Their loud beaks and imposing nests are part of the landscape: in Alsace white storks have never been so numerous, according to the current national census, a sign of the successful reintroduction of a species that can now fly from its own wings.
Binoculars over his eyes, phone in hand, Yves Muller carefully examines nests perched on a pole, tree or roof. “One adult with three young“,”an extra nest I didn’t see“…, dictates, before entering these elements into the database by precisely locating each nest.”The goal is to know exactly the French population of white storks and its distribution, because if we want to protect a species, we need to know its number.“, explains the president of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) Alsace. For several weeks, hundreds of volunteer observers have been inspecting the nests and litter of cigogneaux.
The municipality of a thousand inhabitants in the Vosges du Nord natural park, Neuwiller-lès-Saverne has at least thirty nests. Some reach several hundred pounds and a meter or even two in height. Every year, pairs of genera add the thickness of the branches. A young retiree and amateur photographer, Dominique remembers seeing the first pair of birds settle in Neuwiller-lès-Saverne. “in the early 1990s“.”Now all the seats are occupied, there is a housing crisis“jokes the one who took thousands of pictures”(s) neighbors“.
Storks and their storks in their nest, in Neuwiller-lès-Saverne (Bas-Rhin), June 4, 2021. Credits: AFP – FREDERICK FLORIN
“We saved the storks of Alsace”
The census conducted by the LPO this year is “the first comprehensive national census“for this species, explains Yves Muller. If a black-and-white bird with a red beak has been present at least since the Middle Ages in Alsace and has become a symbol, white storks from Spain have also settled in numbers on the Atlantic coast of the country, Gironde or Morbihan. The final figures for this issue should be known this winter. Already the first estimate puts the Alsatian population at “1200 occupied nests“, with a few birds and up to five young that will take off around mid-June. Such a population is unheard of while the stork was close to extinction in Alsace. In 1974, Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin had only nine nests, while in 1960. there were 145 more pairs.During the winter migration there was a very high mortality.find enough food and the power lines swept them away.
The President of the Alsace League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), Yves Muller, counts the nests of storks and their occupants on June 4, 2021 in Neuwiller-lès-Saverne (Bas-Rhin). Credit: AFP – FREDERICK FLORIN
Alsace then embarked on operations to reintroduce its favorite bird, with “fences for stock recovery“, in which storks are bred in captivity, having lost their migratory instinct in a few years. The storks released into the wild have allowed the species to progress rapidly. Several 79 pairs were counted in 1990, then 565 in 2011 and 788 in 2015.”We saved the Alsace race, now we let the population grow freely“, explains Yves Muller, he is regularly interrupted by the shooting of the stork’s beak by greeting his partner in the nest before returning the food brought back to the stork.
If the white stork remains a protected species, the LPO advocates that the bird is no longer artificially fed and that the population is naturally regulated according to the food found in the wetlands.
Storks and their storks in their nest, June 4, 2021 in Neuwiller-lès-Saverne (Bas-Rhin). Credit: AFP – FREDERICK FLORIN
The rescue of the white stork was based on “specificity“a species that breeds well in captivity.”We can’t do with all the birds what we did with the genus“, regrets Yves Muller. In Alsace, ash or black curls are on the verge of extinction.