Woodland Highlights: April

Image: northeastwildlife.co.uk

Hawthorn blossom

The powers that be in the world of weather forecasting say April should bring a break to the cold weather blowing in from Siberia, although for some this may be towards the end of the month. I am sure many insects and hibernating animals will be hoping this too. What can you see this month? Hopefully a great deal more!

Trees/shrubs… In April hawthorn should take over from blackthorn in adorning the hedgerows with blossom. Wild cherry trees should also be flowering this month. The new leaf burst is coming for many species such as ash, naturalised horse chestnut and elder.

Image: Olivier Pichard/Wikicommons

Lords and ladies

Plants… Bluebells were already out last year in many places in the UK. But this year has been harsher and colder with some reports saying the timing of flowering has been set back a month for many species. The magnificent blue carpets we were starting to see last year will hopefully be out soon. Along with this we should perhaps see the strange yellow-green spathes of lords and ladies. The purple splotched dark green leaves of early purple orchid are one to watch for, so too wood sorrel, garlic mustardcuckooflowerwood anemone and ramsons.

Fungi/lichens/moss… St George’s Day mushrooms are a taste of spring; these edible fungi can be found in woods and grassland and can form ‘fairy rings’. It is important if picking any fungi to respect that this is the essential fruiting body of the species. Without these the species would not continue into the future. Never take too many, leave the younger ones, allow the fruiting bodies to drop their life bearing spores and ensure the survival of these important nutrient recyclers.

Image: northeastwildlife.co.uk

Blue tit

Birds… Migrating birds should be returning to our shores this month and pleasing many watchers with their colour and song, including the nightingale and cuckoo. Over-wintering species will be leaving for their breeding grounds overseas. Some native species, such as blackbirds and blue tits, should start busily nesting in April.

Mammals… Badgers may become more visible this month. The young of this keystone woodland species are born from mid-January to mid-March, so April is a time when some of them could be venturing from the safety of the sett. However, as these are nocturnal animals you may have to locate specialist wildlife sanctuaries where experts can take you out on night-time adventures to see them.

Reptiles… Adders, grass snakes, slow worms and sand lizards come out of brumation (their version of hibernation) if temperatures have warmed enough. Look out for them basking in woodland glades and rides, the best time to spot them is early in the morning before they have warmed and speeded up.

Image: Killianwoods/Wikicommons


Insects… The persistently cold weather has hampered even the earliest insects. Those butterflies that should be out on the wing now have been absent or struggling, a recent article says 2012 was a devastatingly wet year for them and numbers dropped significantly. If this year is as bad then many species could be in real trouble. St Mark’s fly should be a welcome food source for many migrant birds this month, emerging towards the end of April.

VisitWoods can help locate many stunning woods in your area and across the UK. You can also record all your amazing finds on Nature’s Calendar and be part of a great citizen science movement. Let us hope April brings some warmer weather for us and our wild friends.

Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser


About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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13 Responses to Woodland Highlights: April

  1. Malky says:

    Its been really cold up in Scotland but the wood anemones and bluebells are starting to flower at last the early bumble bee is flying around and most of the birds are now nestingand to top that I saw a red poll in my garden yesterday the very first I have seen here what a wonderful start to spring

  2. Elaine Morris says:

    20 waxwings stopped off in our garden on April 11th. Never seen even one before . Elaine in Radcliffe near Bury Lancashire. M26 44PS

    • JULIE says:

      We had 63 waxwings in our garden like you we had never seen one either amazing.JULIE Arbroath Angus

      • Elaine Morris says:

        Thank you somuch for responding. It may be because the jet stream has moved farther south that everything else is following suit. The weather here surely has. Elaine

        • Kay Haw says:

          I saw just six near our offices in Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago, beautiful birds, but they seem more common on the east coast of England. Quite unusual for them to be so west and south, but a fantastic bit of spotting!

  3. Certainly most things at Greenfield LNR here in Colne, Lancashire, are very late. None of our Bluebells are out. Celandines have been out for a week or two. Butterbur just coming out. But we have Bluetits and Nuthatches taking advantage of nest boxes we put up last yearar. Pussy Willow budding and I spotted a loan female Hazel flower early in March.There are also a number of patches of Frogspawn in our pond. We shall be doing a torchlight Newt recording session on April 30th

  4. snowbird says:

    I’ve never known such a cold spring, there is not a single leaf on the trees or hedgerow and I heard the barn owls are dying due to starvation…..at my local animal rescue we have lots of young wood pigeons and collared doves coming in needing hand feeding and it’s still too cold to release our hedgehogs…

    • Kay Haw says:

      Oh that is to terrible to hear! I hope spring truly arrives soon to support our precious wildlife. Every respect for your work with the animal recue centre.

  5. Sue Kinder says:

    P.S. I am also a bee lover and always an eye out for various birds and butterflies. Have seen two tortoiseshells already and just been watching a garden warbler in the garden of our flats! There is also a ‘resident’ kestrel that hovers over the cliff over the road, presumably looking for the rats and mice that live amongst the ground cover of plants there!

    • Kay Haw says:

      Hi Sue, thanks for your comment! I am sure this makes us all wish we were living in Cornwall 🙂

  6. Sue Kinder says:

    Here in West Cornwall many flowers were out early as, until this month, temps were more normal for the area. Violets have been everywhere for ages as with celandines, ransomes, some wild daffodils, periwinkle as well as pussy willow and blackthorn blossom. The leaves on the hawthorn have been budding for over a month and other trees have started opening up their buds. Then yesterday I saw a lone blue bell on the cliff top as also I have seen wild strawberry flowers and in a very sheletered walk in January a lone wild strawberry!! I walk mainly on coastal walks which on the coast are quite wooded but also more open paths where the gorse flowers all through the year! I take loads of photos of these on the way and my friends cannot believe all these flowers are out!

  7. appreciated the wildflower links as a memory prompt – thank you

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