Spring life on Southampton Common

Southampton Common has been full of life this week: there are ducklings of various ages flitting around on the Ornamental Lake, including the very grown up looking first two of the year, a second family with two remaining and a third group of about six. There may well be more by now! There are also three or so Little Grebes up on the Boating Lake, although they are, so far, too quick and mid-pond for me to photograph!

The coot chicks are also growing up, darting in and out of the reeds with their parents, but easily traceable by their distinctive squeak, bright red bald heads and fuzzy facial hair. The moorhen chicks remain quite well hidden, but I have glimpsed their long legged, big-footed presence a few times.

For me, a real delight is seeing the return of the insects, because they give me the chance to waste hours trying to get a focused shot of a tiny thing waving around in the breeze on a delicate flower or leaf. There are plenty of damselflies around, and I saw my first two dragonflies of 2019 this week, Broad Bodied Chasers, at the north end of the Ornamental Lake.

Away from the water, Southampton Old Cemetery is a great place to meet insects : all the flowers and blossom are a real at attraction for the bees, butterflies and bugs.

Amidst all the fluffy babies, and elusive but beautiful insects, we are still waiting for the cygnets to arrive. The swans are still siting patiently on the nest, and patrolling the lake … any day now we might see a little grey head appear …

Meantime, I will be wandering here and there, aimlessly losing myself in contemplation of disappearing insects!

Duckling days on Southampton Common

This week my wanderings on Southampton Common have, once again, been a lot about fluffy ducklings. There are still two survivors from the first brood of the year, looking very grown up and independent, but at least a couple of large families have appeared on the Ornamental Lake this week, one of ten and one of twelve, (although the numbers have dwindled rather over the week, as nature takes its course). It’s hard to drag myself away from them and do something useful, but occasionally I have achieved it!

Not to be outdone, the beautifully ugly coot chicks have put in a regular appearance, and although the moorhen chicks are generally staying well hidden in the reeds, there were still two babies visible on Friday. At this time of year we really need a chalkboard added to the noticeboard beside the lake so that those of us who are obsessed with the “fluffy count” can leave reassuring messages for one another about who is accounted for!

We are still awaiting the cygnets, which will be another big event, and will almost certainly happen on a rainy day when I can’t get my camera out, but the male swan in particular is maintaining a determined vigil over “his” territory (the whole of the lake, as he perceives it).

With the weather warming up again, to my great happiness the damselflies have been out and about, flitting around the reeds at the Ornamental Lake and giving me an excuse to linger, wasting time, in between the duckling and coot chicks’ rounds.

It hasn’t always been good weather this week though, and the wonderfully green Southampton Old Cemetery has, as is so often then case, provided me with some much needed shelter from time to time.

The weather forecast suggests that I may have some sunshine to play in with the damselflies next week. That would please me a lot, but, whatever the British Springtime throws at us, I’m sure I’ll find something not so very useful to do on Southampton Common.

More spring arrivals on Southampton Common

Another week of spring has brought more more fluffy beauty to Southampton Common: moorhen and coot chicks have arrived at the Ornamental Lake. The coot chicks have been too far away for me to get a half decent photo, but both species have kept me exclaiming with delight in that special: “Avoid the strange lady who speaks to herself” way. The moorhen chicks are simultaneously ungainly and poised, ugly and beautiful with their brightly daubed faces, look of surprised outrage, and seriously oversized feet. Their parents have been busy scooting around trying to keep up with their offsprings’ food demands all week, and the presence of babies of both species has led to a few stand-offs between the moorhens and coots.

Meantime, the two surviving ducklings are getting bigger every day, and I’m sure that there will be more very soon.

The swans on both the Cemetery Lake and the Ornamental Lake are also preparing for new arrivals, with at least one of each pair almost always on their nests now. They also manage to keep a close eye on what they see as their territory, patrolling, seeing off any perceived threat, and, from time to time, leaving the nest together for a bit of quality time.

Elsewhere, Southampton Old Cemetery is looking more beautiful every day, greatly assisted by the growing number of insects adorning the spring flowers.

So, although we haven’t got quite the Bank Holiday weather that we became accustomed to over Easter, it’s been another delightful week on Southampton Common, and I’m looking forward to more spring surprises next week.

The first damselfly of 2019

On Friday I saw my first damselfly of 2019 in Southampton Old Cemetery. A sight that filled me with delight and resulted in people avoiding me for an hour or so as I smiled and exclaimed happily to myself about my find. How fantastic it is every year to see these little beauties returning.

