Windswept on Southampton Common

It’s been a blustery week on Southampton Common, so most of my time has, once again, been spent by the waterside, watching how the birds have been managing the wind and mud. A lot of feather ruffling has been going on!

Dipping under the water, out of the wind and rain, has been an attractive option for some.

Others have stayed above the water, and just ridden the waves.

With a surfeit of that damp drizzly rain that hardly seems to be there yet soaks you, accompanied by a smattering of real rain, the trees on Southampton Common have been much appreciated this week: although some of them have appeared less than impressed by my company.

Despite the somewhat inclement weather, there was one morning of beautiful early light for the swans on the Ornamental Lake to pose in. In addition, notwithstanding all my whingeing, the beautiful signs of Spring are still all around, albeit swaying uncontrollably.


So, another week has blown by on Southampton Common, and we are halfway through March. This means that I can begin my annual discussion with myself about whether to get a better macro lens for all those lovely summer insects that are just waiting to hide form me.

A week by the waterside on Southampton Common

There’s been a lot of beautiful spring blossom on Southampton Common, and on Monday I was pleased to see that the majority of the flowers in Southampton Old Cemetery had survived the weekend storms. Today it’s pretty breezy again, so let’s hope there’s till some left tomorrow.

Although the Common is full of spring flowers, the windy weather has made doing them justice in photos rather tricky this week, so I have rather kept to the watersides. This has been no great hardship, especially on those mornings when the Ornamental Lake has been misty and golden.

The resident swans on the Ornamental Lake always add something to the scene, emerging from the morning mist, preening, and generally swanning around. They have been inspecting their regular nesting site on the island this week: maybe we are moving towards the long annual cygnet watch!

Luckily for Common wanderers like me there is always plenty to watch on the lakes. There have been varying goosander counts on the Ornamental Lake this week, but a regular group of three females and one male have been consistently spotted, usually steadfastly located on the most distant side of the water, although they are not above popping over to do a bit of fishing amongst the reeds beside the path just after I have packed my camera away . The other birds on the lakes have been variously getting muddy faces, pairing up, arguing over territory, and glaring at me.

They say that next week will be rather wet and windy again, but although the ducks and I may all end up looking a bit muddy and windswept again, I’m sure there will be fun to be had on Southampton Common.

Storms and sunshine on Southampton Common

It’s been a stormy end to November, and only the most determined of  the autumn leaves are still hanging on.

I have spent an awful lot of time this week sheltering in the woodlands, walking through slightly soggy leaves, pausing to admire the fungi, and reminding myself how much we need all this rain to keep the land green and pleasant. 

Although it seems as if the week has been pretty damp, there have been plenty of beautiful moments: a misty morning …

A couple of lovely early starts at the Ornamental Lake…


and the meeting  of clouds and sunshine is always a delight to watch

Apart from the wild weather, this weeks events include  the Boating Lake being drained, meaning  that  those who had taken up residence there have had to find alternative accommodation. The cygnets have been safely relocated, and their parents have reluctantly accepted that it is time to return to the Ornamental Lake for winter. Of this I am very glad, as they add a photogenic touch to early morning winter photos. 

For the ex-Boating Lake dwellers who want to remain on the Common, the alternative to  the Ornamental Lake is the Cemetery Lake, and the established residents there have had to make room for a few new arrivals too.

All in all, despite the rather inclement weather, it’s been another week when I have been glad to be able to spend a few hours wandering the Common, doing nothing remotely useful, but enjoying doing it!

Growing up on Southampton Common

 

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Last week’s mini heatwave is over and the weather has been a little less glorious over the past few days. On Friday I had to give in and return to wearing my winter coat and gloves and carrying my trusty flask. However, the Common is still beautiful, if a tad muddy once more, and there was enough sunshine for a few butterflies to be out and about on Thursday when I was wandering in the Old Cemetery.

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The main attraction and sadness for me though has been seeing the ducklings grow and go. By Tuesday their number was reduced to only four, but those four were undiminished in loveliness, although increasing in both size and defiance of danger each day, becoming more adventurous and starting to resemble mini ducks rather than tiny balls of fluff.

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Whilst the ducklings’ parents watch carefully over them the other residents of the ponds continue to be busy: preening, nest building and incubating their eggs.

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The swans on both the Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Pond are now on full time sitting duty. In between their shifts on the nest they are occupied with guard duty and collecting maintenance materials for their nests in the form of twigs, reeds, and the lace from one of my boots, which the male swan from the Ornamental Pond tried to remove the other morning. Luckily for me (and him) he was unsuccessful.

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So, despite the temperature falling back into single figures, spring is still very much in evidence on Southampton Common and the forecast says that there might be a little bit of warmer weather on the way. In the meantime though, I have my big coat and gloves ready for tomorrow morning.

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Ducklings

 

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

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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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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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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.

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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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More ice on Southampton Common

The Ornamental Pond was covered in a sheen of ice. It looked wafer-thin, but was somehow thick enough to support the duck and gull population. The sky was clear and the sun was shining: what a good start to the week (especially if, like me, you had remembered to put foot warmers inside your boots).

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There have been quite a few icy days lately, but the birds were still having quite a time investigating their solid environment.

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Over at the Cemetery Lake there was considerably less ice, but the seagulls were doing their best to stand on what little there was, whilst the tufted ducks indulged in a cold water bathing routine. The shoveler ducks, who were so friendly last week, had returned to their preferred activity of swimming in circles at the back of the island, out of range of my camera.

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There was just time for a quick visit to the Old Cemetery, which was a good thing because it is a delightfully peaceful place to go before immersing oneself in the chaos of the day. Or, in my case, the chaos of the week, because this is half term, and there will be plenty of Lego, Nerf guns, and other productive activities for me to immerse myself in, rather than wandering aimlessly the Common.

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