In the vicinity of Berlin in Linum every year from spring to late summer white storks rear their offspring. As Linum not only is an important resting place for common cranes, but also a paradise for white storks, I set off for Linum - a beautiful village in Brandenburg - on a nice day in summer. In this blog entry I write about my short day trip from Berlin to Linum and my white stork observations.
White storks in Linum
Bright sunshine. Just a few cloudlets in the sky. And the weather forecast promised a warm summer day. Why not escape from the city and undertake a day trip? Like a day trip from Berlin to the white storks in Linum?
I did this exactly on a beautiful summer day in August.
They say that there are apparently quite many white storks in summer in Linum!
Indeed it is. I saw quite many white storks in Linum when I visited this small village on a summer day. Just after a few meters after passing the street sign with Linum on it, I spotted already the first white storks in their nests.
Information: It is not that easy to reach Linum directly by public transport. Therefore, I took my bicycle and got in a train in Berlin which brought me to Kremmen. In Kremmen I cycled to Linum which is about 10 kilometers.
I was relieved and happy when I saw some storks in their nests. Actually, August is already late and I thought I might have been already too late. However, I was lucky and from the pathway of the street I still saw some young white storks in their nests.
In the morning, just before my departure I checked the webcam of the Storchenschmiede. On the roof of the Storchenschmiede is a webcam which allows people to observe white storks breeding for a whole season.
Nevertheless, when I checked this webcam I could see four white storks in the morning in their nest.
But when I arrived in Linum there was only one left.
Later I heard in the Storchenschmiede (see below) that this young white stork still had to train its flight muscles. Therefore, this young white stork was still dependent on its parents which still had to bring food to the nest.
Please note: I visited the white storks in Linum in summer 2020. Thus, this blog entry refers to my visit of that year. In 2021, there was again a pair of storks in the nest of the Storchenschmiede. If you want to know more about the white stork season in 2021 in Linum, please visit the website of the Storchenschmiede (only in German).
On the roof of the neighboring house I spotted another white stork. Did this white stork belong to the nest of the Storchenschmiede? Maybe yes, because this white stork flew into the nest and stayed just next to the other white stork for a few minutes. But finally, this white stork left the nest again.
Maybe this white stork just had found a better place on the roof of the neighboring house for that moment.
In the same street of the Storchenschmiede is the church of Linum. Of course, in the nest on the top of the church were some more white storks in their nest.
I stayed in the shadow of a tree for some time to observe these storks. The day was warmer than I thought.
Linum is very small and looks quite idyllic. But still I was surprised that there was so much traffic on the narrow street of that small village. Why?
I don't know, but as it seems, white storks still like Linum as a breeding habitat.
If they wouldn't like Linum, of course, fewer white storks would have come back to the village.
Tip: Do you want to take photographs of white storks? If yes, don't forget a lens with a long focal length. As white storks build their nests on the top of buildings, they are quite far away.
Why do white storks prefer Linum as a breeding ground? The reason for their yearly return is for sure also based on the fact that Linum is surrounded by a pond landscape. This pond landscape is not only a relatively undisturbed habitat for white storks, it is also a place where these migratory birds can find a lot of food.
Before I entered the Storchenschmiede on that day, however, I took my bicycle and went into the direction of the ponds. I was hoping to see some storks from afar in the fields (please don't follow any bird and please don't disturb any foraging white stork).
But I didn't see any white stork.
I saw many butterflies and dragonflies. Furthermore some starlings and grey herons. But no white stork. A single mute swan was swimming in the water.
Maybe I was searching on the wrong site. Or I was just not lucky on that day.
Wildlife watching is unpredictable to some degree and you need a lot of patience!
However, because of the heat I decided to visit the Storchenschmiede instead of looking for some white storks in the pond landscape. Although I knew the Storchenschmiede already, I wanted to visit the building again as they change the exhibitions in summer and autumn.
Information: If you want to know more about the pond landscapes, please visit my previous blog entry about common cranes in Linum. In this blog entry I wrote more about the surroundings of Linum. You will also find more links with more information.
