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Falaises de Carolles - Carolles, Manche (50)
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The watchpoint

At the western end of the granitic massif of Vire, the cliffs of Carolles jut out into the sea, and guard the northeastern entrance of the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. On the bottom third of the shoreline Honeycomb worms (Sabellaria alveolata) build tubes from sand and shell fragments on the rocks. The cliffs rise up gently to 60 metres. The slope vegetation consists of dense impenetrable Gorse (Ulex europaeus) thickets, heather and Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), whereas woodland grows on the summit plateau and in moist, sheltered gulleys. The nature reserve of the GONm (Groupe Ornithologique Normand) was created in November 1989 by signing a tenancy agreement with the landlord. Its boundaries are natural, delimited to the south by a densely vegetated prehistoric mound and both to the north and the east by the Lude valley. Within the reserve's perimeter, parcels of land are being acquired by the Conservatoire du Littoral, and these are co-managed by the GONm and SyMEL (Syndicat mixte des Espaces Littoraux). They include heathland, woodland and both traditional and extensive farmland areas. The 18 hectares reserve has three major objectives:

1. A visual survey of diurnal active migration.
2. A ringing survey to monitor less apparent species (nocturnal migrants and migrants moving slowly from bush to bush).
3. The plantation of bird friendly crops to increase biodiversity and to improve viewing conditions. 

History of the survey

An autumn migration corridor was discovered at Carolles in the early 1980s. A survey of passerine migration started in 1985 and a bird report (1985-1997) was published in le Cormoran (Beaufils, 2002). Ever since, annual reports have been prepared by the GONm and a publication compares the first observations with those after 2000 (Provost, 2007). Initially, the survey was done by a volunteer but from the very start, the GONm wished to extend the survey season.  Therefore, personnel has been recruited: first, conscientious objectors, salaried staff, next. Many volunteers join in and provide valuable contributions. At the end of the summer of 2005, a ringing programme was launched at the site (mainly in September and October), part of a scientific scheme called « halte migratoire » (stopover sites) focusing on migrants.

Ornithological interest and emblematic species

Known as a traditional breeding site for Raven (until 1997) and Dartford Warbler, the cliffs of Carolles have been visited by birders since the 1960s. Over 500.000 birds and more than 100 species are counted annually, between the end of August and the end of November. With nearly 400.000 a year, Chaffinches are dominating. Some rarer migrants are noted regularly during their southbound migration (Tawny Pipit, Ortolan Bunting, Wryneck...) and hundreds of Woodlarks are passing through each autumn. Certain years, invasive species turn up in good numbers (Hawfinch, Crossbill, tits). Each autumn some rarities are discovered (Richard's Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, rare warblers...). At sea, the site is important for Black Scoter (about 10.000 during summer moult and 5000 during winter) as well as for a number of other seabirds (Balearic Shearwater, alcids, gulls). Harbour Seals and Bottlenose Dolphins are quite often sighted.

Annual event: Les migrateurs de la Saint-Michel (last weekend of September)

Every year, the GONm is conducting a migration survey between the end of August and mid November and visiting birders are most welcome. There is a permanency from day break to mid morning with a possibility of field training in identification skills and counting techniques. During the last weekend of September, the GONm is organizing a regional bird fair, les migrateurs de la Saint-Michel, with field trips, exhibition stands, guest speakers and commented visits.

Visitors

Between mid August and mid November, the GONm organizes the reception of visitors, participation in the migration survey and can arrange accommodation.

Access

The municipality of Carolles is situated along the coastal road between Avranches and Granville, along the north coast of the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. South of the village of Carolles, take the direction of Cabane Vauban. This road will lead you to a car park on top of the cliffs.

Places to stay and eat

Birders can stay in tent bungalows or yurts (Mongolian tents) at the camp site near Maison de l'Oiseau Migrateur, in the village. There are various types of accommodation to suit every budget and every taste (holiday cottages, guest rooms, hotels).

Contact

Groupe Ornithologique Normand / Maison de l'Oiseau Migrateur,
33 bis rue de la Poste 
50740 Carolles
03 33 49 65 88 / maisondeloiseaumigrateur@orange.fr

Registered and operating address in Caen: 02 31 43 52 56

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