Southampton Common Blues

DSC_0091DSC_0091This week began a tiny bit dull and dreary (aka a usual British Summer), not aided by the news that one of our cygnets was missing: only three of the fast growing little ones on the Boating Lake.

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However the ducklings, who are also growing fast, put on a cheering show. They and the three coot chicks (who are too far away from the bank for me to get a decent shot of them, but easily visible  in all their wire-haired glory) carried everyone forward to Tuesday, when the sunshine returned and we were once again plunged into the summer of 2018.

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Although there is no shortage of other pleasures on the Common, at present I am mainly stuck in insect stalking mode. This is not solely because I like to get scratched to pieces by brambles in the pursuit of missed shots, but also because these tiny beings fascinate me: so much beauty and perfect detail crammed in to such a tiny space.

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My current obsession is the Common Blue butterfly, which has stolen most of the available space on my SD card this week: everything about these dainty little creatures delights me (except for their disinclination to stay still for the camera)!

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However, the small things of the Common, and the longsuffering Rangers (who tend to find either my bicycle or I in the way of whatever useful task they are trying to perform) will now have short break as I am off to Barcelona. Here, my thirteen year old son will try to prevent me from wandering aimlessly and behaving in a manner slightly outwith social norms whilst in his company. Wish him luck with that one and see you in a couple of weeks time!

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Insect queues on Southampton Common

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It looks as if the heat wave is over for a few days! The cygnets and ducklings have been wondering what all this windy weather is about I think, as moist of their young lives have been spent basking in the sun. As well as the ducklings I am told that there are some coot chicks newly hatched on the Boating Lake, so let’s hope they do well after this stormy start.

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DSC_0279DSC_0279_1The high temperature last week was a great incentive for the butterflies to be out and about, and the number of tiny flitting common blues was a delight to see. I know they are common, but they are delicate beauties. And they were by no means alone in the butterfly display.

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Stalking butterflies requires a bit of care though, as there are plenty of other insects sheltering in the grass, and it’s easy to accidentally disturb them. The grasshoppers in particular were so numerous that some of them were having to queue on the grass.

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But despite the dip in temperature, they say it will warm up again next week, so hopefully there will be plenty more butterflies, dragonflies, and a glimpse of those baby coots to come!

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The long hot summer

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They say it’s going to be a long hot summer, and this week on Southampton Common there has been plenty of evidence of that. Everything is looking parched, and there has been a fire in the Old Cemetery: so please take care with anything that has the slightest chance of igniting.

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Heading straight to the water to cool down, on the Boating Lake the ducklings seemed to have disappeared on Monday, which was bad start to the week. However, by Tuesday they were back in sight: seven of them, being closely protected by their mother. On Friday there were still four little ones Ornamental Pond, and a third small family on the Cemetery Lake.

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DSC_0089-2But it’s really insect time of year, and the Common is buzzing with tiny things.The long grass is full of grasshoppers and ladybirds. The butterflies, moths and bees are flitting busily between nectar sources, and the dragonflies are hovering and resting near to the water.

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It would be mighty churlish to complain about the glorious weather, because we usually spend the summer whingeing about the rain, but if we could have a little bit of precipitation at night, to dampen the fire risk, and give the ducklings a bit more swimming water, that would be perfect!

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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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