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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.
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!
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):
|Dunlin||Bécasseau Variable||Calidris Alpina|
|Common Redshank||Chevalier Gambette||Tringa totanus|
|Oyster Catcher||Huîtrier Pie||Haematopus Ostralegus|
|Ringed Plover||Petit Gravelot||Charadrius hiaticula|
|Red Knot||Bécasseau Maubèche||Calidris Canutus|
|Great Egret||Grande Aigrette||Egretta alba|
|Little Stint||Bécasseau Minute||Calidris Minuta|
|Sanderling||Bécasseau Limicole||Calidris Alba|
|Black-tailed Godwit||Barge à queue noire||Limosa Limosa|
|Green Sandpiper||Chevalier culblanc||Tringa Ochropus|
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!
|House Sparrow||Moineau domestique||Passer domesticus|
|Green Finch||Verdier||Chloris Chloris|
|Gold Finch||Chardonneret élégante||Carduelis carduelis|
|Common Linnet||Linotte mélodieuse||Linaria cannabina|
|Siskin||Tarin des Aules||Spinus Spinus|
|Yellowhammer||Bruant Jaune||Emberiza citrinella|
|Chaffinch||Pinson des arbres||Fringilla coelebs|
|Chiffchaff||Pouillot véloce||Phylloscopus collybita|
|Redwing||Grive mauvis||Turdus iliacus|
|Starling||Étourneau sansonnet||Sturnus vulgaris|
|Siberian Fieldfare||Grive litorne||Turdus pilaris|
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
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!
Have you found your favourite spot for birdwatching in Normandy? Let me know in the comments!