Alan Dalton post's birding diaries and original artwork from Sweden. Established in 2006, this now long running blog is now a complete overview of my birding experiences. As an artist I greatly enjoy sketching birds in the field and you will find a wide selection of that work here, from fieldwork to finished paintings. I am very passionate about my artwork and try to depict birds in their natural habitat, as I see them in the wild. My artwork is for sale and can be viewed at http://www.alandalton.net/
As regards to my photography, since 2008 I have used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera coupled with a Sigma 150-500mm OS lens for since March 2012 for bird photography, all previous images being digiscoped. Regarding sound recording, I have been usung a Telinga Stereo Dat Mic and parabol to record birds in the field, coupled to a Marrantz 661 digital recorder, a superb piece of kit. Interest in butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies has recently seen the accquisition of a Sigma 150mm macro lens. I hope you enjoy the blog and please feel free to leave comments or contact me at alandltn@gmail.com

Monday, December 22, 2014

Argentatus Herring Gull in December

 2nd Calendar year/2nd winter plumage.


 Yound birds are rather variable. Note there the dark bill of the bird to the rear.


 A rather dark 1st calendar bird here. Such individuals are not uncommon at all.


 Birds feeding on food left out by visiting people who often feed these birds at the site..


2nd Calendar Year/2nd winter

Photo's and video here of Argentatus Herring Gull from Skeppsbron today. Around 110 birds were present, though as always it is hard to gauge how many birds are around as they are coming and going all the time. All images were taken with the Panasonic Gh4, which will prove to be a major boon for gull watching I think.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard; Hjälstaviken; December 2014

 An adult male Rough legged Buzzard, a cracking bird which gave me breathtaking views today. The photos are terrible due to the dark light, though here on the underwing the solid dark trailing edge to the wing can just be seen here. The inner primaries and secondaries were very clean wite and lacked much barring. The tail was that of a classic male, with a dark subterminal band.



Note the rather well marked undercarriage and generally very dark appearance.

The day was spent at Hjälstaviken today as a result of some good raptor observations in the area over the past few weeks. There was a lot of cloud forecast, though full days off are at a premium right now and I decided to go anyhow, despite the feeling that birds of prey might not be very mobile in overcast conditions. I arrived at around 09.30am and immediatly picked up a large raptor perched in a low tree on the north section of the lake. It proved not to be the Golden Eagle I had very much hoped for, though it was in fact a very nice White Tailed Eagle, an adult bird. It was obscure and did not allow a close approach before moving off. As it moved away I glanced to my left and clocked a buzzard sitting in a spruce tree not far from my position. The bird sat tight and allowed me to get some images and video footage and proved to be a lovely adult male bird. I watched it for around thirty minutes before it moved off. Despite the terrible light it gave stunning scope views that were surely the best I have ever had of this enigmatic species.
 Onwards towards Hårby, where I had two mor Rough-legged Buzzard, though both of these birds were very distant. I scanned to distant pines for lager birds, locating two adult White Tailed Eagle for my trouble, as well as a distant Great Grey shrike. to the west I had a Hen Harrier quartering the meadows at Vaster Til, even at range the bird was identifiable a a female type Hen Harrier. Things were going well at this point, though that would change as it began to snow quite heavily and the visibility dropped dramatically. It was nice to be out in the open country more the first snow of the year, though I was quite sure the weather would see most birds sit tight, particularly birds of prey and it was tough going from this point onwards, with no let up in the weather. A Green woodpecker was closely followed by a Black Woodpecker, whilst 21 migrating Whooper Swans made a nice sight as the winged their way southwest over my head. There were no geese at the site, the lake already being frozen over. small birds were at a premium, with just Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, a single Wren, Blackbird, Fieldfare and a small group of Goldfinch note. Winter has truly arrived. In the end, my hopes of Golden Eagle did not materialise, though the views of Rough legged Buzzard alone made the trip worthwhile.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fieldfare Sketches








Been a while once I did any drawing from life, these Fieldfares were drawn today from my kitchen window. there are twenty or so of these birds present at a time feeding on berries out the back garden and it took me being housebound due to the sore throat and chest to get around to looking at them properly. The birds have been present for some days now and generally are most noticeable ay first light when they can be heard calling. They make good subjects to draw as they often spend time at rest, when they stay reasonably still. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grey Heron; Rästasjön; 19th November 2014


















A selection of digiscoped efforts from today, the herons work well in black and white for me. though the light was excellent today...


