The migratory birds are on their way back to northern parts of the world, with the first crane (trana) sighted at Lake Hornborga in south-western Sweden on Tuesday afternoon.
This is a big deal in Sweden, and often described as one of the first signs of spring.
Thousands of Eurasian cranes – or grus grus, a tall, grey-feathered bird – pass through the wetlands at Lake Hornborga in spring every year, the final pit stop on a journey from their winter homes in Spain.
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File photo of cranes “dancing” at Lake Hornborga. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
Tourists regularly flock to the lake to watch the cranes – at peak periods there can be around 15,000 birds there at once – whose peculiar movements almost look like an uncoordinated dance performance.
Indeed, it is known as the Great Crane Dance and visitors can even follow the number of cranes at the lake on the county administration board's information site to know when it is the best time to visit.
The first crane was reported by birdwatcher Kristian Kjellberg who spotted it from his kitchen window as it landed at the still snow-and-ice-covered lake.
“It usually arrives in February, so it is a bit late,” said Sofie Stålhand, head of a nature centre at Lake Hornborga, in a statement.