Amongst the Boulonnais hills, polders and where the Channel and North Sea meet: sterns, ringed plovers, Eurasian oystercatchers, egrets, spoonbills, storks and, if you’re lucky, the seals who come to see us oddballs!
A diverse coastline
The Calais coast has a variety of observation sites (cliffs, dunes and polders) all in a small area: the Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez cliffs are renowned birdwatching spots in Western Europe within sight of the major migratory routes for seabirds and passerines.
Lots of birds flock to the foot of the cliff, the Fort Mahon dunes and Blériot Plage including the European stonechat* after which a path through the inland dunes is named. If you bide your time on the beach, you may see ringed plovers “racing” through the waves and sterns launching into the air. Gulls are easy to spot and you won’t miss the flight of the cormorants.
Les Hemmes de Marck’s polders to the east of Calais provide fantastic observation spots. There are three trails at Fort Vert with a belvedere and observatories by EDEN 62 where you can see the flora and fauna living in this rich yet delicate area. The many ponds provide the perfect refuge for amphibians such as the natterjack toad, tree frog and triton. Sixty or so species nest here including the common shelduck and Western marsh harrier whilst others stop here during migration.
Signposted trails, tours with nature guides, workshops etc. You simply must view the Eden 62 activity schedule: www.eden62.fr/les-rendez-vous/
Eden 62 is vital to the management and promotion of protected nature sites in the Pas de Calais. There are 9 nature sites in the department, 3 in the Calais area: polders, dunes and cliffs.
You can observe large egrets near the Ferme des Aigrettes in Marck. Seals occasionally like to lounge about on the sandbanks between Calais and Les Hemmes de Marck. Like other creatures, you can observe them without disturbing them…
La Ferme des aigrettes
You won’t see any sealife here but you’ll learn a lot in this traditional Maritime Flanders farmhouse. It has been renovated in line with sustainable development guidelines to create a house at one with nature and the environment. In the heart of leafy grounds where grey herons and egrets nest in spring, the free path weaves past farm animals, vegetable gardens and buildings to explore. This is a wonderful place to visit with the family!
Continue east towards the River Aa bordering the North and Pas de Calais regions and you’ll find the Platier d’Oye nature reserve popular with countless birdwatchers. Waders, large shorebirds such as the avocet or Eurasian oystercatcher, grebes, geese, ducks, passerines and more quietly live together. You can also see wildlife from damp meadows such as Eurasian curlews, common snipes in winter and pewits that come to nest in spring. Several footpaths with observatories provide the best opportunities to spot some of the species among all those living here.
Got your binoculars? Now all you need is patience and persistence!
(*small thrush from the same family as the robin and nightingale).