Îles Les Boules are situated less than 400 m from the south shore of the St. Lawrence estuary, near the village of Métis-sur-Mer, and about 50 km east of Rimouski, Québec. The two islands are small (approximately 0.1 ha each) and are separated by less than 300 m. The terrain consists of mostly bare rocks, which reach a maximum height of seven meters. Small reefs surround the islands.
During spring and fall migration, Îles Les Boules and the water around these tiny islands can be an excellent location for waterfowl and gulls. During fall migration, Common Eiders (subspecies dresseri) have been present in continentally significant numbers. For example, 3,000 birds were present in 1977, which is 2% of this subspecies' population. In the spring of 1984, a maximum high record of 440 Barrow's Goldeneyes (14% of the Special Concern eastern population) were also recorded. On other occasions numbers of Barrow's Goldeneye have not been so high, but on several occasions in both spring and fall over 1% of the eastern population is present. Migrating Great Black-backed and Herring gulls have been documented in significant numbers in spring. In 1991, 1,200 Great Black-backed Gulls (about 1% of the North American population) were seen in the area, and in 1993, 3,000 Herring Gulls were present (about 1% of its North American population).
Seabird colonies are present on both islands - the most abundant species is Double-crested Cormorant. This species nests on the ground, occupying the higher half of the rocky islands. The colony peaked in size in 1987 with 711 pairs, but has decreased since that time to 474 pairs in 1990, and then 160 pairs in 1999. Small numbers of Common Eiders, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull also breed on the islands.
The nationally endangered eastern population of Harlequin Ducks occur irregularly at this site, but there have never been more than one bird per sighting. During migration, Peregrine Falcons (nationally threatened) and Short-eared Owl (nationally vulnerable) are also seen annually in low numbers.
The St. Lawrence is an important seaway, with over 1,300 ships using the estuary annually. This makes oil spills a constant risk. The islands are easily accessed by small boats, and so there is a potential for the birds to be disturbed by boaters.
The landscape of the are is made out of Spartina marsh, eelgrass beds, rocky shores and gravel or pebbles beaches. Some rivers are hosting rainbow smelt spawning runs (the south shore population of the St. Lawrence middle estuary). At the beginning of the summer, it is possbile to observe capelin rolling on the beaches during spawning. The downstream migration of American eel toward their breeding sites in the Atlantic, which takes place in the fall, allows the capture of migraing adults using fishing weirs. Two other species commercially exploited are also roaming in the open waters of the estuary: the Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic herring.
Loss of fish habitat remains a major problem in the region. The dikes, for example, reduce the number of spawning habitats, while agricultural along the coast, the residential development and the presence of resorts together with coastal erosion are resulting in the destruction of several riparian ecosystems.
Major species present:
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)
The islands of the region are made out of schist and quartzite. Despite the harshness of the environment and climate, a surprising flora manages to grow there. In herbaceous areas, the fireweed and grasses, such as Small reed dominate. Small groves of wild rose, raspberry and Gooseberry ornament the landscape. Areas sheltered are colonized by spruces, which form small woodlands. In area swept by the tides, algae colonize the bedrock while the shallow areas are occupied by eelgrass.
The geographical barrier created by the St. Lawrence river provides the IBA a kind of natural protection, a protection often enhanced by legal protection. However, water pollution and the risks of oil spills remain a source of concern for the protection of the flora and fauna of this area.
Major species present :
Small reed / reed grass
|37 - 48||2015||Spring|
|30 - 100||1995||Spring|
|20 - 75||1994||Spring|
|25 - 50||1986||Spring|
|75 - 100||1985||Fall|
|50 - 180||1984||Winter|
|100 - 150||1984||Fall|
|20 - 440||1984||Spring|
|183 - 400||1982||Spring|
|70 - 300||1981||Spring|
|35 - 40||1979||Spring|
|20 - 150||1976||Spring|
|2,500 - 3,000||1993||Spring|