Back to duckling days on Southampton Common

 

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Just when I thought it would be another year before I had my next dose of ducklings, on Tuesday I was greeted by news of nine newly hatched cuties. Sure enough, after a short wait they appeared, tiny balls of happy fluffiness bobbing across the Ornamental Pond.

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On Thursday, ten more appeared, waddling out from the bushes and across the path to take up residence on the Boating Lake. Suddenly the cygnets had to take a step down in the pecking order as everyone exclaimed over the latest beautiful arrivals.

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In between watching the many different adorable ways that  a duckling can fall asleep, there has been no shortage of butterflies, moths, damselflies, dragonflies, bees and ladybirds to keep my camera and I entertained.

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With so many photographic choices, I have been grateful every day for the existence of digital cameras and SD cards. Using film would have made my hobby a rather costly luxury by now!

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Burnet moths and other sunny insects on Southampton Common

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This week has been sunny and hot, and Southampton Common is starting to look uncharacteristically scorched. It’s odd to think that just about four months ago it was covered in a blanket of snow.

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With the sunshine the number of butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and other insects has risen beautifully, and I have been happily running around, trying unsuccessfully to capture photos of every fluttering wing.

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My favourite camera fodder have been six spotted burnet moths, who are out and about in large numbers flying, resting, mating, and, when they get particularly fed up with me photographing them, trying to sabotage my camera, staring with a sit-in on the lens hood.

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Although my obsession of the week has been the Burnets, I have also been exclaiming over and stalking butterflies. Someone asked me the other day where the best place on the Common to see butterflies is. The answer is: just about everywhere, but especially behind me.

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The number of dragonflies seems to have risen every day this week, and if the weather stays warm, as they say it will, I am hoping that this trend continues because if there is one thing that makes me very happy indeed it is staring through the lens of my camera at a dragonfly that plans to move just as I hit the shutter release button.

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And of course, the cygnets. They are getting so big that it’s hard to believe that it was only six or so weeks ago that they hatched. Mind you, they at least are not yet taller than their mother, unlike my thirteen year old whose outgrown hiking sandals I have been wearing this week, as a part of my latest venture in sartorial inelegance.

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So, here’s to plenty more of the long hot summer days, and to everyone taking their litter home with them (or at least putting it in the bins) so that neither the wildlife nor I get caught up in it!

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Summer on Southampton Common

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This week we have had a fantastic bit of summer in Southampton, and I have been basking in the company of any insects that care to stay still long enough for my camera.
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At the Boating Lake and Ornamental Pond the dragonflies have been busy, skimming, mating, fighting over territory, and occasionally sitting nicely for a few seconds on a reed or branch for me to photograph them.
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Their smaller counterparts, the damselflies, are also plentiful by the water and in the long grass, getting up to very similar antics. The range of colours that these tiny creatures exhibit never ceases to amaze me, and their big eyes on those stalk -like bodies are mesmerising.
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Then there are the butterflies and day flying moths. In this beautiful weather when the humans are trying to move around as little as possible these industrious little creatures are fluttering urgently around, taking only the shortest of pauses to land on brightly coloured flowers, or nestle in the long grass to ensure the next generation.
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Alongside the butterflies the bees, an endless source of delight to me, have been hovering around flowers and slurping up nectar.
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Meantime, lets not forget the young birds: the moorhen and coot chicks are more or less unrecognisable from their cute, fluffy and ungainly infant forms, and are looking sophisticated and mature as they traverse the Ornamental Pond with their parents. The cygnets at the Boating Lake have reached a rather bedraggled stage, but are still as adorable as ever.
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Oh, and lets not forget this guy!
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The butterfly gap is over on Southampton Common

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This week has seen the butterfly gap well and truly ended. The Common is replete with fluttering wings, and I have spent too many hours of my life waiting for their tiny owners to stop and rest, so that I can admire (and ideally also photograph) them.
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The appearance of the Marbled Whites always, for some reason, signals the real start of summer for me, regardless of the date, so seeing plenty of these papery-winged beauties has been a delight. Alongside them I have been distracted from what I am meant to be doing by Skippers, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, and Commas: not all of which have sat still for long enough for me to photograph. However, now that I know they are there, I will be mercilessly pursing them until about October, becoming increasingly dishevelled in my quest as the days go on.
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Not to be outdone, the damselflies and dragonflies are increasing in number too, and with slightly breezy conditions making them difficult to capture balanced on a handy grass reed, I have been lucky that the Emperor females are still busy laying eggs on the Boating Lake. They are often accompanied by blue damselflies, who for some reason like to play with, and annoy, them, taking on the appearance of irritating younger siblings as they chase and climb onto the larger creatures.
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While we are at the Boating Lake, the four cygnets are doing well, and taking on more of a swan-like shape each day, although still covered in grey fluffiness rather than the juvenile brown which will ultimately give way to their pure white adult plumage. The juvenile coots and moorhens are also almost indistinguishable now from their baby selves, and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed watching them grow up this year, in between anxiously counting them at each sighting.
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They say it will be a gloriously summery week, so I am hoping that those butterflies and dragonflies are not feeling camera shy and that next week I will have a few more photos of my summer loves to share.
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Elusive and beautiful winged creatures on Southampton Common

