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
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

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Änsjö; Wildflowers

(Pedicularis palustris) Marsh Lousewort. Marsh lousewort is common in Sweden, but rarely abundant as it certainly was today on Ängsö. Its reddish brown, decorative shoots and red flowers stand out from a distance. Only the most powerful insects, such as bumble and honey bees, are able to get at its nectar. Bumble bees land on the corolla’s lower labellum, push their way inside and push the upper labellum forcefully in order to get at the nectar. In doing so the insect reveals its stamens and pollinates the plant while it loads up on nectar.

Marsh lousewort is a hemiparasite, meaning that it sucks extra nutrition from its neighbour’s roots. The plant’s stem goes woody and stands up all through the winter. Marsh lousewort is divided in Finland into three subspecies, which can be differentiated from each other on the basis of the area they grow in and their flowering time. Ssp. palustris in quite low, abundantly branched, flowers in June, is large-flowered (18–22 mm, 0.72–0.88 in.), and grows in southern and central Finland; ssp. borealis grows in northern and northern parts of central Finland, is branchless, has a slightly smaller flower (approx. 15 mm, 0.6 in.) and it flowers in July; ssp. opsiantha is abundantly branched and quite tall, and its flowers are small (14–17 mm, 0.56–0.68 in.).

(Lotus pedunculatus) Greater Birds Foot Trefoil. The clear yellow flowers of the greater bird's-foot-trefoil are at the top of the stem. The plant has a very hairy hollow stem and broad, but blunt, oval leaflets. Like most of the pea family it is good for fixing nitrogen into the soil, which improves fertility. It is a valuable meadow fodder plant and will provide a useful addition to the diet of livestock. It is usually found in damp grassy areas.

This is one of several leguminous plants on which the common blue butterfly lays its egg. No surprise then that Common Butterfly was plentiful on the island and seeking out this flower in order to egg lay...

(Rhinanthus angustifoliu) Greater Rattle. The greater yellow-rattle is closely related to the more common yellow rattle, but larger and more stately, it can grow up to 60cm tall. Its leaves are linear, toothed and unstalked, while its yellow flowers appear to be “beaked”; in fact, the flowers have been compared to “a canary clambering out of an eggshell with its mouth agape”. Look closely and you may be able to see the resemblance!

An annual plant, the greater yellow-rattle flowers between June and July. Its name came from the noise made by seeds rattling in their pods when the plant was ready to seed, which incidentally was a signal to farmers to start cutting their hay (in fact, the yellow rattle is also known as the 'hay rattle').

The plant is ‘hemi-parasitic’, meaning that it obtains some of its nutrients from the roots of nearby plants, and is now found mostly in grassland and open scrub on chalk.

(Lychnis flos-cuculi) Ragged Robin. Ragged-robin is a lovely but declining plant in the wild due to drainage of its natural wetland habitats. It is an attractive, bushy, upright perennial with loose clusters of 'ragged' pink flowers. It has narrow, light green leaves in opposing pairs along a reddish stem. Ragged-robin will grow in a damp position in a lawn, flower border, open woodland or next to a pond in sun or partial shade. It self seeds readily.

The second part of the botanical name translates as 'the flower of the cuckoo'. Ragged-robin comes into flower when cuckoos are calling most obviously, as does the unrelated lady's-smock - another plant known as the cuckoo flower.

Vicia sylvatica (Wood Vetch). Wood vetch is the biggest species in its genre, being capable of growing up to 2 metres (6.6 feet) high in favourable conditions. It is limp-stemmed, however, and unable to stay erect, so it supports itself on other vegetation, often trees, as it often grows in clearings or in the margins of semi-broad-leaved or broad-leaved forests. As it thrives in light-filled habitats it has been able to exploit as least considered logging and forest clearing. It favours soil which is not too acidic.

Wood vetch seems to require a lot of light, especially when it is flowering; it usually doesn’t flower in dense spruce forests, but is able to wait for a long time for sunshine to reach it. Its white flowers stand out from a distance in the semi-shade of the forest edge. Its upper petal, the standard, is erect, and is a very visible sign to insects. Its blue stripes point the way to the corolla throat and the nectar that is stored there for pollinators. Only heavy bumblebees and honeybees are able to pollinate wood vetch. The palmate keel, which is formed by the lower petals, conceals the stamens, pistil and nectar. It bends under the weight of a large insect, however, and the way into the flower is revealed. Small creatures can’t get at the nectar unless they break in by biting a hole in the calyx-tube. Wood vetch is poisonous and regionally endangered.

Parnassia palustris (Grass-of-Parnassus). Also known as Grass of Parnassus or bog-stars, are plants in the family Celastreacea. The plants occur in arctic and alpine habitats, as well as in dune systems and fens, swamps, moist woods, and across the nortern hemisphere..

A selection of shots of wildflowers from the island of Ängsö today, a wonderful place to say the least...

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