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

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Raptor Watching; Sakhalvasho; Georgia; 17th September 2012

 Early morning and birder's scanning to the east for early raptors as birds begin to appear moving southwards...

 Sakhalvasho, Station 1. The view towards the east...

Station 1 was again my base for the day and I arrived at 06.30am. Harriers were immediately picked up moving south, mostly Marsh Harriers. A number of juvenile Pallid Harriers gave stonking views as they passed and I was now comparitively comfortable identifying these birds. Early birds also included Black Kites and a cracking female Lesser Kestrel, which flew through on very quickly beating wings, looking very slim in build. A little later there were 10 Great White Egret over the sea, moving to the south. It remained comparatively quiet quite in the morning, though an adult female Pallid Harrier was very much enjoyed. Before long though there were Black Kite, Honey Buzzard and the first Booted Eagles begining to build in numbers. Everything was carefully scrutinized, especially the Honey Buzzard in the hope of a Crested Honey Buzzard and I became very aware that these birds were highly variable in appearance...

 Honey Buzzard; Juvenile Dark Morph. A rather interesting tail pattern on this bird, with an apparent dark base to the tail, recalling Crested Honey Buzzard. It would seem though that this is a Eurasian Honey Buzzard juvenile as the carpal patches are rather solid, whilst I would expect a more prominent P5 on a Crested Honey Buzzard.

Honey Buzzard;  Female. A very large individual this one. 

Booted Eagle; Light Morph. Adult or Immature? Showing some signs of moult on the secondaries, though there seems to be quite a bite of pale trailing edge, possibly a second calender?

Montagu's Harrier; Juvenile. Note the dark primary tips and dark trailing edge to wing, with fine barring on the primaries largely confined to the inner half on the primaries. 

Booted Eagle; Light Morph.

Honey Buzzard; Adult Male. Note the tail pattern with a dark subterminal bad and two bands at the tail base in close proximity. Well demarciated dark trailing edge to the wing and sharply defined dark primary tips. Well marked underwing covert's, unmarked inner primaries, a very nice bird indeed...

Honey Buzzard; Adult Male; Same bird as above. Note the rather pinched wing bases, typical of Honey Buzzard..

Honey Buzzard; Adult Male. Again the same individual. The bird using the tail as a rudder to turn inside a kettle of the species in early morning light..

Honey Buzzard; Juvenile Intermediate morph. Juveniles of this species are very variable in appearance. Note here the salient structure, the small head and large tail with rounded corners, pinched wing bases, concave secondaries and small hand of wing with five prominent primary fingers. 

Honey Buzzard; Adult Male. The underwing covert's are quite solidly marked on this bird, note also the sharply defing trailing edge to the wing and sharply defined dark primary tips.

Booted Eagle; Adult Dark Morph. Same individual above and below. In comparison to Honney Buzzard note the rather squared tail with sharp corners. On this individual, you can see moult on the secondaries and also the tail, with the outermost tail feathers currently regrowing.

Through late morning things remained a little slow by local standards, though Booted Eagle passage was reasonable. The first of the Lesser Spotted Eagle began to move though, as well a some cracking Short Toed Eagles. Passerines noted included Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Coal Tit, Bee Eaters and masses of hirundines. Almost imperceptably, just after noon, numbers suddenly increased and soon there were masses of raptors moving through and we were suddenly counting furiously. Mixed streams of Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and Steppe Buzzard represented the bulk of the passage and counting was complex. Many of the birds were directly overhead or just to the east of the station and it was a remarkable sight to see so many birds kettling above us. As Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles and others were picked out we tried to age as many birds as possible, with a few of the counters responsible for this task. The first Steppe Eagle of the day was identified before long. A flock of 33 Ruddy Shelduck moving south in the west was more unexpected! An incredible site was a flock of 12 Lesser Spotted Eagles together, birds of all ages moving south together, a very impressive sight indeed. In amongst the throng of birds, the first good birds eventually came, with 2 Greater Spotted Eagles a highlight. More Steppe Eagle were to follow, whilst small flocks of Black Stork were very welcome. Then a third Greater Spotted Eagle and more small groups of Lesser Spotted Eagles!

Short Toed Eagle; Adult. Note the well marked underwing, greyish subterminal band and signs of moult, most obviously on P8 on the left wing, still growing out, but almost fully grown. The hood is quite solid on this individual, a fantastic bird...

Lesser Spotted Eagle; Immature. Note the signs of moult on the secondaries, notably P8 on the left wing, making this bird a probable 3rd Caleder Year.

Common Buzzard; Juvenile. Same bird above and below. Note the very clean trailing edge with fresh plumage, no signs of moult and a pale iris. I didn't see a lot of Common Buzzard on the trip and this was the best photo I managed by far. A much larger bird than Steppe Buzzard, deep chested, longer winged and tailed, giving a very different silhouette.

Also in this period came a stunning juvenile Steppe Eagle, a bird which I managed to get a few record shots of. The wave of raptors continued to pass for some time and it was difficult to keep up with the numbers at times, though once again the count was well organized, communincation was good and the birds were dealt with. A few cracking male Pallid Harriers were memorable, though again, they were rather high overhead as they pushed through. A blip view of a very dark Montagu's Harrier was frustrating, though a spanking adult male Lesser Kestrel was an amazing sight. All the while there were raptors everywhere. As the afternoon wore on the numbers slowed and soon the passage stopped as suddenly as it had began. A phenomenal days birding...

Steppe Eagle. Three images directly above. My third Steppe Eagle of the trip, easily identified by the broad white edges to the underwing covert's. Not the greatest photo in the world, though the long centremost tail feathers sugest a young bird, a juvenile. Note the six primary fingers and compare to Lesser Spotted Eagle, which usually shows only five...

Goshawk; Juvenile. This is a wild bird that had been trapped by locals for use as a decoy to attract other birds for shooting. Hunting and trapping are common in Georgia unfortunately, though the Batumi Raptor Count is attempting to educate young people in the area in an attempt to change the mindset.

The following totals were recorded;
21 Black Stork, 1 White Stork, 2,142 Honey Buzzard, 1,862 Black Kite, 24 Short Toed Eagle, 85 Marsh Harrier, 14 Pallid Harrier, 33 Montagu's Harrier, 527 Steppe Buzzard, 67 Lesser Spotted Eagle, 3 Greater Spotted Eagle, 4 Steppe Eagle, 20 Aquilla Sp., 138 Booted Eagle, 2 Osprey, 1 Large Falcon Sp.

1 comment:

ed keeble said...

it's a great pleasure reading these

not often you get the "colour" of these raptor watches, rather than just dry totals and abit of weather..