A Moment of Escape

Meeting the Birds of the Dombes
Lever de soleil sur un étangLe soleil se lève sur un étang de la Dombes

This morning, the Dombes, at dawn, is covered with a white mist. I set out, through fields and forests, to meet the birds.

Michael tells

The Monthieux Observatory

The shutters of the houses are still closed, and the agricultural machines are asleep, but the birds are already awake: chirping, cooing, and chattering fill the treetops. Dew adorns the grass along the path to the hut hidden in the reeds with glistening pearls. It’s best to be equipped with boots to keep your feet dry in the morning chill.

I sit on a bench, binoculars in one hand, a thermos of hot coffee in the other, and open the hatch overlooking the Vernange Pond.

The Birds Appear

The blue mirror formed by the pond is dotted with white and yellow gems: buttercups and other plants.

Amidst them, the majestic palace of the king of the ponds: a swan broods its eggs, another emerges from the reeds carrying a branch in its beak for the nest. Not far away, in the rushes, a heron waits, motionless, eyes fixed on a prey hidden from my view. A sudden chatter from the jay interrupts it: the great wader hunches, leans forward, and in a bound, it rises into the air. Its broad wings, like two sails, beat slowly, and it flies away. I think, oh Heron, suspend your flight, so I can watch you a bit longer, but it is already out of sight.

A Dance on the Water

The fog lifts, and the chill gives way to a gentle breeze. The reeds sigh in this Zephyr and wake the marsh creatures, which start their croaking. More birds appear now: swallows perform acrobatics above the water, in the reeds you can hear buntings, and some pairs of ducks begin searching for food. Only the great crested grebes seem unconcerned with food: two of these elegant birds, with pointed beaks and russet crests, seem to make the pond the stage for their ballet. They start a courtship dance, sometimes lifting their heads, sometimes stretching them close to the water, then they dive and resurface with plants in their beaks.

“It’s their courtship display: the grebes perform a sort of synchronized seduction dance during which they present plants as gifts. They then use them to build their floating nest. These are unique birds. In a few weeks, when the chicks hatch, the mother will carry them on her back until they can swim alone. Meanwhile, the father feeds them directly on the mother’s back.”

The Song of Birds

Totally absorbed by the spectacle, I hadn’t heard this gentleman arrive, who settled in the observatory with me. He introduces himself as an ornithologist. Clearly, he masters the silent approach to avoid scaring the birds. I stay a bit longer, and he provides information about the birds we see. He even helps me recognize some bird songs. One rings out that rivals the parakeets of tropical forests. “That’s the European oriole,” he tells me. “You hear it more often than you see it.” But today, I’m lucky: a bird the size of a blackbird flies over the pond and lands on a branch on the other side. Its song matches its plumage, with a bright yellow unmatched in France.

Satisfied with my morning, I take leave of the ornithologist and head back to my car. The air is warmer now, and the morning sun bathes the landscape in a golden hue. My eyes drop, where the dew pearls covered the grass, there is a small blue feather, like a gift left by the jay. I take it as a souvenir of this beautiful morning.

Why Should You Come?

A Place Dedicated to Birdwatching
Take Time for a Pause
A Moment of Reconnection with Nature


in the Dombes
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How to Experience This ?

Dombes Tourisme

Place du Champ de Foire 01400 Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne

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