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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus graellsii, Skeppsbron; 26th February 2015

First impressions were of a very light mantled Lesser Black-backed Gull of rather heavy build...

It was quite remarkable the bird could appear in direct sunlight, particularly when turned broadside to the direction of the light. In these conditions the bird could occasionally appear only very marginally darker than nearby Argentatus Herring Gulls..

Note the clean white head, with no streaking on the nape. The bill is also without any dark markings, clean lemon yellow with an obvious red gonydeal patch...

The bird remained at around 400m range and seemed loathe to take to the air, which saw me wait a long time for a flight view. Nevertheless it was quite clear the bird was an adult from the views on the water. Furthermore, given the bird was a least two shades paler on the kadak scale than what I would expect of Baltic Lesser Black-backed Gull(Larus fuscus fuscus), I was already leaning toward the exclusion of both Baltic Gull and Intermedius LBBG. This left just two candidates, 'graellsii' and 'heuglini'.

A handful of flight views resulted in some surprisingly decent photos by means of digiscoping. In flight, the bird as quite deep bellied and rather thickset in general appearance..

Lots to see here in this shot. Note the small head, thickset body and rather broad winged appearance. Both P10 and P9 show mirrors, the outer by far the larger. There are black marking on at least seven primaries(P4-P10). No trace of dark markings on the primary covert's or the tail, which confirm this as an adult bird.

Above and below; Direct comparison with Argentatus Herring Gull shows the bird was noticeably smaller, though still of relatively heavy build.

A nice shot here, this one perhaps shows the primary pattern on the upper parts the best. Note the large mirror on the outermost P10 is very close to the tip of the feather, indicative of a 'graellsii' LBBG.

A nice view of the primaries, both upper side and underside, in this useful shot...

Again, quite remarkable how pale the upper parts could look at times in direct sunshine..

On my routine check at the local gull patch today in Stockholm, I was most surprised to come a crossed a light mantled Lesser Black-backed Gull. The more I watched it the more interesting it became. I began to wonder if this could be a heuglini after a few minutes observations this as the impression of the bird began to settle in my mind. The bird was around 400m offshore and was loathe to fly at all, even when the surrounding gulls took to the air and I wondered if it was injured. I settled down and began to take notes and digiscope some images through the ATX 95mm, the scope doing a wonderful job at 55x magnification and allowing me to get some very useful shots, despite the range. I knew I needed to see the bird in flight and that I had to get some photos of the open wing. I waited 90 minutes before the bird was chased by a Herring Gull and finally took to the air. Happily this happened again a short time later and I got some good images of the wing pattern. Throughout I had felt the bird was too pale for a Baltic Lesser Black-backed Gull. It seemed remarkably pale at times and I felt it was certainly to pale for an intermedius type and wondered if it could be a Graellsii. The primary pattern seemed an excellent match for heuglini/graellsii, with a large white tip to P10 with a subterminal band. There was a small white mirror on P9. The dark on P10 and P9 extended all the way to the primary covert's. The remaining primary pattern can clearly be seen in these photos and seems a good match for heuglini. The dark on P8 does not reach the primary covert's, reaching around 70% of the way though. There is a nice dark band it the tip of P5 and a small dark spot on P4.
In the field, what continuously struck me was how light the bird could appear in direct light. Easily picked up as darker than argentatus Herring Gull most of the time, though much lighter than Baltic Gull, or even intermedius types, which I have a lot of experience with. 
The impression in the field was most interesting. It was rather heavy for a LBBG. It had longish bill, which was lemon yellow and clean apart from a distinct red gonydeal spot. When it flew I was very struck by the distinctly dull dull yellow legs, this clearly being an adult bird. The orbital ring was bright red, narrow and the small eye placement looked somehow odd. The head and tail were gleaming white and typical of an adult bird. A very rare bird this far north and only the second 'graellsii' I have seen on my gulling patch. A rarer species than Caspian Gull!

Below; Record video footage, shot at 400m at 55x magnification..

