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 01, 2012

Putative Shikra; 2nd Calender Female; Batumi; 16th September 2012

Here are the photos of the 2nd calender female bird, thought orininally to be a Shikra, seen on 16th September 2012 at Sakhalvasho. Sikra would be a truly mega record, an extremely rare vagrant to Europe. I was watching a Honey Buzzard directly to the south when this bird suddenly appered in view as it came from behind a large tree. My immediate assumption was that of Sparrowhawk, though when I got binoculars on the bird the result was confusion. The upperside was so greyish that I assumed the bird was a Levant sparrowhawk, until the bird came full circle and I saw the underparts! I grabbed the camera and reeled off a few shots of the bird at this point. I drew attention to the bird and as this was happening there came the sound of pandemonium as Brecht, Johannes and Jasper came running up the hill screaming 'Shikra'. Most people on the station got decent views of the bird overhead at this point, the dark gular strip clearly visible. Just after the bird passed there was an air of near disbelief at what we had just witnessed, though both Johannes and I had gotten good shots to fully document the record. The next day andrea Corso arrived at Batumi, examined the photos and made the following judgement, not in fact a Shikra, but still a remarkable looking bird and a very instructive individual. Here I will let his expert opinion, as well as those of other experts, outline this birds identification...

Andrea Corso:
"The Batumi’s Accipiter is for sure of great interest and a great bird!  Having better studied now the photos (but still not being at home, so I do not have the possibility to study the literature and photos concerning hybrids) I am more prone to think that this is an aberrant Levant Sparrowhawk or an hybrid brevipes x badius.

Please check the examination table by Andrea Corso below for the details of the bird:

"FIRST STEP: Ageing of this bird favored an advanced 2CY  female (very dense rusty barring, wider than on male, as well as on remiges). Indeed the bird have the outermost primaries P10 – P9 retained which seems to show juvenile pattern, however also a very sun-bleached and abraded adult female in deleted moult stage type primary would appear like this, but the dark tip is very narrow and not as broad as on adult-type. The secondary S4 which is one of the best ageing field mark to age difficult birds is still juvenile-like with a narrower terminal dark bar (tip). The body is almost all in the first adult-type pattern.  Looking at the tail there are two moult waves visible, with the 1st moult front arrived to T3-T4 (or R3-R4) and starting again by the central feathers at T1 (or R1 ) (numbering them from the centre outward) so the bird could not be a 2CY. However, in the tail, many raptor could show two moult waves as the T1 its very often moulted alongside the 1st post-juvenile partial moult and the renewed (re-moulted) again  on summer of their transitional 2CY when complete moult start.

SECOND STEP: Having aged and sexed the bird we could now start to look at the ID characters:
The bird has been identified in the field by some very experienced birders, so I trust the jizz and the field looking was very attracting and interesting, with the iris colour which has been well observed by many birders. However looking at the fore above table of the main ID characters on in flight Shikra and Levant Sparrowhawk we could see that 1 character is in favour of Shikra (iris colour), while 3 are intermediate or of no value; on the contrary one character is in favour of Levant Sparrowhawk. It therefore could seems that the most likely ID is fitting Accipiter badius but the character in favour or intermediate/no value are of light importance, being very variable and of little relevance, while the wing-formula is the BEST and MOST important field character to ID these two species alongside with the dark versus pale wing-tip pattern. The latter in this bird is of no value as juvenile of both species have paler wing-tips and therefore they appear similar, also, some lightly marked female Levant could as well show paler wing-tip. Therefore we remain with the wing-formula, which favour without doubt a Levant Sparrohawk with wing-tip formed by P8-P7 with same length or even P7 longest, while P6 is clearly shorter than P-7 and appear not well fingered, being surely shorter than in typical badius. The wing-formula is hard to be judged due to the very spread wings and chiefly due to the “hand” and wings pushed very frontward for active soaring (in gliding or with no forward or frontward pressing would be much easier); notwithstanding the wing-formula is fitting good brevipes and is surely against badius.
Due to the odd iris colour and the other odd character I leave open the hybrid possibility, chiefly also because for the field experience of the observers."

Additionally Barak Granit raised two points which may puts in question the identification of this bird as Shikra :  "the 6th primary seem to me too short for Shikra which should sticks out more, giving a '5th finger' (or half fingered) effect. And the bird lacks Shikra's longer mid secondaries  and also Shikra's shorter inner secondaries giving all together  parallel trailing edge.  If the iris was yellow (can't see it in the photos) than a hybrid should be considered."

Comments by Vasil Ananian:
"I have looked a bit through literature and various photos, and the only pro-Shikra character I see on your bird is the wing formula - the wingtip is formed by three fingers, rather than two. But on your bird the wingtip, IMO, still differs from real Shikra's, which additionally has clear notch on inner vane of 7th (missing on your bird). The hybrids are supposedly very rare, and whether your bird could be one is a question. Otherwise I would opt for LS."

Dick Forsmans commented the following: "The inner wing is not broad enough for a Shikra, which has a particularly broad looking arm, therefore resembling a Sparrowhawk. The underwing barring and the breast markings are too dark and too contrasting compared with an adult Shikra, which looks more like a faded Sparrowhawk.  And finally, the wing-formula is not correct for Shikra, which has a wing like a Sparrowhawk, with a lost longest finger. This wing is too narrow and the wing-tip is too pointed for a Shikra, although the 5th finger (counting inwards) is a bit longer than on an average Levant.
As for the iris colour, to me the eye looks dark. Depending on the angle of the light sometimes even dark eyes may show a paler iris in photographs, but this is a photo-effect. The clear yellow iris of a Shikra would certainly have stood out more clearly."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan, I heard that according to Dick Forsman and Barak Granit, this bird is a Levant Sparrowhawk. (
Or have those insights changed again??
Best, Jelmer