The damselflies were by no means the only insects out and about this week. Southampton Old Cemetery was busy with butterflies, bees, and plenty of others. It was also a festival of brightness with the bluebells, blossom and rhododendron carpet.

The insects were also busy at the Ornamental Lake, and although I didn’t see any damselflies by the waterside there were several butterflies flitting around, including Holly Blues who like me to crawl around in an undignified fashion to take their photo.

The two surviving ducklings are growing bigger and bolder every day, rushing around the lake, further and further from their parens. Sadly, I saw two tiny moorhen chicks being assassinated by a trio of coots this week, although I am reliably informed that there is at least one surviving sibling. Nature is a cruel place sometimes, so take care little ones! The swans are mainly on and around the nest, but are also putting on some pretty good defence and flying displays if they are disturbed or if someone invades what they perceive to be their territory: that is to say, the entire lake!

Although it’s not on Southampton Common, the wisteria in East Park really merits a mention this week. It is looking just beautiful and was well worth taking my bicycle on a little detour to see.

So in and around Southampton, but especially on the Common, I have again been enjoying lots of beautiful spring sights, and the arrival of the damselflies in particular means that I am looking forward to lots more.

Easter Holidays on Southampton Common

It’s been the second week of the school Easter holidays, and on Southampton Common the funfair has arrived, butterflies are fluttering around, the bluebells in Southampton Old Cemetery are looking beautiful and life feels warm and sunny.

At my regular spot beside the Ornamental Lake the ducklings have continued to delight me, although their diminishing number has been rather dismaying. Despite the vigilant watching of their parents, only two of the original nine remained at the last count. Nature is beautiful, but cruel sometimes.

Over at the Cemetery Lake there has been plenty of action: the coots are, as ever, busy disputing territories, with the added incentive of guarding their nests. However, the big news has been the arrival of (at the last count six) Canada Geese. Initially one pair visited and were not made at all welcome by the swans. I though that they had left, however, far from being beaten, they returned with reinforcements. At my last visit the swans seemed to have decided to limit their eviction efforts to when the geese went too close to their nest.

So, it’s been another week of very intermittent but mainly happy wandering for me on Southampton Common, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Spring has in store next. May is just round the corner and that means dragonflies. Watch this space for out of focus insects …

The ducklings have arrived on Southampton Common

The ducklings are here! The first fluffies of 2019 were reported to me on Wednesday, and I finally sneaked out to see them on Saturday morning. Up until then it had already been a pretty good week: with it being school holidays wandering the Common has been a bit off my agenda, but I managed to make a flying visit to Southampton Old Cemetery, which is looking beautifully spring-like.

What attention I have given to Southampton Common this week has, however, mainly gone to Ornamental Lake, where the swans have been putting on a good show of love, territorialism, and preening.

My highlight of the week though has been the first family of ducklings this spring scampering in. I was tied up with family engagements when their arrival was announced, but on Saturday my son required railway modelling supplies from a shop in Shirley. I seized the chance to be uncharacteristically helpful and volunteered to cycle across the Common to collect what he needed. Whilst everyone was reeling from my unusually upbeat approach to an errand, I grabbed my camera and went. My not entirely altruistic goodwill was well rewarded, by the sight of the remaining seven (of the original nine) ducklings scampering and swimming around the edges of the Ornamental Lake. I scampered with them for a happy half hour or so.

So, even a sparse visiting schedule to Southampton Common has made me very happy this week. In between times, here’s a taste of the sort of thing that has kept me away from the Common: standing on a railway bridge at Sway Station with my son, waiting to see the Flying Scotsman fly through backwards. It was very cold on the bridge, but luckily we got covered in nice warm steam!

Spring weather on Southampton Common

It’s been English springtime weather on Southampton Common this week: one day blue skies and sunshine, making me wonder if it’s time to get my less clompy boots out, and the next back into winter, when I regret not having hand warmers in my backpack.

The week began with the swans on the Ornamental Lake getting in the mood for Spring , beautiful rays of light shining through the trees, and butterflies fluttering away from my camera.

As the week progressed the sun and the butterflies went into hiding, but even in the rain and chilly weather Southampton Old Cemetery is beautiful with spring flowers, blossom and shelter from the elements!

Now it’s the school Easter holidays, and the forecast isn’t looking too summery, but there will soon be ducklings, coot and moorhen chicks, and in due course the cygnets. So, I have plenty to look forward to and wander in search of on Southampton Common, even if the April showers are taking their role rather too seriously .