Changing seasons on Southampton Common

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.

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The ice before the storm on Southampton Common

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Shovelers on the ice at Southampton Common

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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All in all, despite finding that another species distrusts me, it has been a good week for me on Southampton Common.

 

Cold but beautiful: icy mornings on Southampton Common

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It’s been a cold start to the week, but a happy side effect of this has been beautiful bicycle rides on my way to work via Southampton Common: and never mind that my two pairs of gloves and three pairs of socks have been inadequate for the task of keeping me warm.

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On Monday morning the Ornamental Pond was partially iced over. It was beautiful to see the sun rising above the shimmering ice and there was just enough water available for the swans to have a bit of an early morning preening session/ photo shoot for me. I was very grateful for their efforts, because Monday can be a bit of a cheerless event and I secretly felt that I deserved some kind of reward for braving the biting wind.

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I considered popping in to the Common on my way home, but the call of a warm house achieved an easy victory over the much more subtle call of the camera.

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Tuesday was advertised as being pretty much as cold, if not colder, than Monday. But although the ducks were still sliding around on thin ice the unforgiving wind chill factor had abated. It was a less picturesque early morning, with the sunshine constantly hinting at a breakthrough but never quite making it. The up side of this was that I cycled away with a degree of sensation still remaining in my fingers and toes, and a feeling that there were definite compensations for the lack of a spectacular sunrise.

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Angry Ducks (on Southampton Common)

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I had another chilly start on Southampton Common yesterday, with the large field sporting a dusting of frost and part of the Ornamental Pond frozen over. However, it developed into a gloriously sunny morning as I set off on my quest for signs of hope in the Old Cemetery. As per my current route, I called in on the Cemetery Lake on my way.

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Here it came to my attention that the ducks absolutely do not like me. At first I thought it was just the tufted ducks that had been offended by some dark event in my past, but it seems that the look of disdain has now spread to the pochards, who are usually so gentle and mild mannered. Next week I guess the mallards will hate me too. Whilst we are on the subject of creatures that don’t like me, there has been a goosander on the Ornamental Lake for at least two weeks who has been avoiding me on purpose.

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Having topped up my paranoia at the Cemetery Lake, I proceeded to the Old Cemetery, where the light was playing beautifully behind the snowdrops and crocuses. This cheered me up a great deal, particularly because kneeling in the mud afforded me the opportunity to have a small morning coffee picnic, whilst planning the best approach to hoisting myself back to an upright position.

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To see more photos of the Old cemetery, please click on this link The Old Cemetery

I returned to the Ornamental Pond to collect my trusty bicycle. The goosander was busy fishing in the reedy area on the most distant shore, out of reach of my lens, and the seagulls were playing on what remained of the ice. I bade the Common farewell for the weekend, and cycled carefully away, trying not to offend any more of the wildlife as I went.

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To see photos of more impressive ice on Southampton Common, please click on this link Icy Days

 

 

Icy start on Southampton Common

There was an impressive frost today, and I had to go to the supermarket. Despite having a small mountain of post Christmas detritus in the kitchen, you kind of need something to go with the remains of the Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, and the chocolates that no-one likes. So, I thought I would relieve my family of my company for a bit longer than was strictly necessary and pop in to see how the Common was doing in the cold.

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Having overcome the slight challenge of the lock on our bicycle shed being iced up I made my way to the Common. The Ornamental Pond and Cemetery Lake were both more or less frozen over when I arrived at about nine o’clock. However, the brave were already out and about, crunching their way along the paths and across the grass, and as the morning wore on the Common became a hive of activity. Children of all ages were playing with their outdoors themed Christmas gifts, cracking icy patches on the paths, feeding the birds, and generally blowing away the Christmas cobwebs. Meantime, the birds on both ponds gave pretty good skating demonstrations, until the sun began to thaw their habitats and they basked in the relative warmth of nearly-but-not-actually-frozen water.

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I dug out my flask, had a quick warming beverage, and was delighted to discover a forgotten half bar of chocolate in my pocket. Munching happily I bade goodbye to the Common and plunged into the post Christmas shopping crowds.

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To see other icy occasions on the Common, please click on this link Icy Days