It’s getting colder, darker and damper outside, and for many of us, the weather outside leaves us wanting to wrap up in our duvets and enjoy a night indoors - but what about the world outside? RSPB England’s, Becca Smith, takes a look at what’s out there to discover this October.

There’s plenty going on in the natural world, whether it’s some of our garden favourites readying themselves for hibernation, or it’s splendid species emerging from our forest floors. The colours of Autumn are certainly spectacular, and so this month we look at the best places to enjoy them, as well as what to look out for that may be emerging from the leaves at your feet…

Photo: A fly agaric fungus at RSPB The Lodge. Credit: Rob Gilmore

Watch your step! There’s fungi at your feet

Autumn will likely conjure up images in your mind of crunching over the beautiful oranges, reds and golds of crisp leaves on the ground, but what about what lies beneath and is soon to emerge? Fungi, quite literally in a kingdom of their own, are a quintessential sign that Autumn is here and have long since inspired legend and Halloween tales alike.

October is one of the best months to see fungi of all shapes and sizes – most varieties love a mix of warmth and damp from the rain, combined with cold nights that cause fungi to send up their fruiting bodies, or the ‘mushroom’ part that we recognise.

Photo: A Shaggy Inkcap at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. Credit Hannah Dryland

Across our RSPB reserves, over 3,400 species of fungus have been recorded, but this only accounts for around 21% of the total number of known UK fungi! There are lots of varieties to discover, so be sure to look out for our colourful range of species found at:

  • At RSPB The Lodge (Bedfordshire) why not get involved with the fungi trail this October half term and look out for fly agaric fungi on the lawns of the Gatehouse Shop?
  • RSPB Coombes Valley (Staffordshire) has a host of fungi to look out for, including waxcaps on the meadow below the visitor centre. Take a walk down the Woodcock Trail to find fly agarics and tinder brackets amongst others.
  • At RSPB Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk) there is plenty of fungi to be found, including shaggy inkcaps and the freakish sounding (and looking!) stinkhorns and dead man’s fingers.
  • RSPB Arne (Dorset) has plenty of fungi to discover on it’s woodland walks, with the Shipstall Trail being a firm favourite amongst fungi spotters. Shaggy inkcaps are also common in the wooded areas as well as on the cattle grazed meadows.

Go for gold: enjoy the colours of Autumn

Photo: Wetland colours at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands. Credit: Paul Jubb 

When we think of Autumn, we think of the rich colours and golden hues that earn the season its reputation as “the photographer’s paradise”. Yet it’s not just woodland leaf colours that change during the season - there are colourful scenes to admire all around us this October. As the days become shorter, awe-inspiring sunsets refuse to be ignored, and other habitats such as reedbeds undergo a dramatic transformation; turning from green to a mix of colours as the seed heads turn purple and the stems turn to a gold.

If all this talk of crunchy leaves and golden reedbeds gets you itching to get outside, why not try one of our reserves? We’ve a fantastic range of autumn sights to be enjoyed at:

  • At RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands (Cheshire), the wetland vegetation offers a myriad of colours and is fringed by ancient woodland. Get your boots on for a brisk walk to Burton Point for spectacular views of the landscape from higher ground.
  • RSPB Bempton Cliffs (East Yorkshire) boasts some of the most impressive sunsets views from the elevated cliff top path.
  • RSPB Geltsdale (Cumbria) is a great spot to enjoy autumn colours from, with sights of purple heather from the Gairs Trail and stunning sunsets from along the Stagiske Trail.
  • At RSPB Minsmere (Suffolk), a mosaic of colour awaits thanks to the great range of habitats at the reserve. 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.

Photo: Sunset at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Credit: George Stoyle

Or stay put on your doorstep

If you’re looking to enjoy nature a bit closer to home, here are three things you can see and do from your home, garden, or local green space this October:

Photo: Hedgehog amongst autumn leaves. Credit: Ben Hall

1: Build a hedgehog hotel

At this time of year, lots of our garden favourites are gearing up for hibernation. Hedgehogs might be in decline, but you can help them in providing a cosy and sheltered spot for them to rest in this winter. Hedgehog hotels are simple to make, why not check out our guide here? Watch out while you gather materials though, hedgehogs are so good at finding cosy spots that you could have a resident hog without realising! If you do disturb one, return the cover and leave it be.

Photo: Collecting leaves. Credit: David Tipling

2: Love leaves

If you’ve been busy raking up the leaves in your garden, what about putting them to good use? Leaf mould is a gardener’s best friend, providing a great addition to your compost mix that is kind to nature. Plus, if you build a leaf mould cage like the one found here, it can become a winter home for wildlife too!

Photo: Pine cones rest beside all the ingredients and tools needed for a natural bird feeder. Credit: David Tipling

3: Pick up some pine cones

Pine cones are soon to be falling from the trees, “but what should you do with them?” we hear you ask. Pine cones are well worth saving and using as natural bird feeders – find our recipe here to treat your feathered friends to a tasty snack in your garden or green space.

Looking to help nature? Click here to create your personal plan and we'll suggest six simple activities to help you give nature a home where you live.

Photo: A girl stares down at fungi growing amongst the heather. Credit: Ben Andrew

Get stuck in:

If you’re feeling inspired to get out in nature and discover the fascinating world of fungi, why not try out our fungi foray activity? Remember not to touch any of the fungi and have a real expert on hand before even thinking about eating any. Instead, keep your eyes peeled and appreciate them where they are in all their weird and wonderful forms.

Photo: Spooky Halloween Trail. Credit: Phil Barnes

If spooktacular nature outings are more your thing, why not check out our great range of covid-secure Halloween events here?

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