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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Batumi Harbour, 24th September 2014



Black Necked Grebe


Awoke early to the dreaded sound of torrential rain beating against the window and made my way out to the breakfast table. The skies were dark and obviously loaded with heavy rain, with water streaming down the hillsides beside the house. The forecast was very bad for the entire day and it looked like another day would be lost. We ate breakfast and had a good laugh amongst ourselves. The counting group at the house was now very tight and there was a lot of good humoured conversation around the table. After a while I finished editing a couple of movies and we were joined by the counters from the other house and drank tea through the early afternoon. Photos were discussed on the laptops, from previous days and trips abroad. At some point the rain eased a little and we were all restless and we discussed our options. There was no passage of raptors and Station 2 was certainly not going to happen, which left us technically free. Over the previous few days there had been obvious passerine movements and birds were apparent around the stations. I was keen to get in on a little passerine action and so were others, depute the weather. We decided to head for Batumi harbour, bring the rain gear and see if we could dig out a few good birds. We headed down the hill and took a Marshutka into Batumi and as we arrived the rain eased off to a light spattering, nice irish weather...
We headed from Batumi alone the seafront towards the ferris wheel, which marks an area of wasteland in the harbour, just a few bushes, small pine trees and tagged grassland vegetation that had been found to be an excellent migrant trap...
 Along the seafront there were a few Black Necked Grebe. Offshore we had a few gulls, a Caspian Gull, 1st Calendar, lots of Yellow legged Gull, Medaterranian Gulls, 50 Little Gulls and a very likely Armenian Gull, which flew quickly past. As we approached the ferris wheel we flushed a few Redstart and several Chiffchaff from amongst the boats, there was a Northern Wheatear bouncing around the footpath and as we arrived at the wasteland area it quickly became apparent there were migrants everywhere...

Eastern Stonechat


Eastern Stonechat


Eastern Stonechat

The rain made thing very difficult though out the late afternoon and evening and despite the fact we knew we would be soaked, it was not an issue. There were birds everywhere you looked, and at first it was Chiffchaff, hundreds of them. I was kicking them out of the grass everywhere, after a while I began to get onto other species. Willow Warblers were also here in smaller numbers, both these and Chiffchaff appearing varied and no doubt there were western and eastern races involved. As nice as it would of been to give these a better look, there was too much else going on. Bluethroats were everywhere, a remarkable density of birds. They gave stunning views all evening. It was such a shame about the dark conditions, combined with the rain it meant it was dodgy to use the camera for long and it remained in the bag. A Great Reed Warbler came next, among the hordes of Red backed Shrikes present on every bush. Then came the Stonechats, the majority seemed to be Caspian Stonechats of the race Variagatus. These were new for me, and I was blown away by a couple of male birds and made myself stop to look at them. They were striking birds, though flighty. Around them were Whinchats, Redstarts, Willow Warblers and Chiifchaffs, as well as a bewildering array of Reed Warblers. This was phenomenal stuff..


Willow Warbler

I drifted off a little to get away from other birds, as the Belgian group was also now in the area. It payed to get into quiet areas, I had a few more Great Reed Warbler and had a couple of unstreamed Acros diving into cover before a star bird appeared in front of me in the form of a Booted Warbler. It gave me stunning views next to a Reed Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat before approaching birders saw it dive into cover. I tried to get a few of the lads onto it, but became distracted when a Stone Curlew flew past me! The backdrop of downtown Batumi was surreal and the bird flew around, eventually settling amongst some stones beside a Taxi. There was a Red backed Shike on the taxi wing mirror, which moved when the taxi driver almost tap the ash from his cigarette on the bird! Such were the scenes on the day, it was absolutely amazing. John and I enjoyed the Stone Curlew settling down to sleep before moving on.

Eastern Stonechat


Wouter appeared at this point to say he had had both Savis and River Warbler, so I went for a look at these, flushing a few quail on the way. Quail were everywhere. We had now joy with the warblers, though did flush a very nice Little Crake! A few Blackcaps, more Reed Warblers and lots more Bluethroat, with many other birds diving into cover before they could be nailed down. Meeting back with John in the centre we flushed a small lark and spent some time trying to make sure of the identification. It remained in grass cover most of the time, though eventually we coaxed it onto the track and got the key features we needed. Lesser Short Toed Lark, a lifer for me and I was well chuffed. Despite the wether the camera came out for this one and I managed a few decent shots of a slightly wet bird. A wryneck was flushed on the way back to a Cafe where were met the others, on the flower beds in the city there were Redstart and Whinchat. Crazy, crazy birding. Magic though..
We met at the cafe and had a pastry and caught up with the birds the others had seen. The we went to theatre of Batumi and met up with the rest of the BRC team and we all went out for a meal and a couple of beers. The food was excellent, notably the pork, chicken and lamb kebab dishes. We ate until we almost exploded and still the bill was incredibly cheap. We had a superb evening together and went home early, hoping the following day would bring better wether, despite the fact that the skies had opened again. Still, we had made the most of the day today and we were satisfied with the result...

Lesser Short-toed Lark











Lesser Short-toed Lark



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