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Le lac du Der-Chantecoq

drapeau france

Der Chantecoq Lake : a regulator

Covering 4,800-hectares, lake Der-Chantecoq is the second largest artificial lake in western Europe. This reservoir was created to regulate the river Seine to avoid its devastating floodings in Paris and to support its flow in summer. The lake is fed by a canal that branches off the river Marne in Saint-Dizier and the outflow is a canal that joins the Marne in Arrigny.

Interest of the lake for birds

Situated on a major migration route between the northern breeding grounds and the wintering areas of France, Spain and Africa, it started attracting numerous species of birds as soon as it was created in 1974.
The filling up of the lake between December and June followed by its drain between July and November make the landscapes change drastically. When the water recedes, mudflats appear, attracting waders, ducks and geese, gulls but also the emblematic Common Crane thanks to which this site has acquired its international reputation.

Photo : Christine Tomasson
Photo : Christine Tomasson
Photo : Christine Tomasson
Photo : Christine Tomasson
Photo : Christine Tomasson
Photo : Christine Tomasson
Grues dans un chaume de maïs - Photo : Francis Desjardins
A la ferme aux grues - Photo : Francis Desjardins

The lake and the cranes

Lake Der-Chantecoq is very attractive for the Common Crane. It provides this bird :

  • a vast open space which is ideal for this wary bird
  • predator free islands where thousands of cranes can gather every evening and spend the night from October to March
  • pastures, meadows, oaks providing acorns, and fields (corn fields in particular) all around the lake
  • a vast undisturbed space, as the access to most of the lake is forbidden at this time of the year.

This lake is the main stopover and wintering site in Europe for this species. Every year, between 200,000 and 350,000 cranes stop there, either for a few hours or to overwinter. The last record dates back to 11th November 2014 when 206,000 Common Cranes where counted as they were leaving the lake early in the morning ! Some 20,000 to 30,000 cranes now regurlarly overwinter there.
This lake is a wintering site of major importance in Europe for many species of birds, therefore its preservation is essential.

History of the counts

A particular attention is paid to this species and numerous data have been collected :

Translation : Gérard Rolin