Cranes flying over our house on 17 November 2010

There are currently several tens of thousands of common cranes (grus) flying over France. A couple of thousand of those came over our house this afternoon. Every autumn, usually early November, they fly from northern Europe (Sweden, the Baltic Sea and northern Germany) across France on their way to Spain, although there is another migration route that takes them to Tunisia and Algeria. The birds fly at speeds of up to 70 kmph, depending on the wind. The trip is reversed in early spring.

These cranes are large birds, between 4 and 6 kg in weight and are up to 140 cm high, which isn’t that much shorter than me! Adults have a grey body with a black and white neck, and red markings on their head. Young birds up to a year old are yellowy-brown.

They’re protected but are still endangered due to loss of wintering quarters in Spain and breeding grounds in Scandanavia. What a disaster it would be if we were to lose them. The twice yearly migration is a fantastic experience – an incredible sight and an amazing sound.We look forward to it, but more so in spring since it means the good weather is on its way. Today, seeing the cranes fly over means it’s about to get very cold – here comes winter. They never get it wrong!