The ducklings have arrived on Southampton Common

The ducklings are here! The first fluffies of 2019 were reported to me on Wednesday, and I finally sneaked out to see them on Saturday morning. Up until then it had already been a pretty good week: with it being school holidays wandering the Common has been a bit off my agenda, but I managed to make a flying visit to Southampton Old Cemetery, which is looking beautifully spring-like.

What attention I have given to Southampton Common this week has, however, mainly gone to Ornamental Lake, where the swans have been putting on a good show of love, territorialism, and preening.

My highlight of the week though has been the first family of ducklings this spring scampering in. I was tied up with family engagements when their arrival was announced, but on Saturday my son required railway modelling supplies from a shop in Shirley. I seized the chance to be uncharacteristically helpful and volunteered to cycle across the Common to collect what he needed. Whilst everyone was reeling from my unusually upbeat approach to an errand, I grabbed my camera and went. My not entirely altruistic goodwill was well rewarded, by the sight of the remaining seven (of the original nine) ducklings scampering and swimming around the edges of the Ornamental Lake. I scampered with them for a happy half hour or so.

So, even a sparse visiting schedule to Southampton Common has made me very happy this week. In between times, here’s a taste of the sort of thing that has kept me away from the Common: standing on a railway bridge at Sway Station with my son, waiting to see the Flying Scotsman fly through backwards. It was very cold on the bridge, but luckily we got covered in nice warm steam!

Spring weather on Southampton Common

It’s been English springtime weather on Southampton Common this week: one day blue skies and sunshine, making me wonder if it’s time to get my less clompy boots out, and the next back into winter, when I regret not having hand warmers in my backpack.

The week began with the swans on the Ornamental Lake getting in the mood for Spring , beautiful rays of light shining through the trees, and butterflies fluttering away from my camera.

As the week progressed the sun and the butterflies went into hiding, but even in the rain and chilly weather Southampton Old Cemetery is beautiful with spring flowers, blossom and shelter from the elements!

Now it’s the school Easter holidays, and the forecast isn’t looking too summery, but there will soon be ducklings, coot and moorhen chicks, and in due course the cygnets. So, I have plenty to look forward to and wander in search of on Southampton Common, even if the April showers are taking their role rather too seriously .

Lots of sunshine on Southampton Common

This week began with a beautiful Monday morning of blue skies and sparkling water, and the days just carried on getting better.

The ducks have been busy pairing up, with a fair bit of not completely friendly competition amongst the male mallards, the goosanders are (I hope) considering my request to make the Ornamental Lake their breeding ground, and at least one pair of coots have made a nest in the reeds. I can’t wait to see the super-ugly but beautifully cute coot babies again.

Not to be outdone, the swans at the Ornamental Lake have been checking their nesting site, and chasing off any real or supposed threats to their territory.

All across the Common, but especially in Southampton Old Cemetery, there have been enough butterflies, blossom and flowers to keep me amused, if not entirely out of mischief, for hours.

And last, but by non means least, we have a new springtime species on the Common: the Mr Men, in the form of Mr. Nosey. One of the many Mr Men Mosaics that are popping up mysteriously across Southampton.

All in all, it’s been a delight of a week on Southampton Common. I’d like quite a few more like that, and baby goosanders at the Ornamental Lake too, if at all possible, please.

Springtime on Southampton Common

Whichever way you allocate the seasons, it’s now officially spring, and Southampton Common is looking the part. There were some beautiful blue skies in between the clouds this week, and Southampton Old Cemetery is full of flowers and blossom.

I love it when I find a tiny spider exploring my photo!

There is also plenty of spring colour on the rest of the Common, especially beside the aptly named Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre.

At the Ornamental Lake the lily pads are beginning to emerge, and we all know what that means: we will soon have ducklings, coot and moorhen chicks scampering across them!

The cygnets on the Ornamental Lake are often a bit later to appear than the first ducklings, but the swans have been what we might call “practising” this week, and checking out their usual nesting site on the island.

In between times, they have been helpfully providing me with a bit of photo fodder.

My wanderings usually focus on Southampton Common, but the very beautiful Magnolia trees in East Park/ Andrews Park are too pretty not to mention, and I have taken a couple of detours on my cycle rides home this week just to enjoy them.

