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!

Southampton Common Blues

DSC_0091DSC_0091This week began a tiny bit dull and dreary (aka a usual British Summer), not aided by the news that one of our cygnets was missing: only three of the fast growing little ones on the Boating Lake.

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However the ducklings, who are also growing fast, put on a cheering show. They and the three coot chicks (who are too far away from the bank for me to get a decent shot of them, but easily visible  in all their wire-haired glory) carried everyone forward to Tuesday, when the sunshine returned and we were once again plunged into the summer of 2018.

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Although there is no shortage of other pleasures on the Common, at present I am mainly stuck in insect stalking mode. This is not solely because I like to get scratched to pieces by brambles in the pursuit of missed shots, but also because these tiny beings fascinate me: so much beauty and perfect detail crammed in to such a tiny space.

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My current obsession is the Common Blue butterfly, which has stolen most of the available space on my SD card this week: everything about these dainty little creatures delights me (except for their disinclination to stay still for the camera)!

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However, the small things of the Common, and the longsuffering Rangers (who tend to find either my bicycle or I in the way of whatever useful task they are trying to perform) will now have short break as I am off to Barcelona. Here, my thirteen year old son will try to prevent me from wandering aimlessly and behaving in a manner slightly outwith social norms whilst in his company. Wish him luck with that one and see you in a couple of weeks time!

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Insect queues on Southampton Common

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It looks as if the heat wave is over for a few days! The cygnets and ducklings have been wondering what all this windy weather is about I think, as moist of their young lives have been spent basking in the sun. As well as the ducklings I am told that there are some coot chicks newly hatched on the Boating Lake, so let’s hope they do well after this stormy start.

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DSC_0279DSC_0279_1The high temperature last week was a great incentive for the butterflies to be out and about, and the number of tiny flitting common blues was a delight to see. I know they are common, but they are delicate beauties. And they were by no means alone in the butterfly display.

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Stalking butterflies requires a bit of care though, as there are plenty of other insects sheltering in the grass, and it’s easy to accidentally disturb them. The grasshoppers in particular were so numerous that some of them were having to queue on the grass.

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But despite the dip in temperature, they say it will warm up again next week, so hopefully there will be plenty more butterflies, dragonflies, and a glimpse of those baby coots to come!

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The long hot summer

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They say it’s going to be a long hot summer, and this week on Southampton Common there has been plenty of evidence of that. Everything is looking parched, and there has been a fire in the Old Cemetery: so please take care with anything that has the slightest chance of igniting.

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Heading straight to the water to cool down, on the Boating Lake the ducklings seemed to have disappeared on Monday, which was bad start to the week. However, by Tuesday they were back in sight: seven of them, being closely protected by their mother. On Friday there were still four little ones Ornamental Pond, and a third small family on the Cemetery Lake.

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DSC_0089-2But it’s really insect time of year, and the Common is buzzing with tiny things.The long grass is full of grasshoppers and ladybirds. The butterflies, moths and bees are flitting busily between nectar sources, and the dragonflies are hovering and resting near to the water.

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It would be mighty churlish to complain about the glorious weather, because we usually spend the summer whingeing about the rain, but if we could have a little bit of precipitation at night, to dampen the fire risk, and give the ducklings a bit more swimming water, that would be perfect!

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Back to duckling days on Southampton Common

 

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Just when I thought it would be another year before I had my next dose of ducklings, on Tuesday I was greeted by news of nine newly hatched cuties. Sure enough, after a short wait they appeared, tiny balls of happy fluffiness bobbing across the Ornamental Pond.

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On Thursday, ten more appeared, waddling out from the bushes and across the path to take up residence on the Boating Lake. Suddenly the cygnets had to take a step down in the pecking order as everyone exclaimed over the latest beautiful arrivals.

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In between watching the many different adorable ways that  a duckling can fall asleep, there has been no shortage of butterflies, moths, damselflies, dragonflies, bees and ladybirds to keep my camera and I entertained.

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With so many photographic choices, I have been grateful every day for the existence of digital cameras and SD cards. Using film would have made my hobby a rather costly luxury by now!

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Burnet moths and other sunny insects on Southampton Common

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This week has been sunny and hot, and Southampton Common is starting to look uncharacteristically scorched. It’s odd to think that just about four months ago it was covered in a blanket of snow.

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With the sunshine the number of butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and other insects has risen beautifully, and I have been happily running around, trying unsuccessfully to capture photos of every fluttering wing.

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My favourite camera fodder have been six spotted burnet moths, who are out and about in large numbers flying, resting, mating, and, when they get particularly fed up with me photographing them, trying to sabotage my camera, staring with a sit-in on the lens hood.

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Although my obsession of the week has been the Burnets, I have also been exclaiming over and stalking butterflies. Someone asked me the other day where the best place on the Common to see butterflies is. The answer is: just about everywhere, but especially behind me.

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The number of dragonflies seems to have risen every day this week, and if the weather stays warm, as they say it will, I am hoping that this trend continues because if there is one thing that makes me very happy indeed it is staring through the lens of my camera at a dragonfly that plans to move just as I hit the shutter release button.

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And of course, the cygnets. They are getting so big that it’s hard to believe that it was only six or so weeks ago that they hatched. Mind you, they at least are not yet taller than their mother, unlike my thirteen year old whose outgrown hiking sandals I have been wearing this week, as a part of my latest venture in sartorial inelegance.

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So, here’s to plenty more of the long hot summer days, and to everyone taking their litter home with them (or at least putting it in the bins) so that neither the wildlife nor I get caught up in it!

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