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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Southampton Common: fluffy and bright

DSC_0097It’s been another sweet week on Southampton Common, with the moorhen chicks, coot chicks and ducklings all growing up fast.

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DSC_0140The coot chicks are still sporting their gloriously electric orange hair and outraged look, whilst their parents tirelessly feed them.

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DSC_0327The youngest moorhens are becoming a little less timid each day and scampering round the edge of the Ornamental Pond, showing off their incredible feet.

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DSC_0510Meantime, the older moorhen chick whose nest is at the other end of the pond is reaching an awkward but still rather delightful stage of gangly adolescence.

 

 

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DSC_0080DSC_0080Whilst all this is going on, amongst the reeds the damselflies are busy ensuring the next generation of insects!

 

 

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Away from the ponds, the colours in the Old Cemetery are spectacular at the moment, and across the Common there are carpets of buttercups, so that even on duller days the Common is looking bright and beautiful.

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Finally, back on the water, the male swans have spent the week closely guarding their nests and partners, and yesterday was the day when the little heads appeared in the nest on the island at the Ornamental Pond. So, next time I write, I hope to have some photos of the fluffy grey cuties to share.

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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!

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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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