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, Shuamta, 16th September 2014

A small flock of Black Stork over Shuamta on an overcast morning..

A quite amazing day. After breakfast, I made my way down the hill with my fellow counters and boarded the minibus that is provided each day to transport the team to Station 2 at Shuamta. A 25 minute ride sees the van ascend high into the mountains 4km inland along a dirt track, a journey which is followed by a gruelling 20 minute hike on foot to the peak of the ridge where the counting station is located. On arrival the counting chairs are laid out and a tarpaulin sheet is tied between four trees in order to give shelter from both rain and strong sunshine. Once set up, we stowed the packed lunch away and began to scan for raptor. I took some video of the sight as the sun rose, which can be viewed here, just click on the link below...

I was looking to the east, on what was an overcast morning. It took no time at all to locate and identify the first birds, good numbers of Marsh, Pallid and Montagus Harriers were in evidence straight away. We had stunning views of some of these, whilst others were high in the sky. There was some light drizzle first thing, though some small flocks of Black Kite were not in the least put off by this and flapped through the transect line regardless. These are tough birds and it was a wonderful sight to see them migration through the light rain..

Black Storks were very much in evidence, as the numbers began to increase. Some of the birds were close to the station and gave excellent views as they passed. The birds are easily aged at close to medium range, due to the adults vivid red, dark tipped bill. 

The rain soon cleared and passage really began to pick up quite quickly.To the east came Booted Eagles, moving through the mountains amid a backdrop of quite spectacular scenery. Steppe Buzzards began to mass too, before long I was diving into my pocket for my clicker as hundreds of these birds began to stream through my count zone. In the midst of all of this we had very fine views of Middle Spotted Woodpecker, whilst a couple of Ortoloan Bunting went over calling. Other calling birds included many Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Red throated Pipit, a single Black woodpecker and Long tailed Tits. Below us came brief snatches of Green Warbler song, a few birds still present on the breeding grounds it seemed.

Lesser Spotted Eagle, a rather nice fresh juvenile bird. Nine birds were specifically identified to this species today as we began to get to grips with their appearance...

As the late morning moved into the afternoon time went quickly, as we were rather busy. By noon there were over 2,000 raptors logged, before we got another period of rain for around an hour. We took shelter and had some lunch under the shelter, the rain soon stopping after ann hour or so. The effect was immediate, raptors quickly began to kettle and stream southwards in the improved conditions. Honey Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard and Black Kite were now moving in numbers. Among these came Short toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and hundreds of Marsh Harriers. Stunning male Pallid Harriers drew gasps of admiration from the counters, surely one of the best looking raptors in the world?
 As the Marsh Harrier passage intensified a shout went up for a dark bird and moments later I was looking at my first ever dark morph male Marsh Harrier. This rare morph occurs in very small numbers at Batumi and I was very happy to see the bird, it really was a smart bird, showing all dark plumage except for a lighter window on the underwing. The views were excellent through the large 95mm Swaro telescope, which really came into it\s own on days like this.
 As the weather cleared from the south the birds began to move through a greater altitude, which was good, as there is a very real hunting problem in Georgia, and many birds are shot in bad weather as they tend to migrate lower down in bad conditions. We continued to count birds as they went over...
Small flocks of Black Stork added to the flavour, as did Levant Sparrowhawk, both species bringing an real eastern flavour to the day. John Wright picked out a cracking Osprey, beating its way purposefully to the south.
 As the afternoon went on John and I had a nice stream of Black kite overhead, which we were counting and sifting through for other species right at the end of the day. All of a sudden a white, twinkling star appeared amongst the Black Kite, causing a great deal of confusion. This shimmering, snow white bird was eventually scoped by John first, who announced the bird was in fact a Peregrine, no ordinary Peregrine either. As we watched in the scopes, a pristine adult male Peregrine Falcon of the race Calidus was migrating south right above us, purposefully moving south in a stream of Black Kites! The bird was almost unmarked, gleaming white and left us slack jawed. This was a really special moment early in the trip and we were ecstatic to see such an incredible bird. To think this bird, a ground nesting tundra species, had probably been feeding on high arctic wader and driving Caribou away from its nest just a few weeks previously was amazing, here we were now, watching it migrating over Georgia, on its way to South Africa. Right at the end of the day we had a happy ending and as we packed up and made our way down the mountain to rendevous with the minibus, we had a smile plastered all over our faces. A wonderful, wonderful bird...

Middle Spotted Woodpecker, great views as the bird sat out calling on a dead tree below the station...

Batumi - Shuamta
Tuesday 16 September 2014   

Counting period: 8:00 - 17:30
Count type: Storks and raptors
Observers: Hannes Anderson, Dries Engelen, Blanca Perez, Carles Dura, Simon Vynke, Alan Dalton, John Wright, Jeqn_Marc Thiollay
Black Stork55Montagu's Harrier2Booted Eagle45
Honey Buzzard389Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier62Osprey1
Black Kite1998Levant Sparrowhawk31Peregrine1
Short-toed Eagle2Steppe Buzzard2117raptor sp.260
Marsh Harrier264Lesser Spotted Eagle9
Pallid Harrier10Aquila sp.3

Totals: 5249 individuals, 16 species, 9:30 hours

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

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