The Nature Reserve of étang de Cousseau

The national nature reserve of étang de Cousseau was created in 1976. It is located 50 km west of Bordeaux and 3 km east of the Atlantic coast, in the Bay of Biscay.

The SEPANSO is the NGO in charge of managing of this remarkable wetland.

Spreading over 882 ha, the reserve is composed of 4 main habitats. A 50 ha freshwater lake is locked between 300 ha of forested primary sand dunes on the west side and 444 ha of peaty marsh (reed, willow, great fen-sedge, bucktooth) plus 88 ha of sandy heathland (purple moor-grass) on the east side.


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Land management

The marsh is managed by a herd of marine landaise cattle, a local rustic breed, in combination with mechanical mulching to keep the habitat open. Water levels are managed using a network of artificial channels and water locks. They are kept optimal year round for water birds, especially waders.

These conditions are perfect for the overwintering of thousands of common cranes that spend the day feeding in surrounding maize fields.

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The overwintering of common cranes at this site began with just seven individuals in 1988. By 2000, 40 individuals were observed. Numbers continued to rise, reaching 1,000 individuals by 2009. Recently, population growth has become exponential, from 2,516 individuals in 2013 to 7,000 common cranes in January 2019. Today, the nature reserve is one of the most important wintering site in Gironde.

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Grus Gascogna

The Reserve is also part of the regional network « Grus gascogna ». This project aims to develop knowledge, conservation and education around  the common crane in the region of Landes de Gascogne.

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Visit the site

 plan d'acces


From mid-October to mid-February, common cranes can be observed from one of the three obseration points (including two 12 metre and 20 metre high towers). The show usually begins in the middle of the afternoon and continues untill sunset, when you can watch the common cranes return in huge groups from their feeding grounds to spend the night in the marsh.


Get there 

A public path is open year-round on the reserve, from sunrise to sunset. Bicycles and dogs without a leash are forbidden.


Site de la SEPANSO

Page Facebook de la Réserve

Site Grus Gascogna


drapeau franceYou can return to the map of European sites by clicking here, or select a site from the list in the left menu.

This zone extends from the Nièvre department (58) to extreme West of Saône-et-Loire (71) to Indre (36) in the West, through departement of Allier (03) and Cher (18). The Creuse department (23) holds only very occasionally a few wintering birds but includes an important staging area, the Etang des Landes, for Common Cranes during migration. Between the two major wintering sites in France, this « Central France » area is about 250 km southwest of Lac du Der (51-52) and 350 km northeast of Landes (40).
After a few wintering records during the 1970’s, Common Cranes increasingly used different sites from the early 1980’s and especially from the winter 1996-1997. Since 2009, more than 10 sites are used by cranes each winter, with a total population between 9500 and 16000 birds.
The wintering sites are of two types : classically one to several ponds in large cultivated areas (mostly maize), or more remarkably, a rarer habitat in Europe, cultivated areas associated with woodlands along the two « wild » rivers, Loire and Allier. These sites are sometimes small and highly sensitive to human disturbance.

Therefore it is imperative to watch cranes only from roads to limit this disturbance, and never try to approach the roosts. Moreover, the cranes are on private properties which must be respected. Farmers tolerate the cranes in spite of the damage they may do to crops. So, one must not add the harm of walking through fields, to get close to cranes or to photograph them, as some too often happen to do. Be strictly respectful of these constraints to maintain the wintering sites in this region.

The wintering sites and major staging areas are followed by the members, volunteers and professionals, of several local associations :
In l’Allier, par Guillaume Leroux, Jean-Christophe Sautour, Sylvain Vrignaud , ...
In Cher, par Yves Bolnot, Sébastien Brunet, Jean-Michel Chartendrault, Stéphane Coquery, Stéphane Lebreton, Sébastien Merle, Brigitte & Didier Migneau, Faustin Moreau, Annie & Alain Ouzet, Jean-François Ozbolt, Johann Pitois, Françoise et Michel Roger, ...
In Creuse, by the staff of the Natural Reserve de l’Etang des Landes

Information : Sébastien Merle

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logo grus extremadura

drapeau franceThe Extremadura is located in the west of Spain, in an area bordering with Portugal; it forms a vast extension of territories mainly flat or with soft mountains crossed by rivers Tajo and Guadiana, and by many tributaries. This immense territory which occupies 41,634 km2, is sparsely populated; its population density is less than that of Spain (25 inhabitants per square kilometer), which has enabled the survival of numerous natural habitats little disturbed by humans.


mapa extremadura and zona centro

The natural resources of the region are used by a powerful primary sector, with a great importance given to agriculture and livestock, as allows the presence of a significant extension of dehesas (pasture). These dehesas, shaped by oaks, have the characteristic formation of the thinned forest that combines traditional agriculture, livestock, forestry and hunting.

