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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

30 M Kärret; Norra Järvafltet; 31st August 2011

 Spotted Flycatcher

Norra Järvafältet is a large rural park in the central northern suburbs of Stockholm, it is large and managed by traditional means. Livestock, copsing and traditional farming methods are put into practice at the site. It is a rich environment and provides excellent habitat for birds. It's size means it forms a green coridor down the centre of northern Stockholm, which has the effect of funneling migrating birds and 30 M Kärret is the prime site to view this spectacle. I arrived just after 8am today under blue skies and warm autumn sunshine.
 Immediatly on arrival I was informed by local birders that the first Bluethroat of the autumn had been found and I made my way to the bridge where it was seen last. Almost straight away it was calling back to a tape of the species song, it then proceeded to perch in the open where I had a stunning view through the scope before it dived into cover. A very nice start to any mornings birding...
 Other birds were soon to be seen. A Sedge Warbler worked along a bank of vegetation, whilst a Garden Warbler made a typically brief appearance. Reed Buntings and Red Backed Shrikes were more obvious, the latter busily feeding on passing insects. A couple of Whinchats worked the fields, whilst a quietly 'chacking' bird eventually proved to be a Reed Warbler as suspected. A couple of Spotted Flycatcher were also welcome, one bird preening and allowing a shot or two to be taken.
 At about 9.30am I moved and settled into the main watchpoint with a small gallery of eight or nine birder's. Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were first into the notebook, migrating birds flying over calling. A couple of Common Buzzards followed, an Osprey fished over the lake to the northwest, Sabysjön. Next up was a Hobby, this one feeding high up in the air on insects. As we atched a raptor crossed its path, a buzzard species, but which one? We watched as it moved south, small headed and long tailed, rather uniformly dark on the undercarriage, a nice juvenile Honey Buzzard. This was the species I had come here to see today. It passed high overhead and I reeled off a few frames for reference. The final tally would be five of these wonderful birds, it was nice to get prolonged views of one bird as it tumbled downwards on several occasions and stayed in view for five minutes. Then to the left I picked up a pair of accipters, I called them as Goshawks and watched as they mock fought in the air, an adult pair. The views were good through the scope and I enjoyed the show, though better was to follow..
 A pair of Hobby now appeared, one bird peeling off and procceded to hunt Swallows high overhead, a really breathtaking aerial display which took the breath away. The bird failed to catch and I got the distinct impression that this bird, a juvenile, was in fact almost playing and practising its flight skills on the hirundines. Two more Goshawks passed overhead, this time juveniles. More Common Buzzard were logged moving south, as were a pair of Osprey. A Kestrel flew west and Sparrowhawks were also on the move, a quite amazing morning for raptors in particular.





Record shots of the first Honey Buzzard to pass, a juvenile. Note the small headed appearance, longish tail and rather uniformly dark undercarriage. With practice a fairly easy bird to seperate from Common Buzzard given reasonable views...


The following are the final tallies from my notebook...
14 Common Buzzard, 5 Honey Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk, 4 Goshawk, 1 Kestrel, 2 Hobby, 2 Raven, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Whinchat, 1 Bluethroat, 4 Red Backed Shrike, 5 Reed Bunting, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit, 19 Cormorant, 9 Greylag Goose, 1 Black Woodpecker, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Green Woodpecker.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Skeppsbron; 29th August 2011

A Baltic Gull in flight. This bird was a lesson for me as I initially considered it to be the Yellow-legged Gull. Note however the following, 1. Darker inner primaries 2.Slighter Bill 3. Lack of dark mask around the eye 4. Overall dark greater coverts 5. Fresh plumage 6. Tail band uniform in width, not narrower at outer ectremities 7. Rather small, rounded head




An intesting point to note, this bird has moulted scapulars. The moulted feathers are note together in the upper scapulars, but rather randomly moulted and include the longer lowest scapular. This species is often cited to delay moult until arrival at the wintering grounds, closer inspection of a number of these birds show that this is often not the case. Een more remarkably, this bird shows a fresh lesser covert on the foremost wing, the first time I have seen a wing coverts replaced before departure in this species...









  Excellent light this evening for photography- Note here the dark patterned axilleries. The flanks on view here show a lot less marking than Yellow-legged Gull, lacks the blotching of that species and is more finely marked...




 An old friend this one, this Herring Gull was born in Finland. I have seen it several times in the last two years, the bird is now four years old.




 A different 1st Calender Baltic Gull. This bird has been present for weeks now and seems to have lost primaries in the last couple of days. This is not moult, but rather damage...




Herring Gull, a 1st calender bird. Over 50 Herring Gulls present today, 22 of them falling into this age group. Quite like this shot...

A few shots here from Skeppsbron from today, things rather static at the moment really. Plenty of Herring Gulls present, though just thre Lesser Black-backed Gulls now remain. The Yellow-legged Gull is still present after about seven weeks, could it be possible this bird might stay over into the winter? Probably not, though time will tell. The bird looks remarkably settled at the site..


