Moving to France: Winter is around the corner 1


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I have no photos. I just stood and watched the sky. And listened, for they make an almighty noise. Their loud trumpeting call can be heard a kilometre or two away. It’s a sight which signifies an imminent change in weather, from mild to cold, or from cold to springlike.

Cranes. Or grues in France.

Their flight path is above our house. And they passed, heading south, yesterday. They are on their way from their breeding grounds in Sweden to Spain and Portugal.

Not all of them. There are a couple of hundred thousand which pass through France and they make their way in waves from mid October to November. One of the main stopping points en route is Lac du Der in France’s Champagne region. They often stay there for several weeks before taking flight again in flocks of sometimes more than 30000. This is their rough flight path.

Crane flight path from LPO France website

The flight path of the cranes.

Their flyovers are one of the special things about living here.

In the 1600s cranes became extinct in Britain. Their wetlands disappeared. Thanks to a conservation project, the first egg in 400 years was laid in 2013 in Gloucestershire. It was on-round-the clock guard.

These cookie birds charm each other by tossing vegetation and performing ritual dances, leaps, head jerks and calls. They mate for life.

And they’re not little things either. They can have a wingspan of 2 metres and be over a metre tall. To keep their feathers in tip top condition for such a long flight, the birds moult completely every two years and are unable to fly for around 6 weeks. This grounding coincides with the parents sharing the rearing of their chicks.

It was frosty this morning for the first time this year and we had to scrape the car windscreen before the drive to school. The cranes knew.

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