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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lapwing Painting


Latest painting here, overlooked to post it a while back. Early Lapwings displaying in the smow, a scene witnessed in April this year..
Acrylic on Canvas; 120cmx30cm.

Wheatear and Yellowhammer; May 2010

Wheatear


Yellowhammer

Wheatear

Technical pen inks done at Landsort of these bird, the pens fine lines and stratchy texture work rather well...

Arctic Tern and Ringed Plover; May 2010

Arctic Tern


Ringed Plover

Arctic Tern

Sketched here from Sandhamn last week of these birds, both present on the south end of the island...

Thrush Nightingale and Bluethroat; May 2010

Thrush Nightingale


Bluethroat

Thrush Nightingale in shade, the sun highlighting the bird from the left...


Some sketches here of these fantastic birds. The Thrush Nightingale is rather drab in appearance, but makes up for it with a wonderful song. Spent two days in a hide photographing this elusive species, got some great shots which have benn posted on Blogbirder, the sister blog, link in the margin here.
Bluethroat is far from drab. I had this stunning male on Landsort last week, which made my evening. Photos on Blogbirder also...

Flycatchers; May 2010

Collared Flycatcher


Pied Flycatcher

Collared Flycatcher


Pied Flycatcher


Collared Flycatcher



Been a brilliant week for flycatchers, I've seen Collared(4 birds, all males!), Pied, a single male Red Breasted and stacks of Spotted. The male Pied and Collared are fantastic, striking birds, as can be seen from the field sketches..

Spring Passerines; May 2010

Willow Warbler


Lesser Whitethroat

Garden Warbler


Spotted Flycatcher


Some recent fieldwork of returning spring migrants done over the past ten days or so, great to have the summer birds streaming back into the country...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Landsort; 18th May 2010

Long-tailed Duck, a drake in Summer dress. Thousands seen today..


Common Rosefinch, a drab female type on this occasion. The males are something else...

Collared Flycatcher in song. Wonderful birds, no less than three seen today!


Collared Flycatcher.


Slavonian Grebes. The pair still at Norrudden.


Eiders, a family party with newly hatched brood...


Another day out at my favourite birding site, Landsort. Arrived early to the sound of Swallows and House Martins hawking over the harbour. Next up was a stunning male Common Rosefinch in the village, calling and then began singing. A female Red Backed Shrike came next, then Willow Warbler. A pair of Swift floated by overhead. It went on like this all morning, with common migrants popping up everywhere. Total for Rosefinch would be 12 birds in all, with 11 Thrush Nightingale also noted singing, a few of which were seen quite well. 2 Wryneck were very welcome indeed, as were 2 Icterine Warbler. Redstarts, Whinchats, Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were the predominant species, noted in numbers over the whole island. Common Whitethroat was also seen, as was a single Wood Warbler. Highlights came in the form of an all to brief Red Breasted Flycatcher, a male no less and an amazing 3 Collared Flycatcher, all males as well. Other hightlights were offshore passage of Scaup, a great view of a dark morph Arctic Skua and a superb White Tailed Eagle after returning to Ankarudden on the ferry, all in all a quite superb days birding...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thrush Nightingale; Sandemar; 11th-12th May 2010

Right in front of the hide in glorious light, feeding on the ground at first until it jumped up on this log for me. A breathtaking moment after 16 hours in a hide...



Feeding on the ground, again the bird jumped up onto a perch and allowed me this lovely shot. Had really wanted a good shot displaying the russet uppertail. By this stage the bird was oblivious to the hide and allowing me to get some great shots...

Early morning, the bird prepares to sing. It is quite incredible how many hours these birds sing their heart out, around the clock....


Right in front of the hide, eye level, banging out the decibels, brilliant! So often these shots were spoiled by a branch obscuring the bird, but not on this occasion...



Late evening, day one. A nice shot of the bird. I am sure he knew I was in the hide even after nine hours, it was only the following day that he ignored it's presence completely...



Day two was so much easier, with sunshining brightly and the bird occasionly showing right out in the open...



Singing overhead against a blue sky...



One more shot, the bird reacting to the shutter firing...



Thrush Nightingale. Secretive, skulking and impossible to photograph. This was a project of mine over the past week. Located this male a few days ago and decided to concentrate on it in order to try and get some decent photos af the species, which I have wanted to get for a few years. This year a long winter has meant a very late spring and as a result the foliage is only in bud now. The nightingales have arrived back to find very little cover on the breeding grounds as a result.
These photos are the results of two days sitting in a hide for almost nineteen hours. Most were taken on the second day after repositioning the hide the evening before. A rather gruelling couple of days, but very satisfying, I feel I have had a real glimpse into this species world. I never dreamed I would get the amount of photos I did, the bird was a star and allowed me to get some incredible shots of a very, very difficult species. Too many shots were taken to post together so I have added a new Thrush Nightingale gallery in the margin to the right where all of the better photos taken over the two days can be viewed as a slideshow...
An incredible songster, seem a shame you should all miss out on the aural pleasures of this bird, a little video footage here taken through the D90 in video mode will allow the song to be heard...

