Where to watch birds in Charente Maritime?

Where to watch birds  ...

Charente Maritime is a very interesting region for ornithology. The Charente estuary, the mouth of the Gironde, the Arvert peninsula, the Charente coast and its islands form a welcoming environment for sedentary or migratory birds. Nature reserves have been established there for their protection. They allow you a respectful observation of birds, an introduction to ornithology and a discovery of these exceptional biotopes. The Guide de la Charente Maritime reveals the best sites for bird watching in Charente Maritime.

Contemplating the elegant flight of birds is an activity that can be done in any season, but winter is the most favorable period. Its lagoons, marshes, ponds and the ocean of course are a very important source of food. The landscapes are favorable for nesting and reproduction in early spring. The department is located on the East-Atlantic migration axis and many migratory birds take refuge there for wintering. The Charente Maritime is therefore a paradise for birds and for their observers.

Opening photo: @ Ryan Magsino / Unsplash

Bird watching sites around the Charente estuary

The Marais d'Yves Nature Reserve

Marshes and lagoons are favorite environments for wading birds. In the Marais d'Yves Nature Reserve, you will probably come across a White Stilt or an Elegant Avocet. At the end of winter and spring, you will see more astonishing waders, the White Storks, and even rarer in the region, the Black Storks, depending on the year. They come from Eastern Europe and stop in Charente Maritime to raise their young. Many other migratory birds also make a stop there, such as greylag geese, reed harriers and ducks...

The lagoon is a body of salt water, or even brackish, as the case may be. It is isolated from the ocean by a sandbank. In fact, it is an unstable environment that is constantly changing with the storms that sweep the coast. Lagoons are increasingly rare on the Atlantic coast and that of the marshes of Yves is very important for the study of this specific biotope.

white stilt
A white stilt. Photo : @Ryzhkov Sergey CC BY-SA 4.0

The minus hut

Near Rochefort-sur-Mer, the Cabane de Minus is a Nature Center, as well as a hunting and wildlife reserve. It is a wetland, in the form of a network of canals that cross pasture meadows and connect bodies of water. It is the universe of ducks, teals and egrets. If you are very discreet, you might catch an otter!

Rochefort-sur-Mer Lagooning Station

The Rochefort-sur-Mer wastewater treatment plant is particularly innovative and ecological. It uses a lagooning system, with ponds. This natural method generates a proliferation of plankton which attracts many aquatic birds : waders, ducks, grebes, passerines... The Nature Area of the Lagooning Station organizes guided tours to better understand this innovative system and admire the birds from its location observatory.

The Moëze-Oléron Nature Reserve

The Moëze-Oléron Nature Reserve is mainly marine. It protects the “ sea of Pertuis ”, between the island of Oléron and the estuary of the Charente. It encompasses the marshes, mud flats and meadows near the estuary. It is in this space that you will be able to discover nearly 300 species of seabirds, migratory birds, wading birds of the marshes... and for example the ash curlew, the oystercatcher, the knight gambette, to name but a few stars among so many others!

Oyster magpie
Oystercatchers, to be observed with patience. Photo: @ Bjørn Christian Tørrissen CC BY-SA 3.0

The Marais Poitevin Nature Center and its ornithological park

We move away from the Charente estuary to return to the Charente lands, or rather its Poitevin marshes... Located in Taugon, the Échappées Nature” site of the Poitevin Marsh offers you a boat trip or a discovery trail to contemplate its flora, fauna and in particular its birds. The ornithological park allows you to see emblematic species of the marsh, such as the Common Eider, the White-fronted Goose, or the Night-Heron...

On reservation, you can take walks at dawn or at dusk, a privileged moment to observe birds and animals with discretion, in full meal.

White-fronted geese
White-fronted geese in flight. Photo: @Frebeck CC BY-SA 3.0

Observe the birds of the Gironde estuary

The Échappées Nature site in Vitrezay

The Nature Center of Vitresay, classified "Breakaways Nature" takes you into this exceptional habitat of the estuary of the Gironde. Composed of marshes and reed beds, it hosts a multitude of birds, specific to estuaries and endemic to the region. During migration, more exotic birds stay there.

A reed bed is a space where the large family of reeds flourishes. There are all kinds of them, but their area of implantation is characteristic. They like wet areas, with shallow water. They therefore occupy the edges of water bodies : lakes, ponds, ponds, marshes...

Estuary park

In Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, the Parc de l'Estuaire is not specifically geared towards ornithology. Rather, it carries out actions in favor of the protection of Spiny Toads, as a priority, and more generally of the frogs and newts that live in the marshes. However, this marshy area attracts a lot of birds.

The Maison de la Forêt de Haute-Saintonge

The Maison de la Forêt is dedicated to the forest of Double Saintongeaise, populated by maritime pines, and the resulting trades. It is located in the heart of a forest estate that can be walked through, along a path laid out to preserve the habitats of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. If its stars are the European mink and the Cistude turtle, the birds find a cozy nest there, in particular the Hoopoe, the Bee-eater..

If you want to get to know the estuary better, we'll take you on a trip to the Gironde estuary between land, river and ocean.

estuary of the Gironde
Discover the Gironde estuary in our article. Photo @Lesley Williamson

Island birds

The island of Oléron

The Marais aux Oiseaux of Dolus-d'Oléron is located on former salt marshes. It is both a space for the protection of this fragile ecosystem, for saving animals and an educational establishment. It is a visit to be made with the family. Children will appreciate the educational farm, the heronry and its observatory to see storks, raptors, gulls and wading birds.

The Grand Marais Papineau ornithological reserve is located near Saint-Denis-d'Oléron, between the lagoons of Bétaudière and the dunes of Barataud. This protection site cannot be visited, but you will go around it on a cycle path, to admire mallards, seagulls, greylag geese...

You can also watch for them in the national forest of Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, at the Port des Salines next to the Oléron bridge and along its coast of course.

salt marshes lagoons
The lagoons of the salt marshes, suitable for bird watching. Photo @Guide Charente Maritime

Re island

The Loix salt marsh ecomuseum is above all a salt-farming museum, but it is a very attractive natural space for birdlife. You can see the Little Egret, the Belon Shelduck, the Bluethroat there.

Between Ars-en-Ré and Portes-en-Ré, the Lilleau des Niges Reserve is a protected area, reserved exclusively for birds, however you can see them from the surrounding roads.

At the end of the Lilleau des Niges Reserve, the Phare des Baleines is surrounded by a park, where you can see the birds of the reserve. The site is accessible all year round and you can visit the lighthouse, the old tower and its museum.

Sites to go further

Here is a selection of site on ornithology :

Here is our tour of the bird watching sites of Charente Maritime which comes to an end. We just have to wish you beautiful ornithological discoveries, memories and memorable pictures!

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