September sun on Southampton Common

Just when I thought it was time to say a sad farewell for a few months to my tiny winged friends, the last couple of weeks have been a treat of sunshine and insects. I have been in butterfly, bee, and dragonfly heaven.

I have been absolutely spoiled for butterflies these past two weeks: fluttering through the air, enjoying the last of the buddleias, sampling blackberries, and swaying on the tops of the last few meadow flowers.

The dragonflies have also been putting on a great flying display around the lakes, interspersed with posing on reeds, blackberries, and sometimes hanging around in thorny areas. There have been a few hovering over the beleaguered Boating Lake too, which is a good sign that things are improving there.

The bees have also been their typical busy selves.

But despite all this, autumn is clearly on the way: the trees are beginning their transition to golden leaf loss, the acorns and chestnuts are plentiful, the berries are brightening, and there are a few fungi popping their heads up. I think there might be more of those next week, after the rain we’re having today.

Today we have plenty of much needed rain, and the forecast tells me that next week is going to be a lot less like summer. I feel like I can be ready for autumn now though, after such a fantastic couple of weeks of insect company, although I will miss my beautiful sunny day friends.

In between on Southampton Common

It’s been a halfway couple of weeks on Southampton Common, with summer still doing it’s best and producing some glorious days, but autumn very clearly trying to edge it out and take it’s turn.

In the meadows and Southampton Old Cemetery there are still the last moments of heather, and a good number of insects feasting on the few remaining flowers.

The bees are still fairly abundant, and there are a smattering of butterflies flitting around during sunny interludes.

The dragonflies, although not so numerous as some years (possibly due to the Common being one water mass down), are still visible, and have been leading me a merry dance trying to photograph them.

Elsewhere, despite the beautiful green looks, autumn is showing itself, with acorns, chestnuts and fungi slowly appearing.

They say that we might have a couple more summery days next week, so I’m looking forward to more mixed wanderings, whilst the declining temperatures help our poor old Boating Lake to recover from it’s unwanted algae.

Summer in the heather on Southampton Common

It’s been another two weeks of mostly insect weather on Southampton Common, and I’ve been enjoying a few opportunities to wander, often close to the heather, which is a favourite location for me to meet my tiny winged friends.

My time on the Common has been quite butterfly heavy, but a close second place goes to the bees. They are a delight to watch, even, or maybe especially, when they are bedraggled in early morning dew. The dragonflies have been a bit sparse on the Common this year I think, probably because of the problems at the Boating Lake, but one or two have sat still for long enough for me to enjoy their company this week.

Despite all the lovely insects, it’s not been all sunshine these past two weeks. I’ve spent a bit of time sheltering under the trees on Southampton Common, and the acorns are already on the trees, reminding me that Autumn is just around the corner. But for now, it’s a beautiful bank holiday weekend, and I am loving summer on Southampton Common.

Before I go, a quick swan update following the blue green algae on the Boating Lake incident: the male swan was collected by the RSPCA just over a week ago, to check on his health. He is fine and has been released at another location. He may well find a new mate and return, so look out for incoming swans! The second cygnet is doing fine and will be released once they are big enough to manage.

Dragonfly days on Southampton Common

This week has been a lot about the dragonflies. Like me, they seem to be trying to squeeze everything possible out of the last few moments of summer. The pond-sides have been busy with the sound of their wings, and every now and then I have had to stop abruptly at the sight of a shimmering body on the path ahead of me. They regard me with their huge complex eyes, and promptly depart.

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Although the insect numbers are diminishing as the weather cools a little, there are still a good number of tiny creatures trying to avoid my lens: shieldbugs swinging on grass stalks, damselflies staring at me with their outsize eyes, holly blue butterflies on the heather, and speckled woods flitting around every sunny corner.

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Another great delight for me this week has been watching the little grebes on the Boating Lake as they dive, and then emerge far away from their original point of entry with an ill-fated fish in their beaks. They require a fair bit of patience photography wise, as they seem to like to fish in places where the shadows are greatest and the light lowest. Just as I have them in sight they dive again, emerge in a sunny spot, look at me with mischief in their eyes, and dive back into the gloom.

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A visit to the Boating Lake is never complete without a quick mention of the  cygnets: despite still having their grey juvenile colours they are taking on the elegant pose of mature swans now. It won’t be long until they are learning to fly and their parents are making plans to help them to move on.

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In the background, autumn is slowly but steadily creeping across the Common: the mornings are cooler, and I have found a few conkers and numerous acorns lying around. What delightful photography subjects they are: you can pick them up and move them to a convenient environment where they stay still indefinitely. Although I am clinging on desperately to the last moments of summer, I am, in reality, ready to welcome the warm colours and crisp mornings of autumn.

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Between seasons on Southampton Common

DSC_0605DSC_0605After two weeks of sunshine in Barcelona, I’m back in intermittently sunny Southampton, and enjoying occasional opportunities to stroll the Common (in between more pressing school holiday related activities).DSC_0562DSC_0562 copy

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It seems to have become that in between season: summer one minute and autumn the next, and my backpack is full of layers of clothing that I spend the day faffing around with. I have found a few fungi and quite a number of acorns on the Common, and whilst it’s sad to think of summer drawing to a close these autumnal subjects do have the definite attraction of staying still to have their photo taken.

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DSC_0486DSC_0486_1However, there is still enough summer around for me not to dwell too much on the chillier seasons: I have been chasing dragonflies, with varying degrees of success, and the damselflies are still busy in the tall grass beside the ponds.DSC_0917DSC_0917_1

 

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There are also quite a few butterflies still teasing me with their fast wings, although they are starting to look a little weather worn.

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There is also every potential for the weather to revert back to full on summer the minute schools re-open. So, all in all, I am not packing up my summer photography ideas just yet.

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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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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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