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Winter Birding at Hjälstaviken; 11th Febuary 2015

 A digiscoped Common Buzzard around 400m from my position. Looking forward to getting some closer subjects in good light when the spring comes in. This bird can be aged as second calendar, note the light amber iris.

Video here of the same Common Buzzard, select a higher resolution for optimal viewing..

My fourth trip of the winter so far in a concerted effort to see Golden Eagle, at least three of these birds have been present around the wider area all winter. I arrived at 9am. On this occasion, I decided to change my direction of approach and went to the south end of the reserve, there was a second reason for that. This was a Common Kingfisher, a rarity here so far north and worth getting on the year list. Not just a statistic though, there is nothing wrong with making an effort to see Kingfisher, quite simply one of the best birds out there and it had been too long since my last view of one of these lovely birds.
 On arrival the bird, a female, was present at her usual fishing spot, just below the sluice gate at Svännas. I had only just got on to the bird when a raptor caught my eye over the lake and I raised my binoculars to reveal what I had been hoping for for some months, a superb Golden Eagle! The bird winged slowly to the west and I had little trouble getting the scope onto the bird. The white wing panels and tail bases were easily seen in what was a brief, but excellent view. It was in my field of view for less than a minute perhaps, before I lost it behind the trees and returned my attention to the small blue jewel that was now showing sixty metres from the road...

Above; Digiscoped images of female Common Kingfisher...

All in all, a wonderful morning. I spent a couple of hours enjoying the Kingfisher and then spent a bit of time getting some decent footage of the bird in the process.  It was a day of superb light and it was a pleasure to be out after a rather dark, grey winter to date. I had a look around the reedbeds for Bearded Tit, all to no avail, though I did add Reed Bunting and Marsh Tit to my year list. A second calendar Common Buzzard was present close to the road throughout the morning, also providing me with another filming subject, even if it was a little distant. No sign of the Great Grey Shrike, although it did not bother me, I had got exactly what I had hoped for..

And so, here is that Kingfisher in all her technicolour on higher resolution in settings

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Pygmy Owl at Segersang; 8th Febuary 2015

An afternoon trip to Segersang with Bob roberts today in order to await dusk and hopefully a Pygmy Owl. We arrived at the site around 15.30 and waited, notching up a couple of Wren, a Robin and a couple of juvenile White tailed Eagle as we did. We were there for almost two hours before the darkness began to fall and we were getting a little concerned that a no show was on the cards. Suddenly at 17.20 the bird appeared nearby at the top of a spruce tree and began calling. Initially we had fantastic views in the scope as it called constantly, glaring at up on the road and reacting angrily to a quick playback from the mobile. It dived straight off the spruce and sat right beside us in a birch for a few minutes before moving off. Pygmy Owl is a rather special bird and this was a lifer for Bob, who was rightly thrilled with the bird. A fantastic evening..

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The search for 'heinei', an interesting 2nd winter Common Gull at Luxparken; 3rd Febuary 2016

 An interesting 2nd winter/3rd calendar year Common Gull from Luxparken today. The bill was quite heavy and long when compared to other Common Gulls in the area, many of which showed much smaller bills. This bird also appeared rather attenuated and looked long wing, remarkably so at times. What really draws the eye are the well marked trials and inner greater covert's, see next photo below..

Note here the striking dark centres to the tertials, as well as the dark centres on the inner greater covert's. Also clearly visible here are dark markings on the outer tail feathers, which were noticed when the bird began to preen.

 Again the boldly marked tertials and dark marks apparent in the outer tail. Assesing whether the uuperpart tones were a little difficult, though the bird did not appear dramatically dark to my eye, though rather at the dark end of the spectrum. 2nd cycle birds tend to be rather dark however, this is not unusual.

 A view of the right hand side of the bird, the covrts a little more shabby on this side, though the well marked tertials are apparent. on close inspection the iris was seen to be brownish, tough this was difficult to determine on a day of very poor light. The bird was picked up mid afternoon, the light was soon failing.