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers; Sandemar; 12th May 2010

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker; a male in the process of excavating a nest cavity...



The female basking in the sun close by, closely monitoring the males progress....

Another shot of the female...

Another shot of the male. The nesting tree is a silver birch, a typical choice for these birds...


Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is a rather difficult bird to see here in Sweden at times. Although not uncommon, the species habitat requirements and biology mean small numbers of these birds are present over wide areas. These birds are easiest to find in spring when displaying, as this pair have been lately at Sandemar Reserve. I was very fortunate today to locate the pairs nesting site, the first nesting site I have found for the species. Grabbed a few shots of the birds, which wre oblibios to my presence. Nevertheless I stayed only briefly and left the birds to carry on with excation of the nesting cavity...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Landsort; 10th May 2010

Razorbills; filing through the mist alongside the ferry...

Arived at Landsort at 07.50am in very thick mist. Had tried to birdwatch of the ferry but the fog made it difficult, as can be seen from the Razorbill image. A Black Throated Diver was also noted flying over the ferry before we docked and I began birding. Conditions were tough, no visibility and a lack of migrants was noticable around the harbour...


Spotted Flycatcher..
The first migrant noted was a Pied Flycatcher, then a Redstart. Conditions were tough and I could hear Tree Pipits constantly flying over the island as I searched the south tip near the lighthouse, I felt at this stage that most birds were simply flying past the island in poor visibility. An early highlight was a powerhouse Hobby patrolling the southern tip at speed, looking for tired migrants no doubt. It was too fast for the camera but I enjoyed great views of a fabulous male bird. I decided to head north and soon had my first Spotted Flycatcher of the day along the road..


Nest building Slavonian Grebes...

Slavonian Grebe pair.

On arrival at Norra Udden I was delighted to find a pair of stunning summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes nestbuilding in th reeds, a lovely find. Managed some great views of the pair and even a few snaps before moving along. A lot of Arctic Terns present here and the Black Headed Gull colony here is full of birds preparing to breed.

Pied Flycatcher


Back from Norra Udden Pied Flycatchers were very much in evidence, all male birds today. Spent a while in vain trying to get a close up photo, but the birds did not oblige on this occasion.
Several Lesser Whitethroats were also here along with numerous Willow Warbler. A Hobby blasted past me as I watched them. I walked futher up the road and a heard a plaintive "Heep" coming from the woods to my left, Collared Flycatcher? I walked into the woods after the bird and soon located it, first views left no doubt, not a difficult bird to identify, the white collar obvious at range. Delighted to get this bird, I watched it for a few hours...

Collared Flycatcher, there it was, a real result on a tough day...



A lot of patience required with this bird to get these images, which took about three hours....


A very useful shot showing the upperparts of this second calender male bird.


Back towards the south I went, a satisfied man. 6 Bar Tailed Godwit passed over my head, a good record over the island. Back along the road I was seeing the same birds again, though 8 Common Crossbill were new, moving north over the woods. On the Sodra Udden for a second look. I had heard Thrush Nightingale earlier in the day, here I found myself watching one on the bare earth briefly, a stunning view of a normally secretive species. Five minutes later another movement, probably a Willow Warbler I thought until it sat up, Bluethroat! A spring male always makes your day, that are simply stonking birds. Got a few shots too before i pushed it a little too far and it dived into cover....

Bluethroat, a little nondescript on a side view....



Until it turns to face you, what a cracking bird in every way....



Common Gulls.

After that it was winding down for the ferry and pottering about the harbout for the last few minutes, where I snapped this Common Gull pair before hopping onto the boat. A White Tailed Eagle was seen from the deck on the way back, along with stacks of Eider, Long Tailed Duck, Arctic Tern and a single Raven. A tough days birding in places, but highly enjoyable with a few magic moments. Totals for the day included 3 Hobby, 25 Pied Flycatcher, 8 Common Crossbill, 4 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Common Sandpiper, 50 Willow Warber, 30 lesser Whitethroat, 12 Redstart, 2 Thrush Nightingale, 43 Tree Pipit, 6 Bar Tailed Godwit, that Bluethroat and even better, Collared Flycatcher. I'll be back...








Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sandhamn; 8th May 2010

Parrot Crossbill; an adult male bird feeding, nice to get a record shot of this bird today...



