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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Diurnal Migration; Sound Recordings; 22nd October 2012




Bullfinch migrating. The mellow, plaintive note here is given by Bullfinch on migration. A rather quiet call this...


Here is the more raucous calls of a flock of Brambling, a small flock of around a dozen birds here, recorded on migration. A rather unmissable, loud call...


Here are calls from a migrant Tree Sparrow, small numbers of which were seen flying southwest over the sea. Not often thought of as a migrant, though here in scandinavia, some birds do move in late autumn...


The typical downward, inflected note of Reed Bunting here, th bird passing quite close to the parabol...


The rattle of a Mistle Thrush as it flew southwards..


Meadow Pipit here, a classic autumn migrant. Getting late for this species, which migrates in greatest numbers in late September..


Dunnock here on migration, high overhead....


The classic high pitched notes of Goldcrest on passage...


A Snow Bunting here, very high overhead calling. This is often how they are heard, not clearly, though distantly. Note the faint plaintive note, as well as the bubbling trill...


Friday, October 26, 2012

Diurnal Migration; Sound Recordings; Landsort; 22nd October 2012



Western Jackdaw, a flock of around 70 birds calling overhead as they fly out over the sea migrating..


Greenfinch. A single bird calling here on migration from amongst a small group of the species..


A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker here, a resting migrant bird, either female or juvenile. The bird calling from low bushes on Sodra Udden...


Skylark. a single migrating bird calling far overhead. Recording amplified...


A flock of 26 Long Tailed Tit, high overhead again, calling constantly as they migrate out over the Baltic Sea...


Chaffinch. A migrating flock overhead, one of the classic late autumn species and sounds..


Calls from a single Brambling migrating past Sodra Udden...


Another recording of Brambling migrating, a nice clear recording...


Common Redpoll here, a flock of around 20 individuals passing overhead...


A migrating Starling calls from a small flock overhead...


The relatively quiet notes of a calling Yellowhammer on migration...


Golden Eagle; 2nd Calender; Landsort; 23rd October 2012

 Golden Eagle over Sodra Udden, a magnificent sight. This was one of the hightlights of the trip for me and I can hardly expect to ever have better views of a wild bird. Note the long wings and tail, long primary fingers, white inner tail and primaries and pale nape. The eye is dark, as is the cere.


 A shot taken at 150mm of the bird taking off into the wind. Note the white bases on the upper inner primaries in this shot..


 As regards ageing, this is obviously a young bird, as can be seen from the broad white inner tail and lage amount of white on the inner primaries. This white is not symetrical on both wings due to moult. Combined with the very worn remiges and new P1-P3 we can conclude that this is a bird in its second calender year. Not the all juvenile P4-P10, just on moult step being visible here in the primaries. The tail is also rather obviously worn...



The bird directly over my head. A very good view of the tail here, note again the rather worn appearance..


 The bird directly in front of me here...


 A view here of the upperwing. Upperwing covert's mid brown, with darker remiges and white bases to the inner primaries. Note there the new P1-P3, nice fresh, round feathers in comparison to the older, juvenile P1-P10. Again here the dark eye and blue grey cere at the base of the bill as visible..


Again, directly over my head. Not the asymetrical white bases to the primaries ans secondaries on the undewing...

Golden Eagle at Landsort. This was an incredible experience. This bird was actually stumbled across whilst trying to relocate a Dusky Warbler, which we had seen and heard only minutes previously! Having seen and heard the warbler well briefly, it had flitted a short way and dissapeared into cover, frustratingly it could not be relocated and after a few minutes the four of us broadened our search. Just a couple of minutes later I heard Håkan roaring and assumed he had the Dusky Warbler again, though no, he had in fact seen a Golden Eagle rounding Sodra Udden, presumably migrating. I ran to the tip of Sodra Udden to scan the sea to the south for a glimpse of what would be my second Golden Eagle. On reaching the crest of the hill I was stopped dead in my tracks, there, not fifteen metres away, a Golden Eagle was perched, looking back at me from the rocks! The bird lifted slowly in front of me, flapping into the wind, an image that will stay with me for a long time. It was an incredible sight, I was frozen still for a few seconds in awe, taking it all in. I eventually raised my camera and was forced to leave the zoom at 150mm in order to get the whole bird into frame as it rose in front of me. The bird gathered height slowly before circling above us for several minutes, giving quite stunning views to us all. It eventually headed out to se, mobbed by Common Gulls.
 We quickly turned our attention back to the Dusky Warbler, though there was a twist in the tail. The warbler was never relocated. About an hour later, the bird reappeared over Bredmar soaring and moved south again. I had it high overhead as it passed Sodra Udden a second time, this time higher up, looking rather tidier at range. I wondered was it the same bird, though studying photos later revealed it was indeed. This time the bird had gained considerable height and drifted off over the sea in a southeasterly direction and was not seen again. This was only my second ever Golden Eagle, my first coming just a couple of weeks ago! After a ten year wait for the first, two in a few weeks! This one though, was a bit special and I doubt I will ever be as close to a wild Golden Eagle again..


