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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Common Gulls; Luxparken; 20th January 2018

Common Gull. Adult type and pretty much a typical primary pattern for nominate canus. Large white mirrors on P9 and P10. Note the extent of dark particularily on P8, the basal 30% of this feather is grey.

2 Common Gull, with two Herring Gull and a handful of Black-headed Gull...

Common Gull in first winter plumage, just coming into the second calender year of it's life. Again a rather typical nominate canus. Note the rather petite looking bill in this individual.

Adult, again a rather typical nominate canus, with dull, small bill, dark on P8 not extending to the primary covert's, just a small dark spot on P5, dark irides.

Ist winter canus in flight, the same bird as above.

An adult at rest on the ice. Just over 20 Common Gulls present

A first winter bird coming to bread in front of me. Whitish underwing with small dark chocolate brown markings, no dark trailing edge of the underwing. Once again, a typical canus.

Bird A. This bird peaked my interest as soon as it appeared as it appeared a shade dark On further inspection the bird had quite a heavy, bright toned bill and most intriguingly a slightly pale iris. The legs were also rather bright.The primary pattern proved to be a little dissapointing however, with the dark on P8 not extending to the primary covert's. The nail in the coffin however, is the presence of a mirror on P8, which is a silver bullet for a heinei candidate, so it appears that this is indeed a nominate canus with pale irides. There was a nice, solid band on P5. Another good feature for nominate canus is the extent of streaking on the head. I would hope for a clean white head in a heinei candidate, with thin pencil thin streaks confined to the nape, which is clearly not the case here.

Bird A. The same individual as above. Note the bright bare parts and rather heavy bill.

A view of the underwing here. Note the amber coloured iris in this bird, which is quite interesting.

Bird A. Out of direct sunlight the iris appeared rather dark looking. This is something to bear in mind when viewing these birds, light conditions are critical. It seems some nominate canus Common Gull may show a pale amber iris in a minority of individuals. When looking for a heinei candidate here in Stockholm I have also had to be mindful that intergrade canus/heinei birds may well be likely to cloud the issue. To get an acceptable heinei here in Stockholm I would need a bird that displayed a full suite of features to be sure of the identification. This will include extensive black on the primaries, preferably a little dark on P4, a clean headed appearance, long winged structure, pale yellow irides, dark mantle tone and bright bare parts.

Finally, this bird flew past without settling at the site. This one was clean headed, dark looking and inspection of the photos showed a quite interesting primary pattern. I would very much like to see this bird properly, but perhaps it will appear during another visit to the site.

With a cold spell taking a grip in Stockholm, I decided a trip further afield in search of Common Gulls was in order. The species has been almost non existent on my usual patch at Skeppsbron this winter and I was keen to try and locate a few of these smaller gulls in order to look for an eastern bird ssp. heinei. I have been checking any Common Gulls I have come across carefully in recent winters. To date, I have not had a bulletproof candidate, though I am quite sure that eastern birds must be turning up here in Sweden and I would expect that a period of freezing weather might well see these a few of these birds moving west.
On arrival at Lilla Essingen I was delighted to see two flocks of predominently small gulls at rest on the newly formed ice at Luxparken. Among the 220 Black-headed Gulls and small numbers of Herring Gull there were 22 Common Gull. I began feeding bread and manged to pull a few of the birds closer to my position.
 This site does not generally allow prolonged close views of these birds, though they will come to bread briefly. Goshawk are regular here, as are White tailed Eagle and the birds are rather wary as a result. This site appears to hold the smaller species in periods of cold weather however and I was heartened to have a small sample of Common Gull to check. The search for a heinei Common Gull will continue over the winter and if it should come to pass that I find one I will be over the moon...

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