After the last two weeks, where my work has taken all of my time up, I was really looking forward to today's birding. I had initially planned to try get to Bullerö, an outlying island on the archipelago here in Stockholm, famed for its association with the godfather of modern birding art, Bruno Lillefors. Sadly this was thwarted by a lack of direct ferries, though the island will be accessable to me in the near future as private boats begin to operate in the summer. Sandhamn was chosen as an altenative destination, due to its outlying position I thought it might receive migrants off the northeasterly breeze overnight as a warm front pushed over the baltic. Arrived early after a two hour journey and moved southwards from the harbour. Just a few minutes later the deep calls of Parrot Crossbill were picked up in the woods, I followed them to their source and had good views of a group of eight birds, including one adult male, which I managed a record shot of. Two birds appeared to be adult females, the rest being this years young and I wondered if the male had sired both broods on the island.



Chaffinch Male

After the Crossbills departed to the north I checked the southeast of the island, though not a lot to show for it at first. A pair of Red-breasted Merganser were notable on the sea. Offshore Long-tailed Duck and Eider were very much in evidence. On land a lot of Chaffinch were present in this area and I grabbed a decent shot or two of the species before another familiar call drew my attention..




Crested Tit

The call was that of a resident island bird, Crested tit. The bird was located by its diagnostic rippling call which is very distinctive. It was easily located as it vocalized constantly and was feeding at a rather low level, allowing a photo of two to be taken. I was enjoying the day but was a little suprised at the lack of migrants, though I need not of worried, the day would take a twist on that front. Again at this point it was the calls of a bird I had not heard since last autumn that caught my attention, the buzzing call of Tree Pipits came through the woods....



Tree Pipit

As soon as I drew closer I realized that the entire area of woods was full of Tree Pipits. I counted at least 19 birds as I worked through the woods, flushing the feeding birds as I progressed. The birds moved to the west slightly and resumed feeding at ground level. A Black Woodpecker called far in the distance. Then it began to rain..


Willow Warbler; The first of the day, which flew in off the sea as the rain began....


As I had no real inclination of getting completely soaked I opted for the comfortable option, an upturned rowing boat raised upon blocks afforded me a perfect shelter as I waited for the shower to pass, watching the sea offshore for seabirds to pass time. Arctic Terns, Eider and Long-tailed Ducks as usual, a few Common Gull, Oystercatcher and a pair of Redshank were noted before I picked up a small passerine flying in of the sea. It landed close by and I was able to identify it as a Willow Warbler, as it fed on the ground oblivious to my presence. I retired to my shelter once again.

Ringed Plover

From the shelter I was able to wait for a Ringed Plover to work it's way back up the beach to where I was concealed, eventually getting a photo or two and getting a few sketches done.

Arctic Tern; Several pairs present today...

After 45 minutes or thereabouts the rain stopped and I emerged, dry, from my shelter. Initially I had decided a few shots of Arctic Tern were in order, which I got, before settling down to do some more sketching. After ten minutes of so I noticed two Wheatear to my left. Then a female Redstart bounced along the beach. I went after these birds only to be distracted by an incoming passerine, the bird dropping in from altitude this time before sweeping into a group of pines before calling, Spotted Flycatcher! My first of the year. I began tracking back along the coast on the south of the island.


Willow Warbler; incredibly close views of these birds were enjoyed today. Many were feeding on the ground, this individual was so close I had to back off it tin order to get it in frame...




Willow Warbler; the same individual in a slightly different pose..
It was very much apparent a fall was occuring before my eyes, that the rain had forced migrating birds to ground. Willow Warblers were suddenly commonplace, often on the ground feeding and allowing me to approach closely. I spent a few minutes taking advantage of this opportunity, but then felt perhaps a good bird might have dropped in. Further along the beach I went, more Willow Warblers, White Wagtails, a Redstart, the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, then another. A calling Cuckoo suddenly broke the silence. The day had transformed itself and I was really enjoying the birding, bouncing the migrants in front of me and identifying them as I went. Another Spotted Flycatcher, a Blackcap, then something on the tideline...Whinchat.


Whinchat Male feeding along the tideline, an obviously tired migrant...




Whinchat Male; Close up this is a truly beautiful spring bird....


This Whinchat was found feeding at this point on the shoreline, feeding on the washed up seaweed. It's great to see migration like this, when birds break their normal habits and opt to feed anywhere that offers food. I took time to enjoy this stunning male in lovely light as it fed. These birds were obviously tired, hungry migrants which were allowing close approaches and stunning views...



Pied Flycatcher; Male. A striking bird, always a pleasure to see...


And so it went on, more and more migrants. Nothing rare was found in the end but some reasonable totals for the day summed up a very nice spring fall. 65 Willow Warbler, 35 Redstart, 26 Pied flycatcher, 16 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 9 Wheatear and a single Cuckoo. Very nice birding indeed...



Redstart; another male spring bird...


It was Redstart that proved the most difficult to approach as the day went on, several photos taken, none allowing a close range image. Eventually the heavens opened, this time very heavily. Heavy rain soon made birding very difficult and I called it a day after the birds went to ground, soaking wet for my efforts. I found a small bar in the harbour for a coffee and dried myself out before leaving on the evening ferry. A quite superb day.