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.

Small things on Southampton Common

It’s been another happy week for me on Southampton Common, spending quality time with small things.

A lot of my time has been spent at the Boating Lake, paying homage to the cygnets.

The two little ones are growing fast and keeping their parents and their constant stream of fans well occupied. 

Sheltering from the rain under dad’s umbrella

Whilst most eyes have been on the cygnets, the little grebes have been having a go at resurrecting their nest on the Boating Lake: hopefully they will be lucky this time, and we will have baby grebes to exclaim over later in the year. 

In between my cygnet watch duties, I have spent a fair bit of time in Southampton Old Cemetery and the grassy areas between the lakes, enjoying the company of insects. The butterflies, bees, dragonflies and damselflies are becoming more numerous each day, and I was lucky enough to come across a golden ringed dragonfly in Southampton Old Cemetery: what fun I had watching him. 

They say we will have some sunshine next week, so hopefully I will get to spend more time scampering around chasing tiny creatures and generally looking foolish. Whatever the weather brings though, I’m sure I will enjoy myself on Southampton Common. 

The cygnets’ long walk on Southampton Common

It’s been a treat of a week on Southampton Common if you like cygnets and don’t mind the rain too much. The cygnets don’t mind the rain, because they have their parents’ downy backs to ride on and snuggle into. From this cosy vantage point they can watch the humans standing in the rain beside the Boating Lake waiting to catch a glimpse of them.

The cygnet-fest began on Monday for me. It was raining quite heavily, so the obvious thing to do was to go and stand at the Ornamental Lake for a while so that I could see how the cygnets were getting along.  When I arrived I was reassured to find that I was by no means the only person who considered this a reasonable way to behave.  There were two cygnets in the water with the male swan when I arrived, and one in the nest with the female. However, all was not well with the little one in the nest, and after a number of exchanges between the parents, the mother left the cygnet and the nest, and was gently ushered away by her partner, along with their two other babies. He led his family into the foliage at the edge of the lake for about half an hour, before escorting them back onto the lake, and taking care of the two healthy cygnets whilst the female returned to the nest. It was by now empty, and after checking a couple of times, and calling to her partner, she returned to her family: now just the four of them.  It was sad, but rather touching, to see how the male swan guided his partner through the process of letting nature take it’s course. 

The next day was the highlight of the week for me: every year, after the cygnets hatch, the swan family migrate from the Ornamental Lake to the Boating Lake, but I have never witnessed the event before. This year I was very lucky. As I was wandering and wondering whether the heron would come close enough to be photographed properly I saw a jogger dodging around something at the island corner of the lake. I grabbed my camera and dashed over, yelling impolitely at a gentleman and his daughters (whom I had never met before) to join me for the experience of a lifetime. They followed the disorderly old woman and together we caught up with the swan family. One of the Park Rangers came across to supervise the process: without any interference with the swans’ plans he ensured that the path they took was kept clear of humans, dogs and bikes. As the swans chose to walk along the main path between the lakes, at a busy time, his presence was much appreciated by all. 

The cygnets, who were only about three days old, walked every step of the way to the Boating Lake, with no offer of a lift from mum or dad at any stage. They were, however, treated like royalty, with their adoring subjects lining the way, exclaiming and taking photos.

Once at the Boating Lake the cygnets plopped into their new home and have commanded a constant stream of exclaiming onlookers ever since. They have taken their popularity very much in their stride, as they sail around on mum or dad’s back (causing great anxiety if snuggling under their parents’ feathers takes them out of the sight of their fan base), splash around together, and take time out to sit on the side of the lake in the sunshine (or rain!) With the seagulls and crows also taking an unhealthy interest in them though the accepted greeting at the Boating Lake is no longer “Hello, how are you? “ But an anxious: “Are there still two?” 

In between times, the little grebes have had a less lucky week. They had a beautiful nest constructed near the side of the Boating Lake, but unfortunately on Thursday it became rather waterlogged in the rain. There was something left of it on Friday, once the water levels fell a little, but the eggs may  well have been lost. However, they are rather determined little characters, and may, I hope, make another nest soon if this one hasn’t worked out. Elsewhere, back on the Ornamental Lake there were still three little coot chicks on Friday, looking as cute and fuzzy as ever.

It really has been all about the cygnets this week though! Perhaps next week I will drag myself away from them, especially if the weather becomes a bit more damselfly and butterfly friendly. If not, well, the cygnets really are fun to spend quality time with, and I have had a fantastic week on Southampton Common, despite being forced back to drinking flasks of warming coffee rather than cool water from the newly installed water dispensers at the Hawthorns and playground.