The region around Linum in Brandenburg is a great spot to observe common cranes during their annual migration. The village is located close to the capital of Germany, and thus, not that difficult to reach. In this blog entry I tell you more about common cranes and my crane watching experiences in Linum.
Why do cranes stop in Linum?
Linum is a small village in the German state Brandenburg. The village is also known as "Storchendorf" (German: "Storch" and "Dorf"; English: "stork" and "village"), because every year numerous pairs of white storks breed around Linum.
Including on the top of the church in the middle of the village.
As I have visited Linum in one October, of course, I could‘t see any breeding pair of white storks. White storks are like common cranes migratory birds that spend winters in warmer regions in the south. They usually arrive in Linum between March and May, but in August they leave again. Thus, in autumn there should be no white stork around anymore.
Nevertheless, this blog entry is about common cranes anyway. And in the region around Linum are numerous of them, too.
One reason is the pond landscape - the "Linumer Teichland" - that surrounds the village Linum. As common cranes prefer sleeping in knee-deep waters, in the pond landscape common cranes find perfect conditions. Common cranes are very cautious birds. And in the pond landscape they can immediately hear and detect a predator approach.
Interesting: Common cranes use the pond landscape around Linum as a roosting site. However, the water level is not absolutely natural. In order to provide perfect conditions for the common cranes, the water level is regulated. Furthermore, more areas around Linum are flooded in order to create more roosting sites for the cranes.
Around the pond landscape in Linum common cranes can take a rest from their migration. As migration requires much energy, cranes have to recover. During the day the birds search for food on corn fields and during the night they need a safe place. The energy they save on a safe roosting site, they can use for their migration.
Apropos food. Another reason why common cranes like the area around Linum is the food availability. Around Linum there are many harvested corn fields where common cranes can find plenty of food.
Common cranes are omnivores. They feed on both plants and animals. However, they have seasonal preferences. During their annual migrations they prefer a diet which is rich in carbohydrates. Therefore, they spend most of the day on harvested corn fields close to their roosting sites to search for corn.
As mentioned, common cranes are migratory birds. They breed in northern Europe like Sweden or Finland, but spend winter in warmer regions like Spain, France or even Africa.
And Linum is located in between, and thus, an important roosting site for common cranes.
Linum is located within the Rhinluch where common cranes have found the perfect place for a stopover to recharge their batteries for their long migration. The Rhinluch is a wetland region within the state Brandenburg. The Rhin is a river and eponymous for this wetland region.
The Rhin is furthermore a tributary river of the Havel. Together, the Rhin- and Havelluch are very important for roosting cranes on their long migrations.
Interesting: Other important roosting sites for common cranes in Germany are the Rügen-Bock region at the Baltic Sea, the Diepholz Moor Depression, the Mecklenburg Lakeland, the river Oder, and the region in the Upper Lusatia. There are also small roosting sites in the states Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein.
From Berlin to Linum
I have visited Linum on a sunny and warm day in October. I knew the village already, as I had visited Linum one year before by bus on a crane watching tour. In that year I decided to participate in a bus tour from Berlin to Linum, as I wanted to see cranes flying in to their roosting sites in the evening and as I didn't know how to reach Linum by public transport. However, I would say that my first crane watching steps were not the best ones. I saw common cranes either for a very short moment while sitting in the bus or in the evening as small black dots very far away. Although the trumpeting calls of the common cranes were wonderful, I have to admit, that I was a little bit disappointed. Nevertheless, I decided to visit Linum again in order to see a little bit more of the cranes.
On my second visit, however, I used public transport and my bike. Furthermore, I visited Linum during the day. At first, I traveled from Berlin to Kremmen by train, as there is unfortunately no direct train or bus to Linum. Therefore, I had to take my bike with me to cycle from Kremmen to Linum.
As it was such a beautiful day it was the best option for me. And Linum is not that far away from Kremmen. It is only about 12 km. Important to mention is here, however, that most roads do not have any bicycle path.
During the day this was okay. But if you want to observe common cranes in Linum in the evening - especially when the cranes fly in to their roosting sites - I would not recommend my option. It could be too dangerous. By all means, a good light is necessary to arrive safely in Kremmen again.
Nevertheless, on the day of my trip to Linum I was not only lucky with the weather, I even saw several cranes and goose passing over me.
On my way from Kremmen to Linum I did not see any common crane close-by. Although I passed several harvested corn fields, I could not spot any of them.
Therefore, I just continued and followed the street Nauener Straße. I passed the town sign and entered the village.
On the right of the Nauener Straße is the Storchenschmiede Linum. The Storchenschmiede is opposite of the church, and thus, easy to find.
The Storchenschmiede Linum is run by the German conservation organization NABU and open for the public (but please check the opening hours).
There is an exhibition about common cranes and other wildlife that lives around Linum in the house of the Storchenschmiede. It is definitely worth a visit, as you can learn more about this migratory bird itself and about other wildlife of this region.
In the next paragraph I will give you a short overview about the species itself.
The common crane (Grus grus)
The scientific name of the common crane is Grus grus. Common cranes are also known as Eurasian cranes. The bird belongs to the family Gruidae which comprises large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Other cranes of the family Gruidae are blue cranes (Grus paradisea) which I have already observed in South Africa or grey crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum) which I have already seen in the bird park Parque das Aves in Brazil.
Although common cranes are colored slate-grey overall, these cranes are very distinctive and can be unmistakably identified. They possess a bare red crown which stands out from the grey plumage. Their head and neck is black and white. Furthermore, common cranes have a yellow colored beak which is about 10 cm long.