Migrating Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Landsort; October 2012










Shot here of Lesser spotted Woodpeckers, a species not normally associated with migration. Small numbers of migrating birds are occasionally recorded migrating at Landsort, though this year there seems to be a very marked migration of the species. Birds have been recorded this autumn in Finland, moving in large numbers. This has been reflected on Landsort, with small numbers recorded moving southwest. Several birds were resting on the island and I witnessed several birds actively migrating overhead during my stay...


Migrants; Landsort; October 2012

Above and below; Barnacle Geese migrating over Sodra Lunden. The 22nd October saw a huge passage of Barnacle Geese, with an amazing 10,460 birds recorded coming in over the Baltic Sea and moving westwards onto mainland Sweden...





 Bullfinch and Greenfinch resting at Sodra Udden...


 Part of a huge flock of 1,000 Fieldfare seen moving souh on 22nd October when 4,000 birds were logged on the island. Remarkable to see these thrushes migrating en masse...


 This Great Grey Shrike was found resting at Saltmar, a handful also seen actively migrating over the sea...


 A flock of Waxwing migrating southwest on 23rd October...


 A Robin at Sodra Udden. The same bush held a Dsuky Warbler on the morning of the 23rd October, the best bird of the trip...


 Waxwings Resting at Sodra Lunden. Always a welcome sight...


Woodpigeon resting at Sodra Lunden after flying in off the sea..

A selection of shots here of various migrants taken on Landsort on my recent trip to the islands to witness migration there...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Diurnal Migrants; Sound Recordings; Landsort; 22nd October 2012


A migrating Snow Bunting overhead here. note the other species also, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Brambling, Blue Tit and Linnet. The bubbling trill of Snow Bunting is very distinctive once learnt and a good call to know...


Woodlark, a bird overhead, actively migrating. A very distinctive call and a much sought after species at migration stations...


Another recording of Woodlark, this one was earlier in the morning....


Here a lone Mistle Thrush among a flock of Fieldfares, migrating southwest high overhead. The rattling call is very distinctive..


Here a Dunnock, a migrating bird also, though not often thought of as a migrant in southern or western Europe. Scandinavian birds migrate late in the autumn and can be heard passing high overhead, usually singly...


A flock of Fieldfare passes overhead early morning. some of the flocks we aw were huge, including one in excess of 1,000 birds. This one contained around 60 individuals....


Another recording of migrating fieldfare, this time a smaller group of around ten individuals...


Twite. This was another species I had hoped to record. Here a flock of 42 birds was recorded as they migrated south in a tight flock. The birds were a little distant, though still, this makes an interesting recording...


Brambling. A classic late autumn scandinavian migrant. A single bird rests briefly on some trees about 40 metres away from the parabol and calls...


Here a flock of Waxwing. There were around twenty birds in this flock, which was rather hesitant about flying out over the baltic and they rested for a few minutes before flying out over th Baltic in a southwesterly direction...

Here are a fe of the recordings I have edited to date from my recording sessions on Landsort, which were very productive. A lot of nice species were captured here, and many of the species I had hoped for were recorded. There will be more to come, as they are edited. There are several hours of recordings to get through, this will take a little time...

Shore Lark; Sound Recordings, Photos and Fieldsketches; Landsort; 22nd October 2012

 My first view of one of the birds on the rock on eastern sodra Lunden...


 Eventually, both birds were in front of me on the road feeding, a fantastic sight..





 What a cracking species..!



A sound recording here of the birds made whilst they were feeding in front of me on the road...




