Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 12:39 UK

Sweden welcomes back flocks of cranes

Cranes at Lake Hornborga (file pic)
A few volunteers count the cranes every evening

For thousands of Swedes the Easter weekend meant a trip to Lake Hornborga to witness the annual return of flocks of migrating cranes.

The nature reserve in south west Sweden drew more than 45,000 visitors - among them birdwatchers from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

About 12,000 cranes have been spotted at the lake so far this spring.

"It's the only place in the world that you can see so many cranes at once," said a reserve manager, Thomas Uvesten.

The freezing winter this year delayed the cranes' return by about a week, he told the BBC.

The cranes stay at the lake for several weeks before flying on to northern Sweden and Finland for the summer.

The lake - one of Europe's most important wetland reserves - covers about 35 sq km (13.5 sq miles) and is home to about 50 wetland bird species.

The cranes spend the winter in the south of Spain and Morocco, Mr Uvesten said. Their flight to Sweden includes a stopover on the island of Ruegen, in the Baltic Sea.

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