Last weekend, you could observe heavy traffic in the skies over Frankfurt/ Germany. Although winter is not ready to lower its grip the first returning migrants already point to the imminent end of the cold season. In recent weeks, Eurasian Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), and Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), were seen already on their return. Particularly striking are currently the Common Cranes (Grus grus) flying in wedge-shaped formations over western Germany. On the 9th of march you could see at least 30 individuals over the outskirts of Kelkheim/ Main-Taunus-Kreis. The southern slopes of the Taunus are one of the pathways of the western migration corridor of these tall, slender birds before they are heading further north of the Wetterau
For the Bay of Cologne, which is 200km further north located, the long-term statistical average is between 5th and 13th of March. What this mean in terms of quantity you can see by the fact that highest count in crane observation was made by the NABU Aachen (further to the west), who observed more than 8,000 cranes in the region between that time period (5th and 13th of March in 1991).
The birds spend the winter mainly in sunny Spain or France. Their main wintering area is located in the Extremadura in western Spain. There, the cranes in the clear Mediterranean oak forests searched for the fruits of holm and cork oaks. On the way back to their breeding grounds, the cranes Germany crossed on quite a narrow corridor toward the southern shores of the Baltic sea in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
But there are even more flocks of birds expected in the coming weeks: Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), and female Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) are now returning to their breeding areas. The birds which are coming home from their wintering grounds are so-called short-distance migrants. They spend the cold season in Southern Europe. Later in April or May, the long-distance migrants from Africa will arrive.
Among them is the Common Swift (Apus apus), which winters in Africa and one of the last migratory birds coming back to Germany. While many migrants return home now from the south, some other birds leave in return. Wild geese that spend the winter in the Rhine valley are soon heading north to Scandinavia and Siberia.
But not only the returnees have in gardens and parks, spring comes to life, and the birds that make winter over here to stay, now loud again noticeable. These included finches, nuthatches, Great Tit (Parus major), Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Dunnock or Hedge Accentor (Prunella modularis), and Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula), which – starting in February – you can already enjoy their singing again.