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

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Batumi, Sakhalvasho, 13th September 2014

 Above and below, a juvenile Montagus Harrier passes in front of the station at Sakhalvasho. Note the limited collar and lack of a distinct boa on the back of this bird. Batumi offer unparalleled opportunity to study the small harriers at all ranges and provides experience with regard to their flight identification...



I travelled overnight to Batumi, Georgia via Istanbul on 13th September 2014, arriving at 11am at Salhalvasho.  I was met by the Batumi Raptor Count team and shown to my accommodation for the next three weeks at the house of Rolandi, where I was made very welcome and promptly given a hearty lunch. This is upper house at the site, perfectly situated right beside the Sakhalvasho counting station. Despite being tired, the sight of migrating raptors overhead from the terrace of the accommodation saw me making my way up the steps to the station where I met with some old friends who were on the third counting block and began scanning for birds. Immediately there were raptors overhead and I sat back to enjoy the birds....

 Adult Booted Eagle, a dark morph bird here....

The bulk of the birds passing were Honey Buzzard and Black Kite. These are the main species early in the season and I took some time to take in the features, shape and flight impression of these birds. It didn't take long for the first Booted Eagles to come overhead, stunning views as always at this site and it was wonderful to see the species again. A few enquiries told me I had just missed a Crested Honey Buzzard, though I was not in the least perturbed as I knew I had three weeks counting ahead of me. It was a joy to sit back and watch the birds passing overhead and it was not long before a few Lesser Spotted Eagles put in a appearance, followed by the first Short Toed Eagles of the trip, glorious birds which floated languidly past in typical fashion....

 Adult Booted Eagle, a light morph this time...

Harriers were also passing, with Marsh Harrier first into my notebook of all ages. Montagus Harrier came next, a lovely juvenile bird, before the shout went up for an adult male Pallid Harrier, passing to the east, allowing breathtaking views in the scope. Levent Sparrowhawk, Lesser Kestrel, Hobby, Common Kestrel and Eurasian Sparrowhawk were moving too and were most welcome. What a joy to be back at Batumi again! The first Steppe Buzzards went over in small numbers as the counters clicked the birds crossing the transect line, I was able to recall the names of the mountains and features at the station slowly over the course of the afternoon..


 A stunning juvenile Egyptian Vulture at Station 1. The bird floated right over out heads in the evening...

The passage continued over the late afternoon until the end of the count at 17.15. I decided to stay with a couple of the counters until dusk, unable to tear myself away from typically wonderful views of migrating raptors. I was glad I did, when shortly afterwards I picked up a huge bird drifting in from the east overhead. I quick view through the binoculars was all it took to take in the features of a stunning juvenile Egyptian Vulture which proceeded to drift directly overhead, where it was a the mercy of my camera lens. Six hours on the station had just come to a really nice end and I was thrilled with the birds seen on my arrival in front of my first full day which would see me join the counting team until October 3rd.


Adult Short Toed Eagle at Sakhalvasho.

After descending the station I returned to the house, where I met the returning counters who were at Station 2 for the day. A social diner was provided, with seemingly endless food and I caught up on the story of the early season count from John Wright and Dries Engelen, both of whom had been present from mid August. Tales of day peaks of 80,000/90,000 Honey Buzzard, a close Saker Falcon and a host of other birds got the trip started in the best possible fashion. A couple of beers followed before fatigue set in and I went to bed exhausted, though it was difficult to get to sleep as I looked forward to the coming day which would see me back at Station 1 in Sakhalvasho...

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