Army Ornithological Society Blog

Cyprus Weekly

Birding highlights for week ending 26 Aug 12

An asterisk (*) indcates that a photo of the species is available to view on Flickr.

With a deluge of migrants last week and some good fortune the Cyprus total for the year since June 11th now stands at 114. Considering, during my last tour which started in Jul 97, I bagged 117 species by the end of the year, it’s going pretty well. It must be said that I was a bit of a novice at that time and probably missed more than I saw – some would say “little has changed”. The weather appears to have cooled with some westerly and northerly winds that will aid migration. Westerly’s are always welcomed as it drives the migrants down my side of the island and away from Paphos which is regarded as “birding central”, a misconception that I am attempting to address.

Monday morning and as I ate my cornflakes, I heard and then saw a European Beeater over the woods at the back of the house – a good start to the week! The traditional evening visit to Akhna Dam produced a reduced number of usual waders, 6 Glossy Ibis, 5 Grey Heron, 1 Night Heron, a brief Great Reed Warbler, a Reed Warbler (see other interesting finds) and the now shy Little Crake remained present. An increase in the number of Yellow Wagtails was noted albeit many females and juveniles not revealing their race. There was however a splendid male of the feldegg (black-headed) sub species present.

A real dilemma this Tuesday, a Broad-billed Sandpiper has been seen at Zakazi Marsh, Limassol on the edge of Akrotiri Salt Lake, yesterday and the best chance at this end of the island is Akhna Dam, Larnaca Sewage Works or Oroklini Marsh I guess – decisions, decisions. Deb has made Tavas (a local Cypriot stew/casserole containing pork, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cumin, and nutmeg cooked in chicken stock, in the slow cooker), which makes my decision slightly easier as dinner is sorted. Should the trip to Cyprus come to fruition, we’ll be eating a lot of this. For those of a vegetarian persuasion, Cyprus is probably not the best place as it’s rather meat heavy. Larnaca Sewage Works was fairly disappointing with nothing significant being present except for the malodorous smell that I’ve come to love.

We then pushed onto Oriklini Marsh. As I drove up, I noticed a large number of small waders mostly Little Stints and Little Ringed Plovers. However, there under a dead bush in the marsh, a dark wader jumped out at me. I knew instinctively what it was and so spent the next 20 minutes or so watching and attempting to photograph a cracking adult Broad-billed Sandpiper*. The photos weren’t the best, so remembering my fieldcraft with a combination of the monkey run and leopard crawl (oh, how the Cypriots must have laughed), I got into a position to secure some very good photographs of this scarce spring and autumn migrant. An Avocet was also present along with 7 Little Egrets, a Teal, 3 Garganey and the normal numbers of Mallards, Stilts etc.

Onward to Akhna Dam and as I entered 10 Wood Sandpipers flushed and 3 species of Shrike were obviously noticeable perched on dead snags that used to be in the water, as the levels have reduced significantly in the increased summer heat. I then heard a call that I recognised as a Citrine Wagtail. It took me about half an hour of driving around tracking the flock of 30 or so Yellow Wagtails until I confirmed my initial ID. I managed to photograph the female/non breeding male Citrine Wagtail*. This species used to be under-recorded in the autumn unless it was a breeding male because of confusion with juvenile/female Yellow Wagtails, however the call is quite different, being a longer deep more drawn out version; (a dreeeepppp rather than a shreepp if you get my meaning – but it’s all very subjective?). In any event it was in the bag. As I tracked the Wagtails a Hoopoe flew and a Kingfisher was seen but little else of any note. Dinner and a beer (KEO – again lots of this to be drunk for the visitor to Cypurs) were great which rounded off a very enjoyable afternoon.

Early Wednesday morning, same routine but a flock of about 20 European Beeaters in the wood behind the house and this afternoon the first of the twice weekly visits to Ayia Napa Sewage Works and the Cape Greco area. Ayia Napa Football Pitches held 5 Lesser Grey Shrike, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 2 Isablelline Wheatears and a Northern Wheatear. Perhaps the biggest surprised were 3 Black Francolins (1 female and a male) feeding in the open on one of the football pitches.