How many white storks are there in Linum?
This was one of my first questions I asked myself when I reached Linum by bicycle. At the Storchenschmiede, however, I got an answer to this question.
In Linum there are 16 stork nests, but on average only 9 nests are occupied by a white stork pair when considering the years from 2011 to 2018. But when looking at the years from 1976 to 2011, on average, 13 white stork nests were occupied by a breeding pair.
Importantly however, if there is a breeding pair of storks in a nest, this does not mean that they always breed successfully.
Nevertheless, 2020 seemed to have been a relatively good year for the white storks in the nest of the Storchenschmiede and in general in Linum.
From 1976 to 2011, on average, 9 breeding pairs reared 23 fledglings each year. In contrast, only 7 breeding pairs reared 13 fledglings on average each year from 2011 to 2018.
As mentioned above, a pair of white storks does not necessarily breed successfully every year. For example, in 2017 the breeding pair of storks in the nest of the Storchenschmiede did not rear any fledgling at all in that year.
Information: There are more white stork nests in Linum, like the Elektrikerhorst, Caféhorst, Lindenhorst, Kirchenhorst, Schulhorst, Schmiedehorst, Haikarahorst, NABU Storchenschmiede, NABU Garten, Mostereihorst, Pensionshorst, Hebammenhorst, Torfstecherhorst, Bäckereihorst, Professorenhorst and the Dolzmannhorst. Please note that "Horst" is the German word for the nest of a stork.
The Storchenschmiede is an interesting place to learn more about white storks.
I found it quite interesting to learn which knowledge researchers have already found out through the banding of storks. For example, it could be found out where they stay in winter or which migration routes they take.
By the way, the white storks in Linum take the eastern migration route. Meaning, they use the migration route across the Bosporus, Israel, Egypt and the Sudan to get to their wintering grounds in Africa.
The banding of white storks led to much more knowledge about these migratory birds. It furthermore could be measured that storks migrate up to 300 kilometers on one day and that they need about two to three months to reach South Africa. However, not all white storks migrate to South Africa. Some stay in wetland areas or savannas further north. Other storks even search for dumpsites.
A dumpsite might be attractive for a white stork, however, it also might be a dangerous place for some of them. A white stork might find a lot of food on a dumpsite, but it also might encounter a lot of plastics or elastic bands which they mistake for worms.
Plastics even can be a problem in their breeding grounds when they use plastics in their nests. When it rains, the water remains in the nest and cannot run off. If the water cannot run off, the chicks in the nest might become hypothermic.
In the Storchenschmiede you will learn more about all the threats white storks are exposed to like electrocution, habitat loss or droughts and pesticides.
However, there are also non-human threats, predators like raptors, which can be a danger for the chicks. Or competitive struggles between white storks like it was the case in 2021. But the fact is that most threats can be traced back to us humans.
Anyway, the Storchenschmiede is also a nice place for children to learn. At the Storchenschmiede I observed a group of children from afar.
I think it is so important to bring children closer to nature like bird watching.
I also learned new things in the Storchenschmiede.
Just to give you an example. I learned that the young storks leave before their parents to their wintering grounds. Breeding requires a lot of energy, and thus, a breeding white stork pair needs more time to refuel energy than their offspring. Therefore, breeding white stork pairs depart after their offspring to their wintering grounds.
Nevertheless, I'm excited about the upcoming years at the Storchenschmiede, because since January 2021 the NABU passed the leadership to the non-profit company (gemeinnützige GmbH) Storchenschmiede.
Information: If you visit the Storchenschmiede in autumn, usually, there is an exhibition about common cranes. The pond landscape of Linum is also an important resting place for common cranes in autumn. For example, in 2019 there were more than 72.000 common cranes in the 43. calendar week around Linum.
White storks: a short description
White storks are distinct birds with their white feathers, black primaries and bright orange-red beaks. With a height of about one meter and a wingspan of up to two meters, white storks belong to the largest birds in Germany.
