Daily routines

Season by season

Birds in the reserve don’t spend all their time waiting for members of the public to come along and watch them…they go about their daily business at their own pace – which may change according to the seasons and even the time of day When weather conditions become more extreme (temperatures above 28 to 30°C or below -5°C), the birds will change their daily routine in order to cope. During very hot weather, they will skulk in the shade or seek out currents of air which will help them cool down. When the weather is cold, they abandon the ponds and other bodies of water, now frozen over… In order to get the best possible views, the visitor has to adapt to the birds’ patterns of behaviour and daily routines…

Some birds are resident, others are wintering species, migrants orpartial migrants – there’s something for everyone in the world of nature… A species like the Grey Heron, for example, may be considered to be a ‘resident’ species, because it can be found all year round on the reserve and breeds there too.

If we look more closely, however, we will see that there are also individuals from Scandinavia, who stop off here before continuing to Africa, as well as those who arrive from northern Europe to spend the entire winter in the Arcachon Basin area. Thus the Grey Heron is simultaneously a resident, a migratory and a wintering species… As a result, the composition of the reserve’s bird population changes almost every day, especially during migration, so the list of birds present on the reserve changes with it. All seasons have something of interest for the visitor, because every season has its own special sights which are specific to that particular time of year and no other.

The rythm of the tides

The reserve borders the Arcachon Basin, notably the part of the Basin which is covered by a huge expanse of mudflats that are exposed at low tide. This geographical location is ideal as it enables thousands of birds to take shelter in the reserve when the tide is high, before setting off for the mudflats as soon as the tide retreats.

This regular mass movement of birds takes place by day and by night, as a full tidal cycle lasts for around twelve hours and occurs about an hour later with every 24 hour period that passes… From August to May the visitor must pay particular attention to the tide cycles in order to make the most of their visit. A highly-detailed tide table for the current year is available in the ‘Visiting the reserve’ section.

By day or by night

The alternation of night and day is a phenomenon which influences the behaviour of the vast majority of bird species. Most birds are active during the day and sleep during the night-time. However, other species are not dictated to by the time of day, but by the ebb and flow of the tides. A small number of species are mostly nocturnal (Night Heron).

The fall of night brings changes to bird behaviour – frequently they will group together in ‘dormitories’ or communal roosts until the morning. There are some remarkable sights that can only be seen in the reserveat morning or evening twilight, such as gatherings of Spoonbills, Cormorants and Great Egrets. Holders of passes can access the reserve outside of normal opening hours on a few days of each year, enabling them to share in these special moments.


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