I progressed to the sewage works noting a juvenile Red-backed Shrike and Roller. There had obviously been a significant fall of Sylvia warblers including 1 juvenile Barred Warbler, 2 juvenile Orphean Warblers and at least 15 Lesser Whitethroats interspersed with Spectacled Warblers that seemed to be everywhere. Also present was a lone Willow Warbler. As I left the site at least 9 migrant Pallid Swifts hawked the lagoons and a Hobby shot straight through on route to the sea via Cape Greco.

Thursday afternoon and again uncertainty prevailed. With migrants everywhere it was difficult to decide on a location – you can’t be everywhere at once! Again I speculated and decided on Oroklini Marsh. With an unprecedented movement of White Storks at Akrotiri Salt Lake (2000 – 2800), I thought maybe other species had also moved. At the Marsh, the Broad-billed Sandpiper was still present along with a good number of Little Stints. I scoped the lake noting an influx of Northern Shovellers, Teal and Garganey. As I panned a movement in the reeds proved to be a female Little Crake and a large grey wader in the water was obviously the first Spotted Redshank of the autumn. Thirteen Little Egrets (a good site count) were present which were obvious migrants, along with 2 Grey Heron and a preening, and my first Purple Heron during this tour.

At Ay Nik over my quarter a male Peregrine flew very fast south east heading for Cape Greco and the Beeaters continued to hunt over the woods at the back of the house. Friday and I’m thinking of having a day off from the migrant hunt. Right, enough of those crazy thoughts; I have the readers and my Cyprus list to consider. Akhna Dam held the same variety of species although a Dunlin was the first for the sight this autumn.

The weekend is here again and lots of sites to visit and not enough time to do it all properly. I can’t go more than an hour away as I’m the Duty Field Officer, so that rules out Aktotiri Salt Lake to look for roosting Demoiselle Cranes. It’s the issue with work, it does get in the way of meaningful ornithology, In any event an early morning round of Ayia Napa Sewage Works was productive with three new birds for the list. The first a total and unexpected surprise was a Corncrake flushed from underfoot and the otherd a little later was a cracking male Cretzchmar’s Bunting and four Whitethroats which appear to have had a bit of an influx. Ayia Napa Football Pitches held good numbers of Lesser Grey Shrike, Isabelline Wheatears* and Yellow Wagtails with a record thirteen Hoopoes. As a bonus I managed to photograph male and female Black Francolins.* Ayia Thekla held one Greater Sand Plover and a Common Sandpiper.

It’s Sunday and as committed followers realise – it’s Sewage Works Day (hooorahhh). But no, I decided on another visit to Ayia Napa Sewage Works as it appears to be the migrant hotspot. Today was Blackcap day, at least seven males and two females and I also flushed a male Redstart. Eastern Orphean Warblers continue to pass although it appears that the main passage has already occurred. A migrant Spotted Flycatcher was also of note.

Later that morning I assisted a Birdlife Cyprus field trip to Akhna Dam and Oroklini Marsh. Although nothing spectacular was found two Great Reed Warblers continued as did a Glossy Ibis and the now usual species. At Oroklini, the Broad-billed Sandpiper remained in situ, along with a Spotted Redshank. At Akhna Dam in the evening Deb and I were very fortunate in being able to photograph a very confiding Wryneck* - the best views I’ve ever had I think! I also found and photographed another Citrine Wagtail*, this time a 1st winter individual.

The week ended with a flurry and bird of the week was definitely the Broad-billed Sandpiper although a showy Wryneck was also exceptional. The Corncrake was a Cyprus “tick” and it’s always nice to see a Cretzchmar’s Bunting.

Other interesting finds: For those that are interested (especially the purists and ringers (stringers), look up Marsh Warbler vs Reed Warbler vs Caspian Reed Warbler (fuscus) – a real head scratcher!

