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, June 29, 2019

Lesser Marbled Fritillary; Segersang; 29th June 2019










Images of Lesser Marbled Fritillary from Segersang, the species abundant at the site, especially attracted to thistle along the forest verges. A stunning butterfly species early in the season..

Large Wall Brown(Lasiommata maera); Segersang; 29th June 2019








Images here of my first specifically identified Large Wall Brown. I noticed this butterfly along a grassy verge, near a thistle patch and thought it probably a Meadow Brown at first. On closer view though, ot appeared large, flew differently to that species and seemed to have a different underwing. I took plenty of images and identified the beast on my return home...

Four Spotted Chaser; Segersang;30th June 2019











Some images of Four Spotted Chaser from Segersang, found plenty of these at a site where an area of forest had been felled, with lots of perches around for these predators to hunt from.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Icterine Warbler; A documentation of calls





Icterine Warbler right outside my kitchen window. What a lovely thing to happen.....

Every now and then you are given a real gift in birding, today was one of those days. Early this morning, I awoke as usual and was getting ready to go to work when, through the window, I heard a brief snatch of song. It immediately registered as something unusual and I was immediately thinking along the lines of Icterine Warbler.
 To put this into perspective, my apartment is located close to the centre of Stockholm City in Sweden. At the rear of the apartment is an enclosed square, completely surrounded by four story apartments, within which lies a well tended garden area. There are several tree's and some shrubs, though in general, bird species are limited. We have breeding Fieldfare, Blackbird, Magpie, Great Tit, Blue Tit and House Sparrow. Common Gull and Baltic Lesser Black backed Gull breed on the roof. In winter, a large mixed flock of Jackdaw and Hooded Crow occasionally roost here to avoid strong wind, should it occur. Apart from this, several other regular species include Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Common Redpoll in winter, the occasional Dunnock in some years and the odd White Wagtail. My best bird to date is Pied Flycatcher, on two spring occasions, whilst Goshawk puts in a rare appearance in winter. Needless to say, an Icterine Warbler outside my window was a most appealing scenario...
 The bird called a couple of times. Frustratingly, I had to leave for work, without confirming the identification. On my return home in the afternoon, I opened the window and listened hopefully. After just ten minutes I heard a call that could only be the bird in question. Over the next hour or so, the bird led me a merry dance, calling occasionally and giving snatches of song that were, frustratingly, not diagnostic to species. The bird was clearly a mimic, though I could not rule out Blyth's Reed Warbler with total certainty and I was anxious to confirm the bird to species. Happily, the game ended abruptly when the bird gave some blasts of unmistakable song fragments, confirming the bird as an Icterine Warbler. Typically, after the fairly lengthy struggle to identify it, it then completely gave itself up and showed very well, allowing some photos from the kitchen window. I have found a fair few rarities over the years, but this bird gave me a huge amount of pleasure, being located right outside my window, right in the city. Whilst this certainly is not a rarity here in Sweden, it certainly is in my garden and is the best bird I have seen settled within it in seventeen years.
 This bird was giving regular calls and this was truly a golden opportunity to document these. I set the telinga up and left it recording, securing a number of different calls, all of good audio quality. I have edited them and pasted them below. Delighted to have the opportunity...



Above; From what I can gather, a rather classic summer call from male Icterine Warbler on the breeding grounds...


Above; Likely mimicry, a rather Blackbird like call...


Above; Another interesting call, which the bird gave on more than one occasion.


Above; Another call I heard on more than one ocassion, a rather harsh, chakking call. 

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Sound Recording; Dammtorpsjön; 8th June 2019


Above and below; Dammtorpsjön; As picturesque a location as you might find around Stockholm...



Awoke around 06.30am on an already warm summer morning and decided to get out with the sound recording equipment. I headed to Dammtorpsjön, an area of protected land located in Nacka Reserve, not far from Stockholm City. On arrival, despite the early hour, there were quite a few joggers around and I decided it best to get a little away from the larger footpaths in order to avoid any disturbance whilst making recordings. I knew the area probably would not hold anything unusual, but it is an excellent location for Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.
 First up was a confiding Wood Warbler, which was singing its heart out in the exact same area of woodland as I have found one the the previous three years. I had wanted to get a full recording of this species that included the lovely descending fluted notes that the species gives after a series of trilling song sections. As always, a lovely species to observe in song, the bird quivering in the oak branches just above where I sat. Overall, I was very happy with this recording...




