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The western coast of France has several large and shallow inlets of international importance for birds and the Baie de Bourgneuf, to the south of the Loire Estuary, is one of the most productive. Vast areas of mudflats in addition to disused saltpans and nearby freshwater marshes make this highly attractive to a wide range of waders and waterfowl on passage and in winter.
The Ile de Noirmoutier and the causeway which links it to the mainland provide shelter to the western part of the bay where oyster farming is widespread and to the east there are extensive polders behind the sea wall.
The Ile de Noirmoutier has a large area of saltmarsh and largely disused saltpans with breeding colonies of waders and terns.
Raptors including Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and Montagu's Harrier and Common Kestrel can be seen in summer and a few pairs of Short-eared Owl nest in the area. There are colonies of Common Tern and Black-headed Gull, particularly on the Ile de Noirmoutier and breeding passerines include White-spotted Bluethroat and Blue-headed Wagtail.
Dark-bellied Brent Goose can reach 10,000 on passage and almost as many may stay on to winter in the area. Other wintering waterfowl include Common Shelduck], Northern Shoveler, Common Teal and Northern Pintail.
All the regular northern European waders occur with particularly good numbers of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew. Pied Avocet can exceed 1,500 wintering birds at times. Hen Harrier and Merlin can be seen hunting over the fields and marshes in winter and pipits, larks and buntings forage in large flocks in autumn and winter.
Great Cormorant, Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Black Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Hobby, Grey Partridge, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, European Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Common Snipe (PM,W), Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Greater Short-toed Lark, Wood Lark, Crested Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Tawny Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, Common Nightingale, White-spotted Bluethroat (Su), Eurasian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Eurasian Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, European Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Serin, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Linnet, Twite, Common Crossbill, Common Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
History and Use
Areas of Interest
There are some excellent old saltpans to the south-east of Beauvoir-sur-Mer which hold Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit during the breeding season and a variety of waders and passerines on passage.
From Beauvoir-sur-Mer take the D948 westwards to Bellevue and cross the bay on the Passage du Gois. This road is built on a sandbar which is covered at high tide so careful timing is essential.
Access and Facilities
The Baie de Bourgneuf can be reached on the D751 west from Nantes, turning off onto the D758 to Bourgneuf-en-Retz. From here the D758 continues through the marshlands of the Marais de Machecoul to Bouin and on to Beauvoir-sur-Mer.
Any of these three towns will serve as a good base for exploring the area.
Content and images originally posted by Steve
Came down from Grande Briere Pays de loire for trip Plently of Cocklers attracting birds very short vist natives frendly ibis egret avocets etc
- very open site plenty of space