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!
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 .
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.
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.
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!)
It’s been a blustery week on Southampton Common, so most of my time has, once again, been spent by the waterside, watching how the birds have been managing the wind and mud. A lot of feather ruffling has been going on!
Dipping under the water, out of the wind and rain, has been an attractive option for some.
Others have stayed above the water, and just ridden the waves.
With a surfeit of that damp drizzly rain that hardly seems to be there yet soaks you, accompanied by a smattering of real rain, the trees on Southampton Common have been much appreciated this week: although some of them have appeared less than impressed by my company.
Despite the somewhat inclement weather, there was one morning of beautiful early light for the swans on the Ornamental Lake to pose in. In addition, notwithstanding all my whingeing, the beautiful signs of Spring are still all around, albeit swaying uncontrollably.
So, another week has blown by on Southampton Common, and we are halfway through March. This means that I can begin my annual discussion with myself about whether to get a better macro lens for all those lovely summer insects that are just waiting to hide form me.
Not much action to report from me this week, as it was half term, and I’ve been occupied with things that don’t involve the Common. Just popped in for the odd misty springtime morning, to remind me of why the slight detour on my way to work is almost always worth it.
Instead of doing any proper wandering this week, I’ve spent time sitting on trains and vaguely participating in Lego city creations in the part of our house formerly known as “the attic.” In a few quiet moments I have put some of my photos onto Redbubble, where they can now be purchased as cards, pictures, mugs and other things. Any profits from sales will be donated to the Society of St James, a Southampton-based homelessness charity, providing a range of supported living services in Southampton, Portsmouth and across Hampshire ( https://ssj.org.uk). I also purchased the distinctive red bike that warns of my presence on the Common from their bicycle workshop. So, if you fancy a souvenier of Southampton Common, with a bit of money going to a good cause, my stuff is at: https://www.redbubble.com/people/jaquiht
Next week, more serious wanderings will be resumed!
A belated Happy New Year: Although I was mostly at home rather than on my wanderings until this week, I managed to catch the first sunrise of 2019, and it was a beautiful way to start the year.
Since then Southampton has been a city of all seasons. The Ornamental Lake has had it’s fair share of ice, which must be mighty inconvenient for the wildlife, but has provided me with great opportunities to kneel at the waterside getting damp and muddy.
Whilst there have been icy days, there has also been the promise of spring: snowdrops. Catching sight of these little beauties in Southampton Old Cemetery filled me with a ridiculous amount of joy, and no amount of people wondering what on earth I was up to kneeling on the path apparently photographing the side of a grave could lessen my pleasure.
Not only have I been worshipping snowdrops, but I have also caught sight of a few bees foraging during sunny spells this week, and I have seen one, just one, crocus. But one is enough to remind me to hang on in there: Spring is happening this year!
Apart from all that excitement, even on cloudy days there have been some pretty morning skies, and wandering in Southampton Old Cemetery always provides me with something to enjoy: be it an interesting tree or a cheerful robin.
So, here I am again, looking forward to another year of pointless meanderings on Southampton Common. Before we know it the ducklings and the beautifully ugly coot and moorhen chicks will be here, and the endless wait for this year’s cygnets will begin.