A second sound recording of the birds feeding on the ground, calling....



Lastly, a sound recording of a migrating bird, calling high overhead...

A series of very useful sound recording above. It was very nice to familiarize myself with the calls of this species, which I have only seen one one previous occasion, many years ago in Ireland...








The fieldsketches made whilst the birds were in front of me feeding...

Shore Lark is a bird that had eluded me in Sweden until the 22nd October 2012. During the morning we had at least four birds, two overhead miratig singly, whilst later on a real treat came when two passed over quite low. These birds were eventually seen at the tip of soda Udden, but were flighty. Late though, they were located feeding around the shalets on sodra Lunden and gave stunning views in front of me on the road feeding. These birds were easily sound recorded, though happily, I also got a recording of migrating birds over head...


Goldcrest; Landsort ; 21st October 2012

















































Shots here of Goldcrest. a large fall of the species occured on Landsort on October 22nd, man of which were exhausted. This led to incredible opportunity to photograph these birds, some of these photos were taken with a nikoor 50mm lens...!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pipit call from Landsort; 22nd October 2012; Tree Pipit or Olive backed Pipit?




Been analyzing my recordings from Landsort tonight, just came across this call. This was not picked up in the field, though the telinga has picked up what is clearly a buzz type flight call of a pipit. The question is, which one? It is clearly not a Red throated Pipit, the two remaining candidates are Tree Pipit and Olive backed Pipit. If it is the latter, it is a very late individual. The latter is very rare, though has occured on Landsort previously. There is a large influx into western europe right now...

Personally, to my ear, the bird sounds like a Tree Pipit, albeit a late bird. A noteworthy record all the same.

Edit; Having done some research and examined the sonogram in particular, I was quite sure that this is indeed a Tree Pipit. The sonagram clearly shows the call in the 5-6 decibel range, a match for Tree Pipit. The call of Olive backed Pipit is of a higher pitch and registers around 8 decibels on a sonogram. Futher assistance was kindly provided by Jelmer Poelstra, to whom I am vary grateful for taking the time to analyse the recorded call. Below are some boxplots which show the call is indeed that of Tree Pipit...


Above; Boxplots of the Landsort recording, showing the call falls within the range of that given by Tree Pipit...

Many thanks to Jelmer Poelstra for providing these superb plots...





A Dusky Warbler and Golden Eagle; Migration; Landsort; 23rd October 2012


Migrating Waxwing were a feature of the morning, birds moving from just after dawn...



My last day on the island on this particular trip, I woke at the usual time and made breakfast. I was alone in the observatory and it was odd to set out alone. I made my way to the lighthouse and readied my equipment, though there was no sound recording today as my flash card was full on my marrantz recorder. I could of made space on the card the night before, but I was too tired to bother! I felt the better of a good nights sleep. There were a few day trippers on the first ferry and it was good to have extra eyes on the island. I settled down and started to log migration at sea and overhead, where passerines were passing. Though passage was not as havy as the previous day, there was lots going on and I jotted noted down furiously as birds passed Sodra Udden. Snow Bunting was recorded straight away, calling high overhead, though I could not locate them in the skies above. At sea there was a decent passage of Common Scoter and Velvet Scoter. A Red Necked Grebe early on was promising, as was a Red-throated Diver. Overhead, passerines were moving southwest and it quickly became apparent there were lots of Waxwing, Fieldfare and Starling moving. The following species and totals were recorded migrating between 07.30-10.10am when there was a twist which put an end to seawatching..

266 Starling, 474 fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 11 Tree Sparrow, 3 Skylark, 14 Little Gull(with another 12 offshore), 21 Snow Bunting, 184 Waxwing, 68 Long Tailed Tit, 3 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, 93 Chaffinch, 233 Siskin, 4 Siskin, 68 Redpoll, 27 Brambling, 3 Dunnock, 5 Meadow Pipit, 183, Common Scoter, 55 Velvet Scoter, 24 Red Breasted Merganser, 23 Goldeneye, 33 Eider, 75 Cormorant, 2 Scaup, 285 Barnacle Goose, 1 Brent Goose, 14 Black Guillemot, 5 Red Necked Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Rough Legged Buzzard, 6 Tufted Duck, 4 Wigeon, 3 Teal, 4 Red Throated Diver, 40 Twite, 11 Linnet, 2 Bullfinch, 3 Goldfinch.


