(4) Blog Posts Made in November 2012

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 25 Nov

Immature Caspian Tern at Akhna Dam

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

On Tuesday, I visited the Cape Greco area.  This proved to be worthwhile, finding the previously reported wintering male Finsch’s Wheatear, at least 7 Black Redstarts, numerous Spectacled and Sardinian Warblers, several Robins, a single male Blue Rock Thrush and Song Thrush.  At Ay Nik in the evening, I heard a calling Barn Owl. 

Having not visited Akhna Dam as much as I should have over the past couple of weeks, I thought I’d put a bit of time in.  Upon entering I flushed 4 Woodlarks* and then manoeuvred the car into a position to get some photographs.  I carried on driving and a Black Redstart gave itself away in a flash of red.  The dam was fairly quiet with only 7 Cattle Egrets and a Hen Harrier dive bombing the Coots being present.  I went for a walk and several Stonechats fled from a female Sparrowhawk.  As I searched the reeds for a Moustached Warbler which I eventually found, my attention was drawn to a large white bird flying behind the reeds.  I initially thought it was a gull species but it was flying oddly, when it turned a large looking “carrot” on the end of it’s face had me becoming very animated.  A Caspian Tern and my 276 Cyprus bird and 13th addition this year.  I couldn’t remember if it was a description species, although that wasn’t going to be difficult, I quickly got out the camera and managed a bit of video and a couple of record shots albeit not the best in all the excitement.  The bird fished for about 5 minutes between 1600 and 1610 caught 2 fish and then proceeded to head off South and away from the dam.  As I drove home 71 Corn Buntings roosted on telegraph wires over the fields behind Akhna and at Ay Nik, I flushed a Black Redstart and a Little Owl.

The immature Caspian Tern continued fishing at Akhna Dam on Thursday and a male Sparrowhawk and female Hen Harrier continued to harass the wildfowl.  At Sotira Pond a late Swallow was present and a Green Sandpiper remained but there was little else of interest.  In the afternoon I visited the Turkish half.  I had previously visited a site in the southern areas of Famagusta and had been told that with the recent rains it had filled up and there were some waders there.  I drove to Gulserin Marsh and the mud flats were alive with waders.  As I scoped through them, Dunlins, Little Stints, numerous Redshank, 4 Greenshank, a lone Wood Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, common Spur-winged Plovers and a lone Black-tailed Godwit.  Not surprisingly a Sparrowhawk was present and soon I came across several large gulls.  4 of them were Caspian and the other an adult Armenian Gull, so increasing the year list by 3 species.

I then went to the north of the city and to the Fresh Water Lake South, dropping Debs at the China Bazaar – the North’s equivalent of JUMBO, but even cheaper – HOOOORAAAHHH.  The lake itself had 11 Cormorants present, 4 Great White Egret a single juvenile White Pelican, presumably the same one as last week, 2 Kingfishers, a pair of Shovellers and 312 Cattle Egrets coming to roost.

On Friday, I dropped Deb at JUMBO in Larnaca and visited Oroklini Marsh to conduct the monthly count.  Although nothing unusual was noted, I saw my first Water Rail of the month.  On the way home a Peregrine landed on the chimney at Dhekelia Power Station and 6 Shags were present on the mouring platforms.  The Dhekelia Stone Curlew roost held 134 - a good count.

On Saturday, Akhna Dam still had the Caspian Tern present along with 4 Meadow Pipits, a couple of Song Thrush and a Black Redstart.  Over the North the newly found Gulserin Marsh had a Temminck's Stint, numerous Redshanks accompanied by a single Spotted Redshank, several Little Stints and Dunlins.  On the north of Famagusta the fresh water lake held the immature White Pelican with 2 Great White Egret, 2 Little Egret and 5 Cormorants.

On Sunday, Larnaca Salt Lake now holds c1600+ Greater Flamingo whilst the sewage works allowed me to photograph an Armenien Gull*.  The lagoons held 21 Ferrruginous Duck, 8 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, c800 Shoveller and 2 new wildfowl species for the year, a male Pochard and 2 Gadwall.  Spiros Pool now has 105 Golden Plover present but little else except for numerous Skylarks.

For pictures of birds with a * please click on the following Flickr links:

Other interesting finds:

Highlight of the Week:  Finding a Caspian Tern at Akhna Dam, a difficult bird in the country and one that many residents haven’t managed to catch up despite many years of chasing.  Having not seen the species in Cyprus previously this was an unexpected addition to the Cyprus list.

