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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Batumi, Saghalvasho, 25th September 2014



We awoke on the morning of September 25th to the sound of rain once again and sat down for breakfast. The forecast was rather undecided and it was uncertain whether the rain would clear, though it was decided that we would wait an hour and assess the situation then. After a while the rain eased and became rather light and we decided it best to head up the hill, whilst the other team made their way to Shuamta, needing to be in position should the weather suddenly clear. On arrival at Station 1 there was rather miserable conditions and we took our places under the shelter, we were not expecting much at that point by way of raptors. A few Northern Wheatears around the station meant there was something to look at for the time being, I contented myself with looking at these...
The rain eased a little further around 08.30am and a few Black Kite suddenly appeared from the mountains, flying in small squadrons in rather direct flight. We had 60 birds past the station first thing, before a 2nd calendar male Pallid Harrier ghosted past us in the east, very close and low down. This was followed by a second male, this time a snowy adult Pallid, as well as a juvenile Pallid, a really stunning sight. The weather was very poor, but then, this is Batumi and it had our attention..




Pallid Harrier. This was an incredible morning for Pallid Harriers, more specifically the number of males that passed our station early in the morning. Over 20 male birds would pass, some of them at very close range, giving me my best ever views of these stunning harriers. This would of made any day noteworthy, though there was more to come on a day of surprises..



The early morning was characterised by Pallid Harrier passage, the passage of male Pallid Harrier in fact. A short while later another 2nd calendar male floated past us, before we were treated to the sight of three males flying up the valley to the east of our position! We would have around 20 male birds logged before along, along with superb views of some adult female Pallid and a handful of juveniles. Almost as soon as it had started, the push of Pallid Harrier stopped.
 Looking elsewhere, I managed a couple of Yelkouan Shearwater out to sea, along with some small, mixed flocks of herons, Both Grey and Purple Herons moving to the south over the Black Sea. Black Kites continued to moved through and there were birds to be counted as small flocks continued to move past the transect line, migrating purposefully south. It was a wonderful sight to see, these birds moving in the light rain, against a backdrop of mountains, shrouded in low cloud and mist...
 An hour late the rain actually stopped and the dune attempted to break trough the clouds, the scenery was phenomenal. There were rainbows, cloud funnels over the Black Sea and huge shafts of sunlight illuminating sections of the mountains, akin to huge spotlights. Through this clear patch came the real star of the day, Red Footed Falcons. It darted innocuously enough, with three birds past the station, two of them adult males, which drew gasps of appreciation from the counters as they passed. Then, in the distance I picked up a flock of birds, scoped them and realised they were small falcons, surely more Red Footed Falcon. The flock passed overhead, a glorious sight with 31 Red Footed Falcon above the station, calling as they passed. Then a few minutes later, a shout went up for a big flock of falcons and we watched on in awe as a flock of 98 birds passed just to the east, over the ridge. It really was impressive, incredibly there were more. Three additional flocks of 21, 57 and 8 birds would pass soon afterwards, a really phenomenal, tight passage of birds, which ended when the rain began again. Every day is different at Batumi. Here was the peak day for Red Footed Falcon, all in a couple of hours, straight past Station 1. It was simply spectacular, for me, it was a real highlight of the trip so far, a highlight among so many others..



Pied Wheatear, these images were digiscoped with the Panasonic Lumix Gh4, which was proving invaluable on this trip. I am very impressed with this camera at this point...






 The morning moved easily into the afternoon, with light rain and a few heavier shower throughout. An immature Steppe Eagle was lapped up on the station, a magnificent bird that appeared out of the mountains with Steppe Buzzards. The buzzards were now going through in numbers, though they were vastly outnumbered by Black Kites, doggedly moving through the bad weather, tough birds that really gained my respect that day. There was much shooting to the south of the station and we followed some of the birds, most of which negotiated passage past the hunters.
 There were other highlights, a really nice Osprey in the west, powering up the coast. 4 Montagus Harrier were rather late, , whilst good numbers of Marsh Harrier were also logged, a slow, steady passage that went right through the day. We would reach a good total of 60 birds in the end. A handful of Lesser Spotted Eagle were welcome, as always. It was the Black Kites that defined the day though, and as the last few birds went through in the evening we packed up and went down to the house, looking forward to a cup of hot tea. A quite wonderful day of migration..
 On their return we found out that Station 2 had seen over 6,000 birds, mostly Steppe Buzzards and we knew that birds were probably building up in numbers to the north, a peak day could come any day now if the weather would just clear...


Red Footed Falcon, photographed by Billy Herman. Manks thanks to Billy for allowing me to use his wonderful photos here, these are something else..



Batumi - Saghalvasho
Thursday 25 September 2014   

Counting period: 7:56 - 17:36
Count type: Storks and raptors
Weather:
Observers: Rafa Benjumea, Blanca Perez, Demetrios Bertzeletos, Hannes Anderson, Maik Jurke, Alan Dalton, Johannes Silvonen
Black Stork1Steppe Buzzard520
Honey Buzzard29Lesser Spotted Eagle4
Black Kite1509Steppe Eagle1
Marsh Harrier61Booted Eagle25
Pallid Harrier31Osprey1
Montagu's Harrier4Red-footed Falcon213
Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier29raptor sp.14
Levant Sparrowhawk5

Totals: 2447 individuals, 15 species, 9:40 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)
Comments: Wonderful rainy day with big flocks of Red-footed Falcon and 20 male Pallid Harriers.

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