Cranes in France
Migration and wintering

2002 : Postnuptial migration      Wintering 2002-2003        2003 : Prenuptial migration

Common The Common Cranes fly over France every year during the migration period. After nesting in Germany and Russia, they embark on their migratory flight over France where some spend the winter. Other birds continue their journey to Spain, flying over the Pyrenees. The migration of this bird (wingspam between 2 and 2,40 m.) is a spectacular phenomenon, visible over a wide area, between the north-east and south-west of France. The purpose of this document is to provide a concise synthesis of the numerous spottings reported to the French Crane Network which comprises 57 organizations and associations interested in this bird (list). One of the aims is to anticipate migratory movements by means of an exchange of inter-regional information. In this way, the general public and the media are notified well in advance of the arrival of the Common Cranes. This synthesis confirms the continued increase of the population in western Europe.
2002 : Postnuptial migration

As usual, the first Common Cranes were seen on the Der-Chantecoq Lake in the Marne and Haute-Marne departments (51/52) at the end of June. The first flight of 7 early migrants was spotted in the Nièvre department (58) on July 12th. The increasing numbers of migrants to this department may provide an explanation for the early arrivals of these birds. Two migrants were seen in the Haute-Marne (52) on August 4th and one dead bird were found under a power line in the Sarthe (72). This spotting (date and location) is surprising to say the least. That the bird came from the micro-population in Normandy seems a likely hypothesis. The numbers on the Der Lake (51/52) amounted to 17 birds on August 11th. The first significant flight (50 birds) was observed on August 13th in the Nièvre (58) (summer visitors?). Migratory flights during September were infrequent.
At the end of the month (29th), 148 birds were located on the Der Lake (51/52), probably a record for this site on that date. Similary, 250 birds were already on the Etang de Lachaussée in the Meuse (55) on October 5th.
In all, the initial arrivals amounted to about 1,000 birds.


First wave
(07/10/02 – 14/10/02)

The first significant arrivals of about 2,000 Common Cranes occurred between October 7th and 9th. From October 10th onwards, substantial flights of birds left Germany (14,000 Common Cranes in the Hessen region on that date). Throughout this wave, the birds used the traditional migratory route . Official records of numbers are impressive : on October 10th, close to 1,000 Common Cranes flew over the Haute-Vienne and the Charente departments (87/16). The following day, more than 5,000 migrants were observed flying over Burgundy and in the north of Auvergne towards the south-west. On October 12th, 28 departments provided additional data. The movement continued until October 14th. On the morning of the 15th, about 22,000 birds were observed on the Der Lake (51/52). This initial wave involved at least 35,000 birds.

Map 1 : Total number of Common cranes during the first wave
between the 7st and the 14th October 2002


Adverse weather conditions,
decreased movements

During this period, poor weather conditions had an adverse effect on migration. Consequently, departures from Germany and arrivals in France were few and far between. However, several arrivals were observed between October 18th and 21st and a more significant movement, involving between 2,500 and 3,000 Common Cranes, was noted on the lakes in the Aube (10), probably birds leaving the Der Lake (51/52). The first Common Cranes arrived at the stop-over in the Baie de l’Aiguillon, Vendée department (85), during the evening of the 21st. During this period, about 900 birds arrived from Germany.  

Second wave

This was the most substantial wave : 100,000 Common Cranes flying Data was provided by no less than 36 departments situated, for the most part, on the traditional migratory route but on a wider front (Alsace (67/68), Saône-et-Loire (71), Loire (42), Deux-Sèvres (79), Loir-et-Cher (41) and the Ariège (09)). Plus several departments not normally involved, such as the Hérault (34) and the Alpes-Maritimes (06). Nevertheless, numbers recorded were relatively low, no doubt due to the fact that most flights took place at night. The aforementioned estimation comes from fluctuation of numbers in Germany and on the principal sites in France. A case in point was in the Hessen region (Germany) on November 5th where more than 44,000 migrants were observed! In France, 63,500 birds were observed on the Der Lake on November 13th at the end of the main wave (the record being 72,760 Common Cranes on November 26th 2000) and on the same day, 5,000 birds landed on the banks of the Etang de Lachaussée (55).  





Map 2 : Total number of Common cranes during the wave
between the 28st October and the 12th November 2002

The release and third small wave

Up to November 17th 2002, a considerable number of Common Cranes were located in France, since adverse weather conditions prevented the birds from flying to Spain. However, the situation underwent a complete change on November 17th when 17,000 Common Cranes in Champagne and 5,000 birds in the Lorraine region left in the direction of the south. Thus, the main flights were observed in the Cher department (18) involving 13,000 birds and 4,000 on the following day. More than 1,800 Common Cranes flew over the Gironde department (33) on November 19th, whereas arrivals from Germany continued in decreasing numbers.
Subsequently, Common Cranes were observed in different departments on November 20th : 12,000 in the Yonne (89), more than 18,000 in the Cher (18) and 7,700 in the Indre (36). On November 23rd, 4,500 Common Cranes spent the afternoon in the Allier (03). The following day, 43,000 birds were recorded at daybreak on the Der Lake (51/52) and 6,000 flying over the Charente (16). On November 27th, 8,600 Common Cranes were counted on the Temple Lake in the Aube (10).
On the end of the movement, on November 28th, 63 migrants were seen flying over Paris (75) and 66 in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04). This particular movement involved at least 17,000 Common Cranes.


Map 3 : Total number of Common cranes during the wave
between the 17st and the 18th November 2002


Final wave

The final autumnal migratory wave began on December 6th. No less than 25 departments were involved. Close on 12,000 Common Cranes were observed at midday in the Nièvre (58). Worth noting : 1,500 birds in the Vienne (86) and 300 in the Maine-et-Loire (49). About a thousand Common Cranes arrived in the Puy-de-Dôme (63) and in the Landes (40) on the 7th. The departments of the Tarn (81) and the Aude (11) were also concerned but to a lesser degree (50 birds). On December 8th, 35 departments provided data involving numerous flights and spread over a wide diagonal area. Throughout this period, the east of France was particularly involved as well as the Alsace and the Franche-Comté regions. However, western France was not overlooked, since data came from the Calvados (14), the Morbihan (56) and the Manche (50). On December 10th, 12 Common Cranes arrived in the Finistère (29). During this period, arrivals from Germany amounted to about 5,000 birds.

In all, postnuptial migration involved at least 159,000 birds.


Photos : Alain Balthazard


2002 : Postnuptial migration      Wintering 2002-2003        2003 : Prenuptial migration



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