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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Toftberget; Northern Uppland; 30th March 2008

Grey Headed Woodpecker(female)

Parrot Crossbill

Parrot Crossbill
After a short sleep we rose at 04.45 and were quickly on the move. First stop was the Eagle Owl site, though yet again there was no activity perhaps due to the wind. We moved on and again tried for calling Ural Owl without any success either, before heading for Toftberget.
We arrived at the site just before sunrise, mainly in order to listen for drumming woodpeckers. Things were rather quiet at first, before the first drumming was started by Greater Spotted Woodpeckers. A Green Woodpecker called soon after and then we hit gold. Again a whistled immitation of a call resulted in a response, this time the species called in was a male Grey Headed Woodpecker! Amazingly it was followed by not one, but two females and we were amazed to realize there were no less than three Grey Headed Woodpeckers in the tree we were looking at! This is a very scarce species in Sweden and to see three together is truly exceptional. We watched them for a while before our attention was called elsewhere by some outstanding birds.
Almost every species we hoped to see at the site put in an appearance over the next 90 minutes or so. First were 5 male Black Grouse that flew low over the trees, a brief but excellent view. Another then appeared from nowhere and perched on a spruce for ten seconds or so. Next we were treated to 9 Bean Geese, Willow Tits, Crested Tit, 9 Mealy Redpoll and a probable Common Crossbill. Then a lifer for Aidan came in the form of a pair of Parrot Crossbills that gave very good views as they perched in a spruce top before flying off calling loudly.
We then moved sites in order to search for another wanted species. We were fortunate to flush four Capercaillie from close to a known lekking area later in the morning, three males and a probable female, though it was not seen well as it crashed through low vegetation and dissapeared into the forest. As further searches for Hazel Hen proved useless later into the early afternoon we decided to call it a day. Not quite finished though and a large flock of 85 Whooper Swans were seen on the return journey in a field alongside the road. All in all a fantastic weekend's birding, one of those rare times when everything fell into place and good fortune was firmly on our side.


Ural Owl; Northern Uppland, 29th March 2008

Ural Owl

Ural Owl

Ural Owl

Ural Owl
Ural Owl is a major challenge to see anywhere and we visited northern Uppland realistically thinking to hear one would be a result, if we could glimpse one briefly in the darkness, then we would be really happy. What transpired very much superseeded our expectations...
We arrived at the site at around 17.30 and picked up a few commoner species straight away. A flock of 10 Mistle Thrush fed on the rough meadow, whilst 6 Northern Long Tailed Tits flitted through some nearby brush. Common Buzzard was in evidence, but better still was a cracking male Goshawk that Aidan picked up perched in a spruce tree. It eventually gave us a great flight view as it moved left over the trees.
After waiting for the dusk to start falling to listen for owls our attention was drawn to an area on the forest edge by the Mistle Thrushes, which were clearly aggitated by something and were kicking up a racket in the nearby trees. As nothing could initially be picked up from where we stood, we were wondering if the Goshawk was still in the area. That notion was soon dismissed when Magnus, who had joined us for the rest of the trip, wandered up the road and discovered the true cause tucked tightly against the trunk of a birch tree, low down on the forest edge, Ural Owl. We could not believe our good fortune as we watched it at about 120 metres in fading, but still daylight. This was a huge bonus for us and we really enjoyed every second. Again the bird was hunting and watched and listened carefully for prey as we looked on in awe. After ten minutes it drifted back into the woods and out of sight.
A short while later, still elated, we located 2 Pygmy Owls, one of which we managed to call in when Magnus imitated the call. The incoming bird initially almost hit him as it zoomed straight in! It gave us another virtuoso display of attitude, scolding us for five minutes at close range before dissapearing as quickly as it arrived. The calls given suggested strongly that this was a female bird rather than a male, though we could not be certain of this. As darkness fell four very, very happy birders left the area.
Further attempts to hear Ural Owl calling failed in the early part of darkness, as did a stop at a site for Eagle Owl. We headed back for food and sleep after a couple of hours, after a celebratory sip of scotch at the accomadation!



Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pygmy Owl; Vastermalmland; 28th March 2008













After the success of seeing Great Grey Owl just 30 minutes previously we found ourselves not more than a kilometre away from the site looking for Pygmy Owl. The bird was attracted by a whistled imatation of its call by a swedish birder named Mikel who very kindly came along to help us see the species. At the second attempt slightly futher along the road this bird reacted immediatly to the whistled call and came straight out of the woods at us and began displaying furiously! A really great species, totally fearless and bold, it gave us breathtaking views as we watched on. It scolded us for ten minutes, giving us unforgetable views of what must be one of the most charasmatic birds in Europe. A superb double whammy evening of owls in just 30 minutes! It was a real pleasure to see this species so well and manage some photos too...
Some video grabs below.....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAVLwo7Qalk

Wrapped the evening up looking for Ural owl at another site where two birds were seen and heard calling to each other just the previous night, alas no joy on this evening. We did however stop of to hear the Great Grey Owl calling faintly from far within the forest on the way back, before leaving, a fitting end to the day....

Great Grey Owl; Vastermanland; 28th March 2008

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl site...

Aidan at Ural Owl observation stand....

A much awaited weekend finally arrived, a fairly intensive weekend looking for owls, primarily Great Grey Owl, for which a friend, Aidan Kelly, had travelled from Ireland in an attempt to see the species. In addition Tomas Carlberg, a swedish birder, had kindly offered to drive and guide us to the sites he knew of to help us see some of the best species Sweden has to offer birders. Having picked Aidan up at the airport we headed north immediatly, eventually arriving at our first stop, a Ural Owl breeding site where two birds have been present over the last few weeks. Perhaps a little early in the day, perhaps too bright, whatever the reason the birds were not found and we moved on, stopping briefly to check through a large flock of geese. Best here were 10+ Pink Footed Geese and 2 Eurasion White Fronted Geese in amongst 120+ Bean Geese and the commoner Greylag Geese. A Crane, our fifth of the day was also noted here.
Then on the the Great Grey Owl site, where we had to wait no more than 15 minutes before Tomas picked the bird up perched low on the forest edge to our left. The bird gave fantastic views as it hunted for 15 minutes or, moving silently from perch to perch, from which it watched and listened intently for rodent prey in the long grass in the rough meadow clearing. It gave us superb views before it stooped to capture and devour a vole before ghosting back into the forest, leaving us absoloubtly delighted! We decided to move on after it did not reappear in order to try for other owls in the area...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

30 M Kärret, 5th March 2008

Green Woodpecker

White Tailed Eagles

Twite

The latest fieldsketches. Migrating White Tailed Eagles are a feature now and pass over in small numbers as they relocate to their breeding territories, whilst the non breeders move north as the ice retreats. These were two of several seen. The species is doing really well here in Stockholm and several birds can occasionally be seen at the right sites at the correct time of year, individuals are regularily seen in the city, often high over the waterfront, a really spectacular sight.
The Twite have been in the area for some time, but are hard to find at times as they feed rather quietly over a large area. This small finch is found over much of northern europe, foften moving to the coast in winter to escape the more severe weather. A close relative of the Linnet, they can be picked out by their yellow bill, buff throats and pinkish toned rumps among other features.
Green Woodpecker was nice, dont often get good views of these. Often a difficult bird to see, they are shy and retiring and tend to move around a lot over their extensive territories. The laughing call is a familiar sound in the broadleaved woodland around the city. This one froze against the tree when it became aware of my presence, before slipping away some minutes later, a lovely male bird...