Suburban Safari

Does this look like a wildlife haven to you? Does it even look like nature? Maybe not for many people. For some people in Southampton, ‘nature’ means the New Forest. For others it might mean one of our local nature reserves, such as Miller’s Pond, Peartree Green or Chessel Bay, or maybe a park. But I’d hazard a guess that not many people would spend time searching for wildlife on a verge like this. To be fair, I didn’t either – but I did get fed up seeing all the litter around our precious dandelions. So I put a post on the Woolston Wombles group to say I’d be doing a litter pick on Saturday 15 April. There were six of us on the day, and we started here, on the verge off Victoria Rd with the ongoing Centenary Quay development seen through the fence, and a little bit of the river visible too.

It was a gloriously sunny day, but a little chilly so I was surprised when very soon, I found a six-spot ladybird. I wasn’t sure it was alive, but carefully used a leaf to put it on this dandelion, and it soon perked up. After that, I decided to tread more carefully. I noticed a few mushrooms like the one below, most with chunks eaten. There were also red dead nettles and of course more dandelions.

Then we found a two-spot ladybird. Although common and widespread, numbers are dropping, so it was worth logging on iRecord, one of a number of recording schemes used by citizen scientists to monitor our wildlife. The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is probably the best known example.

Another interesting find along this stretch of verge was this hoverfly. When I worked in outdoor learning, I found that young people were often scared of hoverflies, thinking they were wasps and would sting. Some hoverflies have yellow and black markings to mimic wasps and therefore put off predators such as birds. But they are harmless to humans, and important pollinators. They’re also rather beautiful, I think.

Where were we again? Oh yes, opposite a busy junction that leads from a shopping street to a large supermarket in one direction, with a housing development past the library in the other direction. In a few metres of verge strewn with plastic and other litter, we’d found these six wild species. Remarkable, isn’t it? We then turned the corner to go down Keswick Road to the verge I’d written about in an earlier blog post, A Sense of Place. Opposite is the Southampton Veterans Drop-in Centre, which was open, and the kind staff there made us tea and coffee. Here we are enjoying it – along with the sunshine, the company and the wildlife!

Naturally, we picked the shrubby area around the centre too to thank them, and there I found a bumblebee that moved before I could get a photo. Just across the road, Lisa was picking the shrubbery next to the car park (see A Sense of Place) and realised while drinking her coffee that she’d brought a guest along on her sleeve – a Common Green Shield Bug! She returned it before we moved on, as did Archie, when he later acquired one. Was it the same one? I’ve included both photos if you want to look closely and make your own mind 🙂

What made this hour-and-a-half so much fun? The sunshine helped, the company definitely did too (not to mention the coffee) but for me it was the unexpectedness of finding so much wildlife. My friends and colleagues are used to me singing the praises of urban wildlife, of the overlooked and underappreciated (dandelions, anyone?) but this experience really made me reflect on how much joy people can find if they notice the nature around them. I’d thought about creating Woolston treasure trail back in January when I wrote ‘A Sense of Place’, and now I have more to add to it.

A footnote to this story: a few days later, I bumped into a neighbour who was recovering from surgery. Advised to take gentle exercise, she had for the first time walked through the alley behind our houses and come across the flowerbed that my partner and I look after. She was amazed, saying it really lifted her spirits. This is a bed currently dominated by Grape Hyacinth, nothing special. But it sits in a not-so-beautiful patch of tarmac and breezeblocks, and her comments made me realise what a difference even something like this can make. Just wait until you see in in summer, I thought!

8 thoughts on “Suburban Safari

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. It felt so “me”. I live in rural Japan and spend a lot of time -when I have free time- wandering through the lanes that meander across the rice fields. A five minute walk can take me an hour because I’m constantly stopping to look at what’s growing or crawling around.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello🙂- I live in Kyushu in a small rice farming community. My husband’s family plants rice. It’s really pretty here. I post photos on my blog ( you can see them if you’d like). I couldn’t imagine living in Tokyo or somewhere like that. I need the forests and fields and such! Where in Japan did you visit?!


      2. I’m now going to binge read your blog. It looks so interesting. I visited cities the first time – Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya. The second time I stayed in Iida for a few days. That was really beautiful.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You would absolutely love the Japanese countryside. We’ve been here for twelve years now and I still think… oh, this is just like a fairy tale. Also, I’m just so happy to have connected with like-minded people thru blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I got a little busy at work so haven’t had time to read more of your blog nor check your comments. I should have more time over the next week as I’m not at work. My job involves quite a bit on time online, so I don’t always feel like more screen time when I’m not working! I’m assuming you’re the Connie Naka who commented on the vetch photo on Friends of Peartree Green Facebook page? I’m curious to know whether you are Japanese…..


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