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!
This is a bumper report on my wanderings on Southampton Common: I was engaged a different kind of wandering most of last week as it was half term.
It’s been two weeks of what autumn does best: a bit of every kind of weather, and lots of beautiful things to see. Beautiful, crisp sunny days, interspersed with cloudy or misty starts.
There have been frosty mornings, when I could see my breath (and the swans’ breath too!), and the fallen leaves crunched beneath my feet.
In the woodlands, there are plenty of tiny fungi, which either provide me with the perfect excuse to dodge the rain or draw me in to admire them as they dance in the sunshine.
The autumn is just beginning to achieve its full glory on the Common, and my meandering strolls are taking longer and longer as I pause more and more frequently to admire the golden colours.
At the Boating Lake, the cygnets are busy perfecting their flying skills under their parents’ tutelage, and it wont be long before they have all found new homes I guess. (I am reliably informed that cygnet number three, who has been missing for a week or so, is safely ensconced in a new residence.)
The tufted ducks are back in force, looking disapprovingly at me, and there are still some little grebes on the Boating Lake, blending in with the autumn colours.
So, it’s mostly the gloves on time of year now, but the Common is as beautiful as ever and I have a feeling it might get even more stunning over the next couple of weeks.
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!
It’s been another beautiful week on Southampton Common. There have been some amazing starts to the day, when I have seen friends emerging to greet me through rays of golden light (and people who are less delighted to see me moving urgently in the opposite direction!)
On other mornings those who were trying to avoid me won, with the mist concealing anything beyond the very immediate vicinity, clinging around the trees, making them simultaneously eerie and beautiful.
The morning mist is one of Autumn’s great treats, draping everything in mystery and highlighting amazing spiders’ webs.
When it has been a bit damp out in the open I have retreated into the undergrowth to inspect the fungi. This has made me glad, as ever, of the extensive tree cover provided for those who wander in all weathers. And of the luxury of a warm home to return to with my soggy boots.
All in all, it’s been another wonderfully varied week on the Common, and I have been very happy to start many of my days here.
It’s the last week of the school summer holidays, which means that I have been slacking on visits to the Common because of the pressing need to acquire school clothing. (No point in buying this stuff early as my thirteen year old has grown a size over the summer: I am now dressed pretty much entirely in his cast offs, although I do draw the line at wearing his outgrown school uniform.) However, on my brief forays there has been plenty to see on the Common: the best of both seasons really: very definite signs of autumn, the cooler and darker mornings, rose hips, acorns, and the gentle start of the changing colours and fall of leaves.
The cygnets have grown more than a size over the summer: the three who remain on the Boating Lake are almost as big as their parents, but haven’t yet begun their flying lessons. Their mother and father often leave them to their own devices and spend quality time together: once they can fly well enough the youngsters will be gently (and then increasingly un-gently, as the male swan does like them to depart promptly), encouraged to leave home. Meantime, the little grebes have been trying to make a nest on the Boating Lake. I have been trying to photograph them, and they have been trying to avoid me (and succeeding!)
However, despite all the signs of autumn, there are still plenty of summer beauties around: bees, dragonflies, damselflies, and of course butterflies. The heather patches are a real favourite with the butterflies just now, and with me too as the purple and yellow are beautiful backdrops for photos.
It’s an exciting time of year: when I arrive on the Common I never know whether I will be drawn to a patch of autumnal fungi, or have the chance to get caught up in brambles pursing dragonflies. Even better, on Wednesday I will be getting new glasses, so I may even be able to see whatever it is I am trying to photograph.
It’s difficult to drag myself away from the cygnets, but I’ve been trying my best this week to adopt a slightly wider perspective on Southampton Common. There has been plenty of opportunity to do just that, because the season of elusive winged creatures is here in earnest, and I have been delighted by the increasing number of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies that have been studiously avoiding my camera.
The dragonflies, whose appearance I await impatiently from about October til May every year, are now established in abundance. They skim the water not caring one bit about the risks I am taking trying to photograph them. The female Emperor Dragonflies have been laying eggs in abundance on the Boating Lake, where, despite the mass of water available to them, everyone seems to aspire to that one perfect spot, leading to a few disputes.
The damselflies are also busy and plentiful, and to my extreme delight I have seen two demoiselles this week. I don’t see these beauties very often on the Common, so it gave me a ridiculous amount of pleasure that I not only saw them, but that one sat still long enough for me to take their photo.
However hard I try though it’s difficult to not mention those four little grey cygnets on the Boating Lake who continue to draw the crowds. They are growing fast, and looking more like miniature swans every day.
So, the babies are growing fast, the insects are getting me into my summer exercise routine, and as ever, there is plenty to see and enjoy on Southampton Common!
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, this is not simply because I have finally lost any remote grasp of reality that I ever had, but because within those reeds are tiny treasures: delicate damselflies, who herald just one more sign of the imminent arrival of summer. They bring with them the possibility of their larger cousins the dragonflies, and the promise of happy hours spent hopelessly stalking all things small and winged.
Nikon D5500, Nikon macro lens, ISO 800, f10, 1/1000
Aside from my antics, there have been plenty of developments on the ponds over the past week: one group of ducklings have become teenagers, with beaks that seem way too long for their heads and wings that are hopelessly mismatched to their bodies. The second little family of two that I met last Friday have grown in stature and boldness, and another team of nine have hatched.
The daily duckling count has become quite complex, and we really do need a notice board, like the ones in stores and restaurants that list hourly toilet checks, so that whoever is passing the Ornamental Pond can update the rest of us on when the little fluffies were last seen.
And then, as if things weren’t splendid enough already, on Friday afternoon I saw five little blobs lined up on the Ornamental Pond, with an adult moorhen stationed at each end. Moorhen chicks. Tiny, ugly, and beautiful. Wizened bald heads on newly hatched bodies. Adorable in every way. I exclaimed aloud with delight as they approached the reed beds by the side of the pond, causing a few dog walkers to alter their route slightly so as to avoid me.
Looking forward to next week, there is still plenty of possibility for the equally ungainly but charming coot babies to put in an appearance, and, of course, those cygnets that make us wait every year are still keeping us guessing.