Snowdrops and ice on Southampton Common

A belated Happy New Year: Although I was mostly at home rather than on my wanderings until this week, I managed to catch the first sunrise of 2019, and it was a beautiful way to start the year. 

Since then Southampton has been a city of all seasons. The Ornamental Lake has had it’s fair share of ice, which must be mighty inconvenient for the wildlife, but has provided me with great opportunities to kneel at the waterside getting damp and muddy.

Whilst there have been icy days, there has also been the promise of spring: snowdrops. Catching sight of these little beauties in Southampton Old Cemetery filled me with a ridiculous amount of joy, and no amount of people wondering what on earth I was up to kneeling on the path apparently photographing the side of a grave could lessen my pleasure.

Not only have I been worshipping snowdrops, but I have also caught sight of a few bees foraging during sunny spells this week, and I have seen one, just one, crocus. But one is enough to remind me to hang on in there: Spring is happening this year!

Apart from all that excitement, even on cloudy days there have been some pretty morning skies, and wandering in Southampton Old Cemetery always provides me with something to enjoy: be it an interesting tree or a cheerful robin. 

So, here I am again, looking forward to another year of pointless meanderings on Southampton Common. Before we know it the ducklings and the beautifully ugly coot and moorhen chicks will be here, and the endless wait for this year’s cygnets will begin.

Southampton Common 2018

Today I’m looking back at some of the things that made my heart sing as I wandered on Southampton Common. This could take an awfully long time, because just about every day has brought something to make me glad that I can call then Common my home from home. 

Almost nothing makes me love winter more than clear, bright days when the paths are frosty and the ponds are frozen. 

The only winter thing that is even better than a frosty and bright morning is when it snows, and in March 2018 the Beast from the East provided us with just that.

Once the snow was gone, I was well and truly ready to welcome Spring. How happy I was to see the first flowers popping through.

Spring means fluffy babies, and Southampton Common certainly did not disappoint this year. The ducklings were the first to appear.

The coot and moorhen chicks were not far behind.

Then there was the long wait for the cygnets…

They will soon all be here again and I really can’t wait. Although apparently I will have to!

And  as spring took hold and summer crept in, I lurked around the ponds waiting for dragonflies and damselflies,  

Summer also saw me on many a butterfly and bug wander, stretching my macro lens to the limits of its ability  to endure, and returning home scratched from brambles, but happy to be in possession of one or two decent shots of  tiny insects.

The summer of 2018 was long and dry, and I had some beautiful times with my insect friends.

Then, as the days got shorter and the insects became scarcer, the leaves turned, the fungi popped up, and I was drawn into the golden days of autumn. This was no better for my sartorial elegance, as I crouched and knelt in the mushy undergrowth, and returned home covered in leaves and mulch.

All through the seasons, though, the place I’m most likely to be found is around the Ornamental Lake.

And now here we are in winter again, starting with the misty mornings

So, here we are, with the first few icy episodes behind us, and whatever 2019 decides to bring ahead.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.

Christmas time on Southampton Common

It’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common, and Southampton Old Cemetery has become more lovely than ever, thanks to the seasonal decorations that adorn some of the branches there. 

The week began with a delightfully eerie mist hanging somewhere between the ground and the sky, loitering unexpectedly around corners and enveloping parts of the Common whilst seemingly ignoring others. 

Over the Ornamental Pond, a new seat has been put in place, in memory of Amrik Singh Rai. The seat is positioned at the end of the lake, and I’m sure it will be very well used and much appreciated.  I myself have my eye on appreciating it very much, especially in the summer. What a lovely and thoughtful memorial.   

This week, there has been plenty to see at the lakes, with the swans preening in the sunshine, and patrolling their territory against interlopers.  As I wandered between ponds, I was lucky enough to see a bullfinch brightening up one of the bushes. Even more luckily, he sat still long enough for me to get a photo. 

I never need much persuading to spend time at the Ornamental Lake, and this week, between the lake and the top field, the morning sky has given me plenty opportunity  to push my cycling to the station time to the limits. 

As well as the beautiful Christmas decorations in the Old Cemetery, nature has been putting out  a few of her very own baubles this week: in between the sunshine and mist it’s been a little bit damp around the edges, which has given me the chance to practice taking photos of raindrops. 

So, with those seasonal sparkles, thanks very much for stopping by and viewing this blog. Wishing you all a very happy Christmas. xxx

Golden light and rainy days on Southampton Common

It’s been another of those weeks of all seasons on Southampton Common, and I have been very glad that the swans are back on the Ornamental Lake to  provide some morning and evening photo opportunities.

Tuesday was one of those sunny, misty days that make winter worthwhile, with a thin shimmer of morning frost and a lot of golden light. 

There have, however, also been some rather wilder times this week, when both the Common and I have felt a little windswept. 

Those have been my moments to head into the shelter and get grubby, because all this damp-but-quite-mild-really weather means that the fungi are still going strong. 

On most days, though, there has been beautiful moments, often in the early evening (the time known as mid afternoon when it’s summer), and the Ornamental Pond has taken on a golden sheen.

So it’s the end of another week of wandering, with my boots getting muddier, and my layers of clothing getting more numerous, by the day. But Southampton Common remains, as ever, a beautiful place to waste some time doing nothing particularly constructive or useful in the build up to Christmas.

Storms and sunshine on Southampton Common

It’s been a stormy end to November, and only the most determined of  the autumn leaves are still hanging on.

I have spent an awful lot of time this week sheltering in the woodlands, walking through slightly soggy leaves, pausing to admire the fungi, and reminding myself how much we need all this rain to keep the land green and pleasant. 

Although it seems as if the week has been pretty damp, there have been plenty of beautiful moments: a misty morning …

A couple of lovely early starts at the Ornamental Lake…

and the meeting  of clouds and sunshine is always a delight to watch

Apart from the wild weather, this weeks events include  the Boating Lake being drained, meaning  that  those who had taken up residence there have had to find alternative accommodation. The cygnets have been safely relocated, and their parents have reluctantly accepted that it is time to return to the Ornamental Lake for winter. Of this I am very glad, as they add a photogenic touch to early morning winter photos. 

For the ex-Boating Lake dwellers who want to remain on the Common, the alternative to  the Ornamental Lake is the Cemetery Lake, and the established residents there have had to make room for a few new arrivals too.

All in all, despite the rather inclement weather, it’s been another week when I have been glad to be able to spend a few hours wandering the Common, doing nothing remotely useful, but enjoying doing it!

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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