The Landes lands are a paradise for birds. On the dunes of its coast, in the heart of its pine forest or its Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park, everyone will find their place and a cozy nest, whether to live there or for a winter stay. The Landes Guide reveals the best sites for bird watching.
Admiring the birds is an activity that can be done in any season, in the Landes. Its mouth, marshes, dunes and forests form a specific biotope, which hosts endemic species. The department is also located on one of the most important migratory routes in Europe. Many migratory birds take refuge there and the best periods for observation are the end of winter and the beginning of autumn.
Opening photo : @ Ryan Magsino / Unsplash
Straddling the Gironde and the Landes, the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park stretches from the Arcachon basin to the outskirts of Casteljaloux on one side and Mont-de-Marsan on the other. This immense natural area encompasses different areas : A river valley crossed by the Leyre ; a delta with its Teich Ornithological Reserve ; ideal wetlands for wintering common cranes ; the Maison de la nature to discover the park in an educational, fun or unusual way; the Marquèze ecomuseum to find the customs and life of yesteryear.
To observe birds, we offer several walks :
A " mouth " is a place of union between a river and the ocean. Under the impulse of the tide, the sea waves penetrate the land and mingle with the fresh waters of the river. This mixture of fresh water and sea is called "saumâtre ". The difference between an “ estuary ” and a “ delta ” is a question of the balance of power between the two… When the river is dominant, it is a “ delta ”. This is therefore the case with the Leyre! When the ocean dominates, it is an " estuary ".
In the authentic villages of the park, ecotourism is privileged and you can enjoy a peaceful and rejuvenating stay, surrounded by nature. This is a good opportunity to try unusual accommodation in the Landes.
Walk on the Leyre Photo @Guide des Landes
On an old mine, a natural space has been restored, but the vestiges of this past have favored the development of unusual plants in the region : certain plants, but also fungi and lichens. Insects have found their happiness there, attracting in turn, many birds. 177 species have been recorded there! On the Arjuzanx site (fr), you will be able to observe the Marsh Harrier or Common Harrier, the Saint-Martin, the Circaète Jean-le-Blanc, the Red-backed Shrike, the Pitchou Warbler… This site is one of the places of predilection of Common Cranes, which settle there during the winter.
The Landes have always been an important migration stage for the Common Cranes. The dunes and swamps offer them a comfortable refuge during the winter. They deserted them that during the period of intensive afforestation Landes in the 19th century, which was intended to stabilize the dunes and diversify the economy. Then in the 20th century, growing corn for poultry (mainly ducks) allowed the return of the cranes. Today 15% of European cranes stay in the Landes. Protecting this environment is there fore essential.
A red-backed shrike and a Pitchou warbler Photos: Frebeck CC BY SA 3.0 & Francesco Veronesi CC BY-SA 2.0
The Marais d'Orx Nature Reserve (fr) is a first-rate ornithological site. It is very vast, brings together very different landscapes : alder grove, saussaie, wet meadow, reed bed..., which are suitable for all kinds of birds : migratory, nesting... At least 247 species have been recorded, some of which are rare, such as the White Elanion or the White Spoonbill. Guides accompany you on " discovery tours ", accessible to all, or " naturalist tours " for hikers.
" Barthes ", in Gascon, designate marshy meadows. These are the floodable banks of the Adour. They therefore form wetlands, made up of swamps, meadows and lawns, bogs, etc., which are full of food for birds. In Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, not far from Bayonne, the Lesgau reserve, in the heart of Barthes de l'Adour, is a place of nesting, but also of parking for migrating birds. An ornithological observatory has been installed there and the tourist office organizes guided outings.
Les Barthes de l'Adour, marshy meadows. Photo: Ogrisel CC BY 3.0
The Huchet current is a river since it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It takes its source in the pond of Léon, of which it is the outlet, and its mouth is near Moliets-et-Maâ. Nicknamed the " Little Amazon of the Landes ", you will see a lot of wild animals, insects, fish and birds of course. For more practical information (accommodation, catering, visit, etc.), see our article on the Courant d'Huchet Nature Reserve.
A preview of your visit, would you like it? We take you aboard a " Galupe ", for a ride along the current, accompanied by the Bateliers du Courant d'Huchet.
A descent by boat to enjoy this very exotic environment! Photo @ Lesley Williamson
Going down along the Vignac, you will reach the Courant de Contis, in the heart of a site classified as “ Natura 2000 ”. This preserved environment is very exotic. The flora and fauna are exceptional. Under a " canopy " of trees that overlooks the river, in the midst of marsh hibiscus, carnivorous plants and ferns, you will be able to surprise hawks, hawks, egrets, kites, herons, kingfishers..., not to mention cistudes (turtles), otters and European minks!
We suggest you go canoeing down the Contis current with Atlantis Loisirs. Read our article!
The Réserve de l'Étang Noir is a typically Landes and yet little known universe. It is a swamp forest, resembling a mangrove, which surrounds a pond, its stream which feeds it and a peat bog. It is the kingdom of birds : purple herons, egrets, kingfishers, etc., who come to eat in this wetland. Signs line the route to make the walk more interesting and footbridges, boats and other advances along the water allow you to contemplate nature and birds, without damaging the banks.
We take you for a short walk along the Black Pond.
The view from one of the observatories. Photo : @Anne Pinsolle
Our tour of bird watching sites in the Landes is over. This is a great opportunity to discover the Landes in a new light and to introduce you to ornithology!
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