From time immemorial, the dehesa habitat was used by the cranes in their wintering grounds in the west of the Iberian Peninsula, through the fruit of oak called "acorn", which provides a rich and nutritious food for frequent travelers winged. The cranes also benefit from grain fields irrigated or not in the different phases, such as seeding or stubble, and in the latter case, particularly from rice and corn, each time with more intensity, with or without the wooded meadows and a wide variety of different crops: beans, lupins, tomatoes, sunflower, peanut, rapeseed, olive ... The mild climate during the winter and the relative tranquility of these areas offer a suitable environment for their winter stay.

The region has 30 000 hectares of rice crops, which are used by cranes as feeding grounds, as well as roosts, also using the shores of the many existing dam lakes (embalses), open fields and the banks of ponds, especially those that offer calm conditions and are close to their feeding grounds.

The crane is present in 50 areas across the region, occupying about 44% of all of its territory, mainly in the province of Badajoz and, to a lesser extent in the province of Cáceres. The wintering areas are very different in size and population of birds, they vary at each moment of the wintering period. The area called Zona Centro differs from others because it brings together between 60-70% of the total number of cranes that winter in Extremadura and almost 50% of the population of cranes of all Spain.

During the winter period of 2014-2015, censuses were conducted nearly throughout the entire region in December and January, with 121,341 and 132,903 respectively counted cranes; amounts that make up the region as the main area of wintering in Europe.

At the same time, there is in the region a team monitoring the cranes marked that does working pioneer in Spain, performing the most exhaustive control of these birds since the early 1990s, with controls of birds from all countries marked with colour combinations.

This team is covered for a few years by the group "GRUS-Extremadura", whose member are the following:

Manolo Gómez, José A. Román Fernando Yuste, Luis Salguero, JA Sánchez Martín Kelsey, Paloma Iglesias, Anabel Moreno, Borja Maldonado, Chema Traverso, Manolo Calderón, Emilio Peña, Goyo Navarro, José C. López, Alfredo Mirat, José Mr. Hernández y Ehrhardt Hohl


Information : Manuel Gómez Calzado







drapeau franceDescription

2000 logo aag 5 editor

The lake of Gallocanta is a shallow inland saline lake of 1,400 hectares.. It is situated at an altitude of 990 metres in the heart of the Iberian Chain, in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, between the provinces of Zaragoza and Teruel (Aragon community).

Underground water has an important influence on the lagoon water level. The Gallocanta Lagoon is the biggest inland brackish lagoon in Europe with 7 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide in its central part. The climate of the area is Mediterranean-continental, with temperatures ranging between -21 °C in winter and 30°C in summer. Rain is uncommon and irregular (450 mm a year), but it snows in winter and there are storms in summer.

The lagoon is surrounded by halophytic vegetation. In some other more localized places, the vegetation is higher (sedge and reed). The surrounding landscape is open, with many corn fields and also a few sunflower fields. All of them are very productive. Maize production began a few years ago thanks to irrigation. Dryness has been extreme in the past years. The importance of floods is decreasing, especially in autumn and winter, and dryness is very strong in summer. The most important floods occurred in the 70s, when we counted the highest number of water birds.

The period 1989/1992 was the last period of important flooding in the lagoon. 260 species of birds have been noticed in this varied biotope, including 126 nesting species.



drapeau franceOrnithological interest

The lagoon is of a great ornithological interest for migratory species, especially in winter for Common Cranes (Grus grus) as it is situated on the migration lane, between the Pyrenees and the cranes wintering areas in Spain. The migration periods coincide with the corn production cycle: sowing in autumn and at the end of winter. Cranes visit us in big numbers during the whole winter (around 25,000 individuals winter here), with occasional peaks of up to 130,000 individuals at the time of the pre-breeding migration. Other migrating birds like storks and flamingos use the water body to rest.

The lagoon surroundings can thus supply cranes with much food, but this means direct consequences on the local agricultural activity.

Anatidae are very abundant on the Gallocanta Lake, especially on wet years when the number of aquatic birds can reach over 200,000 in addition to the breeders staying in spring and summer. During the winter it receives birds from northern latitudes increasing the numbers and variety of this group of birds.

The importance of the lagoon for water birds depends on its flooding level: winter is a very important season for the populations of Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) with a maximum of 80,000 individuals, of Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) with 35,000 and of Common Coot (Fulica atra) with 40,000.

On the shores and especially in the places where fresh water enters the lake, among rushes and reeds, we can find insectivorous birds like Sylviidae. Even though they are virtually absent in summer, some of them breed here, but with the post-breeding migration at the end of summer the numbers greatly increase, and it is possible to observe the rare Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludícola).

In the fields of cereals, it is easy to find Alaudidae and Fringillidae, which form big flocks during autumn and winter, and other steppe land birds: Great Bustard (Otis tarda), Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis) and the Eurasian Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) which usually gathers in small numbers at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn to travel further south where they winter. In the shrubbery no taller than 40 cm, the Dupon’t Lark (Chersophilus duponti), an elusive bird, scarce in the rest of the world, keeps here a healthy population; it is very difficult to see, even during the breeding season when it is really easy to hear its song.