Look Forward: A bank holiday Monday and some leave coming up. It must be Akrotiri and the salt lake for Demoiselle Crane and raptor migration.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at: birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook
_________________
Been There - Seen It
The BFG.

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Cyprus Weekly

Birding highlights for week ending 19 Aug 12

An asterisk (*) indciates that a photo of the species is available to view on Flickr.

Overall an outstanding week, with lots of good migrants and residents up for grabs!

Monday, a long day at work, only allows for a quick visit to Akhna Dam. I suspected that the week would not be as rewarding as last week’s variety of birds. Having been on the island since 11 Jun, I successfully passed the 100 species barrier. Fittingly, the 100th bird was a beautiful singing male Cyprus Warbler at Cape Greco. I suspect, someone playing a recording of a singing Sardinian Warbler prompted this behaviour (who could that have been)? In any event at the beginning of the week the current species total resides at 104.

On Monday after work I attempted to twitch a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Ayia Napa Football Pitches which resulted in a dip. I did however see 4 Lesser Grey Shrikes and a Spotted Flycatcher. Later at Akhna I confirmed that the 2 Marsh Warblers were still present, photographed 6 Black-crowned Night Herons* and noted that the 2 Whiskered Terns (1 juvenile) and the White-winged Black Tern were still there. 2 Hoopoes fed actively, 7 Garganey flushed and a single Kingfisher* fed from a dead snag – and that was Monday.

I wait with baited breath to see if my Marsh Warblers of last week will be accepted by the Rarities’ Committee – with supporting photos and a superbly written description (modest as usual), I don’t see why not. They continued to be seen at Akhna Dam until the 14th. However, locals are of the opinion that they are Eastern Reed Warblers also known as Caspian Reed Warbler (fuscus), that do occur on passage. I look forward to the intellectual ornithological debate and am interested in the opinions of the experts on the photographs I’ve submitted – if experts on this matter exist?

I had to visit Troodos as the Troop Commander on Tuesday and Wednesday. I must visit at least once a month, so I attempt to make the most of it, if I can, and record the mountain specialities for the month. Additionally, it’s a welcome break from the heat of Ay Nik and it usually coincides with a leaving function – strange coincidence that? The draw back being – what am I missing at Akhna Dam, my local patch – I hate visitors finding birds on my patch! It invariably happens and I’m always gutted when it does. It’s like when you’re on a birding holiday abroad seeing some great birds and you find out someone found a Hoopoe on your patch in Lincolnshire. It’s a strange feeling but despite the great holiday, you wish you were there, in an Edith Charmers type way. Please read the weekly supplement for details of an unforgettable birding moment in Troodos.

Wednesday afternoon and evening and it was back to the slog of attempting to find migrants – some slog? Akhna Dam produced the usual suspects but a female Marsh Harrier was notable as was the change from juvenile Masked Shrikes to adult males and females. On the way home a Lesser Grey Shrike was on wires in the local village, Vrysoulles.

Thursday and Friday I had leave booked. Ridiculously, I thought I would get some concentrated birding done – Deb, the long-haired General had other ideas. Having said that a compromise was reached and happiness prevailed. I got out early on the Thursday arriving at Ayia Napa Sewage Works for 0630. 16 European Beeaters were calling and seen perched in trees, whilst Eastern Orphean Warblers continue to pass in good numbers. Regrettably another Blackcap was found in a mist net, this time a male. I have only seen 2 so far this autumn both in mist nets. Unless the locals have a ringing licence – anyone for pickled Blackcap? A Black Francolin was flushed on the return to the car.

Later at Cape Greco Picnic site, 3 Sardinian Warblers and a Cyprus Warbler showed themselves whilst a Spectacled Warbler posed for the camera*. On the return home Ayia Napa Football Pitches held 34 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Hoopoe, 5 Lesser Grey Shrikes and 1 Red-backed Shrike. We visited Larnaca for lunch and after a walk around the shops we headed off to the Sewage Works. Here I got a Cyprus “tick”, a Whimbrel – not an easy migrant on Cyprus. There was also a “ringtail” Montague’s Harrier and a Sand Martin – both firsts for the autumn as far as I know. At Oroklini Marsh (it’s on the way home and it’s a pity not to), a Water Rail and the first Ringed Plover of the autumn were noted.