So, we can now put winter behind us, because whatever happens next week it is now officially spring, and summer is on the way (although I am still wearing my trusty winter coat and boots!)

This guy seemed pretty grumpy despite all the beauty of Spring

A week by the waterside on Southampton Common

There’s been a lot of beautiful spring blossom on Southampton Common, and on Monday I was pleased to see that the majority of the flowers in Southampton Old Cemetery had survived the weekend storms. Today it’s pretty breezy again, so let’s hope there’s till some left tomorrow.

Although the Common is full of spring flowers, the windy weather has made doing them justice in photos rather tricky this week, so I have rather kept to the watersides. This has been no great hardship, especially on those mornings when the Ornamental Lake has been misty and golden.

The resident swans on the Ornamental Lake always add something to the scene, emerging from the morning mist, preening, and generally swanning around. They have been inspecting their regular nesting site on the island this week: maybe we are moving towards the long annual cygnet watch!

Luckily for Common wanderers like me there is always plenty to watch on the lakes. There have been varying goosander counts on the Ornamental Lake this week, but a regular group of three females and one male have been consistently spotted, usually steadfastly located on the most distant side of the water, although they are not above popping over to do a bit of fishing amongst the reeds beside the path just after I have packed my camera away . The other birds on the lakes have been variously getting muddy faces, pairing up, arguing over territory, and glaring at me.

They say that next week will be rather wet and windy again, but although the ducks and I may all end up looking a bit muddy and windswept again, I’m sure there will be fun to be had on Southampton Common.

A taste of Spring on Southampton Common

Strolling Southampton Common has been a real pleasure this week, beginning with rays of beautiful morning light to welcome me back from my week away from wandering.

The Ornamental Lake looked particularly lovely in the misty morning light, especially when the goosanders came close enough to the path to be photographed. We are very lucky to have these gorgeous birds on the Ornamental Lake again this year, and I would very much like them to become regular seasonal visitors.

The early part of the week was a real springtime preview, with Southampton Old Cemetery budding with beautiful blossom, and a smattering of bees and butterflies to give me a bit of insect-missing macro photography practice ready for summer. Every year I long for these tiny creatures to return, and when they arrive I remember how disinclined they are to co-operate with my photographic plans for them!

The ponds on the Common are always a good place to spend a bit of time, and this week has been no exception. The swans are often the main attraction, but the goosanders really do give them a good run for their money, with their sleek beauty, and propensity to take long dives and pop up suddenly just where you weren’t expecting them. I also rather like the pochards over at the Cemetery Lake, who always seem to me to have a vaguely nervous expression.

It looks as if the next few days might be a bit stormy, but I suspect that even in the wind and rain I will find a few interesting things to waste my time enjoying on Southampton Common.

Ice, mist and shoveler ducks on Southampton Common

It’s been a wintry week on Southampton Common. However, there have been some beautiful starts to the day and winter is a fantastic time for sunrises, because I don’t have to get up early to see them. 

Standing around as the sun makes it’s way across the Ornamental Lake is always worth the cold feet it incurs: the way the colours change and the clouds reform minute to minute never ceases to amaze me.

The Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Lake were both frozen at times this week, which not only added something to the sunrise views, but also gave me a chance to watch the birds investigating and dealing with their frosty environment.

The Common really is beautiful on frosty days, as is the neighbouring Southampton Old Cemetery. 

Another great thing about the ice is that the ponds have slowly thawed at the edges, encouraging the shoveler ducks on the Cemetery Lake to come a bit closer to the water’s edge than usual. The only time I can get a half decent shot of them and their amazing beaks seems to be in icy conditions.

Spending some time at the Cemetery Lake this week had the happy side- effect of enabling the tufted ducks to do what they love to do: glare at me. 

It hasn’t been all ice and frost this week, though: there was a bit of mist drifting around the trees on Friday morning, making everything  slightly mysterious.

So, no snow for Southampton this week, but a few more patches of snowdrops in the Old Cemetery. The daffodils are just waiting to appear and there are one or two crocuses braving the elements. So, although we still have a few days of January to go, spring is peeping through the clouds.

Finally, who got up early and saw the big red moon this week? I didn’t. It was lovely the next day on my ride across the Common to the station though. Being just one day late wasn’t so bad …