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..

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