The common crane can reach a size of about 130 cm, and thus, is larger than white storks or grey herons. There are no significant physical differences between both sexes. However, cocks (male cranes) tend to be slightly taller and heavier than hens (female cranes). While males usually reach a weight of about 7 kg, females weigh only about 5 to 6 kg.
As juveniles common cranes have a cinnamon and brown plumage. They need about 3 to 4 years to develop the coloration of an adult.
The common crane is a long-distance migratory bird and distributed over Europe and Asia.
Common cranes that pass Germany in spring and autumn have their breeding grounds typically in northern parts of Europe like in Sweden, Finland or Norway.
From August to October (autumn migration) and from March to May (spring migration) common cranes stop in their roosting or stopover sites like in Linum, on Fischland-Darß-Zingst, Rügen or in the Diepholz Moor Depression.
They predominantly spend winters in northern Africa, but also in southern Europe like in Portugal, Spain or France. Some even spend the winter in Germany.
Interesting: The first common cranes arrive in Linum in August. Usually birds without breeding success or bachelor groups, but also common cranes that overwintered close to Linum. Only in September more and more common cranes from the north arrive the pond landscape around the village.
During flight common cranes can be identified by their very long legs which clearly protrude the tail. They also have a long straight and thrust out neck in flight. Several cranes together typically fly in a „V“ formation (not seen in the photograph).
Common cranes live in more or less monogamous pair bonds. Apparently, a couple stays together until one mate dies, but exceptions might occur.
The life expectancy of a common crane typically ranges between 15 and 20 years in the wild. However, in captivity they can reach an age of up to 40 years.
Interesting: Dancing is a very typical behavior among common cranes. However, the meaning of the dancing is very complex with different social meanings. Dancing is very important among common cranes in their non-verbal communication. Dancing occur at almost any time of the year. Common cranes might show this behavior to reduce aggression or to reinforce bonds, but also during courtship.
Common cranes are omnivorous. Meaning, they feed on plants, but also other animals. Their diet comprises, for example, corn, sunflower seeds, peas, beans, berries, or vegetables, but might also include small mammals, fishes, frogs, reptiles, insects, worms or snails.
Their non-specialized diet could be advantageous for their future survival. As common cranes might be capable of adapting to a different environment with different food resources, efforts for their conservation might be more successful when compared to other more specialized animals or birds, respectively.
According to the IUCN common cranes are of "Least concern" and nor threatened nor endangered. Their population even seems to increase. However, this does not mean that they do not have any threats.
Threats for cranes might be human disturbance including recreational activities like crane watching. Ecosystem modifications or agriculture might be other threats common cranes have to face.
However, according to my observations, common cranes in general enjoy great popularity. And there are conservation efforts that benefit common cranes. But nevertheless, it is very important to approach common cranes in a respectful and distant way.
Interesting: Due to conservation efforts, numbers of common cranes could recover in Europe. According to the Kranichschutz Deutschland there were more than 500.000 common cranes in Europe in 2014. It is estimated that there are about 9.000 breeding pairs in Germany.
Observing cranes in Linum
Most cranes pass Linum in October. A commom crane might spend more or less two weeks in the area around the pond landscapes in Linum. As I have visited Linum in October, I expected to see many of them.
There is even a website where you can get more information about the recent number of common cranes in the region.
In 2019 about 11.000 common cranes used the pond landscape around Linum as a roosting site at the end of September. The number rose in October to more than 70.000. And in November the number dropped to about 11.000 common cranes again.
In the following photograph you can see common cranes I observed in October 2018 along a street close to Linum.
In 2018 the numbers were more or less similar. Most cranes were around Linum in October.
However, on my visit in Linum I actually did not really know where to search for the common cranes. As mentioned, I visited Linum during the day, and thus, the cranes should be anywhere on corn fields around the village. I decided to turn left after passing the Storchenschmiede. As I was without any map and without internet, I cannot tell you exactly where I have been. I followed my gut feeling.
Anyway, as birds move around from field to field, this information would not be useful for you here.
However, I have heard that common cranes avoid places with too many observers. It is okay for them to be close to cars, but they become frightened of too many people. Common cranes are very shy birds.
On my bicycle tour I saw some cars parking at the side of the road. I knew immediately the reason why. Common cranes. I approached them to get a glimpse of these wonderful birds.
And wow! I was so happy that I could see more common cranes on my second visit. Along the street we even could hide a little bit behind trees and felt less intrusive.
As I was not that close to common cranes on Fischland-Darß-Zingst, it was a very special animal encounter for me on that day. I hope that many people have the chance to see these wonderful birds and appreciate their arrival. Although I cannot give you here a specific spot to observe common cranes, I'm sure you will find one if you pay attention to the surroundings.
How to get to Linum
As mentioned above, I took the train from Berlin to Kremmen. In Kremmen I left the train station and followed the street Ruppiner Straße. At the first crossroads I turned right into the street Nauener Straße. After few hundreds of meters I turned right again, but this time into the street Neuruppiner Straße. On that street I could cycle just straight ahead. It was not difficult to find my way from Kremmen to Linum. But bear in mind, if you take the train you have to buy a ticket for you and your bike.
On the website "Kraniche in Linum" (English: Cranes in Linum) you will find additional information about how to arrive in Linum.
More information about Linum and common cranes
Have you ever been in Linum to observe common cranes? Or is there any other place which you recommend for crane watching? Please let me know in the comments.