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.

Intermittent summer wanderings on Southampton Common

It’s been a couple of weeks of highs and lows on Southampton Common (my blogs are slightly less frequent event over the summer, because I am building a garden railway with my son, which leaves me less time to wander). Sadly, the Boating Lake has been affected by an algal bloom. Unfortunately, one of the cygnets has died, and the other has been taken into the care of the RSPCA as the lake isn’t really suitable for it to return there at present. The council have been spraying the lake with extra water to reduce the bloom, and the adult swans and other birds seem to have weathered the storm, although the sticklebacks have not been so lucky. With the cooler weather also now here the lake is looking much better and a fence has been put up around the perimeter to reduce the chances of dogs or humans going in, and hopefully also discourage litter from accumulating there. The rangers on the Common have worked over and outside of hours to manage the situation, and to do everything they can for the wildlife, so a big shout out to them for everything they do.

That has been the unhappy side of the summer on Southampton Commons. However, as always there have been plenty of pleasing things happening too. On the Cemetery Lake, there are two new families of ducklings, whose company I have been enjoying.

Elsewhere, I have been indulging my love of insects. They say that this year is a good one for painted lady butterflies, and I have seen a few over the past couple of weeks: one or two have even stayed still enough for me to get a decent shot of them, which is always an unexpected bonus!

There have been lots of other butterflies for me to enjoy as well and on breezy days, of which we’ve had quite a number, the heather provides them with something a bit lower down and more protected from the wind than many of the other flowers. As a happy side effect, it’s also a very photogenic colour.

Alongside the butterflies and moths, the bees and other insects are also out and about in force, so there has been no shortage of tiny life on for me to sit and watch on Southampton Common.

It’s time for me to get back to railway construction now, but in my allocated breaks from track building, I’ll be popping across to Southampton Common to enjoy a well earned wander!

Spring life on Southampton Common

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!

Misty rays and hints of Spring on Southampton Common

This week has been a delight of misty rays and hints of spring. There have been some really beautiful starts to the day on Southampton Common, and I have hardly known which way to turn to enjoy the light.

The early morning fog and mist have created some eerie sunrises at the Ornamental Lake. The Boating Lake is slwoly refilling, and the play of naked trees and reflections there have been rather lovely too.

Alongside the enticing mist, the blossom is starting to appear and the spring flowers are multiplying every day: Southampton Old Cemetery is developing a carpet of primroses, crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops.

When everything is so stunning, it’s easy to forget the faithful inhabitants of the Common, on whom I rely on for company and photography in less dramatic situations. Soon, this year’s chicks, ducklings and cygnets will be on the way, and these guys will take centre stage again!


So, although there’s still plenty of mud for me to kneel in to take my photos, it’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common.

A tiny bit of snow on Southampton Common

It’s been a cold week on Southampton Common, but a beautiful one too.  The frosty sunrises have been a delight to see. 

Both the Ornamental Lake and the Cemetery Lake have been frozen to varying degrees for a large part of the week. The birds always seem to adapt well to a frozen environment, and it’s kind of fun to watch them skating around.

Alongside the frozen water, the early morning frost has been very pretty.

And of course on Friday we had our own little dusting of snow. Whilst we didn’t get quite as impressive a fall as some parts of Hampshire, Southampton Old Cemetery looked especially charming with a sprinkling of the white stuff. The clumps of snowdrops that I have been admiring for a while became, literally, drops in the snow.

Despite the ice and snow though, there has been plenty of sunshine and no lack of blue skies this week.

All in all, another week when Southampton Common has been a beautiful place to take a purposeless winter stroll.

Ice, mist and shoveler ducks on Southampton Common

It’s been a wintry week on Southampton Common. However, there have been some beautiful starts to the day and winter is a fantastic time for sunrises, because I don’t have to get up early to see them. 

Standing around as the sun makes it’s way across the Ornamental Lake is always worth the cold feet it incurs: the way the colours change and the clouds reform minute to minute never ceases to amaze me.

The Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Lake were both frozen at times this week, which not only added something to the sunrise views, but also gave me a chance to watch the birds investigating and dealing with their frosty environment.

The Common really is beautiful on frosty days, as is the neighbouring Southampton Old Cemetery. 

Another great thing about the ice is that the ponds have slowly thawed at the edges, encouraging the shoveler ducks on the Cemetery Lake to come a bit closer to the water’s edge than usual. The only time I can get a half decent shot of them and their amazing beaks seems to be in icy conditions.

Spending some time at the Cemetery Lake this week had the happy side- effect of enabling the tufted ducks to do what they love to do: glare at me. 

It hasn’t been all ice and frost this week, though: there was a bit of mist drifting around the trees on Friday morning, making everything  slightly mysterious.

So, no snow for Southampton this week, but a few more patches of snowdrops in the Old Cemetery. The daffodils are just waiting to appear and there are one or two crocuses braving the elements. So, although we still have a few days of January to go, spring is peeping through the clouds.

Finally, who got up early and saw the big red moon this week? I didn’t. It was lovely the next day on my ride across the Common to the station though. Being just one day late wasn’t so bad …

Sunrises, icy days and goosanders on Southampton Common.

This week has been a good one for early mornings at the Ornamental Lake. Monday was particularly lovely, but Thursday and Friday gave it a good run for it’s money, with Friday throwing in a foreground of ice to finish the week  off in style.

If the sunrises weren’t enough to keep me happy, the Ornamental Lake has been looking beautiful in the sunshine.

A very pleasing recent addition to the Ornamental lake is that the goosanders are becoming a part of the seasonal Common Family. They are beautiful creatures, however they do like to swim just out of camera range, so I was mighty happy when they finally came a little closer to the lakeside path whilst I was there this week. I was a lot less happy when I saw the beautiful Ms. Goosander diving to retrieve, not a shimmering fish, but a black plastic bag. This is not what the goosanders want to eat, and seeing a beautiful bird with an ugly piece of rubbish in her beak makes me uncharacteristically angry.


This is not what Ms. Goosander wants to eat

When I have not been exclaiming over sunrises, or tutting at poor Ms. Goosander catching plastic waste, I have been on the wander in Southampton Old Cemetery, finding interesting shelter during rainy moments, and  delighting in snowdrops. 

They say it is going to get colder now, and on Friday the Ornamental Lake was frozen again.  

So, we shall see what next week brings. I am sure I will find things to amuse myself with, whatever the weather, but I would be very happy indeed if all the litter was put into a bin, or taken away from the Common, so that Ms. Goosander can get back to catching fish.