On Friday, Deb and I had a picnic lunch at Cape Greco but obviously via the Sewage Works – do you see a pattern developing? Here, Deb photographed a beautiful Red-backed Shrike* and a juvenile Roller*, the resident Long-legged Buzzard perched on a rock for us. In the evening I visited Akhna Dam and found a Little Crake* which was pleasing. 2 Sedge Warblers continued to flit about the reeds and a Great Reed Warbler then appeared*.

An early morning jaunt to Akhna Dam on Saturday saw me bag my first Woodchat Shrike – a nice adult male and with a Lesser Grey, Red Backed and a variety of Masked Shrikes being present. I did think where else could you see 4 Shrike species in a matter of minutes? The Little Crake continued to perform in its favoured area of reeds and activity was brisk.

The Sunday visit to the market, Oroklini Marsh, Larnaca Sewage Works and Spiro’s Pool. The obligatory Cyprus Special Sandwich for 4 Euros is a must and what more could a lady want than to have lunch at the sewage works (or am I missing the point)? The sewage works held 9 Northern Shovellers and 4 Eurasian Teal – numbers are increasing. 2 juvenile Whiskered Terns were present, 8 Little Stints and a European Roller. The nearby Spiro’s Pool will be dry by the end of the week but still held approximately 150 Kentish Plover and 38 Yellow-legged Gulls. In the evening at Akhna Dam there was nothing new although a Long-legged Buzzard appears to have taken up residence as have 2 female Marsh Harriers. I photographed a Ruff* for the gallery and got a pretty good shot of an adult Whiskered Tern feeding a juvenile*.

If you do not wish to read a political rant please stop reading now:

Sadly, with migration comes illegal bird trapping (the pictures under SITES on the Flickr page some may find disturbing) and the mindless slaughter of millions of birds every spring and autumn. I was unable to free the female Blackcap* (the first of the autumn), as it was on private land, a dog was present and I’d have probably been arrested for trespassing – unbelievable. Whilst the Cypriots currently hold the EU Presidency and willingly accept European money for building many useless speed humps and roundabouts, they also reject, ignore or disregard the laws they don’t like. The activity is illegal under EU law and it’s a disgrace that it is allowed to continue in a developed country and is a damning indictment of how ineffective the EU is. Indeed, several visiting birders have been beaten and spent time in hospital for attempting to release trapped birds and during my last tour a Game Reserve warden had his car blown up in Limassol – such is the profit to be made by the carnage and slaughter of millions of birds. Adhering to the typical Cypriot psyche – maximum profit, minimum effort.

I have the relevant emails of the RSPB, Birdlife Cyprus and the Cyprus Game Reserve so will be writing in due course with the photographic evidence, which I will continue to collect. Local perpetrators can be fined, although there is no appetite to enforce this by the Cypriot authorities, it is accepted that the activities are condoned as traditional pursuits. It clearly has little to do with tradition since mist nets and tape lures are less than traditional, lime sticks could be considered traditional, however, it is probably more to do with 80 Euros for a jar of 12 pickled song birds than tradition. Little has been achieved in the 12 years that I have not visited the Island, despite contrary claims by the Cypriot authorities. A despicable, cultural, lucrative activity carried out illegally with blind disregard for the future of the environment and wider European biodiversity.

Two nets here catching a conservative 12 birds a day, multiplied by say 50 nets in the area (probably a conservative estimate), and multiplied again by 2 months worth of migration….. You do the maths – a very large impact on European breeding warblers?

RANT ENDS

The week ended with a bag full of birds, with the Little Crake being memorable but moment of the week was undoubtedly the Goshawk and Peregrine encounter.

Other interesting finds: The search for Palm Dove has so far proved fruitless, however, I had almost forgotten about them in the rush of migrant activity.

