Sunday, 17 November 2013

Lac du Der - Chantecoq

I've just got back from a short trip to this area of France in Champagne-Ardennes, between Troyes and Saint-Dizier. There are a series of very large lakes there which are well-known both for the coarse fishing (for huge Carp and Catfish) and for Birdwatching. It is the latter which has drawn me there several times over the years, this being my tenth visit
I went in company with two very good photographers, Steve Ray and Phil Smith, and I commend their pictures to you, just follow these links -
and special thanks to Steve for doing all the driving
I may well be in trouble with Google Earth, but I have made screen copies to give you an idea where we went, about  3.5 hours from Calais

Oops, my screen grab missed out a bit of the placemark name, it's at the bottom right-hand corner!

My first visits from the early 1990's are summed up in my old website at
Some of these pics are pinched from that webpage, but they're here to give you an idea of the scale of the place. This first pic is of the "eagle tree" which could generally be relied on to have a White-tailed Eagle sat therein during winter visits. Sadly the tree collapsed a couple years ago, and although one eagle was said to be present last week we didn't see it. The lake is surrounded by a substantial concrete and clay wall with a smooth road atop, perfect for viewing the spectacular views, and for birding 

The purpose of this lake, and the three a little to the South (Lacs Amance, du Temple, and Foret d'Orient) is to take in and store water from the Seine and Marne rivers during the autumn and winter, so as to avoid flooding downstream, and release it over the summer to maintain navigation and provide for irrigation. Apparently there is difficulty this year because of exceptional autumn rain, the  lake is already so full that there will not be room to store further rainfall through to February, so there is now a controlled release going on - hence the flooded agricultural land we saw on the way there. We saw whole fields of Silage Maize standing unharvested in inches of water, another problem as the Cranes which make a stopover there en route from Germany and Scandinavia to Spain each year use the harvested fields for feeding. Assemblies of up to 100,000 cranes are common through the autumn, there being some 30,000 present during our visit. Who knows, some of the Cranes we saw in Brandenburg may have been here for us to see again!

It's not all Cranes and Eagles down there, Ospreys in numbers pass through each Autumn
These photos from last week show that for the proper photographer there can be some super "atmospheric" photo opportunities too, and a prime location for this is the church which served the now submerged village of Chantecoq. From here I once watched 2 White-tailed eagles hunting Wigeon out over the lake, stunning stuff


There follow several pics of the Cranes afternoon flight, always a wonderful sight, and the sound - wow!

Steve and Phil have published superb photos of the Great Egrets, one was most obliging and came close enough even for me to get a decent shot. On Thursday we were at one of the inflow streams, flowing very strongly under the road, and populated by 42 of these birds busily feeding at the edges, together with over an hundred Cormorants frantically feeding in the torrent, goodness knows what they were feeding on

When we stopped in Eclaron village on Thursday to buy a filled baguette for lunch, this White Stork surprised us by still being present at it's nest in the gloom before a solid day's rainfall - honestly, it was stair-rods all day long unfortunately

There are a couple of short video clips from our visit, somewhere in this computer. Hopefully I might find them in a day or two and manage to publish them to add to this blog, fingers crossed

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