An early bird has become Plana's spring mascot


Winter is still holding the country firmly in its grip but the town of Plana, on the Czech Republic's western border has good reason to believe that spring is just around the corner. The first harbinger of spring - the white stork - has just arrived back from the shores of Africa and set up home in the best storks' nest in town.

His arrival has caused plenty of concern among the locals who fear that he has little chance of survival in the harsh winter conditions. Following emergency consultations, a fire crew was called to the old factory chimney to make a home-delivery of frogs and mice - the stork's welcome-home meal. The locals are now watching the weather reports with even greater interest and since meteorologists predict that the weather is not going to improve until the end of March, the town's inhabitants are determined to keep up the food deliveries until a thaw enables the stork to take care of itself. Luckily, they won't need to search for frogs and mice. Ornithologists have advised them that bits of fish and chicken will do just as well. As for the stork he -or she- seems perfectly happy with the arrangement and spends much of his time posing for TV cameramen and newspaper journalists. In this case the early bird really did get the worm. The only thing that worries the locals is that the stork did not really arrive early - he arrived at exactly the same time as last year - which means that others are on the way and if the weather does not change soon the fire crew will be kept busy all day - making special lunch deliveries.