Awesome Autumn at RSPB Leighton Moss

Autumn is a wonderful time for wildlife, and there is no better time for visitors to RSPB Leighton Moss in Silverdale, to enjoy the curious seasonal behaviours of two special residents at the reserve – bearded tits, and red deer.

From now until the end of November, visitors have the greatest chance of observing bearded tits, colourful little birds specially adapted to living in reedbeds. The reedbed at Leighton Moss, which is the largest in North West England, is regularly home to around 30 pairs. Male bearded tit on grit tray 1 by Mike Malpass

When the insects they feast on the rest of the year become scarce in autumn and winter, bearded tits switch their diet to reed seeds. They don’t have teeth to chew it up, so they swallow grit – known as ‘gritting’ – to help them digest it. Leighton Moss’ wardens have placed special grit trays besides the reserve paths for them. It also allows their populations to be monitored closely and presents opportune locations for visitors to view these generally secretive birds.

Close to the reserve’s Causeway Hide, a brand new viewing platform has been created this autumn to enhance the experience of visitors hoping to watch these striking birds. They are most visible on autumn mornings when conditions are right – dry, still, ideally with sunshine.

Early mornings and late afternoons in autumn are also an ideal time for visitors to Leighton Moss to witness red deer, Britain’s largest land mammal. Though they are present throughout the year, it is during this period when the stately forms of red deer stags emerge from the reedbed to engage in the annual ‘rut’, or breeding season.

In competition for the attentions of females, called hinds, the stags let out thunderous bellows to advertise their fitness and supremacy. When stags meet, they size one another up by strutting and posturing in parallel, and if two equally-matched individuals refuse to back down, antlers lock and combat commences.

Red deer rutting at Leighton Moss (credit Richard Cousens)

Early mornings and late afternoons in autumn are also an ideal time for visitors to Leighton Moss to witness red deer, Britain’s largest land mammal. Though they are present throughout the year, it is during this period when the stately forms of red deer stags emerge from the reedbed to engage in the annual ‘rut’, or breeding season.

In competition for the attentions of females, called hinds, the stags let out thunderous bellows to advertise their fitness and supremacy. When stags meet, they size one another up by strutting and posturing in parallel, and if two equally-matched individuals refuse to back down, antlers lock and combat commences.

For more information on incredible autumn wildlife you can find on the reserve, and the enticing events being held over the season, visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss