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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Batumi, Shuamta, 26th September 2014

Steppe Buzzard, a stunning rufous morph which was resting below the counting station at Shuamta on out arrival in the morning..

After waking to a reasonable day weather wise, we wasted no time getting transported to Shuamta and climbed the mountain, something which seemed a little easier than it had been on arrival. On making to to the top I found that several Steppe Buzzard were resting below the station in dead trees and managed to shoot a little bit of video footage through the scope, which you can view here...

Videoscoped footage of resting Steppe Buzzards...

The day got off to a wonderful start, with lots of Harriers passing from the start of the count. They passed quite high in the sky, which had to be careful scanned through binoculars to pick them up. Steppe Buzzard soon began to appear and we figured this might well be a rather busy day, the birds would be keen to migrate after the recent bad weather. Early on there were highlights, first up was a sub adult Egyptian Vulture, a really nice start to the day. Following the passage of the vulture, the passage of Steppe Buzzard cranked up a few notches and it became rather busy, again I was looking to the east at Shuamta, these birds preferring the mountains, generally passing to the east of Station 2. Soon, I was very busy indeed and needed Wouter to take species out for me in order to concentrate on getting the large number of Steppe Buzzard that were now flooding passed over Little Ginger.

 Videoscoped footage of Steppe Buzzards at Shuamta...

The early passage came on in short waves, large kettles of Steppe Buzzard were punctuated by Aquilla eagles, there were some glorious moments. The first of these was the sight of an immature Greater Spotted Eagle together with a second juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle, the view was phenomenal. Just thirty minutes later we had a juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle, this time in the company of a second adult Egyptian Vulture, which the eagle matched in size. These views allowed us to really take in the features of these birds and it was very instructive. There were a number of Steppe Eagles too, in amongst Lesser Spotted Eagles and it was all systems go before the Steppe Buzzards really began to pile through in incredible numbers. It was an avalanche before long. From around noon we were snowed under a barrage of streams in the east and I was clicking furiously just to keep up with the birds, Wouter was now also bogged down, counting the higher birds. The floodgates were opened and the skies were filled with birds. As the Steppe Buzzards increased, more and more Aquillas began to appear in the sky and soon we were dealing with small flocks of Lesser Spotted Eagle, with the odd Steppe Eagle or Greater spotted Eagle in their midst. It was tough going and I had an almost certain juvenile Imperial Eagle briefly in the far east which went behind the ridge before I could clinch the identification, there was just no time to scan further south as the Steppe Buzzard migration continued relentlessly. An Alpine Swift went through my scope around 1pm, to a backdrop of streaming buzzards. The entire early afternoon saw us count tens of thousands of Steppe Buzzards and I had no time to grab the camera at any point. Later in the afternoon I grabbed a little video footage when I had a few moments to take some food.
 Aquilla eagles were also a huge feature of the day, with up to 60 Lesser spotted Eagles together in one huge flock, an astounding sight. The passage continued through the afternoon, several more Steppe Eagle were picked up in their midst. It was clear that we were seeing the first heavy eagle passage of the autumn. Station 1 was busy too, we were in constant radio contact in order to avoid double counts, though the sheer volume in the east at Shuamta meant we had the lions share of birds. Passage eventually slowed later in the afternoon, when I was finally able to sit back and take in the scene properly. Black Storks were passing, as were small flocks of Levant Sparrowhawks, whilst it was also a great afternoon for Short toed Eagle and Booted Eagle, the views are often breathtaking on Station 2, as birds funnelled overhead, along the mountain ridge.
 We knew we were edging towards the magical 1,000,000 raptors mark and this day saw that it would not be far away. In the end we did not pass the barrier, as rain at the end of the afternoon halted passage before we could get there. Nevertheless, this was a mind blowing day of raptor passage, a spectacle of quite breathtaking proportions, with over 35,000 Steppe Buzzard alone! We headed down the mountain elated after a quite superb day.
 The evening was spent at the cafe after dinner, where Daniel Hinckley did a presentation on the raptor passage in Panama, the pan american flyway. It was a fantastic talk that was supported by some incredible slides of insane raptor passage. On our way down to view the talk we stumbled on a real surprise, a Scops Owl perched on the roadside, which gave all birders present great views! These were by far my best views of the species and were not something I expected at all. A few beers were sank in its honour, before we called it a day, retiring early. What would tomorrow bring..?

Pallid Harrier, a male floats overhead...

Scops Owl, photos kindly provided by Billy Herman. Stunning photos, as good as you will ever see of this species at night....

Batumi - Shuamta
Friday 26 September 2014   

Counting period: 8:00 - 17:15
Count type: Storks and raptors
Observers: Rafa Benjumea, Wouter Faveyts, Hannes Anderson, Mélanie Browne, Sergius Nizinski, Maik Jurke, Alan Dalton
Black Stork19Pallid Harrier23Steppe Eagle14
Honey Buzzard101Hen/Montagu's/Pallid Harrier35Aquila sp.636
Black Kite1273Levant Sparrowhawk108Booted Eagle143
Egyptian Vulture2Steppe Buzzard35812Osprey1
Short-toed Eagle49Lesser Spotted Eagle142raptor sp.847
Marsh Harrier54Greater Spotted Eagle8

Totals: 39267 individuals, 17 species, 9:15 hours

Bold = Remarkable observation (scarce or rare species or large number)
Comments: Good day with nice streams of eagles.

No comments: