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, October 06, 2012

Raptor Watching; Shuamta; Batumi; 21st September 2012

This time for me it was Shuamta, Station 2, I had started to look forward to my days there very much. Despite the gruelling climb of some twenty minutes, the result was total isolation and on occasion, birds drifting right past you on eye level. The designated counters were Arthur Green, Dietrich Ristow, Jan Wellenkes, Stijn Hantson, Levan Ninua and myself. Dietrich, at the tender age of 72, beat me to the station. On our arrival the skies were blue and there was an immediate trickle of birds, Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Short Toed Eagle and the first Aquilla's, Lesser Spotted Eagle.
 The morning was glorious again weatherwise and one had to pinch onself as you took in the scene. The area around Shuamta is one of extraordinary beauty and to see the first birds filing past was amazing. Because the station was positioned so high in the mountains the views here of the birds could be breathtaking, often birds made there way along the ridge we were standing on, or a kettle formed right in front of us. Occasionally, a kettle formed in front of us and drew birds in from miles around, gliding into the bottom of the thermal before begining to circle. It constantly amazed me when this started, often with just two or three Honey Buzzard. Then, from a seemingly empty sky, there would appear raptor after raptor, gliding to the thermal. Before you knew it, there could be 75 birds in front of you, circling in the morning sunshine....


Lesser Spotted Eagle, one of the first birds of the day directly overhead...


Hobby, a cracking adult male, which tore past the station during the morning. As can be seen from the photos the bird looked right at the counter's as it passed!




Marsh Harrier; Juvenile. As always, plenty of birds were seen today. Batumi gets very large numbers of harriers, peaking in the early mornings and late evenings...


It stayed fairly quiet early morning, though there were birds moving through all the time. A Green Warbler singing was most welcome, I had a blip view. Lesser Kestrel again was a highlight, as well as a 'tristis' Chiffchaff. A couple of Red-throated Pipit, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and moderate numbers of raptors typified the morning. Then came noon and as we wondered what might happen, it started and I picked uo a large kettle of Steppe Buzzard with a few eagles amidst...
 Then, from around 12.30 pm, increasing numbers of Steppe Buzzard materialized. Before long, it was all hands on deck. I was again counting in the east and this time there was a serious movement of birds afoot. A look through the binoculars revealed three huge kettles of birds, the birds streaming from one to to the next in a huge loose chain. As often happened, the mountain named 'Little Ginger' had one of these kettles and all of the birds in the area moved through it. This mountain alway had a huge thermal and was a magnet to any migrating raptors in the area. As the birds circled to the top of this kettle and began to glide out to the south, they crossed the transact line and were counted at that point. Birds were passing behind me in the west and the radio crackled to life, making sure there were no birds double counted. The view through my binoculars was quite astounding. In 100 minutes I clicked over 8,000 Steppe Buzzard! There were a number of Short Toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle associated with these birds, which Filiep aged. After a while the passage slowed and I was able to enjoy fantasic views of yet another juvenile Steppe Eagle in front of 'Little Ginger', the views against the wooded mountainside were excellent...


Brecht Verstedt and Andrea Corso showing raptors to visitors from the platform at Station 2. A couple of Steppe Buzzard are in the frame...

Steppe Buzzard overhead. Over 12,000 birds recorded from Station 2 today!


Steppe Buzzard


Above and below; A couple of images of circling Steppe Buzzard. It gives an idea of what it was like on the day, though there was no substitute for being there. If you are into raptor wathing, Batumi is a must visit location, get yourself there for the experience of a lifetime...



After that there was a pause, I enjoyed views of Lesser Spotted Eagle. Andreas Corso and Brecht Verstadt now appeared to our north on the platform with a couple of visiting birder's, part of the bird festival. They enjoyed good views of a brace of Steppe Eagles. I remember roaring at them when the first bird appeared!
What a view. Then, out of nowhere, a second wave of Steppe Buzzard were there, in their thousands. It had seemed as if the birds were stopping and we had thought that the passage might even cease, yet here we were counting furiously again. The passage this time was even heavier than earlier and the adrenalin surged several times as impossible numbers of birds filled my field of view. Astounding. 10,000 birds hit the clickers, quite fantastic stuff, this was what I had come to experience. There were a few other birds passing at the same time, but the stream of Steppe Buzzard was 99.5% of that species and mercifully easy to count from that point of view. Around 15.40 passage tapered off and slowed as quickly as it had started and I was able to rest my eyes a little, then lie back and enjoy the birds passing overhead. I loved to relax like this in the evenings and look at things like juvenile Honey Buzzard, age a few Black Kites perhaps, or just enjoy the stunning views of whatever passed close to the station. There were always birds in the evenings. Bee Eaters were milling around all over the place still and one or two birds zapped between the counters as the flocks moved over the ridge. Eventually, it was time to leave and we packed up and headed down the hill to rendevous with the bus. The custom on a good day was to stop off, buy a supply of 'Yellow Beer' for the evening and then share one between us in the back of the bus on the journey back. 'Yellow Beer' orders were taken on the two way radio from Station 1 before we left, it came in 3 Litre bottles and was incredibly cheap at around 4 Georgian Lari! We arrived back at headquarteres and busily chatted to those at Station 1. On the day I joined the guys who were stil counting there for the last 45 minutes of light. It was always nice to compare notes and see what the other station had seen on the day. On this day though, we had better numbers and birds on Station 2, with around 9,000 birds recorded at Station 1. The group had now been together for several days and was becoming very tight knit, the banter in the evenings was fantastic fun. We sat out and talked, laughed, even danced and sang on occasion...


Andrea Corso in post juvenile moult, a little wear and tear apparent here in this shot...


Black Kite, a nice young bird this..



Steppe Buzzards, this snapped using the iPhone at the peak of the migration today, when the skiew were simply full of birds. We had 14,050 raptors today...

The following species and totals were recorded at Station 2;
Black Stork 7 Montagu's Harrier 1 Booted Eagle 71
Honey Buzzard 606 Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier 5 Osprey 2
Black Kite 1033 Steppe Buzzard 12087 Peregrine 1
Short-toed Eagle 49 Lesser Spotted Eagle 66 raptor sp. 35
Marsh Harrier 74 Steppe Eagle 1


Pallid Harrier 4 Lesser Spotted / Greater Spotted / Steppe Eagle 8



Totals: 14050 individuals, 16 species, 9:25 hours


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