Angarn; 29th August 2011

 Angarn from over the stubble fields on the approach...




Red Backed Shrike


Headed off to Angarn hoping for some good birding, though to be honest it was remarkably quiet birdwise, the quietest I have ever seen it in fact. On arrival there were a few Stock Dove wheeling overhead, whilst amongst the cattle on the reserve ther were 4 Yellow Wagtail still present. I had to work hard for very little reward, a Snipe was noted befoer a Hobby was seen in the distance, hunting high up for insects. It soon dissapeared, thought a young Marsh Harrier was seen over the reeds hunting. Not a lot to add except for a single Greenshank!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Landsort; 26th-27th August 2011



A much anticipated visit to Landsort, a site which really is rather special and certainly my favourite place to birdwatch in within a couple of hundred miles of Stockholm. The potential for rarities is staggering, one only has to look at one of this sites previous rarities, Pale-legged Warbler, to realise that almost any potential eastern mega could turn up here. The island is underwatched with just a handful of birders visiting the island. Far from being a site with just passerine interest the island has quite phenomenal seawatching, involving a range of species, with massive movements of seaducks perhaps the highlight, though divers, grebes, skuas, terns and waders also feature. Add to this autumn raptor passage as well as breeding birds which included Barred Warbler and Greenish Warbler this yaer and little else need be said. We arrrived at noon on Saturday, there was news of the mornings birding. A Red-rumped Swallow had been seen migrating southwest past the lighthouse and a dead Dotterel had been picked up there too! I was with John Costello and we dropped our gear in at the bird observatory before heading straight out to birdwatch. We quickly came across a butterfly specis new to me, Oeneis jutta, or Baltic Grayling. The weather was quite stunning and we were both sweltering in the heat...


 Baltic Grayling(Oeneis jutta), a new species for me straight away...

Birdwise things were rather quiet, migration here is concentrated early in the morning and by now visible movement had ceased. As with all islands, birding here is very much weather dependendant and fall conditions are need for the island to hold migrants all day. By now the weather was bright and sunny, with a strong, gusty and increasing souhwesterly.We worked hard for a couple of Lesser Whitethroat before moving on to Bredmar. ..

 Bredmar, situated on the west side of this small island, a good site that often hold waders and passerines.

At Bredmar we picked up two Sparrowhawk the second of which was high up and proceeded to head southwest over the baltic. Then a couple of Red-backed Shrike were seen, both immature birds, this species is now begining to move in numbers. Then another bird overhead, amazingly a Cuckoo actively migrating, the first time I have ever seen this species actually doing so. The bird was an adult and was mobbed by Swallows, many of which were seen to stream south over the island during the day...


 Common Gull, a 1st calender bird over Vaderbunkeren...

Evetually we made our way back to Vaderbunkeren to do an evening seawatch. With the sunny, hot weather it seemed litle was moving apart from a few gulls and we decided after an hour our time was better spent looking for passerines..


 Great Black-backed Gull; again a first calender bird here...

We headed for Fyren, the islands lighthouse at the southern tip of the island and carefully checked the gardens there. The amount of foliage at this time of year makes things difficult, there is a lot of it on this island, perhaps its only major drawback with regard to it's rarity potential. After nothing of real note we worked our way backed past the shallets, a few phyllosc warblers the only migrants. At the main village, Storahamn, we looked up to see more Swallow, these birds feeding in the evening sun along with a larger bird which drew by full attention! As soon as I got the binoculars on it I knew what it was, a NIGHTJAR! It fed over us briefly, though at the same time giving us incredible views . The bird was feeding in bright, evening sunshine, far from an everyday occurance. A very good record for the island, these birds are very rare on passage in autumn, this was in fact only my third ever NIGHTJAR. Even better, it was a lifer for John and we were well chuffed with ourselves. Nice to find a rarity, the first in a while. The bird dissapeared to the north and we went after it only to hear a familiar wader call, moments later three Greenshank passed southwest overhead. A minute later another waderlike call though this one was familiar to me and certainly not a shorebird, rather it was the contact call of juvenile Caspian Tern. We looked up to see two birds, a first calender and an adult moving southwest, a good bird on the island. A while later I had a brief view of the NIGHTJAR again moving south, after which time we did not see it again. A superb evenings birding...


 Sunset on Landsort.

An early night followed in order to get up early at 4am. We made our way to the lighthouse before sunrise, the weather though had taken an unexpected turn for the worst. Nevertheless, the lighthouse was as always impressive. A check at its base revealed a casualty, a Lesser Whitethroat, the bird hitting the light at night and expiring.


 Landsort Fyren; The islands lighthouse...




 Another shot of Landsort Fyren, always an impressive sight early in the morning...

