Switzerland’s strange signs of spring, sprinkled around the country

Penguins at the Basel zoo (©2012 Basel Zoo)

Morges rowing classes, t-shirts on the lake, ice on the shore

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The days are getting longer in Switzerland, with the sun now rising before 07:30 and setting after 18:00. The last day of the month, 29 February, will give us an additional 20 minutes of daylight compared to 23 February.

The vast quantities of snow in the mountains and continuing chilly winds in several areas may not yet have you thinking of spring, but the signs are multiplying throughout the country:

Temperatures are expected to reach 17C this weekend in Ticino, Switzerland’s hot spot.

Max the stork passed through Geneva Monday on her way north from her winter home in Spain and Wednesday 22 February she arrived in northern Switzerland. She arrived in Tuefingen, Germany, on the northern side of Lake Constance on the Swiss-German border, where she normally mates and builds a nest.

Wednesday afternoon, school's out! Lake Geneva, St Prex, Vaud

This will be the 11th year that the 13-year-old bird raises a family here. She is the longest-tracked banded bird in the world, followed by the Natural History Museum in Fribourg.

Lake Geneva’s shoreline remains laced with ice but Wednesday saw a number of rowing students from Morges out on the water in short-sleeved shirts.

Wednesday afternoon, with school out, the lake served as a magnet for families and small children, with grass beginning to green next to the ice sculptures that decorate the waterfront.

New monkey home at the Basel zoo (©2012 Basel Zoo)

In Basel, penguins at the zoo are enjoying daily walks. The zoo in its annual report issued 23 February says that 2011 saw a record number of visitors, 1.75 million, compared to just over a million in 1999. The zoo opened its doors in 1874 and in the 138 years of its existence more than 78 million visitors have come to see the animals.

The most popular areas to visit are the monkeys and snow leopards, with a rebuilt monkey area that opened in the summer of 2011 and three leopard cubs born during the year.

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