First signs of spring 

In Mid-February, we were able to observe the first signs of spring. At the end of November, the last cranes migrate to their wintering grounds in the south of Spain: this for most of us heralds winter. In contrast, when in February the first cranes are migrating back to their breeding grounds in the north of Germany or Sweden, some of the optimistic ornithologists claim that spring has started.


As Luxembourg is situated on a 100-kilometre passage on the migratory track of the cranes, we have the opportunity to observe big groups of up to 1000 individuals migrating to the north. Last week, temperatures have risen by 5°C; this increase was a signal for up to 20 000 cranes to start their migration. This spectacle was observed by a lot of hobby ornithologists including myself; this means that between the 21 and the 23 of February I was able to count up to 5000 birds heading to the north. Not only cranes announce the spring, other indicators were singing like blackbirds and chaffinches; these two species hardly migrate, which explains their presence on the feeders during winter.


Another species introducing the spring is the white stork. The first arriving white storks are always males, they are first because they need to occupy their territory and nest. Waiting for the female birds to arrive, they work on their nests in order to present a well-formed home, on which both of them can raise their chicks. A highlight for Luxembourg was the first breeding pair of the white stork in 2012. This bird species was extinct for decades, but it seems that the population is rising. Last week the first storks arrived and excited a lot of ornithologists.


Apart from the aforementioned species, some of the most impressive birds of prey have also returned. The first red kites were observed in January. Last week, we were able to observe our local breeding couple, starting to rebuild their nest. In addition to the red kites, we observed the first reed buntings. This bird species, which uses reeds to feed and to raise their chicks benefits from the last grains on the feeders to survive the month of March. As reeds start to grow late in March, reed buntings depend on remaining grains which they find along fields or on the feeders.


An additional spring species is the woodlark (Lullula arborea), which started singing in the vineyards last week.


Autor: Dave Lutgen

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