Photographing Wading Birds in Normandy

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Winter in Normandy, in particular, on the west side is dominated by two moods. Wet and windy or Icy and blue. No inbetween. Of course, this makes perfect outdoor weather. Personally, all weather is perfect for walking, except for torrential rain and lightning, so a little bit of drizzle can’t hurt me, or my camera equipment. I talk more about this in my post about taking pics in the rain here.

Now, Manche being the only department in France with north, east, and west coastlines, means it is a pretty unique place for wildlife. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in particular has a unique ecosystem due to the tidal patterns, which in turn attracts unique and interesting migrating wildlife. Inland, in western Normandy, there are many marshes that promote other wading wildlife, but I won’t be mentioning that too much in this post.

Where to Find Wading Birds in Normandy?

As I live on the borders of Manche (50), Calvados (14), and Orne (61) I have found that the best places happen to be in Manche. Here is a map of locations below. Pink markers are places for sea birds and waders, and Orange markers are reed beds and marshlands.

map of points in la manche to see birds

In terms of accessibility, there are many places to park and stop, but not many places are built for dedicated bird watching so be sure to pack supplies and be ready to trek across footpaths, dunes, and rocky paths!

two dunlins in the sandbank in dragey ronthon france. image by briony-molly media
Pair of Dunlins

List of Wading Birds (French and English Names)

France is located in the Western Palearctic, one of the eight biogeographic realms dividing the Earth’s surface. This means throughout the year there is a huge range of wildlife that visits. In winter, be sure to check out the following wading birds (échassiers):

DunlinBécasseau VariableCalidris Alpina
Common RedshankChevalier GambetteTringa totanus
Oyster CatcherHuîtrier PieHaematopus Ostralegus
Ringed PloverPetit GravelotCharadrius hiaticula
LapwingVanneauVanellus Vanellus
Red KnotBécasseau MaubècheCalidris Canutus
Great EgretGrande AigretteEgretta alba
Little StintBécasseau MinuteCalidris Minuta
CurlewCourlisNumenius Arquata
SanderlingBécasseau LimicoleCalidris Alba
Black-tailed GodwitBarge à queue noireLimosa Limosa
Green SandpiperChevalier culblancTringa Ochropus
For more birds see

Other Common Winter Birds

Beaches and Marshes don’t have exclusive wildlife rules. Birds of all types live in, around, and frequent the beach as much as the traditional wading birds and gulls. To see other lists head over to my previous birdwatching post here!

Green Finches and Linnet on the beach
House SparrowMoineau domestiquePasser domesticus
Green FinchVerdierChloris Chloris
Gold FinchChardonneret éléganteCarduelis carduelis
Common LinnetLinotte mélodieuseLinaria cannabina
SiskinTarin des AulesSpinus Spinus
YellowhammerBruant JauneEmberiza citrinella
RobinRouge-GorgeErithacus rubecula
ChaffinchPinson des arbresFringilla coelebs
ChiffchaffPouillot vélocePhylloscopus collybita
RedwingGrive mauvisTurdus iliacus
StarlingÉtourneau sansonnetSturnus vulgaris
Siberian FieldfareGrive litorneTurdus pilaris
For more birds see

Of course, there are dozens of more birds out there. These are the ones that I have personally seen the most off while out and about. On my bird table in the south of Manche, I do see other songbirds, tits, and woodpeckers. However, these are not as common as these other birds.

Camera Equipment & Settings

Equipment I use for birding:
Canon 6dii with Sigma 150-600mm
Canon 6d with 24-105mm (polarising filter)
Harness for two cameras
Sports monopod

To understand settings in M mode, see my basic photography post.
With the 6dii set up with the 150-600mm Sigma lens, the focal length becomes a huge factor. For this reason, I like to shoot wholly manually with an auto ISO setting set to max at 6400 ISO.

Depending on the lighting, I like to use a shutter at a minimum of 1/500 to ensure crisp focus at such a long focal length; even with a monopod for stability.

Things to Consider:
Wildlife photography and sports photography have a low hit rate compared to portraits and landscape photography. In film days, in a roll of 30, you would be lucky to get 1 or 2 good shots of a bird. In the digital world, it’s between a 10-20% hit rate. Out of 480 photos, getting 48-60 good shots is a good day.

There are good days and bad days. Somedays you will get the golden goose so to speak, whether it is a breathtaking landscape, your favourite portrait photo, or a rare bird!

ringed plover on a sand bar in France. Image taken by Briony-Molly media
Common Ringed Plover

Have you found your favourite spot for birdwatching in Normandy? Let me know in the comments!


Published by Briony-Molly

Photographer & Designer. Horse Owner, Book Fanatic

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