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Le Hucel - Thollon-les-Mémises, Haute-Savoie (74)
Watchpoint
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Surroundings and natural setting of the watchpoint

Le Hucel is situated at Thollon-les-Mémises, in the department Haute-Savoie, at a few kilometres from the Swiss border (western extremity of the east bank of Lac Léman in France). It is a privileged site for the observation of migrants, particularly for spring migration of raptors. The watchpoint is situated on a promontory at an elevation of 966 metres, in the middle of a 3 km wide mountain pass between les Mémises (1674 m) in the south and lac Léman in the north (most raptors avoid crossing the lake and prefer to follow the bank). Between the lake and the mountains of Mémises, there is an important altitudinal range, starting from 383 m at the lake side near the hamlet of Troubois, up to the summit of pic des Mémises at 1674 m. We have a panoramic view and can see Lausanne at 15 km, Evian at 9 km and Pointe d'Yvoire at 29 km. From our observations, we are usually not detecting birds that are beyond 4 or 5 km from the watchpoint.

Ornithological interest

The watchpoint was discovered in 1996 (by J.C. Baillet and H. Dupuich) and annual surveys have been conducted ever since.

About 15.000 raptors are counted at Le Hucel each year. The most commonly observed species include Common Buzzard (8063 on average), Black Kite (1575) and Honey Buzzard (2068) as well as about 30 Black Storks. Some rarer species, such as Greater Spotted Eagle and Booted Eagle are observed every year.

Spring migration is starting from early February for the earliest birds of prey (Buzzards, Black Kites and Red Kites) to the beginning of June for the last ones (mainly Honey Buzzards). The survey is starting with the first sunlight at the site and warming up, approximately by 9h, and ends by the end of the day, generally at about 18 - 19 h at the end of the season.

The difference in timing with most other sites can be explained as follows: because of the important altitudinal gradient, the start of migration during early morning, starting at the lake side, is lost in the fog over Lac Léman; during evenings, with increasing height, the air cools down rapidly and the migratory flow stops or shifts once more to the level of the lake.

A salaried migration watcher is present at the site between 1 Mars and 31 May to do the survey and to receive observers. Also, birdwatching days for the general public are organized on 29 and 30 March each year (part of the programme "tête en l'air", a migration event realized on most suitable sites in Rhône-Alpes by sections of CORA and LPO).

Access

From Evian-les-Bains, starting from the D24 near the village of Neuvecelle (near Evian-les-Bains). 300 m past Evian-les-Bains, turn left at the level of the hamlet of Nouy towards le Hucel. Park along the road in the lower part of the hamlet, the watch point is at the foot of radio antenna, visible from a great distance. Next, there is a 10 minutes walk on a relatively easy footpath.

Contact

Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux délégation Haute-Savoie
24, rue de la Grenette
74370 Metz-Tessy
Tel. : 04 50 27 17 74
Email : mailto:haute-savoie@lpo.fr

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