A tall winter's tale

The Andalucía Bird Society recommends looking out for the common crane this month

PETER JONES

Standing at up to 4 feet tall (1.22m) the common crane is one of our largest birds and really a spectacular sight for anyone interested in the wonders of our local wildlife. They are a winter visitor here in our region and can gather in their thousands in favoured wintering grounds. These gatherings are a must-see spectacle; witnessing these large flocks provides for an everlasting memory and well worth the effort to seek them out.

Common crane visiting us during our winter will largely have travelled from Sweden and Germany and as far away as Norway. Iberia is the principal wintering ground for the western population and certainly we have some great places for us to go and witness large numbers of these impressive giants. They start to arrive in big numbers during early November and start their return journey northwards in late February and early March, so there is a window of opportunity to get out there and not miss this spectacular winter event.

The common crane. Peter Jones

There are two main wintering areas within easy reach for those living on the Costa del Sol. La Janda, which is situated north of Tarifa and near to Barbate, a site that holds the largest of our wintering population and can number up to 7,000 individuals; and then we have Fuente de Piedra with the nature reserve and surrounding area attracting as many as around 1,500 individuals. La Janda can give close views of these birds as they feed among the now fallow rice paddies, while around the Fuente de Piedra area they are more often encountered in open fields near to and surrounding the nature reserve.

I hope some of you will try to see these large and graceful winter visitors, I promise you they will reward your time and will provide a memory to keep and treasure for always.