Header image: Sunset at RSPB Pulborough Brooks. Credit: Graham Osborne

Autumn is nature’s golden season in more ways than one, with swaying reeds, crunchy fallen leaves and spectacular sunsets promising a magical experience at an RSPB nature reserve near you. Join RSPB England’s Becca Smith as she discovers where to visit for the best autumnal hues and wildlife to match.

From awe-inspiring sunsets and panoramic views, to warm hues of reedbeds and the purple carpets of heather, RSPB nature reserves are set to become a mosaic of colour this September.

Not only this, but some of our best loved autumn wildlife spectacles are set to take place across the country this month. Whether it’s welcoming in winter waders and the roar of the deer rut, or the berry bonanza as birds such as redwings feast on nature’s larder, this season there is plenty to enjoy in nature.


Image: A redwing feasts on berries. Credit: Ben Andrew, rspb-images.com

All this and more can be discovered when taking a relaxing stroll down one of the many winding paths at a reserve near you. Here’s just a few of our favourites to whet your appetite:

RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk: Having inspired the Radio 4 drama Song of the Reed, now is the perfect time to meander through this fen landscape for magnificent views and sunsets across the broads. Catch a glimpse of kingfishers perching nearby, marsh harriers circling overhead or bearded tits from the  trails. What’s more, for a full sensory experience, why not visit the reserve as part of Murmurations, an exciting new theatre production hosted right in the heart of the reserve.


Image: An otter emerges amongst golden reeds at RSPB Minsmere. Credit: Ben Andrew, rspb-images.com

RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk: Patches of purple heather across the heathlands, oranges from the woodlands, and hides overlooking the golds of the reedbeds at sunset, make for a beautiful trip to this reserve. During your visit, look out for bearded tits as well as wading birds making use of the coastal lagoons.

RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Sussex: Whether it’s watching breath-taking sunsets across the Arun Valley and South Downs, or admiring the autumnal colours of wooded heath’s oak and beech trees, this reserve provides the perfect spot to discover a vast array of wildlife, fauna and fungi alike. Watch waders such as lapwings and black tailed godwits swirl overheard in awesome aerobatic displays while keeping your eyes peeled for birds of prey - with peregrines and barn owls hunting above the reserve at dusk.  

RSPB Rainham Marshes, Essex: If it’s flaming skies and spectacular sunsets you’re after, look no further than this fantastic reserve with views stretching across golden marshes to the Thames Estuary. Stroll along the reserve trails to see swirling flocks of lapwings and wigeon shimmering in the sky, while marsh harriers, barn owls and other birds of prey circle overhead. 


Image: Views of the Transporter Bridge at sunset, RSPB Saltholme. Credit: Paul East

RSPB Salthome, County Durham: For a sunset with a difference, catch fiery hues framed by industrial architecture as the iconic Transporter Bridge, and views towards Middlesbrough, are basked in an orange glow. Meanwhile, hundreds of wildfowl graze the wet grassland, and shimmering flocks of lapwings and golden plovers come to land at the pool edges.  

RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Cheshire: Get your boots on for a brisk walk to Burton Point for spectacular wide panoramic views of the Dee Estuary, or discover trails through gorgeous orange tipped woodland and rustling golden reedbeds. You may also spot little egrets roosting in the trees, or pink footed-geese and marsh harriers feeding across the wetlands during your visit.

RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire: Either from winding trails or from the vantage point of the impressive 9-metre high Skytower, witness awesome sunsets  reflected across the wetland pools at this reserve. Discover bearded tits clinging from the reeds or up close while feeding from the reserve’s grit trays, or even catch a glimpse the reserve’s largest resident, the red deer. 


Image:  Swans glide over the lake at RSPB Sandwell Valley at sunset

RSPB Sandwell Valley, West Midlands: Illuminated by magnificent sunset colours, gaze up at the mosaic of orange coloured trees at this reserve as the woodland leaves turn into their autumnal reds and browns. Meanwhile, wading birds can be found amongst the wet grasslands such as lapwing and snipe, and water rail and reed buntings dart between the reeds on the marsh. A delight to see, brightly coloured bullfinches also feed outside the visitor centre. 

RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Park, West Yorkshire: Here, the skies are filled with wonder as wetland pools reflect the beautiful colours of the sun setting while the mesmerising movements of starling murmurations may start to take over the skies. During your visit, you’ll likely spot the thousands of wading birds who flock to the reserve as part of their migration, including species such as black tailed godwits and green sandpipers. 

To find your nearest RSPB nature reserve, or to explore what it has to offer from Marazion Marsh near Land’s End in Cornwall, to Fetlar in Shetland, visit rspb.org.uk/reserves.  


Image: A starling murmuration at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands. Credit: Paul Jubb