Chilling out with Nature

We’ve booked to go out for lunch, and with a couple of hours to kill before our appointed time, we decide to treat ourselves to a spot of birdwatching. Straw’s Bridge Nature Reserve was once home to a sewage works and an opencast mine. It doesn’t sound promising, but in recent decades the local council has done a good job of restoring it as a wildlife habitat and local amenity. The locals call it Swan Lake, but the Reserve has plenty more besides the eponymous Mute Swan to tempt nature lovers.

On arrival we’re surprised to see that the Straw’s Bridge lakes are frozen in places. Instead of swimming elegantly across wide expanses of open water, the Mute Swans are reduced to an ungainly waddle and appear in mortal danger of ending up flat on their beaks at any moment. Meanwhile, Black-headed Gulls huddle together miserably on the ice, as if bemused by the sudden meteorological change that has turned their familiar surroundings into an unwelcome skating rink.

As we set off to walk a series of trails around the lakes we spy a robin sitting atop a rubbish bin. Like many of his species, our red-breasted friend seems unperturbed by proximity to humans, even as Mrs P creeps ever-closer in pursuit of the perfect, full-frame photo. She snaps away merrily, the robin sings lustily and I take a bit of video footage. Contentment reigns supreme!

A bit further on we watch an unexpected face-off between a Grey Heron and a mob of Mute Swans. The heron has staked its claim to a section of ice, and although they have a whole lake to choose from the swans evidently decide that the ideal place for a family gathering is the precise spot on which it’s standing. They close in on the heron, which eyes them warily. I train my video camera on them all, expecting to see feathers fly. But the heron clearly thinks better of it, and goes slip-sliding away from the mob in search of a swan-free life. Good luck with that at Swan Lake, my friend.

We continue our stroll around the lakes, revelling in the golden colours of the winter reedbeds. Despite the glorious sun beaming down at us from a clear blue sky, it’s a bitterly cold morning. But we’ve come prepared, wearing so many layers of thermal clothing that we feel comfortably toasty. In the leaf litter beneath a small stand of trees, a solitary redwing – a refugee from Scandinavia, where winters are much colder than our own – searches energetically for anything edible. Meanwhile, in the far distance we spot a flotilla of mallards and coots circling in a patch of open water, while a buzzard scans the landscape hopefully from its vantage point at the top of a nearby tree.

And finally, we happen upon the star of this morning’s birding expedition. It’s another Grey Heron, this one sitting amongst the dead vegetation at the edge of an ice-free section of the lake. The bird is indifferent to our presence as we creep ever closer, and looks majestic in the soft midwinter light.

Thoughts inevitably turn to my Mum. After Dad died in the mid-1990s, we started taking her out on birdwatching excursions with us. She got to love it, and the bird she loved most of all was the heron. The tall, long-legged, long-billed wader fascinated and enthralled her, and was her highlight of any outing to a wetland habitat. Such happy memories!

Far too soon, it is time to head back to the car and drive a couple of miles down the road to where we will be taking lunch. There’s one final surprise in store – in the lakeside car park we see a Pied Wagtail cavorting across a car bonnet, presumably in search of its own lunch of splattered insects.

It’s been an uplifting morning. As reserves go, Straw’s Bridge is hardly spectacular, its list of regularly occurring species totally unremarkable, and yet this is a truly wonderful place to chill out with Nature. We’ll be back again very soon, although next time I hope we can manage without the thermal underwear!



  1. Thistles and Kiwis · February 1

    Great pictures as ever – that robin is such a delight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · February 1

      Thank you. He was a real show-off, determined to be seen. Cute!


  2. Laurie Graves · February 1

    I so enjoyed going on that walk with you and your wife. Wonderful to see all those birds, even though the species are unremarkable. The same can be said for the birds that come to our backyard, yet we never get tired of seeing them. I especially like the picture of the robin, so different from ours. And what a lovely story about your mother. I agree that herons are fascinating birds. Finally, it’s somewhat of a miracle how once dirty or polluted areas can be cleaned. Thanks to the Clean Water Act
    of 1972, our rivers, once horribly polluted, now teems with fish and birds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · February 2

      Thank you for the lovely feedback, Laurie, so pleased you enjoyed walking through the reserve with us, while simultaneously staying at home, nicely warm and toasty!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Paddy Tobin · February 1

    Lunch was well earned!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. shazza · February 2

    Aw, lovely. Definitely does look a good place to chill with nature. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · February 2

      One of our favourites, and not too far from home either. 🙂


  5. T Ibara Photo · February 4

    Hello Mr P, so happy that you and Mrs P had a lovely day out in nature.
    I am sorry for being off the grid, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · February 4

      Hi Takami, lovely to hear from you, and thank you for your kind message. I hope you and your family are well. Milky Bar and Malteser send you their best wishes 😺

      Liked by 1 person

      • T Ibara Photo · February 5

        Thank you Mr. P. Your kind words are much appreciated and we also appreciate the greetings from Milk Bar and Malteser too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jet Eliot · February 5

    Thanks for this serene walk to Straw’s Bridge, the photos and narrative were lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adele Brand · February 14

    It sounds like a heartwarming walk, whatever the external chill. Beautiful photos too.


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