It’s been a wintry week on Southampton Common. However, there have been some beautiful starts to the day and winter is a fantastic time for sunrises, because I don’t have to get up early to see them.
Standing around as the sun makes it’s way across the Ornamental Lake is always worth the cold feet it incurs: the way the colours change and the clouds reform minute to minute never ceases to amaze me.
The Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Lake were both frozen at times this week, which not only added something to the sunrise views, but also gave me a chance to watch the birds investigating and dealing with their frosty environment.
The Common really is beautiful on frosty days, as is the neighbouring Southampton Old Cemetery.
Another great thing about the ice is that the ponds have slowly thawed at the edges, encouraging the shoveler ducks on the Cemetery Lake to come a bit closer to the water’s edge than usual. The only time I can get a half decent shot of them and their amazing beaks seems to be in icy conditions.
Spending some time at the Cemetery Lake this week had the happy side- effect of enabling the tufted ducks to do what they love to do: glare at me.
It hasn’t been all ice and frost this week, though: there was a bit of mist drifting around the trees on Friday morning, making everything slightly mysterious.
So, no snow for Southampton this week, but a few more patches of snowdrops in the Old Cemetery. The daffodils are just waiting to appear and there are one or two crocuses braving the elements. So, although we still have a few days of January to go, spring is peeping through the clouds.
Finally, who got up early and saw the big red moon this week? I didn’t. It was lovely the next day on my ride across the Common to the station though. Being just one day late wasn’t so bad …
Taken using Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200, ISO 200, f11, 1/40
It was a rather chilly and breezy morning, but that didn’t trouble me at all because I had my splendid new flask with me as I set forth to wave good morning to my friends at the Cemetery Lake. One or two of the tufted ducks were having bad hair days, but otherwise all seemed well there.Taken using Nikon D5500, Nikon 18-200, ISO 1250, f6.3, 1/640 To purchase an unmarked copy of this image, please click on this link
My next stop, the Old Cemetery is beginning to have a real Spring feel to it, with crocuses everywhere and numerous clumps of snowdrops. However, there was also a highish wind chill factor and some unforgivingly cold showers. Luckily, there are plenty of trees for me to shelter under, and equipped with my new flask I was able to relax in relative comfort until the rain passed by. There was a party of primary school children touring the Cemetery and one or two of the teachers gave me uncertain sidelong glances. I wasn’t sure if this was because I have decided that buying new coat at the end of January is admitting defeat to winter, and, as a consequence, am walking around looking rather like a scarecrow, or because they were envious of my warm drink. In deference to their suffering I hid my biscuits until after they had gone by, as I didn’t have enough to share, and it seemed cruel to eat them in full view of those who probably would have liked one.
Once the rain had abated and I had eaten my biscuits I proceeded on my tour of the anticipation of spring. To my delight, I came across three daffodils in bloom. This, on top of my warming beverage and biscuits, meant that the day was heading to the incredibly good end of the scale. I grovelled around for a while, trying to get a shot that would, despite the breeze, do the daffodils justice.
It was beginning to rain again as I left the Common, but I was in an upbeat frame of mind. In addition to all the other pleasing events of the morning, a super moon was scheduled to appear later in the day, and, weather permitting, there was a chance that I would get to see it.
Taken using Nikon D5500, Nikon 70-300 lens, ISO 1600, f11,1/80
As it turned out, I did not view the super moon from the Common, but from a nearby Sustrans boardwalk that runs between the River Itchen and the railway line. This last photo therefore has nothing to do with the Common, but it was quite fun trying to hold my camera still on its tripod as cyclists sped by on the wooden boards and trains did the same thing a few yards away, so here it is. The moon rising over Midanbury, with a generous helping of camera shake thrown in for good measure!
After my morning devotions, kneeling at the feet of the gods of the promise of spring, I returned to the Cemetery Lake to see how my relationship with the ducks was developing: last week they definitely hated me.
This week though I feel that perhapsI had done them a disservice. Instead of glaring at me the tufted ducks were looking smug, as if they knew something I didn’t. Specifically, that this can be one of the coldest corners of the Common, but you can’t get your hot drink out because the mass of pigeons that hang around waiting to be fed may make an unwelcome contribution to it. One of the pochards almost smiled at me, and although they stayed well out of decent photography range the shoveler ducks deigned to glance in my direction. The coots seemed in rather bad humour, but this was not directed specifically at me and the moorhens, who are usually rather timid and fretful, seemed calmer than usual.
So, although the welcome I received was a little lukewarm, I felt that things were progressing very well for me at the Cemetery Lake. I am beginning to have an unreasonable hope that one of the shoveler ducks might pop over for a proper photo call next week.
Taken using Nikon D5500, 18-300 lens, ISO 1600, f10, 1/640
There was an impressive frost today, and I had to go to the supermarket. Despite having a small mountain of post Christmas detritus in the kitchen, you kind of need something to go with the remains of the Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, and the chocolates that no-one likes. So, I thought I would relieve my family of my company for a bit longer than was strictly necessary and pop in to see how the Common was doing in the cold.
Having overcome the slight challenge of the lock on our bicycle shed being iced up I made my way to the Common. The Ornamental Pond and Cemetery Lake were both more or less frozen over when I arrived at about nine o’clock. However, the brave were already out and about, crunching their way along the paths and across the grass, and as the morning wore on the Common became a hive of activity. Children of all ages were playing with their outdoors themed Christmas gifts, cracking icy patches on the paths, feeding the birds, and generally blowing away the Christmas cobwebs. Meantime, the birds on both ponds gave pretty good skating demonstrations, until the sun began to thaw their habitats and they basked in the relative warmth of nearly-but-not-actually-frozen water.
I dug out my flask, had a quick warming beverage, and was delighted to discover a forgotten half bar of chocolate in my pocket. Munching happily I bade goodbye to the Common and plunged into the post Christmas shopping crowds.