They are extraordinarily elegant with their long legs. Maybe this is the reason why so many people are fascinated by these beautiful birds?
The Latin name of the white stork is Ciconia ciconia. The white stork became the heraldic animal of the non-governmental organization NABU, and furthermore, bird of the year in 1984 and 1994.
Interesting: Did you know that there are 19 different species of storks in the world? White storks, black storks, yellow-billed storks and marabou storks are some of the most famous storks. The two last mentioned stork species live in Africa. Black storks occur in Europe. Jabirus are typical storks in South America. Storks live all over the world, except in Oceania and the Antarctic.
In Germany white storks typically build their nests on the roof of buildings. In German we use the word "Horst" for the nest of a stork. Sometimes, white storks build their nest or "Horst", respectively, on a tree, power pole or rock.
White storks are synanthropic birds, because they can find good habitat conditions close to humans. They also use agricultural areas, because in these areas they find food like small mammals, fishes, frogs, lizards, insects or earthworms. Sometimes they even feed on carrion.
Storks prefer open landscapes, wetlands, floodplains, extensively used meadows and pasture.
Interesting: An adult white stork needs about 500 to 700 grams of food each day. To reach this, a white stork needs for example 16 mice or 500 to 700 earthworms each day. A chick has an increased energy demand for a short period of time and needs up to 1600 grams each day. This means that a pair of white storks is searching food primarily for the offspring during the breeding season.
Typically, a pair of storks breeds in the same nest year after year and each year they extend and improve their nest. Therefore, a white stork nest can reach a weight of up to two tons over the years!
Furthermore, they say that white storks stay together their whole life. However, in general this is not always true. Probably, they breed together for many years, because they are closely linked to their nest and their breeding site. As usually the same male and the same female encounter each other at the same nest, they typically breed together over several years.
Normally, females lay 3 to 4 eggs which are incubated by both the female and the male.
Breeding season starts between April and June, just shortly after the arrival of the birds in their breeding areas.
White storks in Linum usually arrive their nests in March and April.
In August white stork fledglings already resemble their parents, because only after about 7 weeks the young birds have reached the size of an adult individual.
Furthermore, young white storks become restless in the nest in August and they undertake longer flights in the surroundings. Finally, in August they leave into the direction of Africa. Their parents follow about two weeks later.
Adult white storks typically return in the next year. Young white storks, in contrast, stay in their wintering grounds for about two to three years. When they are sexually mature, they return to the breeding grounds.
Interesting: White storks use the uplift of air thermals on their migration routes to Africa. This way they can save energy on their energy-sapping migration. However, as these air thermals do not form over water, white storks need to migrate over land to Africa either via the Bosporus or over the Strait of Gibraltar. But please not, not all white storks migrate to Africa. Some white storks stay in the Mediterranean region.
But why do white storks migrate to Africa? Is it too cold in Germany for them?
White storks do not migrate to the south, because it is too cold in Germany. White storks migrate to the south, because the food availability is not enough for them in Germany in winter. However, not all white storks migrate to Africa. Some white storks overwinter, for example, close to dumpsites like in Spain where they can find enough food.
Now it even can be observed that white storks return to their breeding sites like in Linum earlier in spring. Especially when the winter was warm.
The largest white stork village in Germany is, however, not Linum but Rühstädt. Both villages are located, nevertheless, in Brandenburg. In Rühstädt about 30 breeding pairs of white storks return each year to their nests.
How to get to Linum
Linum is not easily to reach directly by public transport from Berlin. There is a bus (line 758) on weekdays, but there is no bus on the weekend.
However, there is a train from Berlin to Kremmen. The distance between Kremmen and Linum is about 10 kilometers, and thus, easily to reach by bike. I paid 6 Euros for a bike day ticket in the train and a ticket from Berlin to Kremmen costs 4,60 Euro (in 2021).
More information about white storks
Do you know the white storks in Linum? Or have you seen white storks at another place? Please let me know more about your observations in the comments!