Trying to relocate Dusky Warbler...

At 10.10am Fredrik Johansson appeared and told Torbjörn and T that he had located a warbler he was having touble identifying. The bird was skulking and difficult to see, though he felt it was something good. We hurried down the hill and after an anxious few minutes the bird flew out of a willow bush and landed about six metres from where I stood. I had a superb view of the bird at just seven or eight metres range for perhaps ten seconds. I took in the long, well defined supercilium, overall brownish tones, and uniform underparts and undertail covert's. The bird began to call, I told the others that the bird was a Dusky Warbler. It continued to call for three or four seconds before flitting into another bush, calling as it went. It dived into cover and we followed. All four observers were happy with the identification. A quick playback of the call of Dusky Warbler on a mobile phone cemented this identification, the call was 100% Dusky Warbler. Raddes Warbler was easily ruled out on the views we had and by the distinctive call. We were all delighted with ourselves and set about seeing the bird again with a view to getting a few photos and generally enjoying the bird. It seemed the bird had other ideas though, and to our bemusement we could not pick it up again. We soon spread out and covered every likely bit of cover, listening intently, though nothing. I quickly located a Ring Ouzel, a first calender male, though this was not what we were looking for. Then Håkan screamed, he had seen a brief Golden Eagle rounding Sodra Udden! A few minutes later I flushed this bird from the rocks in front of me on Sodra Udden, an awesome sight at just fifteen metres range! It rose into the wind in front of me as I gawped and ripped the camera from the bag, ventually getting some good shots, despite terrible light. The bird flew upwards into the northwest wind, before circling over our heads and giving us all stunning views. It eventually struck out over the sea and we went back to trying to refind the warbler. The eagle would in fact reappear after a failed migration attempt, it was found soaring over Bredmar before moving south again past sodra Udden, where it passed high over my head and drifted off to the southeast. I intially thought it might be a second bird, though close examination of photos suggest it was indeed the same individual. As regards the Dusky Warbler, none of us ever saw it again, despite combing the area for some hours....


 A Goldcrest at Sodra Udden...


 A young Golden Eagle at Sodra Udden, what an incredible experience it was to flush this huge bird from the rocks in front of me, whilst trying to relocate the Dusky Warbler!


A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It seems plenty of these are migrating through Landsort this year, rather suprisingly. It is rather curious to see these tiny birds moving out over the sea and migrating. Earlier in the morning I had two birds migrating high overhead amongst a flock of Northern Long Tailed Tit...

 A few highlights remained. In the end I had 2 Ring Ouzel on Sodra Lunden and enjoyed good views of these birds through the scope. There were aslo several Lesser Spotted Woddpecker in the area, a few of which were seen to migrate. A flock of 14 Snow Bunting made a cracking sight as they flew past, whilst a couple of migrating Woodlark were also very nice. The guys also had a Black Redstart. All too soon, my time was up and I made way back to the bird observatory, packed and cleanded my room and headed for the ferry. It had beed an stunning few days birding, incredible quality as well as good quantities of migrants. an unforgetable experience, I'll be back in October!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Richard's Pipit; Sound Recording; Landsort; 22nd October 2012




Here is the recording of yesterday mornings Richard's Pipit from Landsort. The bird passed at 09.33am and flew around the lighthouse at Sodra Udden. The call was loud, immediately picked up and identified...



I was recording the mornings migration in full, the telinga parabol having been mounted on a tripod earlier. The bird flew right over the sound recording set up and I got a very good recording of the birds passage...
I have almost six hours of diurnal migration to get through and edit, there will be much more where this came from. The morning of the 22nd October was a very good day for diurnal migrants and much was recorded of the species that passed...


