Let's do the Crane dance!- A visit to Hornborgsjön bird lake

The view from the entrance to the lake. There were quite a few caravans and mobile homes in the carpark. Serious birdwatchers.
I'd been wanting to go visit the famous bird lake Hornborgsjön in the south of Sweden for a couple of years. Especially since you don't see a lot of birds around most of the time in Stockholm. To me anyway. You can walk through the forest and barely see one. And then you'll hear the lovely sound of wood being hit in the distance. I always think at first oh someone's making something. No it's the dashing black, white and red Great Spotted Woodpecker (Större Hackspett in swedish). What a beautiful bird. When we first moved to our new place a woodpecker landed on the tree in front of the kitchen. We took that as a good omen. You never see them in this situation.

The light has been steadily increasing the last few weeks in Sweden which makes you jump for joy. It's just so long the winter and the darkness. And it's not just humans who long for the light. The animals and birds jump for joy too. One bird you can see jumping for joy is the European crane who arrives en masse at Lake Hornborga (Hornborgsjön) during March and April every year to stay at the Lake for 1 to 3 weeks. You've got to be organised to see them though. And this year they arrived early and in huge numbers so we booked a train from Stockholm (around 3.5 hours) and then got a taxi (10 mins) to the lake. Yesterday it's reported by the official site there was over 10,000 birds.

Whooper swans out front of the thousands of cranes.
Supposedly you can sometimes see thousands of cranes dancing simultaneously at Trandansen-the area around the information centre ( I call it trancedansen) but we didn't see that. Just a few here and there dancing. It was still an amazing spectacle seeing nearly 10,000 birds in one place. And not just cranes but swans (the yellow billed whooper swans (sångsvan) which I'd never seen), Canada geese, Mallard ducks and 32 other types of birds. Fortunately it didn't rain and we had a bit of sun to warm up the 8 degrees. And of course being Sweden there's always a cafe to get a coffee and cake somewhere. Which you can at the information centre and next to the nearby church.

Here's a beautiful tube video by Ola Klafstad of the cranes dancing.

Bird watching from the area around the Trandansen.
It's well worth the trip if you love nature and birds and it's relatively easy to get to by train. If you're in Stockholm it's on the Gothenburg line. There's even a bus running a few times a day from Falkoping (bus 203) which is the closest town to Trandansen if you haven't got a car. Though don't expect anything much to look at in Falkoping. Everything was closed on Saturday except a couple of restaurants.
You really need a strong zoom on your camera to get good close ups of the birds but it's a spectacular vista.

Other stuff:
  • In the past Sweden had a Crane's Day (Tranedagen) on the 25th March. Various traditions were started on Crane's day such as locking away all your oil lamps as it's getting lighter at bedtime. Another is running barefoot in the snow to increase good health. Sounds good.
  • The crane has long been recognised as a symbol of spring as well as happiness, prosperity and long life.
  • One of the areas the European Crane breeds is in Sweden. It returns (from mainly Spain, France, Germany though the information about this varies according to sources) to Sweden in March where it gathers at Trandansen at the southern edge of Lake Hornborga between March and April which is one of its resting stops along the way to their breeding territory. Lake Hornborga is where a large part of Sweden's cranes come to eat grains, rest, find a suitable partner and dance.
My other post on birds
Bird ponderings on an Evening in Stockholm

Swedish bird sites
Fraser's Birding blog about Hornborgsjön: Fantastic photos
Get a birding pal to show you around in Sweden


  1. What a lovely day you had - look at all of those birds! I've wanted to go to Hornborgsjön for a few years myself, but have never managed it as spring tends to be a busy time for us with family birthdays, Easter, ANZAC Day, boats to be launched, gardens to be fixed etc. Somehow, any plans I've made have been stopped at the last minute. But I am determined to go one year, especially as we have a caravan, so we can stay and not face the trip up and back in a day.

    We get cranes here in the autumn (we had around 200 last autumn) but they are only passing through and never stop to dance for us.

  2. Thanks for your comment Marie. Sounds like a great idea getting in the caravan and going for the night. I think today there's around 15,000 birds. It's an amazing and rare sight to see. But the numbers seem to differ every year so I hope if you do go in the years ahead you go on a good year. I was determined to go this year and it was just good luck to have so many birds.

  3. bjarne stig hansenApril 15, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    Thank you for your most informative article. However, when we visited Falköping we did see quite a few impressive dolmens scattered about. We stayed in the youth hostel and had dinner and breakfast at a wonderful hotel with the most exquisite service in a dining hall full of old furniture - like a museum!

    1. Sounds great Stig. Thanks for your comment. Sounds like some good reasons to go to Falköping again. Can you remember the name of the hotel?


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