Nature suddenly bursts into life bringing fresh green shoots, leaves and flowers, the heady scent of wild garlic in woodlands, while the sounds of bird song and bleating lambs fill the air.
The famed Farndale wild daffodils appear alongside the river Dove in time for Easter, subject to the weather of course! They're said to have been planted by the monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey. Wild daffodils are smaller and more delicate, and the trumpet shaped flower is a paler yellow.
Head to the coast to see kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, fulmar, shag and everyone’s favourite – the puffin – returning to the Yorkshire cliffs after spending the winter out at sea. Kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmar nest on Cowbar Nab headland, sheltering the picturesque fishing village of Staithes.
Head further south to Flamborough Cliffs and Bempton Cliffs to enjoy the sight of puffins nesting, or marvel at the only mainland gannet breeding colony in England at Bempton Cliffs. These large streamlined white birds are renowned for plunging into the sea at astonishing speeds when they hunt for fish. They pair for life and return to the same nest. By midsummer the huge colony is an amazing sight, sound and smell!
Also look out for:
- Blackthorn, one of the earliest trees to blossom, with a froth of clustered white flowers on thorny branches appearing before the leaves have burst bud. Make a note of it flowering now in woodland, scrub and hedgerows, then remember to come back in the autumn to harvest some of its fruits – sloes – to make traditional sloe gin!
- The soft, bubbling call of the curlew really heralds the start of spring. This ground nesting bird prefers wet marshlands, rough grassland and moors. Look out for overhead flocks – easy to spot with their long curved beaks. The North York Moors has the UK's highest density of breeding curlew on open moorland so you've got a good chance of seeing them on any moorland walk. You'll also find them in the Howardian Hills in the Coxwold-Gilling Gap, Dalby Bush Fen and the River Derwent floodplains.
- Ring ouzels will be arriving on the moors around Rosedale, Farndale and Spaunton having flown back from their wintering grounds in Spain and north west Africa. This bird is in decline and this is one of just a few upland areas where they still breed. See a blackbird with a distinct white bib flying up out of the heather? It’s a ring ouzel. They favour dense ground cover so count yourself lucky if you see this charismatic little bird.
- Emperor moths are spectacular orange and yellow day-flying moths with striking eyespot patterns on their four wings, emerging from cocoons on the moors on warm April days, having fed on heather the previous year. Spot them in the Hole of Horcum or at Fen Bog, near Goathland.
Walk of the month
Follow our famous Daffodil walk from Low Mill to Church Houses; you'll find them along the riverbanks and in the churchyard at Church Houses.
Fantastic wild daffodil displays also appear in Rosedale and Hell Bank Wood near Appleton le Moors. Equally stunning are the planted displays in the grounds of Castle Howard in the Howardian Hills or along the riverbanks in Helmsley.
Yorkshire Coast Nature tips
The experts at Yorkshire Coast Nature are our eyes on the ground, here's their advice on what else to look out for this month.
Spring is upon us! April is one of the most exciting months of the year as many animals and plants burst onto the scene. From strange ear shaped fungus to parrots of the sea, here are a few of our favorite species to look out for this month.
Bees are in the news and in the trees! Willow catkin flowers in April provide one of the first tastes of pollen, essential food for queen bumble-bees after they emerge from hibernation.
Look out for our biggest bee, the buff-tailed bumblebee. The queen survives underground all winter where she uses up fat stored in her body from the previous summer. Learn how you can help bees.
April is not the month we normally associate with wild orchids but the early purple orchid is out in all its glory towards the end of the month. Look out for them in any old woodland or meadow, we even found some on a Yorkshire cliff-top by the sea two years ago! The flowering spike can have as many as 50 flowers. In darker woodlands they often grow much larger to reach the dappled light.
Birds of prey often migrate looking for new breeding territories in early spring and April is one of the best months to see these magnificent birds. Red kites are now a familiar sight in many inland parts of England but on the coast they are still scarce. Look out for them migrating anywhere on the north or east Yorkshire coast. They look so big but amazingly in the spring they can weigh only 900 grams which is less than a mallard!
One of our most loved birds is back this month, the Atlantic puffin. Look out for them at Bempton Cliffs and on Flamborough Headland where they nest in large numbers. They can also be found offshore where they search for food anywhere on the North York Moors coast. Despite their clumsy flight they can reach speeds of up to 55mph and beat their wings up to 400 times a minute!
A species of fungi which grows at any time of year is the wood ear. Look out for these strange mushrooms on elder trees in hedges or woods often where there is plenty dead wood and especially after an April shower! They are fun to find because they really do look like an ear. They are also edible and a very good source of iron, protein and fibre.
One of the most colourful spring butterflies is the comma. They are named because of the white ‘comma’ shape on the underwing. The hibernating adults emerge in warm weather. After mating the eggs are laid and the resulting caterpillar feeds on common nettle. Two forms have been recognised: the darker individuals breed once, the adults emerging in mid-summer while lighter coloured butterflies can breed twice producing an autumn emergence; these adults also overwinter.
On heathland around the North York Moors National Park, and in similar habitat close to York such as Allerthorpe Common, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve, a very beautiful emerald insect emerges this month, the tiger beetle. Look out for them on dry tracks or on stony ground between the heather. They are a highly aggressive predator and run very fast! They use a stop and look hunting technique developed to help them see their prey better after periods of hot pursuit!
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