When it comes to birding, big cities like Paris are not among the first choices for most nature enthusiasts. Many people – and I was one of them when I bought my first binoculars and telephoto lens ten years ago – think that cities are almost deserted when it comes to wildlife, or they’re just full of sparrows and pigeons. But they couldn’t be more wrong! Paris is home to almost 70 nesting bird species and you can see a wide variety of birds if you know where to look.
is the Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea), which is able to live in almost any city as long as it can find water and food (and they won’t hesitate to get their food from every source available, trust me). They also tend to be less afraid of people, which, for a photographer, allows for a whole new range of images, as this species is known to be quite shy in the wild.
You can get a lot closer without disturbing the birds and you can make good use of the artificial environment: the city lights by night are always gorgeous, for instance, or you can use the background to emphasize the urban context of the picture. These birds also have very strong habits and you’ll find them in the same place at the same time, almost every day.
The Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) can be found in almost every district of Paris and, once again, the fact that they get used to the noise and the people surrounding them makes the observations and the pictures even more fascinating. If you are lucky, you might even see the first flight of the young kestrels and their parents coming to feed them in the nest! As they tend to nest in high places, binoculars are always a great help to check what’s happening with the young ones before their first flight.
Beyond the birds, many other animals live in Paris, and with some patience and luck you might be able to see them. During the last two years, foxes were spotted in new places all over Paris and I was lucky enough to see a young individual in a cemetery where a pair of foxes had had some cubs a few months before. This moment will remain one of my best memories… The place is closed to the public quite early every afternoon but luckily I had been invited by the cemetery curator to spend the whole evening looking for the foxes.
And last but not least, my favorite mammal species: the squirrels. Here in France, we have Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and they are sometimes really shy. But as usual when they get used to the city, you can get really close to them (without feeding them, of course, as it can be really dangerous for them) and get some quite unusual shots!
Nicolas Davy is a French amateur nature photographer specializing in urban wildlife. As an engineer in a French start-up, he felt the need to reconnect with nature, so he bought some binoculars and a camera and started taking pictures of wild animals in Paris. He loves to show the beauty of “common” species found around where he lives. After more than ten years of photography in Paris and its suburbs, he believes that it’s critical for people to learn to love what they can find near them.
Then you don't have to travel far. The most wonderful discoveries are often waiting just around the corner. We asked our Nature Explorers team about the most beautiful experiences they had in their area.
Who knows? Maybe you will discover unexpected wonders right at your doorstep on your next outdoors adventure too.