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A bird reserve in the heart of Morlaix Bay

The Carantec peninsula is crammed with riches that you might not at first suspect. Lift your eyes and look around... you’ll notice above your head one of the most popular holiday destinations for seabirds: the skies of Morlaix Bay!

The ornithological reserve

Morlaix Bay is the third most important site in the region for seabird-breeding and a winter site of national interest. Here there are no less than 60 000 breeds (from 60 different species) living on the seven small islands that make up the reserve. The richness and variety of the waters here explain their ornithological value.

The reserve was created in 1962 by the SEPNB (Society for the study and protection of nature in Brittany) which, since 1998, has been known under the name of Bretagne Vivante-SEPNB. Its goal was to safeguard numerous species which had fallen victim to persecution and constant disruption. Initially, the reserve comprised three islands - Ricard, Beclem, and the Ile aux Dames - then in 1976 four more islands were added: Arc’hlaz, Arc’hlazkoz, Vezoul, the Île de Sable.

Les ilots de la Baie de Morlaix, réserve ornithologique, Bretagne

Anyone strolling by, even with no bird-watching experience, can spot a number of Gulls (10 000), Black-headed gulls (25 000), Dunlins (15 000), Pied oyster-catchers (1 700) or even Brant geese (1 500).

Hardened bird-watchers are attracted to Morlaix Bay by the colonies of Ternes: the Sanwich Tern and the Common Tern but also the famous Roseate Tern. These are one of the rarest and most threatened birds in Europe. Spending winter in West Africa, they return to our coasts to mate between April and September . And it’s here, on the Île aux Dames that you’ll find the only French-resident colony of Roseate Terns!

You can also see a large colony of great cormorants, shags and little egrets. But Morlaix Bay is also a favourite place for puffins with their enormous coloured beaks, and it’s a route for grey seals and certain sea-dwelling mammals (bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, common dolphin and the pilot whale).

Four hints to help you spot and bird-watch

So, you’ve decided: you want to spot some wildlife and learn to recognise some of the many species that add to the riches of our coastline. To do so, you’ll need your binoculars and a lot of patience! Here are some vital hints:

Choose your look-out post with care
The Customer-Officers’ trail known as the GR34 or the sentier des douaniers offers various viewpoints over the Bay. In Carantec, the most suitable viewpoints are the Passe aux Moutons near Île Callot, the Chaise du Curé, le Kelenn, the Points of Cosmeur and Pen al Lann, le Clouët and le Frout.

Choose the right time of year - and time of day
It’s possible to see the seabirds all year round but April and May are the best months to spot migrating birds. From November to February you’ll see the wintering birds.
As for what time of day, some are more fruitful than others: before 10am or around 2-4 hours before sunset.

Bring the right kit
If you’re out and about, kit yourself out with:

  • binoculars: ideally medium power (x8 ou x10), illuminated, wide field fo view, shock-resistant, lightweight, rainproof and in a discreet colour.
  • a notebook
  • a bird-spotters handbook to identify the birds you see

Refine your bird-watching technique
To identify a bird, many elements need to be taken into account: its size, its outline, the shape of its beak, the colour of its plumage, how it flies, in what habitat you’ve spotted it, and what its call is like. There are lots of questions to answer in order to give a name to your chosen bird!

Some guidelines for how to behave

There are certain rules fo good conduct when it comes to spotting birds and you’ll need to be aware of them if you’re out and about so that you don’t disturb the wildlife or birds, or the landscape in which they life. It’s thanks to these conditions that we continue to welcome all this wildlife on our Breton coasts.

  • Take as much care leaving your viewpoint as you did when arriving
  • Keep quiet and leave no litter
  • Respect the surrounding vegetation
  • Keep a good distance from any nests
  • Never touch or even photograph a nest
  • Never go and visit the colonies as this can disrupt and even harm the nesting chicks
  • If you’re in a boat or kayak, you are not allowed to go onto the islands from 1st February to 31 August and, for some of the islands, you have to stay more than 80 metres away at all times (shown by yellow buoys marking the zone).

Further information

Various ornithological activities are on offer throughout the year, organised by the Association "Bretagne Vivante", using Château du Taureau in the heart of Morlaix Bay, as a unique viewing point.

Bretagne Vivante SEPNB
186 rue Anatole France, BP 32
29276 Brest Cedex
Tel: 00+33 (0)2 98 49 07 18

Antenne de Morlaix
10 rue de Brest
29600 Morlaix