Look Forward: Difficult to predict, migrants are everywhere so it’s down to maintaining focus and braving the summer heat in the pursuit of birding excellence.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at: birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook
_________________
Been There - Seen It
The BFG.

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Sooty Tern Population Size

The latest Ascension research paper, Estimate of Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus population size following cat eradication on Ascension Island, central Atlantic, has been published in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club. 19: 166–171.

Download a copy of the paper.

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Cyprus Weekly Supplement

TROODOS - The Persephone Trail and a memorable birding encounter

On 14 August I visited the Troodos Station and detachment as part of my Troop Commander duties. It necessitated an overnight stop so being a conscientious birder I obviously took my camera and binoculars. The other Captain who was accompanying me said he hadn’t been to Troodos that often and wouldn’t mind a walk around. I replied “I know just the trail, very scenic and about 7 kms” – with birds I thought. He agreed so off we went at about 1400. The walk was steady with several Cyprus Graylings and Eastern Rock Graylings being noted amongst the Holy Blues and Clouded Yellows. House Martins were the most numerous birds and it would appear that the breeding Pallid Swifts had left in the first week in August

As we walked along the Persephone Trail (just SW of Troodos Village I noted the first Coal Tits and Great Tits. As we proceeded a couple of Cyprus Wheatear juveniles became evident. It was not surprising that no Masked Shrikes were seen given the numbers occurring in the lowlands which are obviously leaving the island.

We rounded the bottom of the trail and headed north west and I noted 3 calling Crossbills which were later seen in a tree feeding – 2 females and a male. A calling Spotted Flycatcher soon gave itself up and another was seen further along the track. A female Kestrel was seen hovering and a larger raptor chased a Wood Pigeon. It could only be one of two, a Peregrine Falcon or Goshawk. I was undecided having not really got a good look at it. We continued onwards and I noted a raptor being mobbed by many House Martins. It was a superb male Goshawk. A rare and restricted range resident on Cyprus. The Troodos range and Paphos Forest is the only place you can see them. I was delighted. Rob who was with me also looked through the bins and was suitably impressed and I commented that he didn’t realise how lucky he was (surely a potential AOS recruit, I thought). Anyway, the Goshawk soon rose on thermals as we watched and stooped to the left, diving quickly, as it did another raptor came into view as the Goshawk engaged in aerial combat. The unmistakeable shape of a Peregrine Falcon. An amazing sight. Although I have witnessed many great birding moments and spectacles around the world this was one to rival them. Both rare residents seen together – amazing! I’ve only previously seen Peregrines during the winter in the lowlands on Cyprus. It pays to take a non-birder with you, they always see things that are unbelievable. I usually call them stringers but this evidence suggests it’s just beginners luck. We enjoyed the moment and views until the raptors hurtled out of site. We continued the trail seeing about 16 Jays, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, several Serins and added a Blackbird to the tally.

A fantastic couple of hours, great surroundings and a birding experience that I will remember forever.

The next morning from my room in the Troodos Station Combined Mess the Goshawk flew around the conifers below me. Having only had 2 views of Goshawks on Cyprus prior to this, I count myself extremely fortunate to have stumbled across one on 2 consecutive days.
_________________
Been There - Seen It
The BFG.

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Cyprus Weekly

Birding highlights for week ending 12 Aug 12

An asterisk (*) indicates that a photo of the species is available to view on Flickr.

Migration really took off in the latter part of the week, with several good finds of sought after eastern Autumn migrants. The passage of waders continues to ebb and flow at Akhna Dam.

Monday’s ramble was enjoyable, although there was a significant dip in migration. Wader numbers were much reduced with only 3 Common, 1 Wood and 1 Green Sandpiper being present. The Cattle Egret roost has increased to 106 with three Night Herons joining them. Violet* and Scarlet Darters* were present with an increased number of Black Perchers*. Reduced numbers maybe due to disturbance as the dam is a well used fishing site and with the Cypriots taking their annual summer holidays, family activity had increased much to my annoyance.

