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!
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.
Strolling Southampton Common has been a real pleasure this week, beginning with rays of beautiful morning light to welcome me back from my week away from wandering.
The Ornamental Lake looked particularly lovely in the misty morning light, especially when the goosanders came close enough to the path to be photographed. We are very lucky to have these gorgeous birds on the Ornamental Lake again this year, and I would very much like them to become regular seasonal visitors.
The early part of the week was a real springtime preview, with Southampton Old Cemetery budding with beautiful blossom, and a smattering of bees and butterflies to give me a bit of insect-missing macro photography practice ready for summer. Every year I long for these tiny creatures to return, and when they arrive I remember how disinclined they are to co-operate with my photographic plans for them!
The ponds on the Common are always a good place to spend a bit of time, and this week has been no exception. The swans are often the main attraction, but the goosanders really do give them a good run for their money, with their sleek beauty, and propensity to take long dives and pop up suddenly just where you weren’t expecting them. I also rather like the pochards over at the Cemetery Lake, who always seem to me to have a vaguely nervous expression.
It looks as if the next few days might be a bit stormy, but I suspect that even in the wind and rain I will find a few interesting things to waste my time enjoying on Southampton Common.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.To purchase an unmarked copy of this image please click on this link
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.
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.
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?!