The birds of prey inhabiting this territory are typical of open country with a few species characteristic of woodland. In 2014 there has been a substantial increase in the population of Common Vole (Microtus arvalis), and therefore, so this year was remarkably good to observe this kind of birds in the area, both because of the numbers (tripling that of a normal year) and the diversity: uncommon species for this place like Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus) and Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) were noted. Moving around the heaps of stones and old constructions in the country we can find the more and more unusual Little Owl (Athene noctua).

The Gallocanta Lagoon is listed as ZEPA, it is also listed as a wetland of international importance, according to the RAMSAR Convention. Hunting is forbidden in the lagoon except in August and September (Quail hunting -Coturnix coturnix). -



drapeau franceFriends of Gallocanta Association (AAG)

AAGFriends of Gallocanta Association (AAG) is a naturalist entity created by a group of volunteers on 2002, coinciding with the World Bird Day. Its main objectives are the conservation of natural, cultural and environmental heritage of the Gallocanta lake and its basin, the spread of the economic, cultural and environmental values and respect for nature. AAG try to give support to local initiatives and they help with initiatives in the rural areas, and cooperation with other related entities.

Since its inception the AAG has promoted and carried out numerous activities that have somehow reversed in the Gallocanta lake and its people positively.

Similarly, it has taken part in various European Congresses on the Common Crane (Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Russia), and has even participated with the Swedish German associations in the ringing, in those countries, of one of the cranes groups which then visit our lands.

The last challenge AAG has developed is the organization of the VIII European Congress on the Common Crane in 2014.

In observing these ringed cranes we have been working on a voluntary basis since 1999.



Informations: Association des Amis de Gallocanta

Regular watchers:
Antonio Torrijo: Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser.
José Miguel Pueyo: Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser.


drapeau france


The dam of Puydarrieux (43.17 N / 00.23 E) is located on a strategic point on the migration route following an axis NE / SO, between the Northern breeding areas, just before the barrier of the Pyrenees (3 000 m) and the wintering regions in Spain.


Technical features

  • Mastery of work: Compagnie d'Amenagement des Coteaux de Gascogne
  • Objectives: crop irrigation, support of the low-water level for the rivers in the Gers area and drinking water supply.
  • A hill reservoir getting water in 1987 with an area of 220 hectares and a capacity of 14 million m3, in place of a pedunculated oak forest.
  • The Lake has for original vocation the irrigation, the low water-lever and the conveyance of drinking water.

Regulatory measures and Natura 2000

  • Protection order of biotope of 16 June 1989 defining a zone of tranquility.
  • Ministerial order of hunting and wild fauna reserve 21 June 1989

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  • Settlement of a mission for nursery, scientific monitoring and reception of the public initiated by the Departmental Council provided by Soazig Lemur and Valerie Ducasse
  • Fittings of ecological engineering in 1994 (lagoons at constant level)Integration to the network Natura 2000 dated 05 January 2006 with the creation of a bird Spa.


Ornithological interest

  • In all times cranes used the Lannemezan plateau as a stopover before crossing the Pyrenees.
  • Since 1989, the first cranes have a stopped at the tidal range of the Lake of Puydarrieux. Quiet conditions, proximity to water and feeding areas allowed a regular growth of the number of birds wintering there


Lire la suite...This site for wintering and stopover offers a high variety of food with an important tidal area which becomes a vegetable area as the water level declines. The ground cultivated in the immediate vicinity of the site as well as the feeding areas nearby make up important food resources. The Lake of Puydarrieux fits naturally over the years among the important parking sites for the crane species.

The Lake has an ornithological interest which continues to grow year by year, welcoming over the years nearly 240 species of birds including some remarkable such as the White-tailed Eagle, the Pink-footed goose, the Sociable Plover and the Bonelli's Eagle.

During the last years, the Lake of Puydarrieux hosted during this migration only a few individuals tired or still young and only a few units. This was not the case in February 2002 as more than 4 000 individuals have attended or flew over the site on the day of 25 February.

Attention: The Area of Tranquility settled on the upstream portion of the Lake, the forest in right bank and the farmland in left bank, to ensure the tranquility of the birds, is strictly forbidden to human penetration; the observations can be made from the side of the road


Information : Soazig Lemur et Valérie Ducasse

Translation : Sylvie Gendeau

On many sites, the ornithologists study (counting, bird banding ...) common cranes.
The map shows the most important of them.
Click on the map or use the menu on the left to learn more.

Version Françaisedrapeau france

carte hivernage Kvismaren Lac du Der Hornborga Takern Hortobagy Saint Denis du Payré Flavignac Lachaussée Vaasa Kristianstad Rügen Rhin-Havelluch Diepholzer Moorniederung Hesse Lacs Aubois Centre France Arjuzanx Captieux Cousseau Puydarrieux Sotonera Gallocanta Extremadura La Janda Hula Valley Warta Mouth National Park