An evening visit to Akhna Dam on the 7th saw a resumption of normal service with 6 Common, 4 Wood* and 3 Green Sandpipers being present. The lone Common Kingfisher was joined by another and a nice adult male Eurasian Cuckoo perched in the open. 3 migrant Common Swifts passed above, a juvenile Masked Shrike continued to be present and a lone Greenshank called as it flew above. Hoopoes were back as at least 3 individuals picked bugs from the ground. Finally, it was nice to pick out a Temminck’s Stint* at distance before departing for home.

The Long-eared Owls continue to call behind the house from about 2100 every night albeit only one could be heard in the distance.

Wednesday afternoon is the scheduled mid-week visit to Ayia Napa Sewage Works*. Wednesdays are a good day as the Cypriots still insist on half day Wednesday closing, which is a real pain when you’re trying to sort something out but on the flip side, there’s no traffic in Paralimni making progress to the Sewage works less painful (have you experienced Cypriot driving? Well if anyone has driven with Tim Cowley on a twitch, imagine that experience on steroids). In any event the area was fairly quiet save for an Eastern Orphean Warbler, an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler* several migrating Common Swifts and a single Ruff and Common Sandpiper on the lagoons. As I departed, a distant Long-legged Buzzard hung on the wind. A Mallow Skipper was of interest at the site. As I returned home I stopped at Sotira Pools to find a Cetti’s Warbler, a solitary Glossy Ibis and the first 3 Eurasian Teal of the autumn (2 Ducks and an eclipse Drake). Numerous Lesser Emperors and Slender Skimmers hawked the ponds and drainage channels.

Missing more than two consecutive days at Akhna Dam is to be avoided at all costs! It’s the sort of site where anything can and does drop in. However, 2 Glossy Ibis, 2 Squacco Heron a number of what have become common waders, a Masked Shrike and a Hoopoe were expected. A highlight came as an adult Long-legged Buzzard spooked the Cattle Egrets and a female/juvenile, unidentifiable to race, Yellow Wagtail flushed. Back at home 2 Long-eared Owls continued to call.

Friday evening at Oroklini Marsh was well worth the trip. A couple of Marsh Sandpipers and a host of commoner waders were present along with a Teal and several Garganey. As I sat in the car next to a reed bed that I hadn’t visited before I noticed 3 warblers, whilst studying a Water Rail walked into view. Realising that the birds were not Reed Warblers, I photographed them and studied them, noting the relevant features – juvenile Marsh Warblers* x3. Underreported in Cyprus due to ID difficulties they were a good find. However, I now have to write a description!

Saturday is also Ayia Napa Sewage Works and Cape Greco day; it’s good to build up a picture of movements with regular twice weekly visits. Excellent migration was evident with 2 juvenile Masked Shrikes, the first Isabelline Wheatear of the autumn and several Eastern Orphean Warblers were still present. Whilst at Cape Greco Picnic Site, another 2 Red-backed Shrikes and my first singing male Cyprus Warbler. They are becoming scarce on the east of the island and appear to be in general decline island wide, due in part to the expansion of Sardinian Warblers. I also found another 2 Marsh Warblers at Akhna Dam in the evening which were also photographed – another description.

In a break with tradition I retuned to Ayia Napa Sewage Works and migration was in full swing with 2 Lesser Grey Shrikes*, 3 Red-backed Shrikes* including a stonking male, a Lesser Whitethroat and several Eastern Orphean Warblers. In the evening I photographed a Black-crowned Night Heron* at Akhna Dam and noted the Marsh Warblers still present.

So, the week ended with a flurry and bird of the week was Marsh Warbler.

Other interesting finds: Dragonfly activity appears to have reduced although there are still some good examples knocking around. Eventually, I managed to photograph a Swallowtail* at rest.

Look Forward: Apparently Palm Doves have bred near Ayia Napa, this would be a Cyprus tick so I’ll try to track them down and photograph them.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at: birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook
_________________
Been There - Seen It
The BFG.

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