Best of the British countryside in April

A selection of the month's best photos from the UK countryside in April.

Willow warbler in a blossoming apple tree

For many, April marks the middle of spring. Bluebells break through the forest floor and roadside verges, birds are busy gathering nest materials and trees turn green.

Advertisement

From marvellous bugs and rare British birds to valleys of bluebells and blossoming fruit trees, we’ve come across some amazing photography while putting together the April 2020 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite images.

Enjoy spring wildlife and nature with our photo gallery of beautiful photographs from around the UK countryside in April.

Lake District National Park in spring
Getty

Rannerdale bluebells

Bluebells on British hills
Bluebells on the slopes of Rannerdale in Cumbria
Getty

The handsome peak of Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District offers fine views over Crummock Water, Buttermere and, in April and May, a small ‘lake’ of bluebells in the secretive valley of Rannerdale. Rannerdale means “sheiling (shelter) at the pass of the raven” and is famed for its tranquility and glorious spring wildflowers.


Avocet chick

Avocet chick
Avocet chick
Getty

This slender wading bird sweeps its upturned bill across shallow water to feed – a skill learnt by chicks a few hours after hatching.


Hen harrier

Hen harrier
The Forest of Bowland in rural Lancashire supports one of the largest populations of hen harriers in England
Getty

The elegant hen harrier is perhaps the most iconic bird of prey in the uplands of northern England, but it is also one of the most endangered birds in Britain. These large raptors wheel and soar above the moorland and, in late spring, perform a spectacular ‘sky dance’, exchanging tokens of their affection in mid-air to cement their bond.


Mighty beetle

Oil beetle
There are five species of oil beetle
Getty

April is the time to look for a giant but harmless creature: the oil beetle. There are five species of these massive, metallic-looking insects in the UK. Sadly, all are in decline. They are usually found on grasslands, dunes and heaths and are easy to identify from their huge abdomens. If threatened, they emit oily droplets.


Capercaillie

Capercaillie
Following extinction in the mid-18th century, capercaillies were reintroduced to the UK from Sweden almost a century later
Getty

The adult male grows up to 87cm long and has dark plumage, while the smaller female has mottled black plumage with a rusty breast. All 1,110 UK birds live in Scotland, most notably in Strathspey, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Perthshire. They eat berries and shoots from their favoured habitat: Scots pine forest.


Isle of Harris

Isle of Harris, Scotland
The Isle of Harris is home to golden eagles
Getty

The Isle of Harris is not only the best place to see golden eagles in the British Isles, it is one of the top spots in Europe. Head for Bowglass, north of Tarbert, take the well-marked trail west from the car park and look for both golden and white-tailed eagles over the mountains.


Coastal chough

Chough on the coast
Legend tells that King Arthur turned into a chough on his death – the red bill and legs represent his bloody demise in battle
Getty

Larger than a jackdaw but smaller than a rook, this coastal-cliff specialist has a shiny black plumage, red bill and red legs. It lives near short turf where it feeds on soil-dwelling insects. There are 400 breeding pairs in the UK, including populations on the Calf of Man just south of the Isle of Man, South Stack on Anglesey and Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire.


Willow warbler among blossom

Willow warbler in a blossoming apple tree
Willow warbler in a blossoming apple tree
Getty

A willow warbler hunts for insects in the blossom of an apple tree. This tiny migrant lands in the UK from sub-Saharan Africa in mid-April and announces  its presence with the most delicious liquid cascade of notes. The song is what tells the species apart from its very similar cousin the chiffchaff, which is famed for singing out its name in a repetitive two-note song. The willow warbler nests on the ground in scrubby meadows and hillsides.


Finnich Glen, Stirlingshire

Carnock Burn, Finnich Glen, Stirlingshire
The Carnock Burn carves its way through the sandstone gorge, often named locally as the Devil’s Pulpit.

The waters of Carnock Burn carve through sandstone to create a gorge chattering with waterfalls near the village of Drymen in Stirlingshire. The gorge, called Finnich Glen but known collectively as the Devil’s Pulpit along with its strange rock formations and red-stained water (from the rock), has given rise to lurid tales of witches, human sacrifice and even an appearance by Old Nick himself. 


