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

Monday, October 08, 2012

Raptor Watching; Sakhalvasho; Batumi; 24th September 2012

Common Kestrel. Note the rather short out P10, clearly shorter than the longest P9.

We awoke and peered anxiously out the window, the forecast had been corect and the weather was good! There was a real buzz around the breakfast table and an air of expectancy. A good day was expected after two days of rain, surely we would have a good passage of birds today. Jasper Wehrmann, Aki Aintilla, Arthur Green and Guillaume Peplinkski joined me on Station 1. The day started well with small flocks of Black Kites going over right from the start. Then real highlights came, 6 Red Footed Falcon came in off the sea and passed close in the west, a brilliant sight. 7 Purple Heron flew south over the sea, Bee Eaters were everywhere, 5 Crossbill went over, straight through  kettle of Honey Buzzard! There were Red Breasted Flycatchers rattling everywhere around us as we watched a 2nd calender Lesser Kestrel, a female, fly right past us and Andrea Corso gave us a complete run down of the pertinent features right there in the field...

Black Kite; Juvenile. The same bird above and below. Note the fresh, crisp remiges on the wing and pale headed appearance...

It remained a little slow in the mid morning, there was still some cloud overhead, though it was clearing up. The bulk of passage was made up of Black Kite, though a cracking adult male Red Footed Falcon expanded or retina's substantially! Then came yet more expansion as three adult male Pallid Harriers went overhead, one after the other! A short while later came an adult female Montagu's Harrier went past, a great bird to see well, a fabulous learning experience. Then another adult male Pallid Harrier and a lone Turtle Dove flew southwards. At 10.45am the first Booted Eagle passed and was quickly followed by four more. Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and Steppe Buzzard picked up in numbers. There was a real sense of anticipation in the air..
 The shout went up for a Peregrine Falcon in the west and I managed to get onto the bird very quicky. Immediately I had a feeling that this was something else and the bird did not fit Peregrine. The bird was alarmingly small and compact, even allowing for a small male bird the shape was wrong. The flight was vary fast and direct, the wing bases quite deep and the shape was that of a smart, compact anchor. Andrea Corso then spoke out and said Barbary Falcon, which fit the bill perfectly to my mind. All too quickly, the bird was gone and we decided it was not a conclusive view as nobody had seen the nape. Everthing suggested an adult male Barbary Falcon..
 Back to the skies above it was, an Ortolan Bunting going over calling. In the trees below the station came the mournful note of a 'tristis' ChiffChaff, I managed to get the bird briefly in the scope. At 11.45am the first 2 Lesser Spotted Eagle went past. Then 2 Black Stork followed them. As we moved into the early afternoon the first Short Toed Eagle appeared, flying lethargically by. Suddenly there were lots of Booted Eagles in the sky, which also had plenty of Lesser Spotted Eagles, 10 birds were quickly logged. A juvenile Red Footed Falcom, an adult male Red footed Falcon, 8 Black Stork, 4 Short Toed Eagle in a group, 6 Booted Eagle and an Osprey. This was, quite simply, astounding birding...

Pallid Harrier; Second Calender Male. Same bird in the three images directly above. This bird was a lot lower than many that had passed in previous days and I was happy to get a few images of this stunning plumage..

At around 1pm. there was another shout of 'Peregrine!' There was no mistaking this bird as being of that species, its shape, size and flight were bang on for that species and this only reinforced the earlier birds impression, as that of Barbary Falcon. This bird was very interesting too though, and as it approached it became cleat that it was a very pallid, frosty looking bird. Andrea identified it straight away as belonging to the siberian race, a Calidus Peregrine. It was a stunning bird. In appearance it was frosty looking with an unmarked vent and a pale headed appearance. The bird appeared remarkably long winged and long tailed, very noticably so in fact. The underparts were rather beautifully marked, the underwing covert's in particular were finely marked. The moustacial stripe was well defined, though rather thin. The bird appeared rather how I would of expected a Saker Falcon to appear in fact, though perhaps not heavy enough to be of that species, though rather large looking, this bird was streamlined and rather elegant in the air. All to quickly the bird had passed and I made a sketch and a few notes of the bird straight away. Getting back to the birding, it was obvious that passage was intensifying and birds were begining to move in large numbers. 18 Black Stork moved on through, 5 Short Toed Eagles and several Lesser Spotted Eagle put in an appearance. Honey Buzzard were now everywhere, juvenile birds, almost all of them. Another 2 Red Footed Falcons blasted past the hill...

