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!

The 2019 Heatwave on Southampton Common

Tiny things with pretty wings really do make my summer, and I’m pleased to report that butterflies and moths have dominated my wanderings over the last two weeks: the patches of heather in Southampton Old Cemetery has been a particularly good place to see and enjoy them. The weather has been great for meandering around, and the Common and Southampton Old Cemetery have plenty of shady places to combat heatwave weather.

The butterflies and moths haven’t been my only companions these past two weeks though: there have been dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees, and plenty of other insects vying for camera attention.

Southampton Old Cemetery is the perfect place to spend time in the company of insects, and admire the summer colours, and I have frequently found myself there enjoying the peace, quiet and wildlife.

Back at the ponds, there have been more new ducklings, and territory wars have broken out between the mothers from time to time. Meanwhile, the cygnets are definitely the swan equivalent of teenagers, and hardly recognisable as the cute balls of fluff of a few weeks ago. They are still, however, under the careful surveillance of their parents and woe betide any perceived threat to them!

It looks like the heatwave is over for now, but I’m sure I will still find lots of things to exclaim over during the next week or two on Southampton Common.

Tiny winged things on Southampton Common

This week Southampton Common has been full of tiny winged creatures, and I have been very happy wandering amongst and beneath them. There seem to be more butterflies (and more missed shots for me) every day.

The damselflies are also out in force, and the number of dragonflies diving over the water and relaxing on nearby branches is increasing steadily too.

I’m very happy to report that there are plenty of bees on Southampton Common: this pleases me no end as these little guys are vital to our survival, and I have been enjoying myself so much this week that survival is something I am definitely interested in!

Amongst the other tiny winged creatures that I have spent quality time with this week are ladybirds, soldier beetles, and grasshoppers. There are so many different types of the latter, but they jump rather fast for my camera skill level!

And finally, much bigger bit still tiny: the ducklings on the Boating lake are looking really grown up, and we have four new babies at the Ornamental Lake.

So, the end of another week when small things have given me great pleasure on Southampton Common, and it looks as if next week may bring more of the same!

Sunny wandering on Southampton Common

It’s been a busy week for insects on Southampton Common: they haven’t always wanted to sit still for me, but the place has been a buzz of bees, butterflies, damselflies and more. I’ve enjoyed the company of moths, grasshoppers, ladybirds and, although not everyone’s favourite, caterpillars which fill me with hope for even more butterflies and moths. For someone who enjoys the small things in life, and doesn’t mind getting rather dishevelled in the process of seeking them out, summer is a fantastic time.

At the Boating Lake, three not-so-little ducklings continue to be carefully supervised by their mother whilst they do cute things for the crowds.

Of course a week can’t go by without a mention of the cygnets, and a few photos of their latest antics.

So it’s been another warm week of happy wanderings for me, watching the spring babies growing up and enjoying the confetti of insects fluttering around my head. What’s not to like about Southampton Common in summer?

Fluttering and fluff on Southampton Common

The cygnets have continued to steal the show at the Boating Lake this week, snuggling together in the grass, clambering in and out of the water, swanning around, and generally pleasing their adoring public. 

Sometimes I wonder if I have offended the cygnets!

The cygnets have some competition now though: a family of five ducklings appeared late in the week, and have attracted a following of their own. Meantime, the little grebes continue their nesting activity: so we carry on hoping for more babies.

It’s not been all cute and fluffy this week though. It’s been a bit breezy for photographs, but the air is busy with the fluttering and buzzing of beautiful summer insects. What a fantastic time of year it is: I get to wander around in pursuit if tiny things that fly away faster than I can focus!

They say that the mini-heatwave is over for now, but there are still plenty of numbers above the magic twenty mark on my weather forecast, so I’m hoping for some more happy, sunny wanderings on Southampton Common in the week to come.

Butterflies and bees on Southampton Common

It’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common, incorporating sunshine, really quite a lot of rain on Friday, and plenty of breeze in between to waft all the lovely flora in Southampton Old Cemetery around, and make it difficult for me to take photos of the numerous insects who are swinging around!

Southampton Old Cemetery has been my go to place this week, watching the swaying ox-eye daisies, admiring the rhododendrons, and, to my great delight, meeting a painted lady butterfly. The cemetery is an absolute haven for insects, and if you are a bee, or someone who likes to watch bees, I strongly recommend it to you!

The cow parsley around the Ornamental Lake is also a popular choice for the bees, so whilst waiting for a hint of cygnet action (they are hatching as I type, or so I am reliably told: three so far) I have been watching them balance on the white summer baubles.

There are also an ever increasing number of damselflies and a new little family of coot chicks to exclaim over at the Ornamental Lake. The older coot chicks are looking very sleek these days, as are the moorhens, with almost no resemblance to their younger selves of five or so weeks ago. 

On my travels between Southampton Old Cemetery and the lakes I have come across some beautiful wild orchids, including an especially impressive patch at the north end of the Common, near The Avenue.

Moving away from the Common for a moment, I want to give a quick mention to East Park, where I was lucky enough to see some beautiful demoiselle damselflies this week. These little guys absolutely delight me, so I was very pleased to have made an unscheduled stop on my way home and catch a glimpse of them.

So here I am at the end of yet another happy week of contented wandering on Southampton Common. Looking at the forecast, I’m not sure what next week will bring … but it looks as if it should include the cygnets at long last!

Insect days on Southampton Common

It’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common and if, like me, seeing the warm weather insects reappearing makes your heart sing, then the last few days will have made you smile. Southampton Old Cemetery is buzzing with tiny life : bees, beetles, butterflies and grasshoppers. I also saw my first Cinnabar Moth of the year, which always cheers me up. It didn’t seem overly delighted to see me though, and flew away very promptly. But it was there!

A fleeting glimpse of a Cinnabar Moth

Over at the lakes, the damselflies are multiplying every day, the bees are busy, and there are two (at least) new families of ducklings, one on the Ornamental Lake and one on the Boating Lake. The coot and moorhen chicks (two of each) continue to grow fast and the first two ducklings of the year are looking very grown up, almost unrecognisable as the earliest fluffies of five or six weeks ago.

Well earned rest for mother duck
That awkward moment when one photography subject eats another
One of the first two ducklings of the year
The other of the first two ducklings of the year

There was one lucky little duckling on the Ornamental Lake this week: early one morning, as a group of us stood beside the lake chatting, a crow swooped in and grabbed one of the little ones who were poking around at the edge of the reeds. The mother duck squawked urgently, and the humans made a real racket, berating the crow, waving their arms, and startling it so much that it dropped its tasty treat. The duckling plopped back into the water and scuttled away, unharmed. In reality, of course, the crow was only doing their food shopping, as we all do, but no-one likes to see a duckling disappear!

Lucky duckling

So, we are just awaiting the cygnets. It can’t be long now until we see those fluffy grey heads. The male swan from the Ornamental Lake has been busy taking little excursions to the Boating Lake to ensure possession of the pair’s usual cygnet rearing territory. He got into a bit of a misunderstanding with a couple of dogs on his walk back one morning, and ended up in the brambles. Like the duckling, though, he was unharmed, with only his pride injured!