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A marsh is a grassy meadow that is strongly influenced by salt from the sea. This type of nature is abundant in Denmark, among other places. The flatlands along the river that run out by Leirvågen, are the municipalities' largest marsh. At spring tide, these flatlands are flooded underwater for several hundred metres in over land.

As the name implies, there is much soft clay here ("leir" = "clay"), not only in the bay, but also in the grassy fields in over land. The clay was deposited by the Herdla moraine at the end of the last Ice Age, when the sea was 30 metres higher than today. The birdlife is lively on the grassy marshland: the Grey Goose both nests here and uses the area for moulting and resting. Annually, 2-3 pairs of Ringed Plovers nest here, as the only place in the lowlands of Hordaland with the exception of Herdla. The populations of Waxwing and Red Shank are also good. Such areas will probably also attract many unusual bird species during migration time. The cultural landscape inside is rich in passerine species, such as the Linnet and Barn Swallow, and as recently as in 1999, one could hear the rare Corncrake playing here.

Botanically, this marsh is not very diverse, but it has its own distinctive character. Norway sedge is a characteristic species in the swamp environment where remnants of the tidewater remains in pools until it partially or entirely evaporates. Also seaside alkaligrass manages to do well here. It grows quickly, with long creeping shoots and does its bit to keep the clay stable. In this way it also creates a good basis for the growth of such plants as brackish-mud rush, lesser sea-spurrey and slender spike rush.

  • Saltmarsh flat-sedge

Saltmarsh flat-sedge, a 10-20 centimetre-high blade of grass that grows in small areas along the beach, innermost in Leirvågen. (Bjørn Moe)

  • Ringed plovers

Ringed plovers . (Jan Rabben)

  • Byrkjeland, S.; Overvoll, O. 2003. Viltet i Austrheim.Kartlegging av viktige viltområde og status for viltartane. Austrheim kommune og Fylkesmannen i Hordaland, MVA-rapport 8/2003.