It’s a festival of fungus on Southampton Common

It’s almost the time of year when I can, if I’m lucky, catch a quick sunrise on my way to work.

A few weeks back we were all noticing how low on water the lakes were, and that we needed some rain. Well, we sure have that now. The lakes on Southampton Common are nice and full, and there’s plenty of mud for me to clump around in. Happy days!

In between the much-needed-but-not-always-fully-appreciated-when-they-arrive downpours, there’s been some beautiful sunshine, and a few last dragonflies and butterflies for me to fruitlessly pursue.

Autumn is definitely here though, with the leaves starting to change colour, and the sun lower in the sky.

Best of all, with the rain, sunshine, and changing seasons I’ve been having a beautiful time with my tiny fungal friends over the last couple of weeks, kneeling in muddy leaves, enjoying their delicate company and returning home even more dishevelled than usual.

The season of pretty webs is also here, with their amazing but sometimes less popular occupants.

It looks as if next week might bring a bit more rain and mud, so I’ll most likely be found sheltering in the undergrowth, chatting to the mushrooms, and scaring innocent passers by when I spring up abruptly from my undignified pose.

Autumn rain on Southampton Common

This week it’s been feeling and looking a lot like autumn. Although the dragonflies are still whizzing around the lakes during sunny spells, there’s been lots of the much needed rain in between the sunshine, and it’s feeling a whole lot like autumn.

In Southampton Old Cemetery, the autumn colours are starting to appear. The berries are out, and although I have been looking wistfully at the places where I spent many sunny summer hours with butterflies and bees, it’s all looking very beautiful.

It’s also the time of year for horse chestnuts, sweet chestnuts, acorns and fungi, and the much needed rain is easier to appreciate under the shelter of the extensive woodland on Southampton Common. Cue an increase in sightings of a strange old woman crouching in the undergrowth.

The spiders’ webs are starting to be interesting again, covered in raindrops or early morning dew (although this week they’ve been waving in the breeze a bit too much for photography purposes).

The ponds are finally filling up after a long dry summer, and with the dragonfly and butterfly numbers reducing, I’ve taken to visiting the slightly larger winged creatures. As you can see, the pigeons at the Cemetery Lake were loving the weather this week!

All in all, despite the wind and rain, over the next few weeks I’m looking toward to more lovely autumn colours appearing, kicking my way through fallen leaves (how can one ever grow out of doing that?) and crawling around in dark places looking for fungi.

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.

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.