A mini heatwave on Southampton Common

 

DSC_0129DSC_0129Nikon D5500, 18-200 lens, f. 11, 1/30, ISO 200

This week saw what has been described as a “mini heat wave” in Southampton, and the Common has been absolutely beautiful. Apart from all the litter that got left behind every evening. The wildlife could do without this, and it created endless extra unnecessary toil for the hardworking staff who try to keep the Common safe, beautiful, and in order. (I am not one of the staff, I am one of the things that they try to keep in order.)

DSC_0014DSC_0014Nikon D5500, 18-200 lens, f. 10, 1/640, ISO 250
DSC_0641DSC_0641_3Nikon D5500, 18-200 lens, f. 10, 1/30, ISO 200
DSC_0350DSC_0350Nikon D5500, 70-300 lens, f. 10, 1/640, ISO 1250
DSC_0020DSC_0020Nikon D5500, 70-300 lens, f. 9, 1/640, ISO 1600

The ducklings at the Ornamental Pond who delighted me on Monday have continued to melt my heart all week. They are growing fast, but are still all big eyes, tiny wings and oodles of fluff, getting up to the cutest antics in and around the water and earning plenty of adoration. The Common has been a popular place to come to for a picnic lunch this week, and those who chose to sit beside the Ornamental Pond invariably got involved in duckling worship.

DSC_0405DSC_0405Nikon D5500, 70-300 lens, f. 10, 1/640, ISO 1250
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DSC_0030Nikon D5500, 70-300 lens, f. 10, 1/640, ISO 1250

On Thursday the picnickers included a small gathering of students from the nearby college, who sat down at a bench near to where I was playing. A well-spoken young man from the group approached me and asked if I happened to have any napkins, as they had forgotten theirs. I was very impressed that the youth of today were aspiring to a proper picnic, with napkins, and handed him a pack of tissues (a rather poor substitute, but it was my best offer). He was most polite and grateful, and as I wandered off I considered contacting the college to compliment them on the manners and conduct of their students. As I stood duckling gazing, mentally composing my complimentary email, I heard one of the girls say: “It was really nice of that old lady to let us have these tissues.” I decided, on reflection, that the college probably did not really have the time to deal with an email from me.

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imageNikon D5500, 70-300 lens, f.8, 1/640, ISO 1600

 

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There are nests springing up everywhere on the Ornamental Pond: the coots and moorhens are busy collecting twigs and reeds, and territorial wars have broken out more than once. The swans continue to prepare their nest and to take time out to generate content for it, and soon I think the sitting will begin in earnest.

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As an especially welcome sign that summer is just around the corner the butterflies have begun to appear again. This week I have seen several brimstones, commas, red admirals, and spotted woods. They weren’t feeling too keen on sitting still, but I was still very glad to see them.

DSC_0476Nikon D5500, Tamron 70-300 di macro lens, f.10, 1/800, ISO 1000
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DSC_0578DSC_0578Nikon D5500, Tamron 70-300 di macro lens, f.11, 1/640, ISO 800

Now that it’s the weekend the temperature has fallen a bit, we have had an impressive storm this evening, and the forecast has less of the sun and a bit more of the rain. But I have seen ducklings and butterflies, and feel that it cannot be long before my beloved dragonflies return to torment me.

DSC_0436DSC_0436Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, f.9, 1/640, ISO 1250

 

Ducklings

 

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After all that rain, Monday morning came along and brought with it sunshine and ducklings.

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DSC_0440DSC_0440Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, f9, ISO 1600, 1/640

My journey to work was immeasurably improved by the sight of these gorgeous little balls of fluff skimming across and scampering around the Ornamental Pond. They were already a few days old, but undiminished in cuteness.

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The world becomes a kinder place n the presence of ducklings. People who were clearly in a hurry slowed down, paused, and walked gently past the little ones, giving them plenty of room, so as not to alarm them or their mother. Young men cycling along in that special “no hands” way stopped, smiled and took a photo. People who didn’t know each other fell into conversation about how many there were, and had been (eight, and eleven), and how the swans were getting along with their reproductive responsibilities. The day was not quite so replete with bonhomie as it was when it snowed, but it was pretty close.

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Meanwhile, the cause of all this joy played happily around, climbing on sticks in the water, drinking from puddles, playing on the lily pads, whilst their mother kept a watchful eye on the surroundings.

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I went cheerily on my way to work, thinking what a good place the world was, if you focused solely on ducklings.

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Rainy days on Southampton Common

DSC_0226DSC_0226_2Nikon D5500 Nikon macro lens, ISO 1000, f10, 1/50

Although the sun has come out now and then to give us a tantalising glimpse of what it can do it’s been a fairly wet Easter holiday, and Southampton Common has become a bit of a mud bath. So my wanderings have been curtailed not just by the school holidays but also by the extra weight that becomes attached to my boots whenever I wander even slightly off the paved paths. I have been very appreciative of the trees that have offered me protection from the elements over the past couple of weeks.

