No bird is as associated with Lake Hornborga as much as the crane. But why do they gather in such large numbers in particular right here? And how do you count them? Get answers to some of the most common questions about the cranes at Lake Hornborga.
The first crane of the year at Lake Hornborga is one of Sweden’s most important signs of spring. Right after the first crane has been spotted, this is soon reported in all the Swedish news media. Every spring, several thousand cranes stop by at Lake Hornborga. They gather at the southern tip of the lake, an area we refer to as “Trandansen,” where the County Administrative Board spreads out barley grain to the birds to avoid damage to agricultural activities from the resting cranes.
The first cranes are usually sighted as early as February, but then it will be a while before the rest arrives. For a few weeks in late March and early April, about 30,000 cranes visit Lake Hornborga.
At Trandansen in the south of the lake there are several vantage points along with an Info Centre. As a spectator, it is quite simple for you to view the mighty spectacle here when several thousand cranes dance and sound off with their trumpeting call to welcome the spring.
Thanks to crane counters from Lake Hornborga’s field station, we know approximately how many cranes are located at Lake Hornborga during the springtime. The time when the most cranes are here depends upon whether the spring arrives early or late. It also depends upon when the winds from the south are good for the crane’s flight.
The crane counts take place daily at dusk. This occurs when all the cranes leave the feeding site at Trandansen. The cranes fly northwardly in the lake area for sleeping.
They can be seen for a few hours before dusk usually flying in small flocks. The individual birds are counted with the help of binoculars as they pass through the invisible line that the counters draw for themselves between the cranes’ feeding area and sleeping area. This naturally requires patience and a set routine.
What occurs most often is that the time when there are the most cranes at the lake is during the last week of March or the first week of April. So far the highest number of cranes that has been counted has been on 3 April 2019. On that day 27,300 cranes were counted at Trandansen. But it’s just as impressive to experience a day with 10,000 cranes as with 20,000 cranes. So it isn’t necessary for you to plan your visit so that it coincides with when the population of cranes is at its most.
During the spring, you can learn about the numbers from the daily crane count. When you are planning your trip here, you can see when in particular the cranes have been on site here in recent years.
You can watch the cranes here whenever it best works out for you. They are ordinarily here at Trandansen from dawn to dusk. The morning when the cranes fly out of their sleeping places in the lake, and the evening when they fly in, can be magical. It often happens that some disappear in the afternoons to eat on their own elsewhere, but usually there are plenty of birds remaining in the lake. If you want to experience the cranes without having to jostle with others to get a good view, come on a weekday.
The cranes have passed by and visited Lake Hornborga for thousands of years. The lake is located in a very strategic location for the cranes. After the journey north from Germany, Lake Hornborga is a good resting place. The plateau mountains surrounding Lake Hornborga also create thermal winds, and this makes it easier for the cranes to lift as they fly on their journey. The lake is also the perfect place to spend the night and find food to eat.
No. When the distilleries at Stora Bjurum and Dagsnäs disappeared, the potato cultivation also disappeared. For a few years after that, potatoes continued to be grown just for the cranes. However, this took too much effort.
Today the cranes are instead fed with grain grown in the area that is specially laid out for them. The barley grain is spread out in the fields in the evenings. Then the cranes have left the area, to spend the night on the lake. About 150 tonnes of barley grain are consumed during each crane season.
The cranes don’t eat all of it. Whooper swans, greylag geese, Eurasian coots, Eurasian wigeons, Eurasian teals, common wood pigeon and other birds also eat the barley.
The feeding is done primarily to reduce the damage that the cranes might otherwise cause on agricultural land. The cost of barley grain is financed, among other things, by the central government wildlife harm compensation grants. The parking fees from the visitors at Trandansen also goes to the feeding of the cranes. So remember to pay so that the cranes will be happy!
Most fly north to breed on some marsh or bog. Some disappear to Norway, while the majority spread out from Värmland to a northern line corresponding approximately to Jämtland/Ångermanland. The cranes that breed in northern Norrland belong to the Eastern European population and usually do not migrate over Lake Hornborga, but rather via the Baltic states and Finland.
The dance is a way to strengthen the bonds between the male and the female in the pair before breeding. Therefore it cannot be regarded as a mating dance. Since it is a relationship-building ceremony, it is also extremely rare to see very many cranes dancing at the same time. Rather it is something that occurs here and there from time to time during the day. There’s no greater chance of seeing it at any particular time.
During the crane season we offer a variety of free guided tours for you as a visitor.
If you travel together with a larger group, it is preferable that you instead book your own guide.
Contact the visitor center for more information.
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Yes, but it isn’t possible to see them the same way in large flocks up close as in the springtime. Up to 24,000 cranes can be resting here in the autumn, but then they are shyer and are not fed due to that the agricultural activities are not as sensitive at that time. Therefore the cranes only visit the lake to rest during the night. Therefore you will be able to see the cranes from Trandansen in September-October at dusk when they go to the lake to sleep. During the autumn, cranes are counted twice each week. You will find the number of cranes in the same lists as for the spring.
In 2024 there will be no bird hides at Trandansen. It is mainly due to the fact that the administration and management of the hides is costly and resources are now more limited. In addition, interest has decreased in recent years.
If you are interested in photographing birds at Hornborgasjön, there are still very good opportunities. At Trandansen, the cranes, especially in the morning and afternoon, are often very close to our vantage points.
Would you like to visit Lake Hornborga during the crane season? We have gathered more information about parking locations, the Trandansen Info Centre and guided tours on the website.