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Le Baie de l'Aiguillon

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Le Baie de l'Aiguillon is all that is left of the great Gulf of Picton, it is a place where there is an interaction between land and sea, between freshwater and saltwater, and between man and nature, these interactions are numerous yet it is a graceful transition from the continent to the ocean. With the rhythm of the daily tides the landscape changes, revealing the extensive mudflats and salt marshes at low tide, yet completely immersing the bay at high tide, and only being held back by the man made dykes.
The Baie de L'Aiguillon we see today is the result of first, the natural silting up of the Gulf of Picton and secondly the successive drainage work that has been carried out from the middle ages to the  present day, which reclaimed some 100 000 hectares of land and formed the Marais Poitevin. These polder lands and meadows almost encircle the bay and the rivers, canals and ditches which still drain these lands end up in the bay bringing with them important nutrients.
It is the meeting point of two eco-systems; that of the Marais Poitevin and the Pertuis Breton as the area of the bay is referred to. It is typical of an estuary or enclosed bay which forms a biological system around the ever depositing sediments. It is an area where only specialised and often rare plants survive along with birds and animals that have adapted to the conditions.
The Baie de l'Aiguillon is a National Nature Reserve, indeed it is one of the most important reserves in France, receiving hundreds of thousands of migratory water birds every year. It is a bird watchers paradise with over a third of all Avocets in France over-wintering here. The quality and richness of these waters attract waders and waterfowl, over 45,000 waders from Greenland and Siberia stop off here, and 25,000 to 35,000 waterfowl including ducks, geese and swans (also staying) are winter residents in the bay.
Man has not only interacted by draining and containing the Marais Poitiven but has also harnessed the natural wealth of the bay. Today the mussel farms of the Baie de l'Aiguillon are of great economic importance. It is said that one third of all mussels farmed in France come from here. On the salt marsh meadows sheep are grazed, it is an area of fragile eco-structures where man works in harmony with nature to the good of both.




Return to the Marais Poitevin

Red Kite nesting structures