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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Spring has returned to Southampton Common

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Spring is definitely back on the agenda in Southampton after last week’s snow. The catkins are appearing, there is blossom on the trees,  flowers are popping up everywhere, the birds are singing happily and I am down to just three pairs of socks with my boots. This is brilliant news because my winter coat is in a disgraceful state, I have only three gloves left in my possession(none matching), and have had to resort to wearing a very strange bobble hat. But I absolutely refuse to get new winter clothing until October.

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At the Ornamental Pond every day has been different: sunshine, mist and clouds. The birds are all enjoying their new found ice-free space and the swans have been basking and stretching in the early morning light. They are also starting to prepare the ground for making a nest on the island, which means that it will not be long until the great annual cygnet watch begins.

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The birds are not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather: yesterday afternoon as I stood watching the swans going about their business a small gaggle of young men from a nearby sixth form college passed by. Encouraged by his peers and the promise of almost instant online fame one young man stripped down to his underpants and jumped into the pond. He clambered out very promptly, indicating that the water had not been entirely to his liking, and berating the nearby coots and ducks for not advising him as to how cold it was. His friends would, I’m sure, have been very sympathetic, had they not been occupied with uploading his plight into cyberspace.

It was probably lucky that he went on his adventure yesterday, whilst the sun was shining. It has been rather rainy today, making the Spring flowers all a bit damp and slightly mud tinged. But Spring is here, and there will soon be those beautifully ugly baby coots for me to admire, so I am full of happy hopefulness, despite a complete absence of sartorial elegance.

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Occupying the ponds on Southampton Common

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I had noticed that the Boating Lake was filling with water again after its annual draining, and wondered if any of the visiting swans had decided to opt for an apparently slightly easier life there. I say “apparently” because although the Boating Lake looks unoccupied at this time of year, this will all change if the two resident swans on the Ornamental Pond have cygnets. The cygnets are hatched on the island of the Ornamental Pond, but are promptly transported across to the Boating Lake, and brought up there. This means that any unsuspecting new arrivals who have decided to make the Boating lake their home will be unceremoniously turfed out as soon as the older pair get wind of their presence.

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Sure enough there were four youngish swans on the Boating Lake, and things weren’t going very peacefully, as both of the males felt that this was to be their new territory. After a short interlude of physical negotiations one pair departed, leaving the winning couple to settle in.

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I returned to the Cemetery Lake, to see if the two as yet unaccounted for visitors from yesterday had managed an overnight stay. However, all was quiet, with only the two established swans present, and acting as if nothing had happened. I stood for a while, trying (and failing) to figure out some of the different types of seagull, being glared at by the tufted ducks, and wondering vaguely why the moorhens looked at me with a fretful expression as they fussed past.

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Having finished my flask of coffee and the food that I found compressing itself nicely at the bottom of my backpack I made a final visit to the Ornamental Pond, to check whether any of the young visitors were trying to make a home there. Everything was quiet and peaceful, so I reclaimed by bicycle, and pedalled off to purchase a new hat: mine has unaccountably disappeared and there are warning of ice and snow for next week.

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Cold but beautiful: icy mornings on Southampton Common

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It’s been a cold start to the week, but a happy side effect of this has been beautiful bicycle rides on my way to work via Southampton Common: and never mind that my two pairs of gloves and three pairs of socks have been inadequate for the task of keeping me warm.

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On Monday morning the Ornamental Pond was partially iced over. It was beautiful to see the sun rising above the shimmering ice and there was just enough water available for the swans to have a bit of an early morning preening session/ photo shoot for me. I was very grateful for their efforts, because Monday can be a bit of a cheerless event and I secretly felt that I deserved some kind of reward for braving the biting wind.

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I considered popping in to the Common on my way home, but the call of a warm house achieved an easy victory over the much more subtle call of the camera.

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Tuesday was advertised as being pretty much as cold, if not colder, than Monday. But although the ducks were still sliding around on thin ice the unforgiving wind chill factor had abated. It was a less picturesque early morning, with the sunshine constantly hinting at a breakthrough but never quite making it. The up side of this was that I cycled away with a degree of sensation still remaining in my fingers and toes, and a feeling that there were definite compensations for the lack of a spectacular sunrise.

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