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 13, 2014

Batumi, 22nd September 2014

Lesser Spotted Eagle. Immature bird here, note the moult in the primaries and secondaries, as well as central tail feathers.

Lesser Spotted Eagle.

Lesser Spotted Eagle. Also in frame a young Steppe Buzzard rufous type, juvenile bird.

I was awake early in anticipation of a good day after it became apparent the rain had stopped overnight. At the breakfast table I watched as three Red Breasted Flycatcher flipped around the bushes and trees beside the house. We knew that following a couple of days of bad weather that there was likely to be a very good day waiting for us up the hill. I was at Shuamta and we hastily made our way to the transport and eventually made the gruelling climb up the mountain..
 On arrival there were harriers moving south and some of them showed very well. A few of the male Pallid Harrier were quite superb and it was not long before the palmtop was busy. Early on came the first signs of a good day, when good sized kettles of Black Kite began to appear in the valleys and against the mountains to the north and we were soon getting organized as the first serious streams began to form. Steppe Buzzard were also soon appearing in large kettles, soon many hundreds of birds were now passing the station. It didn't take long for a thousand birds to register on my clicker before the birds stopped passing, the passage stopping only briefly...

Birds beginning to kettle overhead at Shuamta in the first of the monring thermals...

After the the sun began to climb higher in the sky, eagles began to appear, Short Toed Eagle, Booted and the first of the Lesser Spotted Eagles. Shuamta is often the site where the passage of eagles is heaviest and we hoped we would have a big eagle day. Shortly afterwards we had a very nice Steppe Eagle in the east, the bird giving superb views at medium range. I was asked to watch in the east and it wasn't long before Steppe Buzzard began to reappear, numbers seeming to pick up slowly before I began to realize I would be very bus indeed. They began to really avalanche around noon, though happily the streams were moving very purposefully and the passage was relativelystraightforward. Despite this, the numbers were soon huge. I had previous experience of the Steppe Buzzard peak here at Batumi in 2012, though my memory was now being refreshed as to just how insane the migration can get in a few short hours. It went from hundreds to thousands of birds very quickly and soon there was no respite. John Wright was there beside me and he went through the stream for other species first, taking out the Honey Buzzard, Black Kites and Harriers, though it was predominantly Steppe Buzzards. It developed into a quite magnificent spectacle, with a huge kettle of Steppe Buzzard over Little Ginger for most of the afternoon, a churning mass of birds at several points, belching streams of birds out to the south. We were soon well over 10,000 birds, just from this one stream. Behind us, the counters in the west sector were calmer, as they had mainly Black Kite, though some eagles were coming through. Our eyes remained firmly in the east and we had no time to look anywhere else as a full on Steppe Buzzard push was now taking place right in front of our eyes. John and I alternated between counting the huge stream and sifting for other species for a few hours. It was hard work, but very enjoyable and I think we were both very happy just to have good raptor passage again after two inactive days with heavy rain. At some point in the early afternoon a male Crested Honey Buzzard passed in the east, not far away and we had good views of the bird. A juvenile Steppe Eagle followed it, then a Short Toed Eagle and several Lesser Spotted Eagle. Booted Eagles went through around this time to and then there were more Honey Buzzard and Black Kite begining to appear in the east and we became intensely busy as the Batumi raptor tap opened up and the skies were filled with birds. Small flocks of Levant Sparrowhawks now started to go through, as well as harriers. This was a bit special...

Fritillary at Shuamta, have to get back to you all with a specifies identification..

A Honey Buzzard high overhead, a late adult always summons your attention at Batumi..

That afternoon was magical. It just goes by so fast whilst it is happening, as you are so concentrated with counting duty. Occasionally you get a chance to step back briefly and take it all in. The magnificent kettle over Little Ginger really was something to behold. To the north and south of that kettle a dark twisting ribbon prescribed the constant stream of birds that were streaming in to feed the kettle and those that were streaming out of it, having gained a great deal of height. In among them came the other species, the Honey Buzzards, Kites, Eagles and Harriers. I tried to get some videoscoped record of the scene, which is fine, though really, this is something you have to be there to experience. The skies here are a wide umbrella and impossible to render accurately through a camera lens, the spectacle just happens over too broad a is a small videoscope record nonetheless...

Steppe Buzzard kettles, click to play the video, select 1080p for best viewing on fullscreen

Lesser Spotted Eagle, high up in the stratosphere...

Steppe Buzzard Kettles....this was everywhere you looked on the day.

Passage remained strong all the way until the end of the day and 25,000 plus Steppe Buzzards were eventually logged in our east. Late in the afternoon there was a second Crested Honey Buzzard, this one though was a juvenile, only the second juvenile recorded at Batumi. I only had views through the binoculars, though John managed good views in the scope. Both of us failed to get a digiscope of the bird. The Steppe Buzzards began to slow a little in the evening and we were able to enjoy another Steppe Eagle as well as some nice Lesser Spotted Eagles. It came to an end all too soon, a great migration day. As often as not in Batumi, the journey back was a time of reflection on the days passage, when you realized you had just witnessed a real natural spectacle...

A male Crested Honey Buzzard here, honest....look at the tail on that!

Batumi - Shuamta
Monday 22 September 2014   

Counting period: 8:00 - 18:00
Count type: Storks and raptors
Observers: Dries Engelen, Blanca PĂ©rez, Alan Dalton, Maik Jurke, Sergius Nizinski, John Wright, Demetrios Bertzeletos
Black Stork17Pallid Harrier18Aquila sp.109
Honey Buzzard407Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier44Booted Eagle51
Crested Honey Buzzard2Levant Sparrowhawk454Osprey1
Black Kite943Steppe Buzzard33318raptor sp.3626
Short-toed Eagle14Lesser Spotted Eagle46
Marsh Harrier90Steppe Eagle3

Totals: 39143 individuals, 16 species, 10:00 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)
Comments: 1 Crested Honey Buzzard juvenile.

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