A day out around Rästasjön saw me start at the Larch tree where the Two-barred Crossbill have been feeding, though on arrival it was quiet. A pair of Goshawks were a welcome distraction and I watched them chasing each other through the woods, an adult male seemingly being harassed by a huge juvenile female, quite possibly one go his own young. I narrowly missed a great phot opportunity before the birds departed, dropping off their perches like stones and melting into the woodland.
 A few minutes later the trumpeting of a Two-barred Crossbill was heard as a single female bird flew in and spent just a few minutes in the area, feeding briefly before laving the are. I decided to move on and bgan my walk around the lass at Rästasjön, lots of Coot, Mallard and 14 Gadwall were quickly noted. In the centre of the lake there were still 7 Great Crested Grebe present, whilst a brief view of a Water Rail was nice at the usual site for the species. i was disappointed to find the bird feeding station not yet in operation, though i had nice views of some Coal Tits there. Onwards around the lake and there was little of note, so I spent some time digiscoping the local Grey Herons, which were showing well in wonderful light.
 After leaving the lake I returned to the Larch tree without success, but there was a bonus on the way back to the train station. i picked up the call of Waxwing from the road and after ten minutes pottering around i tracked the birds to a couple of apple trees in a suburban garden. The birds were feeding on the far side of the tree for the most part, thug I did manage some nice video footage of these wonderful birds. One bird struck a window close by, though happily it recovered after a short time, a little dazed, but none the worse for the experience. Also feeding on the apples were Fieldfare, Blackbirds and a pair of Jay. all in all a very nice few hours out in the first day of good light in a couple of weeks...
Here is a lovely bit of video I shot today, the light was golden and the birds were showing really well in the trees on a small island in the east of the lake...

Click on settings to watch in HD...

Two-barred Crossbills; Lötsjön; 18th November 2014















Images of female Two-barred Crossbill, wonderful birds, brimming with character...

Two-barred Crossbill are always a bit special. The news that birds were frequenting a Larch tree in Solna saw me make the trip to Lötsjön in the hope reacquainting myself with the species and perhaps getting some decent photos and perhaps footage of some adult females.
 On arrival the birds were not present, though it did not take long for some Common Crossbills to fly past, though they seemed flighty and did not settle. This was probably due to attention from a Goshawk the previous afternoon! Eventually, after thirty minutes or so, i picked up the distinctive trumpeting call of Two-barred Crossbill. Soon, seven birds appeared in the tops of the nearby pines, a couple of males among them, all of them calling constantly. They seemed nervous, though three females did come down and begin to feed in the Larch, whilst the other birds flew off to the west. I figured there was a strong possibility these birds were frequenting the local graveyard to the west where several birds took up residence a couple of years ago. I decided to concentrate on the females in front of me and managed to get some great views as the birds gained confidence. once again, as i watched these birds, I was struck by just how parrot like they are in their behaviour,using their bills to climb around the branches! Despite the rather poor light I managed some reasonable digiscoped photos and some nice video footage, which i will post at the bottom of the text here. I spent a couple of hours watching the birds before the last of the light went and I headed off.

Click on settings on the video toolbar to select HD

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Northern Goshawk, Adult Male, Lötsjön, 17th November 2014



Adult male Northern Goshawk at Lötsjön, a stunning view of an amazing bird...


Whilst standing watching a mixed group of Crossbills, I was just preparing my camera in order to digiscope the Two-barred Crossbills among them when there was an almighty crash as a Goshawk appeared out of nowhere, sending Larch cones and Crossbills in all directions. The bird missed it's taget and retired to a nearby tree, where it sat for some time resting, much to my delight. It allowed me to finally get some video of a species I have long wanted to film. The bird is an adult male, a local breeder that has been present at the site for some years. i have seen and even photographed this guy before, though todays encounter was just a little bit special...