 With and agentatus Herring Gull of the same age. As already mentioned the bird looked sleek and long winged and constantly drew my eye. It was however a largish bird and in direct comparison to other Common Gulls it seemed a little bigger overall, as can be judged from the video. So just a large end canus Common Gull, with retained juvenile markings in the wing and tail with a heavy end bill? Is there any way to differentiate in the field?

A decent view of the bill here. Quite long and deep in comparison to most of the birds present, though certainly with what might be expected of 'canus' Common Gull. Unfortunatly i managed no flight shots, the bird remained on the water throughout and I had no bread with me, also, my DSLR was not in my camera bag and all these shots were digiscoped as a result.

A day spent birding from early morning saw me at Norra Järvafältet first thing where I picked up a nice flock of Twite and a single Dunnock. Having secured my year tick there I decided to head for Luxparken in Lilla Essingen. I recently noticed a report that suggested there might be good numbers of Common Gull at the site. A few years ago I visited the area after a hard freeze to find more than a hundred Common Gulls resting here on the ice. After a brief encounter with a very dark Common Gull at Skeppsbron a few days ago, which clearly showed a broad band on P5 before it promptly disappeared, my thoughts have been with Common Gulls wintering in the Stockholm area in the past few days...
 On arrival at the park I was heartened to find just over 40 Common Gulls present on the water at the site. Whilst this is hardly the motherload, it represented a decent sample as far as I was concerned, it was better than none and I began looking through the birds carefully. There were nine first winter birds, which all looked as expected, whilst the majority of birds were adult, with at least twenty birds in the area. I concentrated on these adults for a while without anything raising any alarm bells. They all appeared uniform above, small billed and dark eyed. The bills of the adults present were generally two toned and a well defined darker band present near the tip, through the gonydeal area. Examined in flight, those that showed the wing pattern well showed typical wing patterns for canus, with ill defined, broken subterminal markings on P5 amongst other features.
 It was only when I began to go through the remaining birds that the 2nd winter above caught my eye. I was initially drawn to the dark centred tertials and soon noted a few dark centred inner greater covert's. I cross checked to the other 2nd winter Common Gulls, which numbered at least a dozen, and could not find another bird with marked tertials. There was more, the bird was striking for other reasons, it was large and slim looking in direct comparison to other Common Gull present, with an attenuated rear end and appeared consistently long winged. The bill was certainly longer and deeper looking than most nearby Common Gull in direct comparison, though one other 2nd winter bird showed a bill of similar dimensions as well as a couple of 1st winter birds. Careful viewing of the bird preening on the water revealed there were dark markings in the outer tail, which I managed to photograph.
The bird refused to fly, I had no bread and the already poor light soon faded as late afternoon arrived. The bird posed me more questions than answers. What does 2nd calendar 'heinei' show in the field? Can they be distinguished from nominate 'canus'? Certainly, I would think they winter here at least rarely among the local Common Gulls, surely a few seek escape from freezing eastern weather to the west? Lots of questions...
I did get some decent video footage of the bird, which is perhaps better to show the birds appearance. There are several bird filmed in this clip, with some good footage of the bird in question. Remember to click on 1080 HD to get the best resolution...

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Two-barred Crossbills; Lötsjön, 31st January 2015

A return trip to Solna today to have another look at Two-barred Crossbill. Apart from needing it for the year list, the word was that these birds had now stripped the top of their favourite tree, a Larch which has fed them all winter. The result was that the birds were now feeding low down and giving superb views.On arrival there were four birds on view, a superb adult male and three female types. The views were stunning and I took the time to digiscope some photos as well as a lot of video footage. In addition I recorded the birds call externally and added the better quality audio to the video footage after editing.The calls from were given by the female birds it seemed, a rather excited call in response to a passing Goshawk. A quite wonderful morning, these are so full of character, it is always a pleasure to see them well.
A walk around the lakes saw me add two other species to my year list, with the female Shoveler still present, as well as the 2nd calendar Moorhen.