06 December 2018

Mud, rocks, marshes... and storms

So there was no beach, or at least no sandy beach, at the edge of the Baie d'Aiguillon at Esnandes. There was a rocky shore. You wouldn't want to walk on it bare-footed. The tide was very low when we were there.

Along that shore, there were several of these high wooden piers (below) equipped with big square nets used catching small fish, shrimp, and crabs (I imagine). The nets are lowered into the water, presumabley at high tide, and after a while they are pulled back up by their edges, scooping up anything that has walked or swum onto them.

There were a lot of birds feeding on the mudflat. I didn't get very many good pictures of them because they mostly weren't close to the shore. There was however a sign near the shore that showed a lot of them, and explained how they used their long beaks to find, catch, and open mollusks, for example, or eat worms and other creatures that live in the mud and water.

Looking across the bay toward the north, on the horizon you could see a very very thin strip of land with trees and houses on it. My long-zoom camera lens could "see it better than could my naked eye.

The Baie d'Aiguillon is the estuary through which the slow-flowing Sèvre Niortaise river flows into the ocean. A decade ago in late February, a very violent storm — une tempête — a cold-weather hurricane, really — which was given the name Xynthia, came ashore here. We remember it well, because we felt the effects all the way back in Saint-Aignan. Two plum trees in our back yard were uprooted by high winds, and a dozen heavy concrete roof tiles went flying off our roof.

On the coast, the storm surge was devastating. It has been compared to a tsunami. As many as 50 people along this low-lying coast were killed, most of them in La Faute-sur-Mer (on the upper left corner of the Google Maps image above). For scale, I'll tell you that the town of La Faute is 11 miles northwest of Esnandes, which also suffered a lot of flood damage. In the storm's aftermath, the French government bought some 700 houses that had been built in zones that flooded during Xynthia and tore them down, in order to prevent such disasters in the future.


  1. Oh, wow, I remember when the tiles flew off your roof, but I don't think I realized that this kind of damage had happened elsewhere in France.

    1. There was a very big storm in 1999 that knocked down a lot of the trees in the park at Versailles, and in Paris, where street trees were just broken off at ground level. France has its share of windstorms.

      It's weird here right now because it's so warm. I was talking to a grape-grower the other day. He was out in the vineyard doing the winter pruning of the vines. He said les moucherons — gnats — were driving him crazy. That's weird in December, when it should be much too cold for gnats to be able to survive.

  2. That's a very nice sign. I didn't know those ugly worms lived in the sand.

  3. The sign showing how the shorebirds feed on the mudflats is excellent, such signs are needed here at all Queensland shorebird habitats...thanks for showing it Ken.

  4. I seem to remember that there was a class action to sue the mayor of La Faute for allowing the houses to be built on such a vulnerable site in the first place.


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