We quickly realized the strong, gusting wind and light rain had put a stop to passerine migration, we had hoped for Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits and other early migrants to be streaming overhead, so we were a little dissapointed. We set up the scopes and began a seawatch on which the follwing were seen; 4 Lesser Black-Backed Gull, 5 Dunlin, 22 Black Headed Gull, 48 Common/Arctic Tern, 3 Ringed Plover,   1 Wood Sandpiper, 1 SANDWICH TERN, 102 Common Scoter, 21 Wigeon and 14 Teal. The Sandwich Tern is notable as it was my first in Sweden, another rarity, far from common in this part of the world.The weather deteriorated throughout the watch and we gave up around eight to look for passerines. The lighthouse garden held a Pied Flyatcher and Lesser Whitethroats. The village was checked too, a couple ofe Whinchats were nice, as well as a Wheatear. Around the ringing area beside the observatory another Whinchat was seen, along with 5 Spotted Flycatchers. It was hard work though and when the weather inproved and nothing came out to feed in the sunshine we decided the strong wind was perhaps better for eawatching. At Vaderbunkaren it proved slow, thought birds were passing for a while and we saw the following there; 18 Common/Arctic Tern, 29 Common Scoter, 2 Dunlin, 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Ringed Plover and 10 Grey Plover. Previously I have only seen single Grey Plover and ten birds was a good record. The passage then suddenly stopped. The weather continued to be good. The return ferry produced A White-tailed Eagle and a nice Osprey perched in a pine tree fishing. A wonderful trip this, I shall be back....


 Scopes looking out over the Baltic Sea...




 Above and below, at times today a nice broken sky saw me make these images. A glorious afternoon had followed a very rough, thundery morning...





The island ferry making its way back to pick us up...


For those interested a link here to Landsort Bird Observatory;
http://www.landsort.com/birds/

Monday, August 22, 2011

Skeppsbron; 22nd August 2011

 The Yellow-legged Gull still present at the site...




This bird continues to moult scapulars, note the new feathers and exposed lower scaps where the meddle scapulars have been dropped...


The Yellow-legged Gull continues it's stay at the site, now a month in residence. Popped by for a little sketching and took some video footage which I will ost below. Plenty of Argetatus around today, with a further increase in 1st calender birds. Baltic Gulls are less numerous as many have left for migration. As we move towards September the likelyhood of a Caspian Gull at the site increases, lets hope one arrives this year...

For the video click on the link here...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7PSNmV6rpI


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gull Sketches; Skeppsbron

 Yellow-legged Gull




 Yellow-legged Gull




 Dark Type Baltic Gull; 1st Calender




1st Calender Argentatus



A selection of biro sketches done at Skeppsbron of various gulls at the site...





Monday, August 15, 2011

Skeppsbron; 15th August 2011

Yellow-legged Gull still present today, a comparison here with an Argentatus of the same age...

 
A very familiar bird to me at this stage. Moult progressing on the scapulars...


 
The bird present all morning along the dock at Skeppsbron...

 
The probable intermedius was also briefly seen twice. This bird now in the area since last Thursday at least, easily picked out in flight...


 
A second calender Argentatus preening, lots of photo opportunities today, despite the rather bad light...

 
Adult Baltic Gull in display on the dock...

 
One of the two 2nd calender Baltic Gulls also seen today...

Daily check today produced a lot of gulls due to the weather closing in. No less than 52 2nd calender Herring Gulls alone were noted. The Yellow-legged Gull continues to look very settled at the site, the probable Continental(intermedius) Lesser black-backed Gull again seen. A single Great black-backed Gull showed well...

1st Calender Herring Gull; Skeppsbron

This bird caught my eye today, somewhat reminiscent of juvenile Caspian Gull. The tertials are rather solidly dark based, a little unusual for Herring Gull. Added to this the rather complex patterning on the greater coverts, high chested apearance and rahrer Caspian like head and bill. This bird had my attention....


 A great view of the tertials and greater covert's, the primaries dropped also...


The open wing shows an inner primary window too bright for Caspian Gull....


The tail pattern here...

An interesting 1st calender gull from this morning, judged to be Herring Gull after scrutiny...

1st Calender Great Black-backed Gull; Skeppsbron

 The bird preening. note the heavy bill, blunt and deep. The tailband is on view here and can be seen to be rather broken..


 A large, powerfully built bird. Note the loosely patterned tertials, as well the patterned scapulars..


The bird yawning...

Images here of a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull which showed very well this morning...

1st Calender Baltic Gulls; Skeppsbron

 Above and below a very nicely marked pale type bird with dark upperparts. These birds are very variable, though generally they are small with a slim, long winged build. The secondaries are particularily dark in this individual...





 Another pale type which demonstrates the differing appearances of these juvenile birds...


Again a fairly pale bird, this one with rich buff fringes to the mantle, scapulars and wing covert's, not an unusual plumage by any means..

1st Calender Baltic Gulls from this morning at Skeppsbron...

Adult Argentatus Herring Gull; Skeppsbron









A sample of adult Argentautus from this morning, adult birds in moult now also, with moult approaching the longer primaries.