Birding at la Plaine de Sorques

A short drive from the house where we stayed, on rue Renoult in the village of Bourron-Marlotte (near Fontainebleau, south of Paris), is the Plaine de Sorques near the village of Montigny-sur-Loing. The Plaine is a protected nature conservation area, with two bird observatories overlooking the marsh.

From the parking lot, it’s a short walk to each of the observatories, but the closest observatory seems to be the main one and is very popular with birders and nature photographers in the area. One birder told my mother that the sightings at the first observatory tend to be better “75 percent of the time”! IMG_7175

Unfortunately, it was cloudy on both days that we visited Sorques, which wasn’t ideal for photography, but I got some decent photos.

Here’s the first observatory. As you enter the covered observatory, you can look out the (glassless) windows to the vast marsh beyond.


There were two other birders who were scanning for birds on the water. Any time they would see something of interest, they’d call me over so I could take a look. Not surprisingly, European birders are just as generous as North American birders.

On the lake were Mallards, Gadwalls, Common Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes, European Cormorants, Grey Herons, and Northern Lapwings. In fact, there were hundreds of lapwings, another life species for me.

This Northern Lapwing came very close to us. They are very dapper shorebirds with quite the “hair-do”,


I was very excited to see Tufted Ducks as they were a target species for me for the trip.

Two male Tufted Ducks,


A Grey Heron that landed close to the observatory,


One of the favourite birds that the French birders showed me was a Common Kingfisher which liked to perch close to the observatory and hunt for fish. The Common Kingfisher is electric blue on the back and wings with a chestnut-coloured breast.

The kingfisher flew to this perch three times in less than an hour,


The sun setting at Sorques,


My father and I drove to Sorques again at 9 am the next morning to see if I could spot some new species. Two photographers were already there waiting for the kingfisher!

A Mute Swan,


Both of the swans feeding along the edge of the marsh,


I saw two Common Kingfishers flying around the lake, and but this one stopped to do some fishing right in front of us,


While watching the kingfisher, five Little Grebes swam out of the willows past the observatory,


The photographers put some sunflower seeds on the ground and on a rail near the entrance to the observatory. A Marsh Tit was the first bird to check out the seeds,


A few European Robins were also interested in the seeds, but they were challenging to photograph. Here’s one of my better photos,


While I was trying in vain to get photos of the robins, this little bird showed up. It’s a Dunnock, a species that’s uncommon in France during the winter,


After an hour at the observatory, my father and I left since we had other plans for the rest of the day.

If you’re visiting the Fontainebleau area, take some time to visit la Plaine de Sorques. You’ll see some great birds in a beautiful part of the French countryside.

If you need more convincing to visit Sorques, look at my eBird checklists, here and here, from both of my visits to the observatory. And here are some lovely photographs from one of the photographers that I met.

On the way to the observatory I saw lots of trees with “balls” of leaves. I’m not sure what species of tree this is, or if a particular growth habit causes this, but I’d really like to know. My family thought they looked rather like Dr. Seuss trees.


8 thoughts on “Birding at la Plaine de Sorques

      • You can also find it in Germany, where it can be very common locally. However, in many parts of the country, it is quite rare. Mistletoes are an important food source for birds in winter since they have berries. Scanning the trees with mistletoes usually leads to observations of a few thrushes (one, the mistle thrush, is even named after the plant), and if you are VERY lucky during an influx year, you might even encounter Bohemian Waxwings. Which won’t be as special to you living in Alberta than to us here in Germany…
        That kingfisher is amazing! I haven’t seen one this well in years!!

      • Here, the Bohemian Waxwings love Mountain Ash berries. In town, some of the trees are just covered in waxwings! The kingfishers were a definite highlight. I wasn’t even expecting to see one as you know :)

  1. Mistletoe is very common in the southeastern US as well. It’s around in northeast Tennessee where I live, but not nearly as common as when you get into parts of Georgia and Florida. Do you have Mistletoe in Alberta?

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