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Banc de l'Ilette - Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Somme (80)
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The surroundings and the natural setting of the watch point

Banc de l'Ilette (baie de Somme) at Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont, Picardy, is part of the nature reserve of baie de Somme, north of the bay. It is an old sandbar, formerly flooded at high tide. Due to the strong dynamics of sedimentation (sand deposition), however, it is being colonized by herbaceous vegetation (several couch species Elytrigia sp., Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria, Sea-Holly Eryngium maritimum, ...) and Sea Buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides thickets. Banc de l'Ilette offers a wide view on a major part of baie de Somme (Le Crotoy, Saint Valery and Le Hourdel) and to the north, on marshland behind the coast and the dunes of Marquenterre, partly planted with pines, stretching out over several thousands of hectares. The site provides a most natural and quiet ambiance, more and more difficult to experience in northern France, with no traffic sounds, except for the odd tractor used by mussel cultivators, the occasional airplane or ULM or sometimes by the roaring of jet skis, fortunately forbidden inside baie de Somme. Sometimes, you can hear the honks, hoots, hissing or snarling of Grey Seals, now well-represented in the bay next to an important Harbour Seal colony (nearly 200 Harbour Seals and 51 Grey Seals were counted during summer 2007 by Picardie Nature and/or Philippe Thiéry). At high tide, considerable numbers of birds (thousands) come in to roost, including waders (Oystercatchers - sometimes up to 10.000, Curlews, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers...), gulls, terns and ducks (particularly Shelducks).

Ornithological interest, emblematic species

The site has a major interest for observing active migration. A large variety of species (about a hundred) can be seen, ranging from raptors to passerines, over waders (Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Common Snipes...), Grey Herons, Black Storks, Spoonbills... Bird numbers during diurnal migration (nocturnal migration is not surveyed) reach several hundreds of thousands of birds and might even reach or exceed a million of birds:

  • close to 450.000 birds counted in 1985 in 46 days (258 hours of observation) between 26 August and 14 November
     
  • 330.000 birds counted in 1986 in 30 days (100 hours and 30 minutes) between 13 August and 16 November
     
  • 360.000 birds belonging to 77 species in 1987 (182 hours)
     
  • 261.906 birds counted in 2006: the sightings of that year are available at the Dutch site trektellen by selecting « 2006 » at http://www.trektellen.nl/totalen.asp
     

Typical species include:
- for passerines, Chaffinch (316.000 individuals in 1985 with a day record of 190.000 individuals; 256.000 in 1987), Redwing (23.600 on 26 October), Woodlark (1205 in 2006), Tawny Pipit (14 in 1987), Richard's Pipit (regular with one or two individuals a year), Lapland Bunting (38 in 1987).
- for birds of prey, Sparrowhawk (168 inds. in 1985, 265 in 1986 and 579 in 1987) is the commonest species, but Hobbies and Merlins (14 in 1985, 8 in 2006) are also regularly seen, as well as migrant Peregrines (2 in 1985) sometimes difficult to distinguish from local birds, present almost all year round at the nature reserve. We experience the same difficulty with Osprey, with 7 inds. on active migration in 2006.

Ringing is taking place in August, ponctually but regularly (contact : Xavier Commecy mailto:xcommecy@wanadoo.fr
 and Patrick Decory). 

 

Migration calendar

Migration is covering a very long period and we have never done a survey during the entire season. The most important surveys have been done in 1985 and 1985 by Guy Flohart (with some results mentioned above) and in 1987 by G. Flohart and Laurent Gavory. Recently, in 2006, Jérôme Mouton and Thierry Rigaux have done regular counts, the results of which are available on Internet. Sightings from autumn 2007 can be found here.
 

Visitors

The reception of visitors at the watch point is yet to be organized. We are hoping to set up a migration camp during the holiday periods, linked to a migration survey with possibly a salaried observer.
 

How to get there?

It is possible to come by train (line Paris-Calais; stop at Rue or Noyelles/mer). Then you will need a car to take you to the car park of la Maye, situated in the north of Le Crotoy. From the car park of la Maye, cross the stream bed of la Maye at low tide (high boots are necessary) or alternatively, cross at the lock.

Contact

Picardie Nature, the association organizing the survey, collecting data on active migration and raising awareness on the subject : Thierry RIGAUX, mailto:thierry.rigaux@club-internet.fr

Syndicat Mixte Baie de Somme Grand Littoral Picard, nature reserve management : Philippe POIRE, chief warden of the nature reserve - mailto:garde@baiedesomme.org - Phone : 06 15 03 16 87

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