More spring arrivals on Southampton Common

Another week of spring has brought more more fluffy beauty to Southampton Common: moorhen and coot chicks have arrived at the Ornamental Lake. The coot chicks have been too far away for me to get a half decent photo, but both species have kept me exclaiming with delight in that special: “Avoid the strange lady who speaks to herself” way. The moorhen chicks are simultaneously ungainly and poised, ugly and beautiful with their brightly daubed faces, look of surprised outrage, and seriously oversized feet. Their parents have been busy scooting around trying to keep up with their offsprings’ food demands all week, and the presence of babies of both species has led to a few stand-offs between the moorhens and coots.

Meantime, the two surviving ducklings are getting bigger every day, and I’m sure that there will be more very soon.

The swans on both the Cemetery Lake and the Ornamental Lake are also preparing for new arrivals, with at least one of each pair almost always on their nests now. They also manage to keep a close eye on what they see as their territory, patrolling, seeing off any perceived threat, and, from time to time, leaving the nest together for a bit of quality time.

Elsewhere, Southampton Old Cemetery is looking more beautiful every day, greatly assisted by the growing number of insects adorning the spring flowers.

So, although we haven’t got quite the Bank Holiday weather that we became accustomed to over Easter, it’s been another delightful week on Southampton Common, and I’m looking forward to more spring surprises next week.

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.

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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A mini heatwave on Southampton Common

 

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This week saw what has been described as a “mini heat wave” in Southampton, and the Common has been absolutely beautiful. Apart from all the litter that got left behind every evening. The wildlife could do without this, and it created endless extra unnecessary toil for the hardworking staff who try to keep the Common safe, beautiful, and in order. (I am not one of the staff, I am one of the things that they try to keep in order.)

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The ducklings at the Ornamental Pond who delighted me on Monday have continued to melt my heart all week. They are growing fast, but are still all big eyes, tiny wings and oodles of fluff, getting up to the cutest antics in and around the water and earning plenty of adoration. The Common has been a popular place to come to for a picnic lunch this week, and those who chose to sit beside the Ornamental Pond invariably got involved in duckling worship.

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On Thursday the picnickers included a small gathering of students from the nearby college, who sat down at a bench near to where I was playing. A well-spoken young man from the group approached me and asked if I happened to have any napkins, as they had forgotten theirs. I was very impressed that the youth of today were aspiring to a proper picnic, with napkins, and handed him a pack of tissues (a rather poor substitute, but it was my best offer). He was most polite and grateful, and as I wandered off I considered contacting the college to compliment them on the manners and conduct of their students. As I stood duckling gazing, mentally composing my complimentary email, I heard one of the girls say: “It was really nice of that old lady to let us have these tissues.” I decided, on reflection, that the college probably did not really have the time to deal with an email from me.

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There are nests springing up everywhere on the Ornamental Pond: the coots and moorhens are busy collecting twigs and reeds, and territorial wars have broken out more than once. The swans continue to prepare their nest and to take time out to generate content for it, and soon I think the sitting will begin in earnest.

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As an especially welcome sign that summer is just around the corner the butterflies have begun to appear again. This week I have seen several brimstones, commas, red admirals, and spotted woods. They weren’t feeling too keen on sitting still, but I was still very glad to see them.

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Now that it’s the weekend the temperature has fallen a bit, we have had an impressive storm this evening, and the forecast has less of the sun and a bit more of the rain. But I have seen ducklings and butterflies, and feel that it cannot be long before my beloved dragonflies return to torment me.

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The sun and the rain on Southampton Common

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Easter is almost here. This always makes me think that summer is just around the corner (even when Easter is early, as it is this year), and at the beginning of the week that is exactly how it felt. Beautiful blue skies, delicate mist rising from the Ornamental Pond in the morning sunshine, and the lillies beginning to peep up through the water. It felt great, and I had a hot cross bun stashed away in my bag for morning snack. Life was very good, even if it was Monday morning.

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Tuesday wasn’t quite so splendid, but the rather less promising weather didn’t put off a group of young women who arrived at the Cemetery Lake with a deckchair and bag of props in order to photograph one of their number in her swimwear. The wildlife generally carried on as if nothing was happening, although the pochards sneaked the occasional quizzical glance in the direction of the unusual style of camera action, and the swans seemed a little miffed that for once they were not being regarded as the most photogenic creatures present.

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Since then the Easter funfair has arrived on the Common and with it has come the rain. Nonetheless, despite everything being covered in a layer of raindrops the Old Cemetery is looking beautiful, with the flowers (both wild and cultivated) adding delightful splashes of colour to the tranquillity that exists there.

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The birds are busy building their nests, and I know that the butterflies are just waiting to appear and simultaneously delight and torment me. The rain is making everything a bit squelchy this week, but very soon I will be dashing between ducklings and dragonflies, not knowing which way to look, and very possibly teetering perilously at the edges of the ponds. Must check that my camera insurance covers summertime clumsiness!

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Spring again on Southampton Common

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The snow is once again disappeared from Southampton Common and, much as I loved it, a couple of days was enough. I would next like to see that beautifully photogenic blanket around November time. There is a nasty rumour going around about the snow returning over Easter, but I am ignoring that. I am well and truly ready for Spring now.

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Fortunately, it looks as if Spring may also be ready to join us for real. Wednesday was warm and sunny, and although things have clouded over a little since then, the bees are back, I have seen the first Red Admiral that would sit still for me (I saw one a while back, but it was busy doing a kamikaze style fly-past along the London Road), the blossom is beautiful, the catkins are tantalisingly fluffy, and the other day I caught whiff of freshly cut grass whilst I wandered in the Old Cemetery. It has to be Spring if I can smell freshly cut grass.

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Meantime, the goosander has brought a female companion to the Ornamental Pond. She is very beautiful and despite the fact that the pair like to hide together over in the shadowy unphotogenic areas of the pond, there are plenty of photographers and bird watchers keeping a beady eye on them. So I hope that they realise how much we love them, find a woody hole in which to make a nest and bring the Common baby goosanders to coo over.

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The swans on the Ornamental Pond are also getting closer each day to building a proper nest, and the ducks, coots are moorhens on both the Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Pond are very industrious (not to mention a little combative) about their own family preparations.

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So, although I am not yet ready to swap the warm beverage in my flask for a cold one, all in all, I am feeling very upbeat about Spring really arriving this time round.

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