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Bau de la Saoupe - Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)
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Site descriptions

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Surroundings and natural setting of the site

Forming a natural barrier between the bays of Cassis and la Ciotat, the "Soubeyranes cliffs" stand out from a distance by their distinctive rusty tinge. These cliffs, dominated by the Bau de la Saoupe present a typical cuesta morphology: they form one of the concentric circles shaping the sedimentary basin of Beausset, partially flooded by the Mediterranean Sea in the bay of la Ciotat.

Dating back to the end of the Cretaceous, this escarpment is characterized by a pronounced geometrical disparity: in the south and southeast, an impressive conglomeration is intersected by layers of lime and sandstone, revealing delta-like river deposits. Here, the cliffs rise 400 m above the sea level, offering amazing views from the various viewpoints. More to the north, beyond Baou de la Saoupe, limestone sedimentation is increasingly dominant with reduced terrigeneous influence. The escarpment takes more modest proportions in this area.

Raven, Eagle Owl, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Crag Martin, and during winter, Wallcreeper and Alpine Accentor are among the most noticeable species at the site. Among Chiroptera, the European Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida teniotis) is worth mentioning, one of the largest bats in France - often cohabiting with Alpine Swifts - with a peculiar bulldog-like face and a rat-like tail protruding beyond the tail membrane.

Towards the inner part of the basin, on south and east-facing slopes of the massif, we leave the vertical world of the cliffs: a network of lush valleys drains the surface waters towards the bay of la Ciotat. A typical garrigue vegetation can be found here (Aleppo Pine Pinus halepensis, Cistus sp., Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis, Kermes Oak Quercus coccifera, Mock Privet Phillyrea sp., Myrtle Myrtus communis, Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo, Evergreen Pistache Pistacia lentiscus, Terebinth Pistacia terebinthus, etc.) often kept rather low by recurring fire during summer. Only some valleys and protected areas have mature trees. During autumn, the deep pink flowers of the Mediterranean Heath Erica multiflora feed swarms of bees and bumble bees before winter.

The ridge line is accessible via a picturesque tourist route, either from la Ciotat or Cassis. The latter is the easier option to join the promontory of Bau de la Saoupe via the lower "Pas de la Colle". Then, you will enjoy a magnificent view on the Provence hills and discover a strategic watchpoint for bird migration. The entire area might be included in the future National Park des Calanques.

History of the survey and environmental issues

The migration survey at Baou de la Saoupe is fairly recent, with the first counts in 2007 by the association "la Chevêche" (Little Owl). Irregular migration surveys were done during the previous years in nearby areas, including Gineste (between Marseille and Cassis), locally renowned for its Woodpigeon migration in October, or the area of la route des crêtes, between Cassis and La Ciotat. Bau de la Saoupe, however, is one of the best migration watchpoints in the area. Situated ideally between the bays of Cassis and La Ciotat, it offers a wide view on the surroundings and is less frequented by visitors taking "la route des crêtes".

Ornithological interest, emblematic species

In 2008, during an autumn survey, some 60 species were observed at Bau de la Saoupe. Numberwise, Barn Swallows and House Martins were top of the list of the more abundant species. We should add Chaffinch, Woodpigeon, Starling and Alpine Swift with several hundred each. Eight raptor species were sighted: Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon as well as the rare Eleonora's Falcon. Nine species of finches were seen (including Brambling, Hawfinch and Crossbill). Less common birds, always nice to catch up with, included Ring Ouzel, Pallid Swift and Wallcreeper. From the migration watchpoint we quite often see Peregrine Falcons, attracted by the migrants and regularly impressing the observers by stooping down at prey.

Migration calendar

So far, the site is known to be interesting during autumn migration, from September to November.


There is no particular accommodation at the site to receive visitors but you are most welcome to join us. The migration survey is entirely done by volunteers, mainly members of La Chevêche.

How to get there?

From Cassis, take D559 towards La Ciotat. When leaving Cassis, take the D141 on the right (signposted "route des crêtes") to Pas de la Colle; turn left next (D141a) towards the radio tower of Bau de la Saoupe. The watchpoint is at the first obvious road bend.

Where to stay and eat?

The region is a major tourist destination and it offers a great variety of accommodations near the watchpoint, ranging from a camp site to a four star hotel, not to mention guest rooms and holiday cottages.
Web site of the tourist office:


Association la Chevêche
Maison de Quartier d'Eoures
Place Jean-Baptiste Auffan
13011 Marseille
Phone 04 91 27 20 87




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