After recording the Wood Warbler, I set my sights on locating a Pied Flycatcher. There were several birds in the area, I eventually settled on a particularily smart looking male. The bird was a stunner, the plumage told me this was an adult male and not a second calender bird. It was singing constantly and with a little effort I was able to get a quality recording.



I spent a little time wandering around quite a large area, hoping for something unexpected, though nothing scarce was found. A handful of Hawfinch proved elusive and only called intermitently, I was therefore unable to get a recording of these. A Cuckoo was heard in the distance on a few occasions. The only other bird that stopped me was a Garden Warbler, which was singing it's heart out not far from the lake. One of three birds present in the area, which allowed for an excellent recording...



All in all, no new species recorded, though three quality recordings were secure on a very enjoyable summer morning..

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Blyth's Reed Warbler; Näsby Slott; 6th June 2019


Hearing about the presence of this species around Stockholm, I decided to make the effort to sound record one of the birds on territory around the city this morning. I opted to go to Näsby Slott, where at least one bird had been reported, with some reports suggesting two individuals present. On arrival, I quickly located the first bird, which was singing sporadically in the reed edge. I immediately set up the telinga parabol, though the bird stopped singing just as I had managed that feta. I waited for twenty minutes, during which time I was plagued by mosquitoes, before deciding to move on.


 Näsby Slott


 Fieldsketch and notes of the bird....

A hundred metres of less further along the waters edge, I was delighted to find the second individual in song. I duly recorded this wonderful mimic, despite a fair deal of background noise. This individual has incorporated the calls and songs of Eurasian Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Green Sandpiper, Barn Swallow, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Thrush Nightingale, Common Rosefinch, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Wren and Yellowhammer, amongst others. Happilt, much of the background noise was edited out fairly easily and the recording below is rather nice, given the circumstances..



 Näsby Slott; My first time visiting this area. It was busy with visitors, due to it being Sweden's national day, though there was much evidence of birdlife, with many in full song...

A rather nice area to sound record, with lots of good habitat and interesting species...


Video here, showing the chosen habitat of the second bird. It also spent some time singing from the reed edge along the water...

After recording the bird, I sat and enjoyed it for a while as it was showing well at times and I got some sketching done. At times, the bird fed in nettle beds, before returning to sing in one of three spots. As you can judge from the video, this bird sings at high volume and it is not a species one would be likely to miss when in song.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sandemar Reserve; Sound Recording; 30th May 2019



 Icterine Warbler in song. This was the target species today, as regards sound recording. Previous to this visit, I had not sound recorded this species. The venue is excellent for this species, with three males present at the site this morning.


Sandemar Reserve is one of my favourite venues in late spring, due to the wonderful range of species that breed in this damp, lush area. It is charactrized by damp woodland, with much undergrowth. It is positioned on the Baltic Coast, the wetland areas along the shoreline hold breeding waders and a wealth of interesting fauna. I arrived early this morning with sound recording on my mind. My specific target was to record an Icterine Warbler, a species I had yet to record. This would not prove difficult, as not long after arrival, I located a really cooperative male. The bird was singing it's heart out just over my head in the canopy. I had wonderful views of this bird, which had a tendency to sit quite still. This, along with the fact it had taken territory in a sheltered area of woodland, meant that I was able to make an excellent sound recording and even grab a few images...








The morning was rather windy, which made recording difficult in some areas. I decided to concentrate on the sheltered areas and duly set about recording some of the birds in the area. First up was a Blackcap along the track...


Compare this to a Garden Warbler, recorded a short time later, one of two individuals I located over the morning...



Common Rosefinch is another speciality of this area. The habitat is perfect for them at Sandemar, the damp undergrowth held several males, though they were not singing constantly and I had to work a little to get a decent recording of this cracking songster...



I spent the morning pottering about in the sunshine, recording varous species as I came across them. It was a wonderful moment, with a great soundtrack of birds. A Cuckoo called throughout the morning in the distance, whilst common summer migrants such as Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were passed over in pursuit of others. Of interest to me was this Common Whitethroat, which displayed and incredible range on mimicry. I saw the bird well, an adult male and perhaps, given its vocal skill, it might be expected to be an older bird...



