Thousands of Whooping Cranes Attracted to Scanian Wetlands

Bird watching: sustainable tourism in Scania

Southern Sweden has seven major birding sites, of which two are located in Scania: Falsterbo and Kristianstad’s Vattenriket wetlands. Falsterbo is situated on a picturesque peninsula in the southwestern corner of Scania. A popular tourist resort and the last strip of land before crossing the sea to northern Germany, this peninsula offers safe passage for migratory birds every spring and autumn. Of the 500 million migratory birds, the majority choose this passage which makes Falsterbo one of the most important bird migration sites in Europe. Especially the migration of predators attracts a lot of interest.

Kristianstad’s Vattenriket Wetlands are another rich bird sanctuary with a particular interest for the Common Crane which arrive in the thousands to rest in the shallows and feed in the fields. The area is also rich in predators such as the sea eagle, the osprey and the kite. The varied landscape includes forests, wetlands, dunes, coastlines and moors that form a nesting area for swans, geese, waders, ducks, Eurasian bittern, Ruff, Savi’s warbler, pied avocet, European serin, Caspian tern, needles Black-tailed Dunlin, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier and many more typical of this region.

Spring comes with the common crane

The western European crane population has expanded in recent years and thus the number of migratory birds over Scania has also increased. The passing of spring in late March and early April brings large flocks from southern Europe to roost and feed in the Pulken fields. The daily count can be up to 7,000 birds that typically stay for 3 days or more, depending on weather conditions, before continuing their flight further north.

Cranes seek both safe waters and the opportunity to feed in newly planted fields of barley and wheat. Without taking protective measures, the increasing number of visiting cranes causes damage to farmers. Therefore, the farmers, in collaboration with the authorities, began to feed the birds in designated fields, where 500-700 kg of harvested barley seed are mechanically spread.

The feeding of the birds brings them closer and offers a magnificent show of dancing birds that attracts national and international visitors. Professional photographers show up early in the morning followed by the largest audience later in the day. Pulken provides good parking space and a bird watching tower with great bird viewing. The area is easily accessible and also suitable for disabled people. Representatives of the Vattenriket biosphere organization and the local bird association provide telescopes and information to visitors. A field camera sends live images separately over the Internet. To access, visit Kristianstad’s Vattenriket website. A specific bus excursion to the place of interest is also organized.

Kristianstad Vattenriket Biosphere Reserve

This biosphere reserve was formed 10 years ago as a result of collaboration with UNESCO; see my previous article on the topic “Kristianstad turns a risk into a great opportunity”. The Naturum Visitor Center today serves more than 150,000 visitors each year who take part in its unforgettable guided activities that include eagle and crane watching, water safaris, exhibitions, walks, bird watching or, for example, fishing, and offer activities seasonal throughout the year. The reserve offers 22 well-managed sites to visit, all with their own distinctive features and something for the whole family to enjoy.

Kristianstad’s Vattenriket is a bird watcher’s paradise due to the varied nature of the landscape. Some 225 species of birds can be found nesting in or near the wetlands, several of them red-listed as nationally endangered species. The stork that disappeared from Scania in 1954 has also been reinstated in recent years. Wetlands are protected by the international convention Ramsar, by EU Natura 2000 and national legislation.

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