Réserve Nationale de Chasse et de Faune Sauvage du Lac du Der-Chantecoq.
The Lac du Der Chantecoq is situated between Troyes and St Dizier, in Champagne-Ardenne.
We arrive at this, the largest man made lake in France, 4,800 hectares, the sight that greets us is amazing, the most Cranes we have ever seen. The day is sunny, it is a Sunday and there are so many people here to witness the sight of the Cranes on migration. there must be 50,000 plus Cranes here. This place is now of huge importance for these birds on their migration south, from their breeding grounds as far north as the tundra. In family groups they seem almost to dance, when comming to land, wings out stretched, like ballet dancers.
As they continue their migration, they sometimes stay in areas where food is available, but as winter pushes on, so they move on, hence why we, in the Dordogne, see them coming through sometimes very late in the year. The best place to view them at Chantecoq is probably from the huge dyke west of the Port de Giffaumont.
The next morning we awake to fog and the ghostly sight of hundreds of Cranes flying overhead to their daytime feeding grounds.
The fog lifted a little so we set off in search of them on the fields, stopping at the E'tang des Landres, where there is a hide. There we waited and watched and were rewarded by this little Kingfisher, who was waiting and watching too.
There we also watched a little Grebe fishing, I have never seen one actually catch a fish before, but this little chap did, and ate it too!!
Although we have all seen Swans before, we never tire of watching them, and the family we watched were very happy, especially this young one stretching its wings.
We moved on to a hide on the E'tang du Grand Coulon, where we photographed some Great White Egrets in the eerie grey light, looking like ghosts.
The next morning was sunny, so we set off in search of Cranes feeding on the farmland (they only go to the safety of the Lac to roost for the night) Near a village called Drosnay, we saw hundreds down feeding, so Mike stalked forth through the cover of an orchard, to photograph them, in the Autumn light.
Mum, Dad and youngster, happy landings!
We also explored the area, finding many pretty villages, with timbered buildings and beautiful enclosed courtyards. There was also the very interesting church called Eglaise Lu Presquelquile de Champaubert, where the three villages that lay below the Lac, are commemorated. Some 300 souls gave up their homes, for this huge flood relief scheme.
This beautiful little Black Redstart watched us at the church.
As the sun sets on the Lac, the Cranes come in waves, calling to each other, in the golden light. We watch transfixed, with many others, at this wonderful sight. For me, this memory will stay with me forever.
One of natures wonders.