Other species were noted, but not recorded, such as Red-backed Shrike, always a welcome sight. I was watching common Swifts feeding over the racetrack and relaxing in the sun later in the morning when something completely unexpected occurred. Over the centre of the ractrack I picked up the unmistakeable form of a harrier quartering low over the grass. Marsh Harrier is the expected species here, but even as I was raising my binoculars I knew this was not a good fit and the first good view revealed a ringtail harrier. NOT a Hen Harrier. It was far to lighly built, with lovely aprikot wasked underwing coverts, narrow tail and build. A had an excellent view and took in the boa and the pattern of markings on the underwing primaries. I drifted right past me and there was no doubt I was looking at a second calender female Pallid Harrier. I have sen may in Batumi in the past, but this was only my fourth in Sweden and my first spring bird. I was absoloutely delighted. I watch it for five minutes, before it drifted off to the west, low over the trees. What an incredible way to finish any morning...


Red-backed Shrike; An adult male watches me as I pass through it's territory...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sound Recording: Galo; 12th May 2019





Wood Warbler; A couple of images of this wonderful little songster...


A rather nice day to be out in the field, with sun and still conditions, prompted me to pack the sound recording gear and head for Gålo. This is an area I had intended to visit for some time, but never got around to it before today. It is in a good position to receive broad fronts of migrants and there are a lot of green areas here. I was curious about the habitat, on arrival I began in the mixed woodland, close to Dalarövägen. There were high numbers of Wood Warbler here,more than I would have expected. The density of birds was so high that many of them were being driven off in apparent territorial disputes. Given the date, I surmised it very likely that many of these birds were newly arrived migrants and that those with already established territories were simply driving the newly arrived birds off. I set about trying to get a decent recording, though this proved rather difficult. As always, escaping noise pollution anywhere is a lot more difficult than one might expect, even in relatively rural areas. The proximity to the road was one expected issue, with a lot of Sunday drivers in the area, even early in the morning. Nearby, a resident was utilizing a power tool to fix his roof, whilst dogs barked, planes went overhead and even a helicopter put in a brief appearance. After a considerable amount of recording time I managed a reasonable recording and reminded myself that much of the noise could be edited out in software after downloading.


Also in the area were I started were Hawfinch, Willow Warbler, ChiffChaff, Gren Woodpecker and other common species. I was fortunate to get a reasonable call on file of Green Woodpecker whilst attempting to record singing Wood Warbler.





As I moved away from the main road I came across a confiding Willow Warbler which was singing its heart out in a quiet area and I got a nice recording of this umbiquitous spring songster.



Further from the main road, I crossed an area of open land, dotted with gardens, a café and some outbuildings. It also proved very noisy in this area, which was a shame, as there were several Pied Flycatcher singing in the area, as well as Yellowhammer. I moved onwards and eventually came to a large reed lined pond. Despite this being beside the main road, there were a lot of birds present here. A pair of Slavonian Grebe were nest building, two pair of Pochard and several pairs of Tufted Duck were also in attendance. A call I had never hear before from Tufted Duck was a quiet courtship call that the males were giving as they followed females around the pond. Despite the traffic, I eventually managed a recording of this.




Later I concentrated on the reedbeds. Lapwing and Green Sandpipers were present, though the latter proved difficult to record due to bad luck with traffic noise. A Reed Bunting was singing constantly though and this was duly recorded.



I spent some time in this area before heading slowly back towards the main road. Increasingly, the noise from cars as too much, the traffic became heavy as late morning wore on and I gave up on recording. A few Common Crane went overhead, as did a nice adult White tailed Eagle. Despite a pretty good check of the area, there was nothing to write home about of any rarity value. I was, however, a very enjoyable morning.
 In the future, it may be best to restrict recording to more remote areas, or simply to visit overnight or at dawn, when there is simply less human disturbance.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Recent Sketches and Drawings

 Caspian Gull; 1st Winter

 Coal Tit; Faber Castell Fineliner

 Common Gull; 1st Winter; Faber Castell Fineliner


 Gret Crested Grebe; Fineliner fieldsketches done at North Bull Island, Dublin.


 Great Grey Owl; Fineliner and Charcoal Pencil


 Herring Gull; 3rd Cycle; Pencil fieldsketch done at Skeppsbron, Stockholm.


 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker; Pencil Fieldsketch


 Peregrine Falcon; Fineliner fieldsketch done on North Bull Island, Dublin. Finished at home using black coloured pencil and Faber Castell Fineliner.


 Red throated Diver; Exploring felt tipped pen medium, experimental drawing.


 Twite; Faber Castell Fineliner


 Twite; Faber Castell Fineliner


 Whinchat; Juvenile; Faber Castell Fineliner


Wood Warber in Song; Faber Castell Fineliner

A few recent drawings and fieldsketches done over the late winter period. Looking forward to the spring here...