For many visitors October at Leighton Moss is synonymous with two key natural events; the first, the commencement of bearded tits using the grit trays and second, the red deer rut.

 Both these spectacles are relatively easy to see and photograph, if one puts the time in and understands some of the behaviour of the two species. The 'beardies' will visit the trays most days, preferring calm, bright conditions - so, do not arrive in a howling westerly and pouring rain if these are your target bird! Also, timing is often crucial as the bearded tits' main period of activity at the trays tends to be mid-morning (say, from 9.30am-11.30am). This means you can have a bit of a lie-in!

Another piece of advice that I always give is to learn the bearded tits' distinctive 'pinging' calls and do not stand fixed, staring at the trays expecting their imminent arrival. Almost daily I will see a cluster of people eagerly waiting for the appearance of the birds while 20 metres along the path I can hear a family party of beardies calling merrily away to one another. Do spend time slowly walking along the paths listening out and when you hear them, wait and watch; you will almost certainly spot them in the reeds. One note of caution - do not play the calls while on the reserve (listen to and familiarise yourself with the sound before you arrive) as pre-recorded playback of bird songs and calls is strictly prohibited on all RSPB nature reserves as it often distracts the birds from going about their vital business and can also cause considerable stress.     

 If you're hoping to see the red deer rut, then you really do need to get up early (or be prepared to stay late). Grisedale Hide is traditionally the best location to see and hear the stags bolving with dawn and, to a lesser degree, dusk being the optimum times. Once again, the calmer the morning the better the chance of witnessing some top notch activity as the testosterone fuelled males strive to make their dominance known to the other stags as well as the attendant females. On still autumn days the sound of the roaring stags can drift right across the reserve - quite an experience! (Red deer photo by Mike Malpass)

Of course, as with all things nature - sightings are never guaranteed, but hopefully this little bit of info may well help you increase your chances of getting the best out of a visit! 

Even without deer and beardies, this is still a superb time to be out and about at Leighton Moss. Wildfowl numbers are ever increasing and visitors can hope to see pintail, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall and teal among other duck species, while whooper swans may be seen dropping in for a rest as they migrate south from Iceland. At least three marsh harriers have taken up winter residency and a lone spoonbill continues to make sporadic appearances. At Lower and Causeway pools otters have been sighted regularly, at all times of day. 

Don't forget to check out our programme of events and activities on our webpage and you can keep up to date with news of sightings and other goings-on by visiting our Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

We look forward to seeing you soon!