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DSC_0035DSC_0035Nikon D5500 Nikon macro lens, ISO 500, f10, 1/10

The Cemetery Lake expanded its boundaries for a while, to incorporate the area previously known as “where I crouch down to take photos”, and there have been plenty of puddles around. These have been greatly enjoyed by both those with wellies to play in and those without (the latter having the additional pleasure of displeasing their parents by their actions).

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DSC_0838DSC_0838Nikon D5500 Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 640, f10, 1/80

Despite the somewhat gloomy skies, the rainy weather has given me the opportunity to practise taking photos of raindrops. I’m hoping that this will be a transferable macro photography skill, soon to be used on sunnier subjects, such as butterflies, bees, and dragonflies, rather than a permanent necessary shift in interest.

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All the signs of spring are still here though, albeit shrouded in a thin layer of rain water. Water lilies popping up on the Ornamental Pond …

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plenty of flowers ready for those much desired mini-beasts to feast on …

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blossom glistening under the occasional ray of sunshine between showers …

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and nest building.

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Any minute now the rain will stop and the action will begin…

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The sun and the rain on Southampton Common

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Easter is almost here. This always makes me think that summer is just around the corner (even when Easter is early, as it is this year), and at the beginning of the week that is exactly how it felt. Beautiful blue skies, delicate mist rising from the Ornamental Pond in the morning sunshine, and the lillies beginning to peep up through the water. It felt great, and I had a hot cross bun stashed away in my bag for morning snack. Life was very good, even if it was Monday morning.

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To see some photos of sunrises on the Ornamental Pond, please click on this link

Tuesday wasn’t quite so splendid, but the rather less promising weather didn’t put off a group of young women who arrived at the Cemetery Lake with a deckchair and bag of props in order to photograph one of their number in her swimwear. The wildlife generally carried on as if nothing was happening, although the pochards sneaked the occasional quizzical glance in the direction of the unusual style of camera action, and the swans seemed a little miffed that for once they were not being regarded as the most photogenic creatures present.

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Since then the Easter funfair has arrived on the Common and with it has come the rain. Nonetheless, despite everything being covered in a layer of raindrops the Old Cemetery is looking beautiful, with the flowers (both wild and cultivated) adding delightful splashes of colour to the tranquillity that exists there.

DSC_0424Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, f10, ISO 250, 1/125
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To see some more photos of the Old Cemetery, please click on this link

The birds are busy building their nests, and I know that the butterflies are just waiting to appear and simultaneously delight and torment me. The rain is making everything a bit squelchy this week, but very soon I will be dashing between ducklings and dragonflies, not knowing which way to look, and very possibly teetering perilously at the edges of the ponds. Must check that my camera insurance covers summertime clumsiness!

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DSC_0203DSC_0203Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, f10, ISO 100, 1/20 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link

 

Spring again on Southampton Common

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The snow is once again disappeared from Southampton Common and, much as I loved it, a couple of days was enough. I would next like to see that beautifully photogenic blanket around November time. There is a nasty rumour going around about the snow returning over Easter, but I am ignoring that. I am well and truly ready for Spring now.

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Fortunately, it looks as if Spring may also be ready to join us for real. Wednesday was warm and sunny, and although things have clouded over a little since then, the bees are back, I have seen the first Red Admiral that would sit still for me (I saw one a while back, but it was busy doing a kamikaze style fly-past along the London Road), the blossom is beautiful, the catkins are tantalisingly fluffy, and the other day I caught whiff of freshly cut grass whilst I wandered in the Old Cemetery. It has to be Spring if I can smell freshly cut grass.

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To see more photos of the Old Cemetery please click on this link

Meantime, the goosander has brought a female companion to the Ornamental Pond. She is very beautiful and despite the fact that the pair like to hide together over in the shadowy unphotogenic areas of the pond, there are plenty of photographers and bird watchers keeping a beady eye on them. So I hope that they realise how much we love them, find a woody hole in which to make a nest and bring the Common baby goosanders to coo over.

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To see more photos of the swans from Southampton Common, please click on this link

The swans on the Ornamental Pond are also getting closer each day to building a proper nest, and the ducks, coots are moorhens on both the Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Pond are very industrious (not to mention a little combative) about their own family preparations.

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So, although I am not yet ready to swap the warm beverage in my flask for a cold one, all in all, I am feeling very upbeat about Spring really arriving this time round.

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Mini Beasts on Southampton Common

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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.

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DSC_0074DSC_0074_1Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f14, 1/20 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link

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.

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DSC_0025DSC_0025Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 320, f10, 1/40 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link

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 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link
DSC_0095DSC_0095Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200 lens, ISO 200, f14, 1/40 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link

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.

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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.

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A tiny pleasure on Southampton Common

 

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The 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_0587To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link
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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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