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.
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 …
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.
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.
This week has included a fair bit of cloud and rain, which always makes me enjoy the woodland areas of the Common, with their generous shelter and, at this time of year, pleasingly crunchy leaves to kick my way through (will I ever grow out of kicking leaves? I guess not) .
I haven’t been the only one playing with the leaves this week though. The birds on the Boating Lake have been swimming in leaves, and the little grebes have taken to wearing them
Speaking of the Boating Lake, the swans have been starting the process of moving back to the Ornamental Lake, and I can no longer predict who I will find where. One morning I found a solitary cygnet on the Boating Lake, squeaking dismally, having missed the morning flying lesson. I discovered his parents and sibling swanning around on the Ornamental Lake, reminding the ducks and gulls of whom they perceive to be in charge. The next day, the father and two cygnets were on the Boating Lake, whilst the mother enjoyed a bit of well-earned peace and quiet on the Ornamental Lake.
On the other side of the Common, at the Cemetery Lake, the shoveler ducks deigned to come almost close enough to the edge of the water for me to try to get a decent shot of them, whilst the tufted ducks looked disapprovingly on and the gulls remained pristine, despite the muddy surroundings.
Despite the colder weather this week, a few tiny fungi are still popping up, and although some of the trees have entirely lost their leaves, others are still in full autumn glory. You never know what season it will be as you turn a corner at this time of year.
But on Thursday, there was no doubt that winter was on the way, and it was a beautiful sight. The Ornamental Lake was laced with the first ice of the season, one of the swans was visiting, and the golden sunlight was just breaking through a vey slightly hazy sky. I never really feel able to welcome winter, but when it looks like this I just have to find my chunkiest jumper, pull on an extra pair of gloves, and love every cold minute of it.
Just as we thought we were heading to spring, Southampton has been visited by the “Beast from the East”. Elsewhere in the UK the Beast has brought snow with it. So far, we have only had the mildest of flurries, but more is promised for Thursday. In the meantime it’s been a combination of summer and arctic conditions on the Common. Stand in a sheltered sunny patch and you might take off your coat and wonder what all the fuss is about. Turn the corner into a shady but windy spot and you will know. I have been looking even odder than usual, wearing unmatched gloves as I have again lost at least three of mine, and trying to pull my hat down to meet my coat when cycling against the wind. Tomorrow I may borrow one of my son’s go-karting balaclavas, especially if the snow closes the schools and we are out playing.
The ponds on the Common are now back down to their usual quota of swans: the new arrivals having departed from the Boating Lake, no doubt as a result of a visit full of heavy hints from the couple from the Ornamental Pond. All three ponds are now frozen over and the wind has been ruffling many feathers amongst the bird population. On the Ornamental Pond the residents are all shoehorned into a tiny channel of water at the island end, and on the Cemetery Lake they are deriving what comfort they can from a tiny trickle of water round the edges of ice sheet.
I settled down in a sunny, sheltered, corner by the Cemetery Lake today, accompanied by my comfort items of flask and biscuits. Despite their restricted circumstances the birds were generally all getting on with life (possibly because they do not have the doom saying weather forecast to cheer them up), although the coots in particular seem to find the icy surfaces a bit puzzling. On a positive note, the conditions meant that the shoveler ducks finally deigned to come over to the photgraphable part of the Cemetery Lake again, and a very friendly little robin popped out to see me. So, as usual, life was good on Southampton Common, provided one stayed out of the wind and in the sunshine, and we eagerly await the promised snow and school closures tomorrow.
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).
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.
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.
It’s been rather chilly this week, but here in Southampton we have not had any snow. Not even a hint of a day off work or school for wintry conditions. There have, nonetheless, been some great cold weather compensations. Both the Cemetery Lake and the Ornamental Pond have been frozen in whole or in part for much of the week, and this has given me plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sight of the birds negotiating their icy environment (whilst remaining fairly safely on solid land myself).
The swans have generally declined to participate in the skating parties, preferring to float aloofly in the thin slices of water available to them. However, the moorhens, coots, ducks and seagulls have been experimenting with the ice, with varying degrees of good humour.
Best of all for me, on Thursday the elusive shoveler ducks on the Cemetery Lake deigned to come within camera range, to pose on the ice and fascinate me with thoughts of how they manage to balance with those large bulky beaks.
After the excitement of a close encounter with the shovelers, I retired to the Old Cemetery where, to further compensate for the lack of snow, there are still plenty of snowdrops on display, along with an ever increasing number of tantalisingly spring-like flowers.
I stopped for a quick drink from my now trusty new flask, accompanied by a small snack of whatever I found in my backpack. A squirrel joined me, nibbling on a snack of his own, and all the while eyeing me warily, as if I might try to effect a swap.