The Champagne lakes

By | Category: Travel destinations
"dancing" cranes in Champagne.

“dancing” cranes in Champagne.

The French region of Champagne has another reason to attract visitors other than the obvious.

If you visit the lakes there you can see spectacular displays of birds.  Common Cranes, Greylag Geese, White Fronted and Bean Geese, White Tailed Eagles, Whooper and Bewick’s Swans, Goldeneyes and many other species of migrating birds can be observed.

The most famous of all is the Common Crane, which, whilst rare to spot in the UK, stops off in tens of thousands in Champagne. These birds come rest at the lakes on their way from their nesting grounds in Scandinavia to winter in Spain where it is obviously much warmer. In autumn and early spring, the sight, sound and sheer quantity of cranes leaving and arriving here is truly spectacular.

The largest of the Champagne lakes is Lac du Der with 4800 hectares of water and 77 kilometres of shoreline. In the Der area, there are over 300 species of bird (some of which are rare and endangered), 40 species of mammals, 45 varieties of dragonflies, 20 kinds of amphibians and more than 200 different plants.

Lac du Der has been listed as a wildlife reserve since 1978, and is one of the most important sites in France for birdwatching and thus attracts visitors from all over the world.  To make it easier for birdwatchers, there are five accessible observation points and four small hides located in the middle of one of the main feeding areas for the cranes.

Lac du Der is one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe and was built to help deal with any flooding from the River Marne.   When the Marne is in flood, water is diverted into the lake and stored there.  When the river is low, lake water is sent back into the Marne.  By these actions Paris is protected from flood surges and the river level is maintained at a depth suitable for tour boats and commercial traffic all year round, whilst the level of water in the lake rises and falls accordingly.

It is due to the low levels of water in the lake between Autumn and early Spring, allowing mud flats to appear in the centre, along with grain to be found in the surrounding fields, that the Der is such an attractive resting ground for the cranes and other migrating birds.


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