Last Saturday, I went on a field excursion to see the Cranes in the area of Diepholz, Germany. To be honest, we didn’t actually see that much cranes. But we did hear them! And we got to see some other beautiful nature as well.
The group I went with was a gathering of all the Junior Rangers of the Netherlands. The Junior Ranger programme is an initiative of the Europarc federation, the organisation that coordinates all of Europe’s National Parks. The Junior Rangers are youth from 12 to 18 (and in the case of our own group up to 21) who are involved in nature and learn about care and management of the nature in their own park. There are lots of different young people involved in the Junior Rangers, but they all share the love of nature and there is always a nice atmosphere.
A Special Day
This Saturday was the first time all of the Junior Ranger groups from the Netherlands gathered together for an activity. On Saturday morning, a group of about 50 young nature lovers was waiting for the bus to be part of this memorable event. Even though I had already seen a gathering of thousands of cranes once before in Hungary, I was exited for the day. Being out in nature together with a group of amazing people, I couldn’t wish for a better way to spend my weekend.
Arriving at the Nature Area
After a three hour bus-ride, we arrived at our first location. A peat-mine near Diepholz. It was about two in the afternoon and we could already hear some cranes and see them fly. But they were still far off in the distance. Cranes are best seen around sunset when they flock together and move to the wetlands where they stay the night, so we just had to be patient.
Meanwhile, it was fascinating to see the great peat mine. The black stretching out for kilometres in the distance, it was a very strange thing to experience.
Cranes Regaining Strength
Then, after the peats, it was time to visit the “prime crane watching area”, the “Rehdener Geestmoor”. This peat bog is a favourite place for the cranes to stay during their migration. The cranes here most probably come from Sweden. They take a rest in this area before they head off further south. During this resting period, they stay a couple of weeks to regain some body weight and strength. Those few weeks are a great opportunity to see these gorgeous birds.
Unfortunately, I have to say, it was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe I was rather naïve to expect silent and remote nature with lots of cranes standing just nearby, but who would have expected hundreds of people coming by car to see these birds? So instead of my idyllic scenario, we were walking along a paved road where those hundreds of birdwatchers were standing next to their cars to look at the cranes. Our quiet walk in nature turned into a walk along about three kilometres of parked cars. Talk about a let down.
The cranes, however, were amazing. We weren’t able to see them up close, but we could hear their sound very clear. It’s a sound that makes a person fall quiet, just beautiful!
The Real Goal
As darkness set in, the show was over and we headed home again. Chatting and joking away, the three hours seemed over in an instant. Maybe that was really the most important thing of the day, connecting young people with a passion for nature. As for the cranes, next time I would definitely pick a different place to observe them!
Have you ever seen cranes?
Note: As you can see, I don’t have any pictures of the cranes. I only have a simple camera, so they were way too far off to get them into view. My apologies for that!
I do recommend everyone to go crane-watching sometime, though. Not only are the birds beautiful, but the whole experience of the silent nature with a setting sun and the amazing bird sounds all around, that is just an unforgettable moment. I would almost say magical!