Army Ornithological Society Blog

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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Adopt a Sooty Tern

Get involved in the twists and ‘terns’ of seabird migration on Ascension.

Dr Jim Reynolds, School of Biosciences University of Birmingham, in conjunction with the AOS, is launching an ‘Adopt a Sooty Tern’ Scheme.

The aim is to obtain movement data from a sufficient number of Sooty Terns that will allow us to determine, with confidence, the locations in the Atlantic Ocean that are most important to the species between breeding seasons.

An expedition returns to Ascension in late November in the hope of recovering the remaining 17 geolocators fitted to birds in March 2011. Data will be recoverable from these devices but we want to deploy many more devices to continue this study.

If you would like to adopt a Sooty Tern by purchasing a geolocator to help continue this research then for full details please download the information sheet.

In return for your geolocator purchase you will be provided with:

  • details of when and where the bird was caught
  • a photograph of the bird with the geolocator deployed on its leg
  • the ring number of the bird
  • an opportunity to name the bird
  • details of geolocator recovery efforts on two subsequent AOS expeditions to the island
  • when and where the geolocator was recovered
  • a jpeg image of the migration path of the bird as visualised in Google Earth
  • the actual geolocator that has been carried across the South Atlantic by ‘your’ migrating bird

If you can't spoil yourself then why not adopt a Sooty Tern as a gift or club together with friends and/or colleagues to do so.

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Cyprus Weekly

Birding highlights for week ending 5 Aug 12

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

Migration is now in full swing.

Waders continue to pass through but an increase in passerines has been very evident.

On the first day of the week, Akhna Dam held the usual suspects; Greenshank, Temminck’s Stint, Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers*, Coots, Cattle Egrets and a surprise Snipe – the first of the Autumn. From the rear of my house a pleasing sound, at lease three Long-eared Owls calling, amazing that they are in the same wood as twelve years ago during my last tour. Thinking quickly, get Debs to hold the torch tomorrow night when I look for them! Despite a concerted effort in the daylight none were located the following day and only one was heard that evening. Whilst wandering around in the afternoon heat, I realised I could have done with Geoff McMullen being with me. He could have, “became the Owl”, in true Gambian style (great times), which would surely have saved me much pain and frustration. By Tuesday a Ruff was present at Akhna Dam and wader numbers of the species previously mentioned had all increased slightly – but nothing new.

I met a local Cypriot birder this week who I had known during my last tour. A veteran birder and writer of may pamphlets and books on the local area he presented me with his latest edition, which I was very pleased to receive, as I had been acknowledged several times for previous records submitted twelve years ago. He will prove to be a really good contact to have in the area for site information and migration trends. A retired English teacher, language is not a barrier, as my Greek extends to thank-you, excuse me and some other more impolite, choice phrases.

An afternoon visit to my new favourite place, Ayia Napa Sewage Works*, mid-week was productive. Three Long-legged Buzzards* circled over the bluff and in the bushes a cracking adult male Eastern Orphean Warbler. A Spectacled Warbler put on a good show and several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were normal. The lagoons held a Common Sandpiper, circa twenty Little Grebes with European Swallows and House Martins hawking the lagoons. Three Common Swifts were of note as they are only seen in small numbers on autumn migration.

A mess silver lunch put paid to any birding on Thursday due to the obvious, although later in the evening I did see several pink elephants, a large orange mouse called Graham and a green dragon for some reason?

At Akhna Dam on Fri something had clearly spooked the Herons with fifteen Night Herons taking to the wing, about 30 Cattle Egrets and a Squacco Heron. Hoopoes returned to the site as did a juvenile Masked Shrike*. However, two birds were added to the Cyprus tally this tour with the first Glossy Ibis and a juvenile Marsh Harrier. Later that evening I eventually tracked down a calling Long-eared Owl behind the house and illuminated it with a torch. I didn’t have to become anything thankfully other than hot and sweaty.

The regular early morning start at Ayia Napa Sewage Works was productive with three juvenile Masked Shrikes, the first juveninl Red-backed Shrike* of the autumn and Eastern Orphean and Olivaceous Warblers remained present. Another Glossy Ibis was at Oroklini Marsh the same day whilst a Redshank was at Akhna Dam – new for the site this tour.

The Sunday visit to Larnaca Sewage Works was standard. Although I’m sure that Deb is actually beginning to enjoy the experience. On Spiro’s Pool, which is rapidly disappearing in the heat there were six Collared Pratincole and an adult Dunlin (probably of the race alpina, judging from the size of it’s bill, being Curlew Sandpiper sized.

Two more Glossy Ibis, a female Marsh Harrier and my first Kingfisher of the campaign at Akhna Dam on the way home rounded off a good week.

