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.
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!
It’s been another week of autumn glory on Southampton Common, leaves to crunch through, leaves to look up to and leaves fluttering onto me. The trees change every day at this time of year: one morning adorned in golden glory, the next protected by a barrier of fallen foliage. On some corners of the Common autumn is nearly over, and the trees are wintry and naked, but elsewhere it’s just beginning, with the leaves just beginning to turn.
The Old Cemetery is a great place to go leaf walking
Not to be outdone, the swans on the Boating Lake have been busy this week, taking longer flights with the two remaining cygnets, encouraging their independence, most likely in the hope that they will soon find territories of their own to fly to.
I can’t ignore the fungi at this time of year: tiny mushrooms popping up everywhere, but especially in the woodland areas of the Common.
Summer has to be my favourite season, because it’s often warm, but every year autumn tries very hard to outdo it!
It’s been another busy week on the autumn weather roller coaster. There’s never a boring moment when you don’t know what the weather will bring next, and have to transport the full range of clothing options in your backpack ( and a heavy backpack is great for keeping me on the ground in the windy weather we’ve been experiencing this weekend)!
The week began with more of those beautiful misty mornings, accompanied by rays of golden light.
However, by Thursday the clouds had rolled in, and it was time for waterproofs.
So, I finished the week enjoying the generous cover of the Common’s trees, in search of comforting fungi.
The weather has been perfect for these little beauties, and hopefully in the week to come there will be plenty more for me to exclaim over. Although I’d be more than happy to accept some more of those golden rays and misty starts too!
This week has brought me a delicious taste of what I hope is to come over the next few months. After a cloudless night Thursday morning was a treasure of rising mist against a backdrop of shimmering on spider’s webs. This is what I dream of in autumn and winter, and, as a bonus of the season, I don’t have to rise particularly early to enjoy it. Bring on those on-my-way-to-work sunrises and golden rays.
Even on the less spectacular mornings there has been plenty to be happy about on the Common this week. The little grebes still have their fiercely protected nest, and are often seen fishing by the edge of the Boating Lake (how they do love to inhabit those shady areas out of the light!) There are a few tufted ducks back on the Common with two or three on the Boating Lake (although usually they seem to prefer the Cemetery Lake). Not to be outdone, the swan family have been posing quite nicely for pictures in the pale morning light.
Away from the ponds there are all the little signs that Autumn is easing it’s way in: a few ripe chestnuts that make me want to light a fire on which to roast them (but not under any circumstances on the Common, please), shiny conkers, acorns, and delicate fungi. All this is worth the dropping temperatures and sorting of gloves ready for winter (how is it that I have about eleven gloves but no matching pairs?)
Even better, despite all these autumn treats, summer is not yet gone: the trees are mostly fresh and green (and how lucky are we to have so many of them?) Sunny corners are still busy with speckled woods, and the bees are buzzing around any available flowers. This in between season really is ticking all my boxes!
Last week’s mini heatwave is over and the weather has been a little less glorious over the past few days. On Friday I had to give in and return to wearing my winter coat and gloves and carrying my trusty flask. However, the Common is still beautiful, if a tad muddy once more, and there was enough sunshine for a few butterflies to be out and about on Thursday when I was wandering in the Old Cemetery.
The main attraction and sadness for me though has been seeing the ducklings grow and go. By Tuesday their number was reduced to only four, but those four were undiminished in loveliness, although increasing in both size and defiance of danger each day, becoming more adventurous and starting to resemble mini ducks rather than tiny balls of fluff.
The swans on both the Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Pond are now on full time sitting duty. In between their shifts on the nest they are occupied with guard duty and collecting maintenance materials for their nests in the form of twigs, reeds, and the lace from one of my boots, which the male swan from the Ornamental Pond tried to remove the other morning. Luckily for me (and him) he was unsuccessful.
So, despite the temperature falling back into single figures, spring is still very much in evidence on Southampton Common and the forecast says that there might be a little bit of warmer weather on the way. In the meantime though, I have my big coat and gloves ready for tomorrow morning.