Monday, October 22, 2012

Landsort; Migration; 22nd October 2012

A phenomenal days birding today, quite unexpected. Yesterday evenings weather forecast was greeted with no great excitement and dawn saw cold tempature and a northeasterly breeze. Immediately on arrival at Sodra Udden at 07.15am I set up my telinga parabol, this time having carefully checked the preset. A flock of 220 Siskin piled past me whilst doing this! Eventually the digital recording started and I preprogrammed it to continuously record the morning session, the batteries would take me to 11.30am. I then settled down and set up the scope as Mikael Åsberg, Per Åsberg, and Jan Ohlsson arrived..
Things started a little slowly, though there was a little passage at sea, whilst overhead finches, thrushes and some Meadow Pipits went over. A Snow Bunting was the first good bird. After a hour or so this passerines passage picked up, a flock of Woodpigeon, the flocks of Fieldfare and a couple of Mistle Thrush, along with plenty of Respoll and a few Twite passing. At sea too things picked up and we began to warm to the birding. A busy period at 09.30am culminated in the sudden call of a Richard's Pipit, the bird rounding the lighthouse right over the parabol, calling as it went. A rarity and no doubt, spirits were well and truly lifted. So began a fantastic day. A short while later we had a Shore Lark pass by calling, whilst viewing a cracking 1st Calender male Ring Ouzel on the rocks to the east. Eventually we had stunning views of the latter. Then it was a Wood Lark flying south with a Skylark. Another Snow Bunting, before 2 Shore Lark passed and ditched down, eventually I located them on the southern tip, they flew off out to sea on being flushed. At sea, passage really picked up as Barnacle Geese and Brent Geese began to appear. Soon there were Wigeon, Red Throated Diver, Red Breasted Merganser, Common Scoter and Long Tailed Duck passing in numbers before another scream went up, Kittiwake! A rarity here, a first Calender passed southwest, another good bird. Little Gulls, Tufted Duck, Whooper Swan, Black Guillemot all passing, though it was geese that really took over. flocks of Barnacle Goose began to appear regularly. It was very impressive. A handful of Eurasian White Fronted Geese were welcomed, as were Red Necked Grebe, Scaup and a Shoveler. Overhead we're lots of corvids now, as well as a Rough Legged Buzzard and a stunning adult male Hen Harrier in off the Baltic...
The afternoon saw two Shorelark located to the east and I managed a few photos of these birds on the road feeding, a real highlight. Amazing birds.
Twite, Waxwing, another Woodlark, more Snow Bunting and geese in the thousands. It was a pleasure to witness it all, this was as fine a days migration as I have ever had in Sweden, or anywhere else more that matter. There was so much to see, so much to learn from and so much to enjoy...
I decided to head back at 15.30 and grabbed some fruit and looked around on land. I was now the only birder on the island after the rest of the crew left on the late afternoon boat. I will be here alone tomorrow, having the whole island to myself on an October day will be a bit special.
At Bredmar at 16.30 not a lot had been happening, with the exception of a few hundred geese streaming west. The I heard a mournful call, which Iwas familiar. Happily the source revealed itself to me, after good close views I was happy it was a good Siberian Chiffchaff(tristis). Another very good bird at the end if the day, my only gripe was I had not brought the camera. The batteries on the telinga were dead by now, it would be nice to record this bird. Perhaps tomorrow...
The following species and totals were logged from Sodra Udden;
2412 Common Scoter, 320 Red Breasted Merganser, 302 Wigeon, 75 Goldeneye, 255 Cormorant, 8 Snow Bunting, 70 Velvet Scoter, 35 Little Gull, 5 Red Necked Grebe, 8 Teal, 10,460 Barnacle Goose, 280 Eider, 70 Mallard, 55 Waxwing, 365 Jackdaw, 5 White Wagtail, 14 Red Throated Diver, 11 Skylark, 2 Wood Lark, 4 Shore Lark, 1 Richards Pipit, 20 Black Headed Gull, 100 Black Headed Gull, 305 Wood Pigeon, 6 Stock Dove, 26 Whooper Swan, 269 Brent Goose, 130 Tufted Duck, 61 Goosander, 65 Twite, 16 Black Guillemot, 490 Fieldfare, 50 Long Tailed Tit, 3 Black Throated Diver, 2,500 Long Tailed Duck, 3 Shoveler, 14 Scaup, 4 Sparrowhawk, 2 Hen Harrier, 1 Grey Plover, 10 Eurasian White Fronted Goose, 158 Chaffinch, 95 Brambling, 45 Meadow Pipit, 1 Kittiwake, 30 Greenfinch, 320 Redpoll, 430 Siskin, 29 Bullfinch, 7 Redwing, 7 Dunnock, 7 Reed Bunting, 133 Hodded Crow, 1 Rough Legged Buzzard, 1 Kittiwake.

Now that's what I call a good day's birding...