Orange-tip butterfly

Orange-tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines)
Orange-tip butterfly emerging from chrysalis ©Alamy

A male orange-tip butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its bright green eye taking in the new world. But it can’t fly immediately. Its first act is to pump fluid into the veins of its crumpled wings and expand them to full size. After some 15–30 minutes, it takes to the air in search of its first food as an adult – and also for a mate (the female has more greenish-white wing tips). Orange-tips are one of the first butterflies to emerge and are on the wing in warm days in mid-to-late March and all through April. After mating, the female lays her eggs on lady’s smock flowers, which the larvae relish.


Nash Point and Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Wales

Nash Point and Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Wales
Nash Point and Glamorgan Heritage Coast, Wales ©Alamy

The fascinating geology of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast’s stepped cliffs runs for 22.5km between Aberthaw and Porthcawl.


Green woodpecker

Green woodpecker
Green woodpecker ©Alamy

This colourful, handsome bird forages for ants among the heather, probing with a long sticky tongue. Our largest resident woodpecker, it’s famous for its distinctive laughing call, or yaffle.


Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Water of Leith, Edinburgh
Water of Leith, Edinburgh ©Alamy

A wildlife-rich riverside corridor runs through the heart of Scotland’s capital city. As spring unfolds, the Water of Leith and its overgrown banks buzz with colour and life, offering ample opportunity for discovery.


Pine martens

Pine marten
Mustelidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, and there are seven species found in the wild in the UK, including the pine marten ©Getty

A little bigger than the polecat, dark brown with a yellowish throat patch. A creature of the woods where it hunts squirrels and other rodents, as well as eating fruit, fungi and insects. Rare, it’s found mostly in Scotland with small numbers in north and west Wales.


Iona, Scotland

Iona, Scotland
Iona, Scotland ©Getty

Getting to the island paradise of Iona couldn’t be easier. First you fly to Scotland or, more romantically, board the Caledonian Sleeper train from London and let it carry you through the night to the north. Then you cross the Highlands to Oban on the west coast. From here, the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries chug across the sea to the Inner and Outer Hebrides every day. You still have a way to go: you board a CalMac to the Isle of Mull, ride a bus across the island and then take a 10-minute foot ferry across the water from Mull to Iona. When you finally arrive, lightly sea-sprayed, on Iona’s tiny jetty, you’ve travelled as far as you can. Beyond this land is just the open Atlantic. You can’t help but feel like you’ve successfully escaped. 


Ospreys

Osprey
Osprey leaves lake with a big fish ©Getty

Ospreys feed solely on fish and make their nests near lochs that have a plentiful supply. These majestic birds can be seen in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. 


Cave Hill, Belfast

Cave Hill, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cave Hill, Belfast, Northern Ireland ©Alamy

The weather-beaten summit of Cave Hill rears up above the streets of Belfast. This city-edge country park is home to sparrowhawks, orchids and carpets of bluebells in spring.


Emperor moth

Male emperor moth
Male emperor moth ©Getty

Emperor moths have four large eye spots to deter birds. Males can detect the scent of females from several kilometres away; you can buy pheromone lures to attract this spectacular species.


Jesmond Dene, Newcastle

Jesmond Dene, Tyne and Wear
Jesmond Dene, Tyne and Wear ©Alamy

Tumbling down from the north of Newcastle, the Ouseburn river rises most magnificently as it passes through Jesmond Dene on its six-mile journey from Callerton to the city centre.


Bluebells in Dartmoor

Bluebells in Dartmoor National Park
Bluebells in Dartmoor National Park ©Getty

We normally expect to see bluebells creating pools of violet radiance within woodlands, but there are plenty of examples across Britain of the flowers appearing in more open landscapes, such as this gorgeously fresh scene on Dartmoor. This usually signifies that the area was once wooded. By early May, the swift-growing, guardsman-straight shoots of bracken are already pushing through the flowers and within a month will have completely conquered the land. 


Giant oaks

Oak tree
A giant green oak tree casting dark shadows across the land ©Getty

A centuries-old symbol of strength and survival, the English oak supports more wildlife than any other native tree, including over 280 insect species. Once worn as good-luck charms, its acorns are a rich food source for woodland creatures, including jays and squirrels.

Advertisement