Situated east of the town of Donges in the Loire-Atlantique departement and squeezed between the village of Assac, a railway line, an industrial area with oil refinery and a large reedbed is an area known as La Jallais. A drivable track runs through the area with pasture fields on each side and various hedgerows, ditches and an embankment at the north-eastern end, the other side of which is more open pasture and prairie land leading to Donges Est and it’s reedbed. It’s a small enough little area to cover with a gentle fairly bird-less stroll taking less than an hour but a thorough search with a few birds around easily occupying a whole morning.
At 3 km from my house it’s easy to do whenever I have the time or inclination and over the past year I’ve seen a nice selection of species: Whinchats and Wheatears moving through in numbers on passage, flocks of Yellow Wagtails, Redstart, Bearded and Penduline Tit, plenty of Tree Pipits plus Tawny and Richard’s Pipit and Red-backed Shrike, one of my favourite species. I reckon the site has great potential from something really good, notwithstanding the aforementioned Richard’s Pipit which overwintered !
Given the mosaic of micro-habitats almost anything could turn up here from warblers to finches, buntings, pipits and larks obviously, shrikes, raptors and even waterbirds. I had a very good candidate for a Baltic Gull here in spring of this year though the views were a bit distant and the photos inconclusive. Anyway, I like the idea of getting to really know all the birdlife of a particular area and the excitement of seeing and adding something new to the site list. It’s great to see the same few pairs of Stonechats on each visit, realising that more migrating pipits have arrived since yesterday or watching a family of Red-backed Shrikes gradually exploring the area with their offspring. It’s stuff like this that makes birding so special !
Here are some photos and a map to give some idea of the site and surrounding areas.
Map showing the general layout of La Jallais with the main areas I cover shaded in yellow. The railway line bisects the industrial zone from east to west. Most of the site can be covered from the main track which starts in the village of Assac and continues almost to the Loire river. Much of the western part of the patch bordering the oil refinery is pretty inaccessible off the track due to the dense prickly bushes except for one open zone.
Looking west towards the oil refinery
The Pipit fields, situated on the south side of the track with the reedbed and Donges Est in the background.
Looking east along the track