The salt lake and its surroundings have long been an important resting place for Common Crane (Grus grus) on their way to the wintering grounds in southern Spain and north Africa. The number of Common Crane overwintering has been increasing steadily for several years, so that over 10,000 cranes can be found on the lagoon throughout the winter. At the peak of the migration, in late October and mid-February, more than 35,000 cranes were counted. Large flocks of Common Crane, of course, generally attract attention. Numerous Common Crane enthusiasts meet at well-known places such as the Darß, the Günzer See (both Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in north-eastern Germany), the Linumer Bruch, the Diepholzer Moorniederung (both Germany) or the Hornborga See in Sweden to witness this spectacle. In the meantime, it has been set up a special infrastructure for observation and photography in many places. If you are prepared to drive a bit further, bird-lens.com can recommend the large resting site for Cranes in the middle of Spain: the Laguna de Gallocanta in northeastern Spain, around 100 kilometers southwest of the city of Zaragoza.
The area in which the cranes are located is a plateau with a steppe-like character and a moderate agricultural use. A wide, undeveloped, flat landscape is framed by picturesque mountain ranges – unfortunately, today spoiled with large wind turbine parks. Birding observation towers offer a good view of the resting sites in the lagoon. Despite the large distance to the resting areas, the ratio of Common Cranes to the width of the lake gives an impressive overall picture. There are also hides for patient nature photographers. The straw hiding places and tents from the early days have now given way to solid wooden huts, which are set up and distributed by the Spanish nature conservation authorities. They are placed at water pools, which the Common Cranes visit to drink, bathe and rest.
As in other places, where huts for crane photography are offered, you have to spend the whole day in the hide. Although in Spain, one should not miss the temperature factor at 13 hours in the residence and choose the clothing accordingly. Here – on 1.000 m asl – the thermometer in February does not climb far above freezing point even during the day. The region is one of the coldest areas in Spain and at night it can cool down to -15 ° C, so that ice often covers the water points in the morning. This does not stop the Cranes from chopping up the layer of ice and bathing to their heart’s content in the midday sunshine. Afterwards, preening, resting and foraging are on the daily schedule. The rest phases are always a special experience for me personally. They do not offer action scenes. But due to the intimate proximity, it can be felt as something special. On the field in front of the hide huts, the Common Cranes are fed with grain, but the majority of the birds only arrive at the prepared places in the late morning. The Laguna de Gallocanta offers the birds a safe place to sleep, from which they can also set out for other food places in the area at dawn. To drink, however, they rely on the few freshwater inflows of the lake and therefore come in large numbers in front of the photo huts. Once they have arrived on the banks of a freshwater puddle, they often stay the rest of the day until the evening departure for their sleeping place.
The lake, the Laguna de Gallocanta, is located in the south-west of Aragon. The Laguna is best known as the location for over 10,000 cranes that flee from the cold winter in Central Europe and spend the winter there. It is an impressive natural spectacle when the birds start each morning from their sleeping places in the shallow water of the lake and fly to the surrounding fields to take in food. I had taken a room in a hostel centrally in the area. So I was able to use the time perfectly and follow the different bird groups by car without problems during the day and definitely watch the Common Cranes again in the evening when they flew to the sleeping places in the lake.
The Common Cranes resting and wintering here breed in Germany, Fennoskandia and the Baltic States and then take a western migration route through Europe to the winter areas. It is estimated that the total number of birds migrating along the western route is up to 70,000 individuals. Most of them, 50,000 – 60,000 individuals, spend the winter mainly in Spain. The rest then in Portugal and Morocco. It is special that some 70,000 individuals can be seen on migration in October and then again on the migration in February / March. In the winter period there are significantly fewer individuals at the lagoon.
In order to meet the growing demand for top images of the rarer species of Palaearctic birds, Bird-lens.com has specifically made trips to remote places. Additionally every chance is used, if a rare bird is around the homeground. This to do everything to ensure excellent photos of the Birds of the Western Palearctic . The yield of pictures also of rare Western Palaearctic birds is very good. There are other nice images of birds, that you will find behind the tab “Picture Shop“. Just give a notice if you need a picture of a bird which is not online.