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

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Batumi, 19th September 2014

A typically high male Pallid Harrier over Sakhalvasho early in the morning. No matter how many we had seen, these lovely birds always got our attention and were very much appreciated by the counters.

Back at Sakhalvasho for the day and there was excellent harrier passage from first light. The weather seemed reasonable and the rain had not yet arrived, though it was forecast and we knew it was on the way sooner or later. Things followed the usual pattern with a few Black Kites, Steppe Buzzard and Honey Buzzards building in numbers before the other species began to pass, Booted Eagles where again prevalent. This species shows a marked preference to Sakhalvasho and the majority of bird pass here, often close to the Black Sea coastline. A couple of Lesser Spotted eagles then began to appear before the shout went up for a larger eagle at around 10.30am. I got onto the bird and had a brief view of it cycling before it landed in a tree, obscured from view on the ridge to the east of out position. On the upper side the pattern was that of a juvenile Steppe Eagle, though there was an issue with the underparts, which seemed rather pale and lacked and obvious white undercover bar. After some deliberation on the station it was decided that the bird potentially fit juvenile Imperial Eagle and  we hoped it would not remain in the tree for long. Obligingly the bird reappeared just ten minutes alter and spent som time circling over the ridge in order to gain height before gliding off to the south. The excellent, prolonged views were more than ample, everyone present at the station had fantastic views on a classic juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle. The bird was around a kilometre away, though the light was good and all of the features could be seen quite easily. This was a real shot in the arm and my first ever juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle, Naturally, I was very happy, as were one or two of the counters, for whom it was a lifer.

A Lesser Spotted Eagle, a juvenile bird bird showing some damage to the retraces on the right wing. More often than not this was the result of shooting, a huge problem here in Georgia. Sadly, many birds are seen with damaged plumage, some more seriously wounded or even shot down as they pas behind the station. 

Things went rather quiet for a couple of hours at this point. Quiet spells are not unusual by any means, though they often do not last too long. This would be the case today, from around 12.45 passage began to pick up, before distant kettles of raptors were detected to the north. By 13.00 we were very busy as hundreds of birds soon became thousands and large kettles of mixed species formed right in front of the station. It required a great deal of concentration to quickly identify and click the birds as they streamed out of the kettles, which is the moment to count the birds. Counting birds inside kettles is not accurate, much better to wait until they stream out to the south in an orderly fashion, only clicking the bird when they cross the transact line. Steppe Buzzards were becoming more numerous daily as their late September peak approached, whilst many Honey Buzzard and a few Black Kite also made up the bulk of the passage. Booted Eagles were passing in small numbers steadily, we enjoyed great views of these birds again in the afternoon..
 Remarkably, Roller were still passing and we had three birds. Turtle Dove flocks occasionally passed by and it was decided it was best to enter these birds, as it has had a disastrous decline in western ueurop and seems to be going the same way in the east. This was a very enjoyable day.

Black Kite and Steppe Buzzards.

So the afternoon moved on until later on there came a should of 'male Crested Honey Buzzard'. The bird was in a large kettle in front of the station and I had some trouble getting onto the bird. Eventually, amid much excitement, I had the beast in my sights, at first glance all seemed well and it showed good features, though I was struck by a rather short P6 and long winged jizz. i secured a few record shots as the bird streamed out of the kettle and disappeared to the north. The counters were quite busy at this point and at times like these it is difficult to give good birds too much attention. The count comes first and at times, a rarity can become a problem if there are large numbers of raptors migrating! So, it was back to dealing with the overhead birds and I did not look cosily at the photos until i downloaded them later that evening. The late afternoon passed without incident, with some steady passage and a very enjoyable day. The birds eventually fizzled out and another day had passed on station, dinner beckoned and we made our way back to Rolandi's house to meet with the other counters..
Later, upon downloading the days photos the Crested Honey Buzzard came to my attention and a couple of niggling doubts crept in about the birds identity. Full discussion below...

Crested Honey Buzzard candidate. Pro CHB features include an excellent tail pattern, with a dark basal area and broad, dark subterminal band. The secondary bar extends right into the body, another excellent feature. The underparts and underwing covert's are also fine for CHB. There is however a niggling sense of the bird having a rather small hand, with P6 appearing a little short. The birds shape was more inline with EHB, though there is some area of overlap here, with male CHB often appearing quite long winged. I would also of like the dark bar on the primaries to fall closer to the tips, though again, this could well be within the range of CHB. So the question is, is this a male Crested Honey Buzzard and can a hybrid bird be ruled out? I would of liked a bigger wing and hand first and foremost and it is this that leads me to have doubts as to the birds identity. My gut tells me this isn't a pure Crested, though comments for those with more experience would be most welcome on this bird...

Batumi - Saghalvasho
Friday 19 September 2014   

Counting period: 7:05 - 17:54
Count type: Storks and raptors
Observers: Dries Engelen, Alan Dalton, Maik Jurke, Filiep T'Jollyn, Sergius Nizinski, Hans Henrik Schou, Blanca Perez 
Crested Honey Buzzard1Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier16Osprey1
Black Kite241Steppe Buzzard3890Stock Dove1
Short-toed Eagle2Lesser Spotted Eagle16Turtle Dove21
Marsh Harrier88Imperial Eagle1European Roller3
Pallid Harrier13Aquila sp.3
Montagu's Harrier1Booted Eagle94

Totals: 4392 individuals, 16 species, 10:49 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)
Comments: Bad weather in the mountains, Steppe buzzards passed anyway in the afternooon. One juvenile Imperial Eagle. Observations of turtle dove migration and 3 rollers. One Crested Honey buzzard at the end of the day.

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