However, all was quiet, with only the two established swans present, and acting as if nothing had happened. I stood for a while, trying (and failing) to figure out some of the different types of seagull, being glared at by the tufted ducks, and wondering vaguely why the moorhens looked at me with a fretful expression as they fussed past.

DSC_0223DSC_0223Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/640
DSC_0357Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 800, f10, 1/640
DSC_0176DSC_0176_2Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1000, f10, 1/640
DSC_0324Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/640
DSC_0317DSC_0317Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/640
DSC_0180DSC_0180Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1000, f10, 1/640
DSC_0614Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1250, f10, 1/640

Having finished my flask of coffee and the food that I found compressing itself nicely at the bottom of my backpack I made a final visit to the Ornamental Pond, to check whether any of the young visitors were trying to make a home there. Everything was quiet and peaceful, so I reclaimed by bicycle, and pedalled off to purchase a new hat: mine has unaccountably disappeared and there are warning of ice and snow for next week.

DSC_0325DSC_0325Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 300, f10, 1/640

Unwelcome guests on the Cemetery Lake, Southampton Common

DSC_0150DSC_0150Taken using Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 320, f 10, 1/40 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link

Having visited the Common only fleetingly during half term last week I was planning a gentle stroll around yesterday: catching up with all the small but satisfying events that were on offer and generally mulling life in the slow lane whilst indulging in the odd warm beverage and sugary sustenance. However, as is so often the case when you try to make plans involving nature, things didn’t quite work out that way.

DSC_0069DSC_0069Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f 10, 1/640 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
DSC_0074DSC_0074Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 120, f 10, 1/640 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link

The weather was deciding between sunshine and clouds, but at the little morning gathering of people on the sunny corner of the Ornamental Pond we all agreed that it was a beautiful day, and I went off to play in the mud. First, I went to the Old Cemetery. Here, I was engulfed by tranquillity, and spent some time worshipping at the feet of the tiny gods of incipient spring.

DSC_0232Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 320, f 10, 1/50
DSC_0078Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 800, f 10, 1/320 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
DSC_0240Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 320, f 10, 1/60
To see more photos of the old cemetery, please click on this link

After hoisting myself back to an upright position using my trusty but battered tripod I wandered over to the Cemetery Lake. It was here that the calm and leisurely ambience came to an end. To my great delight it was immediately obvious that not one, but six, creatures were even less popular than me today. This was most gratifying, and I settled down with my trusty flask and biscuits to watch as half a dozen visiting swans were asked to leave by the two residents. There was a great deal of chasing, causing my old friends the tufted ducks to look angrily at the warring parties, whilst the shoveler ducks stayed further away than ever.

DSC_0625Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f 10, 1/800  To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
DSC_0472Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 320, f 10, 1/800
DSC_0731DSC_0731Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 800, f 10, 1/800 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
DSC_1052DSC_1052Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 400, f 10, 1/800 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link

After a while the established pair retreated behind the island to talk tactics before returning, armada-like, for more. However, they had quite task, with six youngsters to try to evict.

DSC_0659Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f 10, 1/800
DSC_0648Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 500, f 10, 1/800 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
DSC_0607DSC_0607Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 800, f 10, 1/800

I stayed for a while, enjoying the action, before reclaiming my bicycle and returning home to distribute the fruits of my muddy adventures around the house. At this point,  all eight of the swans were still there. Not for long though, as it turned out. But more of that in the next blog entry.

DSC_0899DSC_0899Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1000, f 10, 1/800 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
To see more swan photographs, please click on this link