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Great crested grebes – Les Dombes I

Last June, I spent two weeks in France photographing birds from the floating hide. Thanks to my friend Sylvain Hello, I was able to guide two groups in the lake-rich area Les Dombes. Sylvain arranged permission to enter the lakes with the floating hide. These artificial lakes have been used to breed carp fish since the Middle Ages, and are very rich in birdlife today. Several species of grebes, herons, ducks and waders are found, but it was mainly the great crested grebe that drew my attention. So I worked hard to capture the essence of this bird.

The right surroundings

Although grebes are very common in Belgium and Europe, it’s quite challenging to find them on a lake that is not too deep (so you can use a floating hide), not too windy, not too big or too small, and with beautiful surroundings. And most of all, to find birds that are not too shy.

The floating hide enables you to move around, guided by the light conditions and backgrounds. You can easily choose your distance to the birds, very different from a fixed hide. It’s often harder work (muddy grounds, very slow walking or floating, sticky vegetation, hungry leeches) but you get unlimited artistic freedom in return. And since the birds are accustomed to the floating hide, conditions were perfect!


During these two weeks, I spent every morning and evening and some noons in the floating hide, which must have been up to 150 hours in the water! Encapturing scenes and extreme close-ups are the result! It was a joy to follow the birds and to see their nest-building evolving, watch them growing chicks, or moulting.

The first pictures are a small selection from almost 10.000 images I took only from the great crested grebes! I used a D4s, D800E, D7100 and 600mm F4, from a beanbag in my floating hide.

I will dedicate my next blog to some other bird species I encountered. Hope you enjoy my work!


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