Richard Smart - Nature Photography
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Lac du Der
Four hours drive from Calais going
south east is Lac du Der. This lake is man made and in its
making three hundred people had to be re-located as three villages
were inundated in the process. A large expanse with reed beds,
shallow pools, scrapes, copses, gravel areas and most importantly
islands the Lake provides a stopover for migrating birds during the
spring and autumn seasons. It is famous for Common Cranes but
many other interesting birds use it.
We went for a short break Feb 29th to Mar 3rd 2012 and saw a total of 68 species during that period.
Our first full day involved a complete
circumnavigation of the lake to check likely areas for watching and
photography. Unfortunately the combination of water and cool damp
winter weather caused a pretty thick fog with visibility at about
200m. We could feel the sun (just) so we hoped that the fog
would burn off. It did, but not until 3:30pm. We then
had a couple of hours to try for photographs. Common Cranes
were what we went to see primarily and we were not disappointed.
Finding cranes proved to be no problem whatsoever. We just followed our ears. At the time we visited there were circa 20 000 cranes roosting on the islands etc. in the lake. Apparently the best total on an autumn migration was 70 000 a few years ago. The noise is probably the most enduring memory of the visit.
This pair had been indulging in a bit of crane dancing but were put off by my stopping the car a hundred yards from them.
At last a bit of sunshine to get a half decent shot.
Like trains you are about to give up hope when three come in together.
Interestingly the cranes seemed to be
particularly spooked by humans. There is no chance of getting
out of your car if you stop by a field of them and to my cost I
stopped at least once having left the camera in the boot.
Even more surprisingly on many occasions we saw flocks coming straight towards us for the perfect photo but every time they veered off and would not fly over us.
Cranes spend most of their time in the fields
in a five mile strip around the lake searching for waste corn and
The cranes continue to come in to Lac du Der until it is very nearly dark. This one crosses the setting sun.
We saw a good number of Great White Egrets.
There were about 300 at the time of our visit and these too were
easy enough to find. We found many in the fields, in the
shallows of the lake and a number perched in trees.
Whilst exploring a wooded area just off the lake we heard some very heavy drumming. Whilst we did not see it we were pretty sure this was Black Woodpecker.
Other notable sightings were Goosanders ,about 60 in a flock on the lake.
This was a superb trip and I would recommend
it to anyone. Not only is the area great for wildlife but the
villages are fascinating and you don't have to try hard for good
wildlife sightings. Each evening I could sit on my bed and
watch the cranes pass in huge skeins croaking their way back to the
lake. In the morning they were already back in the fields
around us. I need to go again, unfinished business with the
camera. Late winter and late autumn are a bit unpredictable
regarding the weather but take the chance I think you will be well
One thing we did miss (we only found this out when leaving to come home) was the Crane Farm. This is a farm run by the LPO specifically arranged to encourage Cranes. They put out food and there are hides to view the birds. Website: http://champagne-ardenne.lpo.fr/grues/ferme_aux_grues.htm and http://champagne-ardenne.lpo.fr/grues/affut_photo.htm
If you need any information etc. please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
|Little Grebe||Great Crested Grebe||Guillemot*||Cormorant|
|Gannet*||Grey Heron||Common Crane||Mute Swan|
|Canada Goose||White Fronted Goose||Greylag Goose||Mallard|
|Hen Harrier+||Red Kite||Buzzard||Kestrel|
|Lapwing||Curlew||Lesser Black Backed Gull||Herring Gull|
|Kittiwake*||Common Gull||Black Headed Gull||Wood Pigeon|
|Collared Dove||Barn Owl||Green Woodpecker||Greater Spotted Woodpecker|
|Skylark||Meadow Pipit||Pied Wagtail|
|Song Thrush||Tree Creeper||Great Tit||Blue Tit|
|Marsh Tit||Long Tailed Tit||Coal Tit||Magpie|
|House Sparrow||Dunnock||Reed Bunting||Yellowhammer|
|* on ferry Dover Calais, + over motorway|