Wild Blackthorn blossom
wild daffodiles growing by path in woodland sunlight
Close up of wild daffodils in woodland

April is a lovely month to spend in the North York Moors. It really feels as if the countryside is coming alive with bird song and wildlife.

The blackthorn is flowering; look out for it’s white frothy blossom in the woods and hedgerows. Make a mental note, as that’s where the sloes will be in the autumn. Try out our recipe for sloe gin – it’s a lovely winter drink.

The woods around the Long Barn are full of wild daffodils if you know the places to look. They’re said to have been planted by the monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey. Wild daffodils are small, dainty and their delicate trumpet shaped flower is a paler yellow than the ones you’ll find in your garden. They disappear quickly to be replaced by white wood anemones, wild garlic flowers and purple violets.

Ana Cross at top of the Moors in sunlight
Pheasant in the Long Barn Courtyard

We’ve already seen and heard our first curlew of spring. They appear in overhead flocks, easily spotted due to their size and long curved beaks. As well as their distinctive call. The North York Moors has one of the UK’s highest densities of breeding curlew on open moorland so you’ve got a good chance of seeing them on a moorland walk. We recommend the walk from Lastingham up to Ana Cross to see curlew as well as grouse. We’ve also been lucky to spot a ring ouzel when out walking this way. They are in decline but can be seen on the moors near us. They look like a blackbird with a distinctive white bib. In early summer, we’ve also seen a golden plover walking through the heather.

In the fields just to the north of Appleton, the lapwings also arrive. They put on the most spectacular displays above the fields prior to nesting, with the most incredible noisy calls. Well worth leaning on a gate and taking the frenetic scene in.

Spring is also a great time to take a trip to RSPB Bempton to see the sea birds arrive from spending the winter out at sea. Bempton has the only mainland gannet breeding colony; you really can get up and close to these amazing birds as they squabble over nesting sites. They are huge when you see them up close; they pair for life and return to the same nest. You can also spot kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, fulmar, shag and everyone’s favourite – the puffin.

The RSPB staff are really helpful; usually stationed at the popular viewing platforms to point you in the direction of what to look at. The bird everyone wants to see is the puffin; we’ve found everyone to be very generous when they’ve found them on the cliff face. We have two sets of binoculars in the Long Barn for you to take out with you.

As you enter the reserve, there is usually a board up with a list of the bird sightings. The site is very accessible for buggies and wheelchairs. And don’t forget to watch what’s flying in the fields above the cliffs. Most of the times we’ve been, we’ve seen the resident barn owl quartering the fields in search of prey.

Puffin on Bempton Cliff
Gannets nesting on cliff face
Gannets coming into land above nesting colony on top of cliff

As at any time of year, but especially as birds are beginning to nest, following the North York Moors Share with Care Advice ensures that all the natural wild habitat is protected for everyone to enjoy.

You’ll find our recommendations for walks and activities to do in the Long Barn digital guide along with maps (digital and paper in the barn)

Alongside our nature recommendations above, there are lots of activities to do in the North York Moors. Check out their calendar which has details of guided walks, craft making sessions and even Comedy vs Climate change workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre.

Jackie likes the idea of the Birds, Bagels and Brews Dawn Chorus walk in Hawnby at the end of April. But suspects that with a start time of 4.45am, she’ll be on her own…