Video here, click on settings in oder to see the video in high resolution...


Red-backed Shrike predating Savi's Warbler, Batumi Harbour, 2nd Otober 2014

 Above and below, not something you see every day, a Red backed Shrike predating a Savi's Warbler at Batumi Harbour...





 The unwitting victim. note the small head, fine bill and quite long primary projection. also here, one can see the long under tail coverts, classic 'locustella'.


 Note the fresh inner primaries on the bird, the bird showing a clear moult window, indicating it is in at least it's second calendar year.


A view here of the under tail covert's, pale coffee brown with pale tips to the under tail coverts, a key feature in the identification of Savi's Warbler.


Another view of the moult in the wing. note that the primary coverts corresponding to the inner primaries are also new, which is usual in moulting passerines...

A photographic record here of a Red-backed shrike predating Savi's Warbler, an event we were amazed to witness at Batumi harbour. The shrike flew across the path in front of me with a passerine, clearly still alive at that point and proceed to perch in a low bush where it dispatched the unfortunate victim. to our amazement, looking on with the scopes, it seemed this was a Savi's Warbler. The Shrike then dropped its prey and we decided to have a closer look, much to the shrikes annoyance, which scolded us from a nearby perch. We grabbed a few quick photos  of the hapless victim, still warm but very much dead, before moving away, only to see the shrike reclaim its prize quickly. A quite amazing bit of behaviour...

Caspian Stonechat, race 'hemprichii', Batumi Harbour, 2nd October 2014

 First bird photographed, typical impression was of a rather pallid Stonechat. Nice apricot wash over the breast and flanks, with quite clean whitish belly and vent. Typical appearance of the head here. with darker ear covert's and throat contrasting with lighter brown crown.



 Here a male gives a superb view of the tail as its swallows a Darter sp. The wheatear like pattern on the tail is striking, with well over 50% the tail feathers being white, indeed, substantially more. This key feature dictates that these birds belong to the northern taxa of Caspian Stonechat, ssp. 'hemprichii'. The southern taxa is now referred to a ssp. 'variagata' and has considerably more dark in the tail, more than 50% of the tail feathers appearing dark.



 This individual was rather dark on the breast and flanks. Note the white on the central throat, a common feature with male birds at the site.



 Note the darker ear coverts and throat, typical of Caspian Stonechat, which shows a lighter brown crown and forehead.



 Again, note the pallid appearance, as well as the white rump, dark ear coverts and throat and light apricot wash across the breast and flanks on this male bird...



From behind a remarkably striking bird. Note the contrasting appearance. The dark areas on the tail contrasts with the outer tail and white rump. There is also extensive white in the wing at the tips of the inner greater coverts and bases of the outer tertials. Also apparent here is a pale, well demarciated collar. This is not a bird that one might walk past in western Europe without casting a second glance..


This individual doesn't shot a great deal of white at the tips of the inner greater covert's, or on the fringes of the tertials.The crown, mantle and scapulars are rather light toned also. It seems there is considerable variation in these bird.



 The same bird as in the photo directly above and the only shot I managed showing a hint of the dark auxiliaries and underwing primary coverts. Easily seen in the field, with strong contrast between these and the pale flanks in flight. Note also the pale rump and upper tail covert's with a light apricot wash...



 A female type. Not enough photos taken I'm afraid. Note the pale edges to the tertials and secondaries, pale apricot rump, which was striking in the field. Ome dark in front of the eye and running under the eye along the ear covert's. Indistinct supercilium, particularly behind the eye. Obvious pale throat and pale underparts.



 Again a male here at close range...



 A rather warm toned male here, not as contrastingly marked as some, a rather unremarkable individual.



Another rather drab bird, again a rather nondescript male?

Photos here of a host of Caspian Stonechats, with discussion below the photos. The harbour area was crawling with these birds on the day and it was rather overwhelming. One could happily spend a few days grilling these birds alone in order to learn as much as possible.

