Sunny wandering on Southampton Common

It’s been a busy week for insects on Southampton Common: they haven’t always wanted to sit still for me, but the place has been a buzz of bees, butterflies, damselflies and more. I’ve enjoyed the company of moths, grasshoppers, ladybirds and, although not everyone’s favourite, caterpillars which fill me with hope for even more butterflies and moths. For someone who enjoys the small things in life, and doesn’t mind getting rather dishevelled in the process of seeking them out, summer is a fantastic time.

At the Boating Lake, three not-so-little ducklings continue to be carefully supervised by their mother whilst they do cute things for the crowds.

Of course a week can’t go by without a mention of the cygnets, and a few photos of their latest antics.

So it’s been another warm week of happy wanderings for me, watching the spring babies growing up and enjoying the confetti of insects fluttering around my head. What’s not to like about Southampton Common in summer?

Fluttering and fluff on Southampton Common

The cygnets have continued to steal the show at the Boating Lake this week, snuggling together in the grass, clambering in and out of the water, swanning around, and generally pleasing their adoring public. 

Sometimes I wonder if I have offended the cygnets!

The cygnets have some competition now though: a family of five ducklings appeared late in the week, and have attracted a following of their own. Meantime, the little grebes continue their nesting activity: so we carry on hoping for more babies.

It’s not been all cute and fluffy this week though. It’s been a bit breezy for photographs, but the air is busy with the fluttering and buzzing of beautiful summer insects. What a fantastic time of year it is: I get to wander around in pursuit if tiny things that fly away faster than I can focus!

They say that the mini-heatwave is over for now, but there are still plenty of numbers above the magic twenty mark on my weather forecast, so I’m hoping for some more happy, sunny wanderings on Southampton Common in the week to come.

Small things on Southampton Common

It’s been another happy week for me on Southampton Common, spending quality time with small things.

A lot of my time has been spent at the Boating Lake, paying homage to the cygnets.

The two little ones are growing fast and keeping their parents and their constant stream of fans well occupied. 

Sheltering from the rain under dad’s umbrella

Whilst most eyes have been on the cygnets, the little grebes have been having a go at resurrecting their nest on the Boating Lake: hopefully they will be lucky this time, and we will have baby grebes to exclaim over later in the year. 

In between my cygnet watch duties, I have spent a fair bit of time in Southampton Old Cemetery and the grassy areas between the lakes, enjoying the company of insects. The butterflies, bees, dragonflies and damselflies are becoming more numerous each day, and I was lucky enough to come across a golden ringed dragonfly in Southampton Old Cemetery: what fun I had watching him. 

They say we will have some sunshine next week, so hopefully I will get to spend more time scampering around chasing tiny creatures and generally looking foolish. Whatever the weather brings though, I’m sure I will enjoy myself on Southampton Common. 

The cygnets’ long walk on Southampton Common

It’s been a treat of a week on Southampton Common if you like cygnets and don’t mind the rain too much. The cygnets don’t mind the rain, because they have their parents’ downy backs to ride on and snuggle into. From this cosy vantage point they can watch the humans standing in the rain beside the Boating Lake waiting to catch a glimpse of them.

The cygnet-fest began on Monday for me. It was raining quite heavily, so the obvious thing to do was to go and stand at the Ornamental Lake for a while so that I could see how the cygnets were getting along.  When I arrived I was reassured to find that I was by no means the only person who considered this a reasonable way to behave.  There were two cygnets in the water with the male swan when I arrived, and one in the nest with the female. However, all was not well with the little one in the nest, and after a number of exchanges between the parents, the mother left the cygnet and the nest, and was gently ushered away by her partner, along with their two other babies. He led his family into the foliage at the edge of the lake for about half an hour, before escorting them back onto the lake, and taking care of the two healthy cygnets whilst the female returned to the nest. It was by now empty, and after checking a couple of times, and calling to her partner, she returned to her family: now just the four of them.  It was sad, but rather touching, to see how the male swan guided his partner through the process of letting nature take it’s course. 

The next day was the highlight of the week for me: every year, after the cygnets hatch, the swan family migrate from the Ornamental Lake to the Boating Lake, but I have never witnessed the event before. This year I was very lucky. As I was wandering and wondering whether the heron would come close enough to be photographed properly I saw a jogger dodging around something at the island corner of the lake. I grabbed my camera and dashed over, yelling impolitely at a gentleman and his daughters (whom I had never met before) to join me for the experience of a lifetime. They followed the disorderly old woman and together we caught up with the swan family. One of the Park Rangers came across to supervise the process: without any interference with the swans’ plans he ensured that the path they took was kept clear of humans, dogs and bikes. As the swans chose to walk along the main path between the lakes, at a busy time, his presence was much appreciated by all. 

The cygnets, who were only about three days old, walked every step of the way to the Boating Lake, with no offer of a lift from mum or dad at any stage. They were, however, treated like royalty, with their adoring subjects lining the way, exclaiming and taking photos.

Once at the Boating Lake the cygnets plopped into their new home and have commanded a constant stream of exclaiming onlookers ever since. They have taken their popularity very much in their stride, as they sail around on mum or dad’s back (causing great anxiety if snuggling under their parents’ feathers takes them out of the sight of their fan base), splash around together, and take time out to sit on the side of the lake in the sunshine (or rain!) With the seagulls and crows also taking an unhealthy interest in them though the accepted greeting at the Boating Lake is no longer “Hello, how are you? “ But an anxious: “Are there still two?” 

In between times, the little grebes have had a less lucky week. They had a beautiful nest constructed near the side of the Boating Lake, but unfortunately on Thursday it became rather waterlogged in the rain. There was something left of it on Friday, once the water levels fell a little, but the eggs may  well have been lost. However, they are rather determined little characters, and may, I hope, make another nest soon if this one hasn’t worked out. Elsewhere, back on the Ornamental Lake there were still three little coot chicks on Friday, looking as cute and fuzzy as ever.

It really has been all about the cygnets this week though! Perhaps next week I will drag myself away from them, especially if the weather becomes a bit more damselfly and butterfly friendly. If not, well, the cygnets really are fun to spend quality time with, and I have had a fantastic week on Southampton Common, despite being forced back to drinking flasks of warming coffee rather than cool water from the newly installed water dispensers at the Hawthorns and playground. 

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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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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