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Cap Gris-Nez - Audinghen, Pas-de-Calais (62)
Watchpoint
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Site descriptions

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Surroundings and natural setting of the watchpoint

Cap Gris-Nez is a 45 metres high jurassic cliff, situated at the Straits of Dover, where North Sea and Channel meet. Only 28 km are separating the city of Dover from Cap Gris-Nez.

The site belongs to the bocage Boulonnais, is part of the Regional Natural Parc of the capes and Opale Marshes and the protected area of Deux Caps (with Cap Blanc-Nez). Currently, 146 hectares are owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral.

History of the survey

Seawatchers have been visiting Cap Gris-Nez for a long time, with the first observations on record dating back to 1957. During the 1960s and 1970s, several generations of seawatchers, mainly Belgian and British, have visited the site, showing its importance during autumn migration. From the end of the 1980s until 1996, local birders visited the cliffs. From then on, observations are regular, both in autumn and in spring, offering detailed information on migration.

With the jetty of Clipon gaining interest by seawatchers, the site has been temporarily and partly deserted, even though irregular observations are still continuing. Only in 2005, a regular survey started again, amounting to 1000 hours annually, both during spring and autumn.

Ornithological interest, emblematic species

The situation of Cap Gris-Nez, in the migration bottleneck of the Straits of Dover, allows the observation of a number of seabirds, often difficult to observe from the coast. It is a strategic site for a migration survey of seabirds, both in spring and autumn.

The English site of Dungeness, at the opposite side of the Channel, has a bird observatory with nearly daily counts. The comparison between the two sites shows some very interesting correlations and allows a better understanding of the migration through the straits, highly variable with wind direction.

Although all species are counted, the emphasis is on pelagic species (Gannet, shearwaters, skuas, divers, alcids, ...) and coastal species (ducks, waders, gulls and terns). Seawatching is usually drawing in birders between the end of August and early November. During that time of the year, several species rarely observed from mainland France can be found: Sabine's Gull, all 4 skuas (including Long-tailed Skua which is regularly seen), Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Grey Phalarope...

During spring, the site is less reknowned for seabirds. A regular survey during mid March to mid May, however, has revealed the interest of the site for seawatching during spring.

If the migration survey is mainly focusing on seabirds, the high cliffs are also suitable to watch migration over land (passerines, raptors), both for migrants following the coast, as well as for those leaving or arriving from Britain.

Visitors

There is no infrastructure for naturalists at the watchpoint. The migration survey is entirely done by volunteers, mainly form the association Le Clipon.

It is possible, however, to receive individuals or small groups, depending on the availability of the observers doing the main survey. We can be contacted by mail at one of the addresses below. We are present during week-ends and one week day from March till May and from July till November.

Access

By car: take motorway A16, exit Marquise, coming from Boulogne or Calais. Cap Gris-Nez is signposted from there.
By train: Wimereux railway station is nearest, but access is difficult without a car. It is 45 minuts by bike from Wimereux and by bus you cannot get nearer than the centre of Audinghen, still 30 minutes on foot from the cape.

Places to stay and eat

There is quite some tourism in the region and a good variety of accomodation can be found near the site, ranging from a camp site to a four star hotel, not to mention numerous guest rooms and rural accomodation.
 

Site of the Tourist office: http://www.terredes2caps.fr/

Some examples of places to stay :
 

Contact

Web site: http://seawatchcgn.free.fr

Nicolas Selosse mailto:nicolas.selosse@gmail.com

Ludovic Scalabre mailto:lscalabre@gmail.com

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