ticket for a trip through Europe
The migration of Common Cranes
has marked seasonal activities from times immemorial. Their
characteristickrruee-kroo calls herald their arrivals. Twice a year, from
Sweden to the Iberian Peninsula and through France, the Cranes fly across our
continent : to their wintering areas in autumn, then to their nesting areas in
spring. In August/September, after they have raised their young in the peat-bogs of the
Scandinavian forests, thousands of them gather on the isles and the south coasts of the
Baltic Sea. Starting in October, when food becomes scarce, they massively migrate towards
the South in two, or sometimes three huge waves. This is the beginning of the long
trans-European journey that will lead them to their traditional wintering areas in Spain.
But France increasingly hosts wintering cranes in Champagne and Aquitaine.
The return migration starts as early as February.
Urged by their breeding instinct, the Cranes quickly fly northwards. Their return is
faster but but still as spectacular.
Lake Hornborga, in Sweden, is the ultimate
stop-over before they scatter on their nesting sites.
Common Crane Network ; birders on the watch
|This complex and mysterious migration has been
studied by the birdwatchers of the Reseau Grues France for a few years now. For the
members of this network, the loud bugle-like calls of Cranes are the first signs of a
thrilling period. Set up in 1995 by the LPO Champagne-Ardenne, the network coordinates the
work of the thirty-odd associations located along the migration route. The network attains
its true dimension thanks to exchanges with foreign organisations in Germany and Spain.
Offices in Champagne-Ardenne are seething with excitement during important migratory
influxes. A very elaborate plan of action has been set up in order to better anticipate
migrations and to inform people when huge flocks of Cranes leave or arrive.
First move, first alert
On 8 November 1998, 2,600 Cranes left their night
roost at the Der Lake. Meanwhile, birds flocking together in large numbers in the North of
Germany were sure signs of imminent departures. Indeed, hordes of birds landed on the shores of the Der Lake later in
the day. They arrived ceaselessly throughout the day totalling 15,000 birds late in the
afternoon. More birds came during the following night. The next day, 20,000 birds left
their roosting site at the break of dawn, to which one must add 2,500 German birds and the
ones that did not stop over. In the early morning of the 11th , 21,500 Cranes
left the area. It was time for this first wave to fly southwards. Numerous observations
confirmed these departures all along that day : 7,000 birds observed in the
Departement of Yonne, 9 to 13,000 in Vienne (source :SOBA Nature Nievre), 7,000 in
Cher, 6,000 in Indre (source : Indre Nature), more than 2,000 in Allier and almost
15,000 above Limoges (source : FLEPNA, SEPOL). The birds did not all reach Aquitaine
in such large flocks, but in the evening of the 11th, nearly 20,000 Cranes were
reported at the Arjuzanx roost. The birdwatchers of the Pyrenees and Spain were alerted
meantime, birds were still leaving Northern Germany. Numerous flights were reported all
along the migratory route and fax machines were red hot in Champagne-Ardenne.
The true importance of the word
Departures and arrivals followed one another at a
hot pace all through the migration season. Thus, as was the case for that first hectic
wave, all observations of flights of Cranes are centralised by local associations and
transmitted to the national coordinating organisation, the LPO. The national synthesis
which is published every year to assess the situation of the preceding migration is an
essential communications tool between the different participating associations. Such a
network makes it possible to give trustworthy and regular information to the general
public and the mass media, which are very interested. It also makes it possible to collect
observations of ringed Cranes and to take part in an international scientific programme
The Reseau Grues France :
Profitable contacts with several foreign associations :
Kranich-Informationszentrum in Germany, SEO/BirdLife, SEO/ARAGON, ALLUCANT, ADENEX in
Spain and the Swedish Crane Working Group.
Nearly 1,800 observations analysed yearly.
Please communicate your observations to the
Network : your participation is needed to improve our knowledge of the Common Crane
and to protect it.
in the heart of the migration
The big lakes are very attractive for the 35,000 to 80,000 migrating birds
stopping over twice a year. Cranes can find peace and quiet on the small isles and plenty
of food in the nearby fields. Moreover, numerous birds have chosen to winter over in that
area for a few years now : 8,700 birds during the winter of 1998/99. The Der Lake has
thus become one of the three most important wintering sites in France with Arjuzanx and
Captieux in Aquitaine, where 23,000 Cranes wintered during that very season.
The follow-up of feeding zones : the
example of the Champagne Region
Agricultural environment friendly measures are an important
element in the protection of theCrane and its resting zones. They were devised in
collaboration with farmers and leave the Cranes free to feed in the fields (no ploughing
in the maize stubble fields before 15 December or 15 March ; preservations of
meadows). As a compensation, the farmers who accept these rules receive French and
European subsidies. The follow-up of these feeding zones (nearly 1500 hectares or 3700
acres) is ensured by the LPO.
Information and public awareness
Numerous activities have been organised around
the Der Lake for the many people who, every year, come from all over Eruope to watch the
splendid sights of cranes leaving or coming to the area. Week-end
activities and the warm welcome of unpaid ornithologists along the dykes of the lake
enable a lot of people to become familiar with these fantastic waders.
Thus, because the LPO has managed to reconcile
the Crane with agriculture and tourism, and because the unpaid ornithologists were so
deeply involved (almost 900 hours devoted to studying birds and welcoming the general
public this year), this organisation has become a special partner for farmers and now
plays an indisputable role as far as tourism is concerned. It thus participates in the
local development of the region in the long run. This sets an example, just as in
watch Cranes in France ?
Flocks of Cranes can be observed from October
to December and in February/March all along the migrating route (Lorraine,
Champagne-Ardenne, Bourgogne, Centre, Limousin, Auvergne, Aquitaine). Moreover, several
thousand birds can be seen regularly at some good spots. In Aquitaine, you can come across
Cranes in the Landes de Gascogne. But The most spectacular and best views can be made at
the Der- Chantecoq Lake..
- Der-Chantecoq Lake : contact : ,
(tél : 03.26.72.54.47)
- Captieux and Arjuzanx feeding zone
(Solferino-Platiet) in Aquitaine, Contact LPO Aquitaine
(tel : 05.56.91.33.81)