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It’s difficult to drag myself away from the cygnets, but I’ve been trying my best this week to adopt a slightly wider perspective on Southampton Common. There has been plenty of opportunity to do just that, because the season of elusive winged creatures is here in earnest, and I have been delighted by the increasing number of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies that have been studiously avoiding my camera.
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The dragonflies, whose appearance I await impatiently from about October til May every year, are now established in abundance. They skim the water not caring one bit about the risks I am taking trying to photograph them. The female Emperor Dragonflies have been laying eggs in abundance on the Boating Lake, where, despite the mass of water available to them, everyone seems to aspire to that one perfect spot, leading to a few disputes.

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The damselflies are also busy and plentiful, and to my extreme delight I have seen two demoiselles this week. I don’t see these beauties very often on the Common, so it gave me a ridiculous amount of pleasure that I not only saw them, but that one sat still long enough for me to take their photo.
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However hard I try though it’s difficult to not mention those four little grey cygnets on the Boating Lake who continue to draw the crowds. They are growing fast, and looking more like miniature swans every day.
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So, the babies are growing fast, the insects are getting me into my summer exercise routine, and as ever, there is plenty to see and enjoy on Southampton Common!

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Cygnets and other favourites

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DSC_0122DSC_0122The cygnets have remained the big crowd pullers on Southampton Common this week, delighting visitors to the Boating Lake with their cute fluffiness. The four siblings are growing fast, and their parents guard them closely, taking prompt action against any threat.

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DSC_0570DSC_0570Aside from the cygnets, the moorhen chicks are almost unrecognisable from those original little balls of fluff. They are almost as tall as their parents, although their bodies are still wholly out of proportion as they dart nervously around on thin spindly legs supported by outsize feet.

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Two young coots remain from the original family, and they have lost almost all that alluring electrical orange hair that they had as infants.

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DSC_0775DSC_0775Around the edges of the ponds, the dragonflies have arrived in earnest, and lead me on a merry chase, as they have much more pressing business to attend to than posing for photographs.DSC_0095DSC_0095_3

DSC_1002DSC_1002There are also plenty of tiny beetles and insects around, and the butterflies are returning: I saw my first skipper of the year on Friday, which is always a sign that I am embarking on a few weeks of delight and torture, at the mercy of small winged creatures!

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DSC_0020DSC_0020If things go well, I will have a few more butterfly or dragonfly pictures next week, and of course, a cygnet update!

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The arrival of the cygnets

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DSC_0167DSC_0167I have not had much opportunity to visit the Common this week, because it has been half term and my son and I have been off on our travels, first to Manchester and then to Legoland Windsor. However, knowing that the cygnets had arrived on the Ornamental Pond inspired me to I contrive two opportunities to pop over for a tiny bit of grey fluffiness worship. This week’s photos are, therefore, dedicated purely to the cygnets as they have been the focus of my fleeting visits.

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DSC_0185DSC_0185The Ornamental Pond’s cygnets appeared on Sunday, and initially totalled six in number. Sadly by Wednesday only four remained, bobbing around the lily beds, and hitching lifts from their exhausted mother.

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DSC_0230DSC_0230Meantime, the proud father was patrolling the lake, protecting his territory and family from any real or imagined threats.

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DSC_0562DSC_0562_1By Thursday afternoon the little family had made the journey from the Ornamental Pond to the Boating Lake, where their parents typically take the cygnets for their early upbringing.  It must be a long walk for such little ones, but they seem to thrive on the Boating Lake. DSC_0129DSC_0129

 

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DSC_0497DSC_0497The swan family will probably not return to the Ornamental Pond now until late in the year, when the cygnets can fly.  So, my wanderings will be adjusted for a while to my summer route that incorporates the swans’ nursery location!

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