As you enjoy encounters here and make discoveries there, you’ll never cease to be surprised, amazed even, by the richness and the variety of the wildlife of South Vendée Atlantic. Binoculars at the ready!
Plurality of fauna
Birds, fish, insects, batrachians and mustelidae… a host of ambassadors to the diversity of animal life are found here.
- The Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a small migratory shorebird measuring between 15 and 17 cm. It is present between March and September and makes its nest in the sand on the foreshore. In fact, some enclosures have been installed at the Pointe de l’Aiguillon and the Belle Henriette lagoon to keep disturbance to a minimum and encourage these birds to nest here.
- The azure gorget of the bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) never goes unnoticed as it sings from its perch at the top of the highest tree! You do, however, need certain conditions: a sunny day with no wind, between mid-March and July, and a very discrete presence!
- The little egret (Egretta garzetta) is entirely white. It is sometimes known as the “white heron”. The egret is a medium-sized bird (55 to 65 cm in length, wingspan 90 to 105 cm). During the mating season, it dons on its neck two long (20 cm) fine feathers, or aigrettes.
- The cattle heron (Bubulcus ibis) can be distinguished from the little egret by its smaller size and its yellow beak. It is always found in small groups, accompanying cattle in the prairie where it finds its food, consisting mainly of insects. It is invested with a mission: to keep the cattle free of parasites!
- The common crane (Grus grus): The majestic common crane is Europe’s largest wading bird, measuring 100 to 130 cm, with a wingspan of 2.3 metres. This bird is also easily recognised by its insistent, piercing song.
- The stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) is identifiable by its chest, which is cream-coloured with black-brown stripes. Its wings have black-brown and brown tones with two light-coloured stripes which are visible when it is in flight. Its cry is similar to that of the curlew, earning it another name, the “land curlew”. This semi-nocturnal bird can be difficult to spot in the daytime. In summer it is very noisy, especially at night when it emits a lengthy whistle.
Fur or scales
- The western spadefoot is a small toad that can be found in the sand dunes. Its hind legs are armed with hard knife-shaped horns which it uses to dig deeply into the ground where it spends the whole day.
- The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is something of an emblem in the Marais Poitevin. It looks like a snake but is indeed a fish (a water-dwelling vertebrate with gills and fins…). Its cylindrical body is covered in a thick, viscous skin, and scales that are invisible to the naked eye.
- The European otter (Lutra lutra) is the most discrete and the most emblematic animal of the Marais Poitevin. Clues to its presence – tracks and droppings with a strong fishy smell – can be found everywhere.
- The rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) is a protected species of insect. It particularly likes wooded habitats.
- Damselflies (Zygoptera) differ from dragonflies by their thinner bodies and their wings which are usually folded at rest. It feeds on small insects and can be found near water.
- The large copper (Lycaena dispar) is a small butterfly with orange-red wings that’s typically found in wet habitats and, more specifically, marshes.
South Vendée Atlantic teems with a density of wildlife, so bring your sketch books and cameras and share your most beautiful findings with us! #faune #flore #SudVendeeLittoral #SouthVendeeAtlantic. After the animals, time for the plant life, and you won’t have time to get bored…
Plant life and vegetation
- The European beach grass (Ammophila arenaria) is a tall grass that grows in sand. This characteristic, together with its hardiness, makes it very useful for stabilising the dunes. It must be protected!
- The sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) is one of the most emblematic floral species of the French coastline, especially in sandy parts. It flowers from June to September. It has bluish, thorny leaves.
- The common glasswort (Salicornia europaea) is a halophyte plant that grows well in salty soil. It can be eaten raw like gherkins, or cooked. Be aware, however, that picking is forbidden in the Nature Reserve.
- The lax-flowered orchid (Anacamptis laxiflora) is a herbaceous plant of the orchid family. It has purple-red flowers and grows in wet prairies.
- The grass rush (Butomus umbellatus), also known as the flowering rush, is a waterplant species that lives in marshland and other wet habitats. It produces pinkish flowers.
- The maritime iris (Iris spuria subsp. Maritima) grows on the higher areas of the nature reserve at Saint-Denis-du-Payré which is a key observation site in France.
Plants that bend but never break
- The common reed (Phragmites australis) likes marshy areas. It is used locally for roofing. The reeds are a favourite shelter for passerine birds and small mammals.
- The common bulrush (Typha latifolia), also known as the cattail, grows near freshwater stretches. The plant can measure between 1.5 and 3 metres in height. It has several uses, like providing food to semi-aquatic mammals that feed on its rhizomes.
- The marsh iris, false sweet flag, or yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) is a perennial herbaceous plant found in marshland or near water. It flowers from April to July. This iris grows on the banks of ditches and likes to stand in water. Its characteristic flowers have 3 beautiful yellow petals.
- The marshmallow (Althaea officinalis L.), also called wild marshmallow or white marshmallow, is a herbaceous perennial. It flowers around July.
- The French tamarisk (Tamarisk gallica) is virtually the only bush that grows on the briny soils of the dry marshes.
- The wild teasel (Dispacus fullonum) is also known as the Fuller’s teasel. This large biennial plant is a real food store and watering hole for a number of foraging insects and birds.
The coastline vegetation is precious!
It helps to protect the soil by limiting erosion and provides wild animals with food and shelter and a place to breed. Please preserve this habitat by refraining from picking the plants; they are rare and protected and they help to stabilise the sand.
Be aware that in Nature Reserve zones, picking plants is strictly prohibited! When exploring, please respect our animal and plant life.