Beth Markey, RSPB Communications Officer, describes some of the great autumn spectacles and events on our England nature reserves ... 

Although our feathered friends in sunnier climes might disagree, there’s nothing cosier than the warming autumnal ambience that only comes at this time of the year. The golden shades blanketing the landscape and familiar nip in the morning air; crunchy leaves underfoot and dew-covered spider webs chequering hedgerows.

We’re celebrating autumn with a host of exciting activities for ardent nature lovers. Here’s our top five events taking place across England this season:

Starling murmurations

Photo credit: Ben Andrew

Around November/December, starlings will be appearing en-masse to perform stunning aerial stunts. It’s a spectacle not to be missed, with swooping starling numbers reaching into the tens of thousands at many sites, forming mesmerising shape-shifting patterns.

We don’t entirely know why starlings do this, but the answer, it’s thought, is down to safety in numbers, warmth, or simply as an effective means for communication as they forage for food. Speaking of food - many of our reserves run soup and starling events – a chance to watch the display whilst tucking into a warming meal.

Check out the following RSPB nature reserves to watch starling roosts ...

RSPB Leighton Moss
RSPB Marazion Marsh
RSPB Minsmere
RSPB Newport Wetlands
RSPB Titchwell Marsh
RSPB Saltholme

Most starling events run from late October, however times and dates will differ from reserve to reserve along with prices.

Red deer ruts

Photo credit: Ben Andrew

Deer watchers spend months waiting for colder weather and shorter nights because it means one thing - rutting season is upon us. And what better species to experience than red deer? The largest land mammal in the UK, red deer are natural gladiators, putting on a fantastic show of dominance in order to win the affection of females. Watch testosterone-fuelled battles as males lock antlers and bellow at frighteningly loud decibels – a roarsome experience, if we say so ourselves!

To see red deer on our nature reserves, try: 

Eastern moors – Derbyshire
RSPB Minsmere (stop press: Minsmere's red deer events are fully booked, this year but put in your diary for next year!)

Fungi Festival

Photo credit: Ben Andrew

Pulborough’s Fungi Festival is on from the beginning until the end of October – don’t miss out. This is your chance to delve deep into the wooded heath in search of fairy-tale fungi like the red and white- spotted fly agaric and delicate amethyst deceiver toadstools. Pick up a fungi trail leaflet and spotters guide from the visitor centre and follow our self-guided trail. 

To find out more visit RSPB Pulborough - the Fungi Festival runs daily from 9:30am to 5:00pm, with voluntary donations (suggested £1) accepted at the door. No need to book.

Avocet Cruises

Photo credit: David Tipling

The Exe Estuary is teaming with wildlife and since the 1980’s, our birdwatching cruises have provided a key window into life on the Exe. Throughout the cruise, expert commentary is provided by knowledgeable RSPB volunteers, eager to provide eagle-eyed passengers with a wealth of knowledge on the numerous species of waders and wildlife that call the Exe home.

Those on board our Avocet Cruises can expect to see a wildlife spectacle from avocets, the unmistakable emblem of the RSPB, as well as black-tailed godwits, dunlin, wigeons and brent geese.

For details visit  RSPB Exe Estuary – Avocet Cruises event page

Our cruises run from November to February and last approx. 1.5 hours.

Bearded tits

Photo credit: David Morris

Throughout October, the RSPB will be hosting unique bearded tit experiences, giving participants the opportunity to enjoy this fantastic, mustachioed species up close.

Bearded tits are amongst the rarest breeding birds in the UK, found only in reedbeds in certain sites across England, Scotland and Wales. Once brought to the edge of extinction, bearded tit numbers are now soaring with population increases occurring year on year. However, numbers are still low, and the bearded tit is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The RSPB’s bearded tit experience offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get near to these incredible birds and learn more about their habitat and behaviour. 

Places to enjoy bearded tit walks ...

RSPB Leighton Moss – next event October 22nd.
RSPB Radipole (upcoming dates to be confirmed)

You can also see bearded tits at...

RSPB Newport Wetlands
RSPB Ouse Fen
RSPB Blacktoft Sands
RSPB Ham Wall
RSPB Lakenheath Fen
RSPB Lodmoor
RSPB Tay Reedbeds
RSPB Vange Marsh
RSPB Bowers Marsh
RSPB Titchwell Marsh
RSPB Langford Lowfields
RSPB Minsmere
RSPB Old Hall Marshes