Video footage here, click on settings to view HD

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Migrant Reed Warblers at Batumi Harbour, 2nd October 2014

BIRD 1. Putative Caspian Reed Warbler at Batumi Harbour, Georgia. On a day when thousands of Reed Warbler were present it was a great opportunity to get some photos of these birds in the field for later analysis. Given the location it seems Caspian Reed Warbler should not only be present, but should perhaps be prevalent? Assume nothing and examine the photographs I figured, everything should fall into place...


BIRD 1. On this view a Reed Warbler indeed, though nothing remarkable and certainly not identifiable to race. Many of these birds looked very warm toned in the field in general, with darkish lords from a head on angle, obvious eyeing and poorly marked supercilium.




BIRD 1. This is a key shot and it shows the detail of the wing formula. Note the long outer most P2, which falls equal to or is slightly longer than P4. Also, p3 can be seen here to be emarginated. Note the presence of distinct white tips to the primaries on both outer and inner webs. Note also the whitish tips to the tertials. This surely shows a Caspian Reed Warbler A. (scirpaceus) fuscus.





BIRD 1.The same bird here as above, showing classic Caspian Reed Warbler features, best seen in the lower shot above here.





BIRD 2. Things were far from simple! Views of these skulking birds varied, as one might expect. This one seems to show less white on the primary and tertial tips. Inconclusive at best...



BIRD 3. Another bird which I think shows enough for identification as Caspian Reed Warbler. Note again the whitish primary tips. This bird showed a very warm rump. Distinct eyeing and supercilium not extending beyond the eye...


BIRD 3. Note the rather clean underparts, with warmer flanks.




BIRD 4. A typical view of Reed Warbler. 




BIRD 5. An interesting couple of shots here of a bird showing no whitish  tips on the primary fringes, or on the tertials. A very fresh plumaged bird this, almost surely a first calendar bird.


BIRD 5. Note here the better view of a rather bright looking rump, noticeably lighter rufous tan the rest of the upper parts.



BIRD 6. Again, note the primary tips on this bird. Also note the rather pale tips to the tail feathers on this individual.


BIRD 6. Again showing a rather warm rump, distinct eye ring and similar super cilium as the other birds.


BIRD 6




BIRD 7. Yet again, distant white primary and tertial tips.




BIRD 8. A somewhat different looking bird here, which I suspect is an adult. Looking closely at the terias, primary coverts and other retraces, it is apparent that this bird is showing a great deal of wear in these feathers, indicative of a non juvenile bird. 



BIRD 8. Here, yet again, the pale primary tips, not as apparent in this bird, due to feather wear. The wear in the trials is very apparent in this photo. Adult birds are greatly outnumbered on passage by 1st calendar birds, particularly late in the autumn.



BIRD 8. Note the here long primary projection, the bird showing eight primaries projecting past the tertials. The primaries appear rather dark on comparison to the rest of the retraces at rest, a classic feature of Reed warbler. 





BIRD 9. This bird was digiscoped at longer range, though looked rather pale in the field. Looking at the photos one might struggle to even determine this bird as a Reed Warbler. Impressions in the filed are very subjective, dependent of the light and a host of other factors.



BIRD 9. Note the warmer toned rump, whilst the facial pattern and supercilium are indicative of Reed Warbler also.
BIRD 9

Here a selection of shots of migrant Reed Warblers from Batumi Harbour, all taken on 2nd October 2014. It would seem the huge majority of the Reed Warblers present at the site were indeed Caspian Reed Warbler, as one might expect, given the location. As always, once you start to look closely at numbers of birds, variation begins to be encountered. with these birds, many showed very distinct whitish primary tips, often extending to the  secondaries and tertials. Some birds showed rather pale tipped tail feathers, particularily on the outer tail feathers. Others, seen quiet well, showed rather dark primaries.
A handful of very cold toned, distinctly greyish birds were seen in the field, though I did not manage any DSLR images of these birds at close range, though we suspected these were birds from further east. These birds are extremely difficult to see well in the field, due to their skulking behaviour. Even when they show well, it is often so briefly, that getting a clear picture of the bird is extremely difficult. Photographs are invaluable in this regard.