Other interesting finds: A new butterfly for my Cyprus list, at Ayia Napa Sewage Works on the rocky outcrop that overlooks the lagoons in the form of a Wall Brown*. An Ant Lion*, for those interested a picture is on Flickr in the “Other Creatures” folder. I thought it was some strange Dragonfly at first – a most peculiar beast indeed. There’s also a picture of a quite large Lizard* at Ayia Napa Sewage works, anyone have any idea what species it is?

Look Forward: The continued search for Pygmy Skipper and autumn migrants, with an emphasis on attempting to photograph an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.

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 29 Jul 12

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

This week started very much as the last ended...

Three Collared Pratincoles remained at Akhna Dam until the 24 Jul, although the juvenile had moved on suggesting that the three birds present this week are different to those that occurred earlier in the month.

Little-ringed Plover numbers peaked at 30 on 24 Jul and Little Stints* continued to vary in numbers between the high teens and single figures. Single Ruffs were at Akhna Dam*, however, they were largely outnumbered by the continued presence of varying good numbers of Wood and Common Sandpipers. A solitary Green Sandpiper and Greenshank also made appearances. An adult and a juvenile Black-winged Stilt have been present for two weeks now but are overshadowed by the growing numbers of Spur-winged Plovers that reached 22 recently having obviously had a successful breeding season. This currently appears to be the most common wader on the island.

A noticeable lull in migration occurred mid-week, with many waders departing and not being replaced with the new influx. Consequently numbers dropped to seven Little-ringed Plovers at Akhna Dam. Hoopoes* continued to be seen in ones and twos and having bred at the site Eastern Olivaceous Warblers flitted about the tamarisk in small family groups. The odd Roller is encountered infrequently at the site. An adult Whiskered Tern* was present on the evening of the 23 Jul, but left the site shortly before dusk to presumably continue its southward migration. Later in the week the Pratincoles reappeared, as did two Hoopoes and the single Squacco Heron was joined by a second. On the 26th a real surprise at the site with a dark phased Booted Eagle being mobbed by Spur-winged Plovers.

Cattle Egret numbers increased to fifty two by the 26th at Akhna Dam. The species now breeds at a lake near Famagusta in the (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – TRNC) and frequents the cattle sheds to the south of Akhna Dam to feed.

On Sat 28th the first Snipe of the autumn was flushed at Akhna whilst a summer plumaged Sanderling caused some initial rather more challenging ID issues than I'd expected. Green Sandpiper numbers grew to eight, Common Sandpipers to 17 whilst Wood Sandpipers fell to just two. Four Temminck's Stint were present in the early evening.

Note to oneself: Must visit Famagusta for a Turkish bath and shave, take Deb shopping and VISIT THE LAKE! – Every cloud?

On the tanker rafts opposite Dhekelia Power Station at least nine Shags of the Mediterranean race were present on Thursday 26th.

Eventually, I located Ayia Napa Sewage Works and although not exactly heaving with birds (but not half as malodorous as Larnaca Sewage Works) the first Long-legged Buzzard was noted along with a couple of Spectacled and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. A new Dragonfly was also seen in the form of male and female Keeled Skimmers*, with Violet Dropwings and Slender Skimmers also being present. Two Black Francolin were usual at Sotira Pools on the 27th but there was little else of interest. A return visit to Ayia Napa Sewage Works on Sunday 29th was incredible. Visible migration was taking place with 76 (2 flocks) of European Bee-eaters passing overhead with four Rollers and in the bushes and scrub, an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler*, at least two Eastern Orphean Warbler juveniles, a juvenile Barred Warbler and several Spectacled and juvenile Sardinian Warbler. A flock of migrating Common Swift and at least eighteen Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and a juv Masked Shrike added to the tally.

The weekly visit to the Sunday market at Levadia (only five minutes from Oroklini Marsh – there’s always a motive), produced yet further evidence of wader passage and the amount of breeding Black-winged Stilts was staggering. A count of 16 Little Terns was also impressive. The market visit invariably ends by continuing onto Larnaca Sewage Works (I know how to treat a lady), Larnaca Salt Lake and Spiro’s Pool. However, the site was a little disappointing on this occasion.

Yellow-legged Gull numbers have increased at Spiro’s Pool where 53 were seen recently; however, nothing more exotic was noted.

Other interesting finds.

Akhna Dam: Dragonflies: Red-veined Darter, Small Skimmer, Violet Dropwing*, Scarlet Darter, Red-veined Dropwing and Black Percher in large numbers.

Look Forward: Next week I will mostly be looking for early autumn warblers and Pygmy Skipper.

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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