Lesser Kestrel. The longer outermost P10 is clearly visible here and P8-P10 are all quite close to each other in length. Compare this bird with the Common Kestrel photographed above..

Jean Jacques at Sakhalvasho...

Gael, Mael and Stijn at Sakhalvasho, as can be seen from the photo, the weather was much improved from the previous two days...

Birder's scoping to the west at Sakhalvasho, where many Booted Eagle were passing on the day..

As we moved into the mid afternoon the passage of Booted Eagle was remarkable. They were passing constantly and sometimes in small groups and they were very much the feature of the day. Sakhalvasho gets the lions share of these birds, which seemed to move along the coast. 22 Black Stork then put in an appearance, as the afternoon wore on I remember being amazed at the numbers of Booted Eagles and wondering what the days total would be. A second calender Short Toed Eagle was an instructive bird. Again the evening saw increased harrier passage, as mainly Marsh Harrier pushed through. The day ended with a lone Black Stork before we headed off for dinner at dusk, an incredible enjoyable days birding.

Booted Eagle; Adult Light Phase. Lots of these birds were moving on the day and it was a wonderful sight. For me, one of the standout species at Batumi..

Booted Eagle; Adult Light Phase. Note that P8 is growing out..

Osprey. Seen in small numbers on an almost daily basis. A very easy species to identify due to the distinctive plumage and long winged appearance..

Booted Eagle; Juvenile Dark Phase. A feather perfect bird here with a lovely white trailing edge to the wings and tail...

Booted Eagle; Adult Dark Phase. The same bird here in these three images, above and below. There are obvious signs of moult in the secondaries, making this bird rather easy to age. Note also here the rather light toned underwing covert's.

Black Kite; Adult bird here due to the obvious signs of moult, note P6 is growing out. In general, a rather darker bird than juvenile plumage, note the different, darker tones on the head, undercarriage and tails.

Honey Buzzard; Juvenile. A beautifully marked intermediate type in the three images directly above.

Marsh Harrier in this vertical crop, high overhead...

Raptors kettling overhead at Sakhalvasho.

Short Toed Eagle, just how good are they?

Booted Eagle; Dark Phase

Steppe Buzzard; Adult. A rather dark bird, looking very much like a Common Buzzard. Note the compact silhoette, barrel shaped body and small headed appearance..

Booted Eagle; Dark Phase...

Honey Buzzard; Juvenile Light Morph. A stunningly beautiful bird, the light morph in juvenile Honey Buzzard qualifies to be amongst the most beautiful of raptors. A very clean, well marked individual, complete with dark eye mask..

Two bottles of 'Yellow Beer' en route to Station 1 at the end of the day. The last day of the Batumi Bird Festival...

Honey Buzzard; Juvenile intermediate morph.

Booted Eagle; Adult Dark Morph. The light catching the birds underside nicely as it circles. Note the moult in the tail..

Jean Jacques at Station 1..Anna taking a bit of a nap...

Andreas Corso at Sakhalvasho. Great to have him on Staion where he was an incredible source of insight and information..

Manuel Tacke does John Lennon..

Dietrich at Sakhalvasho..

Gael communicates with Station 2 to make sure a passing stream of raptors has been counted between the two stations..

Andrea and Gael at Sakhalvasho...

The following species and totals were logged;

Black Stork7Sparrowhawk11Lesser Kestrel2
Honey Buzzard143Levant Sparrowhawk3Common / Lesser Kestrel9
Black Kite266Sparrowhawk / Levant Sparrowhawk28Red-footed Falcon17
Short-toed Eagle5Buzzard/Honey Buzzard263Hobby41
Marsh Harrier28Steppe Buzzard364Hobby / Red-footed Falcon23
Pallid Harrier11Lesser Spotted Eagle4Peregrine1
Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier1Lesser Spotted / Greater Spotted / Steppe Eagle5falcon sp.13
Montagu's/Pallid Harrier21Aquila spec.4raptor sp.1787
harrier sp.1Booted Eagle740

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