Small things on Southampton Common

It’s been another happy week for me on Southampton Common, spending quality time with small things.

A lot of my time has been spent at the Boating Lake, paying homage to the cygnets.

The two little ones are growing fast and keeping their parents and their constant stream of fans well occupied. 

Sheltering from the rain under dad’s umbrella

Whilst most eyes have been on the cygnets, the little grebes have been having a go at resurrecting their nest on the Boating Lake: hopefully they will be lucky this time, and we will have baby grebes to exclaim over later in the year. 

In between my cygnet watch duties, I have spent a fair bit of time in Southampton Old Cemetery and the grassy areas between the lakes, enjoying the company of insects. The butterflies, bees, dragonflies and damselflies are becoming more numerous each day, and I was lucky enough to come across a golden ringed dragonfly in Southampton Old Cemetery: what fun I had watching him. 

They say we will have some sunshine next week, so hopefully I will get to spend more time scampering around chasing tiny creatures and generally looking foolish. Whatever the weather brings though, I’m sure I will enjoy myself on Southampton Common. 

The cygnets’ long walk on Southampton Common

It’s been a treat of a week on Southampton Common if you like cygnets and don’t mind the rain too much. The cygnets don’t mind the rain, because they have their parents’ downy backs to ride on and snuggle into. From this cosy vantage point they can watch the humans standing in the rain beside the Boating Lake waiting to catch a glimpse of them.

The cygnet-fest began on Monday for me. It was raining quite heavily, so the obvious thing to do was to go and stand at the Ornamental Lake for a while so that I could see how the cygnets were getting along.  When I arrived I was reassured to find that I was by no means the only person who considered this a reasonable way to behave.  There were two cygnets in the water with the male swan when I arrived, and one in the nest with the female. However, all was not well with the little one in the nest, and after a number of exchanges between the parents, the mother left the cygnet and the nest, and was gently ushered away by her partner, along with their two other babies. He led his family into the foliage at the edge of the lake for about half an hour, before escorting them back onto the lake, and taking care of the two healthy cygnets whilst the female returned to the nest. It was by now empty, and after checking a couple of times, and calling to her partner, she returned to her family: now just the four of them.  It was sad, but rather touching, to see how the male swan guided his partner through the process of letting nature take it’s course. 

The next day was the highlight of the week for me: every year, after the cygnets hatch, the swan family migrate from the Ornamental Lake to the Boating Lake, but I have never witnessed the event before. This year I was very lucky. As I was wandering and wondering whether the heron would come close enough to be photographed properly I saw a jogger dodging around something at the island corner of the lake. I grabbed my camera and dashed over, yelling impolitely at a gentleman and his daughters (whom I had never met before) to join me for the experience of a lifetime. They followed the disorderly old woman and together we caught up with the swan family. One of the Park Rangers came across to supervise the process: without any interference with the swans’ plans he ensured that the path they took was kept clear of humans, dogs and bikes. As the swans chose to walk along the main path between the lakes, at a busy time, his presence was much appreciated by all. 

The cygnets, who were only about three days old, walked every step of the way to the Boating Lake, with no offer of a lift from mum or dad at any stage. They were, however, treated like royalty, with their adoring subjects lining the way, exclaiming and taking photos.

Once at the Boating Lake the cygnets plopped into their new home and have commanded a constant stream of exclaiming onlookers ever since. They have taken their popularity very much in their stride, as they sail around on mum or dad’s back (causing great anxiety if snuggling under their parents’ feathers takes them out of the sight of their fan base), splash around together, and take time out to sit on the side of the lake in the sunshine (or rain!) With the seagulls and crows also taking an unhealthy interest in them though the accepted greeting at the Boating Lake is no longer “Hello, how are you? “ But an anxious: “Are there still two?” 

In between times, the little grebes have had a less lucky week. They had a beautiful nest constructed near the side of the Boating Lake, but unfortunately on Thursday it became rather waterlogged in the rain. There was something left of it on Friday, once the water levels fell a little, but the eggs may  well have been lost. However, they are rather determined little characters, and may, I hope, make another nest soon if this one hasn’t worked out. Elsewhere, back on the Ornamental Lake there were still three little coot chicks on Friday, looking as cute and fuzzy as ever.

It really has been all about the cygnets this week though! Perhaps next week I will drag myself away from them, especially if the weather becomes a bit more damselfly and butterfly friendly. If not, well, the cygnets really are fun to spend quality time with, and I have had a fantastic week on Southampton Common, despite being forced back to drinking flasks of warming coffee rather than cool water from the newly installed water dispensers at the Hawthorns and playground. 

The first damselfly of 2019


On Friday I saw my first damselfly of 2019 in Southampton Old Cemetery. A sight that filled me with delight and resulted in people avoiding me for an hour or so as I smiled and exclaimed happily to myself about my find. How fantastic it is every year to see these little beauties returning.

The damselflies were by no means the only insects out and about this week. Southampton Old Cemetery was busy with butterflies, bees, and plenty of others. It was also a festival of brightness with the bluebells, blossom and rhododendron carpet.

The insects were also busy at the Ornamental Lake, and although I didn’t see any damselflies by the waterside there were several butterflies flitting around, including Holly Blues who like me to crawl around in an undignified fashion to take their photo.

The two surviving ducklings are growing bigger and bolder every day, rushing around the lake, further and further from their parens. Sadly, I saw two tiny moorhen chicks being assassinated by a trio of coots this week, although I am reliably informed that there is at least one surviving sibling. Nature is a cruel place sometimes, so take care little ones! The swans are mainly on and around the nest, but are also putting on some pretty good defence and flying displays if they are disturbed or if someone invades what they perceive to be their territory: that is to say, the entire lake!

Although it’s not on Southampton Common, the wisteria in East Park really merits a mention this week. It is looking just beautiful and was well worth taking my bicycle on a little detour to see.

So in and around Southampton, but especially on the Common, I have again been enjoying lots of beautiful spring sights, and the arrival of the damselflies in particular means that I am looking forward to lots more.

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