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 06, 2014

Batumi, Sakhalvasho, 15th September 2014

Bee Eaters are something of a signature species in Batumi. Everyday, many thousands pass the counting stations and the air is constantly filled with their calls. Often the birds hawk dragonflies around the stations and give close views...

By Batumi standards, the 15th September would prove to be a quiet day. This, however, does not mean there was not a lot to see. I was back at Sakhalvasho for another day and things proved fairly calm from the start. There were some Harriers passing, and the lack of other birds meant these could be viewed for longer than normal. This allows the counters to really look closely at the birds as they pass and build up their knowledge of the key features. A stunning male Pallid Harrier was an obvious early highlight, with several juvenile Pallid and Montagus logged, whilst over twenty Marsh Harriers were entered into the palmtop.
 There were migrating passerines also and there were good views of several Golden Oriole, which rested on the trees by the station for a few minutes, before moving on. Tawny Pipit flew overhead. followed by a brief Crag Martin, just before a small group of 4 Roller moved southwards off the coast. Several Spotted Flycatcher were actively feeding in the bushes close by, along with a Redstart.
All of this was taken in as raptor passage continued at a very slow pace...

Common Kestrel. Note the rather shorter P10 on this male bird...

Early afternoon saw counters becoming a little sluggish, as passage was markedly slow. A few Honney Buzzards were passing, along with the odd Harrier, though as the afternoon pushed on it seemed that the hoped for push of birds was not going to come.
 At around 13,30 I was scanning the east when I picked up a rather pale bird in a small Kettle of Honey Buzzard and I got my scope onto the bird in question. It looked large and my initial thoughts were that of a Booted Eagle light morph, until the bird banked and an alarming looking bird materialised. I took in a few features as the bird circled at around 2km range, a very large rounded hand, pale creamy underbody and underwing coverts with no carpal patch, a short, broad rounded tail. I realised this was a probable female Crested Honey Buzzard at this point and focused on the primaries and confirmed there were indeed six fingered primaries and raised the alarm. Several other counters and eco tourists got onto the bird before it glided off to the south, the bird being rather easy to pick up. This was a welcome bird on a quiet day and my first of the trip...

Pallid Harrier, a juvenile bird here. Not all birds pass at close range and Batumi gives tremendous experience of identification at medium ranges, when the birds can often still be assigned to species, given optimal light. The dark boa and collar are clearly visible on this individual, as were the underwing details in the field...

The late afternoon saw a small passage of Booted Eagles, over a hundred birds passed, many giving very nice views as they did so. There were other birds too, a few Short Toed Eagles and 2 Black Storks were the highlights. Regular radio contact with Station 2 told us they had seen an immature Eastern Imperial Eagle, as well as a Steppe Eagle, which was enough to keep us on our toes. After the count ended I again elected to stay back on station with Danny Hinckley and we were rewarded with 3 Lesser Spotted Eagles in the east after a short time. A short while later a close view of a stinking adult male Lesser Kestrel was simply fantastic, a really smart bird. As if this wasn't enough, it was followed by a 2nd calendar male Red footed Falcon right over our head a little later, the reined juvenile outer primaries clearly visible as the birds flew by..
 Again, staying back on station had payed off with some nice birds and Danny and I left satisfied. A total of 580 raptors had been logged, this representing an extremely quiet day at this site in mid September. Later on, after dinner, I was told the following day I would be on the counting team at Shuamta, Station 2. This was something to look forward to...

Marsh Harrier. This species is the most regular harrier at Batumi and hundreds can pass in a single day. This bird is a juvenile, identified by the typical female type colour and fresh retrices. Care is taken to age birds correctly, more distant birds are often entered as simply Marsh Harrier, without detail. Where male can be eliminated the record is entered as female colour, indicating the bird to be either juvenile or female.

Hobby, an adult bird here. A common sight in Batumi, though the species is not counted officially. The BRC protocol concentrates its efforts on species that migrate in a concentrated fashion through the bottleneck, such as Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Short Toed Eagle, Black Kite and Aquilla Eagles. Significant numbers of these species allow accurate monitoring of the birds in order to determine the health of the overall population, whilst further details, such as age, allow insight into breeding success and population dynamics. Smaller falcons, such as Hobby, Kestrels and Merlin migrate over a much broader front...

Batumi - Saghalvasho
Monday 15 September 2014   

Counting period: 6:58 - 18:35
Count type: Storks and raptors
Observers: ?
Black Stork2Montagu's Harrier3
Honey Buzzard152Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier16
Crested Honey Buzzard1Steppe Buzzard107
Black Kite69Aquila sp.4
Short-toed Eagle4Booted Eagle121
Marsh Harrier72raptor sp.1
Pallid Harrier11European Roller4

Totals: 567 individuals, 14 species, 11:37 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)


Valentijn van Bergen said...

Why do you determine the kestrel on the picture as a male bird?

Alan Dalton said...

Hi Valentjin, based the sexing mainly on the well developed moustacial and blue grey tones around the ear coverts. Immature males typically show greyish ear coverts.Also, there seems to be grey on the rump, just visible.