Look Forward:  I really must make an effort to nail a Reed Bunting for the year and visit a few more sites in the North of the island.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Weekly Highlights for the Week Ending 18 Nov

Adult Bonelli's Eagle at Ayios Nikolaos (ESBA)

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site.

On Tuesday, I managed some birding in the Larnaca and Limassol areas.  At Larnaca Sewage Works the first Wigeon at the site for the winter was a year tick.  The pair of White-fronted Geese and 4 Mediterranean Gulls were present – an adult, 2 2nd winters and 1 1st winter.  Also of interest was the arrival of 3 Cormorants and a male Black Redstart* fed around the fence line.  In the fields, at least 120 Skylarks, 8+ Calandra Larks, at least 6 Red-throated Pipit, 3 Meadow Pipit and a Corn Bunting all fed actively.  Whilst on Larnaca Salt Lake, c250 Greater Flamingos, 8 Shelducks and in the scrub about 30 Stone Curlews.  Spiro’s Pool also held 38 Golden Plovers an increase of 35 from the last visit.

At Lady’s Mile, Limassol at least 350 Black-headed Gulls loafed and a surprise Avocet fed amongst them.  A Little Crake was at Phassouri Reed Beds along with a Starling and 2 Marsh Harriers.  Akrotiri Salt Lake and surrounding areas held a good number of Stonechats, a couple of Chaffinches a Cetti’s Warbler and a late juvenile Red-backed Shrike.  A Common Buzzard flew over the trees and Robins could be heard in almost every bush.  As I retuned home a Little Owl called near the house and flew into a nearby tree.

On Wednesday afternoon I visited the Fresh Water Lake South in Famagusta as I wanted to visit Johnny Rockets for a Chilli Dog.  Anyway before the American 50s fest a juvenile White Pelican surprised me at the lake as did a Grey Wagtail.  Great White Egret Numbers have increased to 4 and Cormorants to 5.  A pair of late juvenile Whiskered Terns hawked the lake and I flushed a Snipe whilst walking around.  Wildfowl numbers have increased slightly to 3 Shovellers and 2 Teal. 

As I walked to work on Thursday 2 Song Thrushes passed overhead heading towards the tape lure that was playing which was annoying, I reported the event to the Police but I don’t know if any action was taken.  I had received a report of a Black Stork at Akhna Dam so I got there as quickly as I could after work.  In any event I couldn’t locate the Stork but spent a few hours.  As I was driving in, a small Falcon flew over me chased by a Kestrel.  As it sat in a ploughed field, I was delighted, as I thought, to be looking at a female Merlin.  My first of the winter and not an easy bird to find in Cyprus.  The dam itself has filled significantly since the rains so I was unable to drive around.  As I approached a now submerged reed bed, I heard a loud ticking and at this time of year it could only be a Moustached Warbler, 2 were present and good views were had.  I flushed a nearby Bluethroat and then heard and eventually located a single male Penduline Tit.  48 Starlings were also present and a female Hen Harrier hawked the reed beds.  3 Song Thrush were attracted by a “hunter” – POACHER – CRIMINAL with a tape lure who attempted to shoot them, I’m glad to say without success on this occasion.  2 Snipe flushed from the water’s edge and several Chiffchaffs were noted flitting about the reeds.

I drove around the Ay Nik area when I left work and there were many Skylarks* and Meadow Pipits but the highlight was an adult Bonelli's Eagle (above).  On Sunday I visited the Larnaca area.  I was fortunate enough to connect with a Ruddy Shelduck that was reported 2 days ago.  The 2 White-fronted Geese remained and a pair of Slender-billed Gulls joined the Black-headed Gulls*.  3 Wigeon remained but there was little else of note except for 6 Lapwing.   The Salt Lake still held c250 Greater Flamingo including 13 juveniles.

Akhna Dam has more water in and although it was very quiet it has attracted at least 3 Water Pipits.  A ringtail Hen Harrier was harrassed by a Kestrel and a single Pintail alighted shortly after my arrival.  I also sadly witnessed a Grey Heron* being shot for no particular reason other than the locals amusement - what a sad people!  I photographed it and have submitted the details to the game fund.

In Famagusta the Fresh Water Lake had 4 Cormorants, 2 Great White Egrets and a juvinile Whiskered Tern which is staying for a very long time.

For pictures of birds please click on the following Flickr links:

Other interesting finds: 11 Painted Ladies at Larnaca Salt Lake.

Highlight of the Week:  A Ruddy Shelduck, 4 Med Gulls of differing ages and the first Wigeon of the year for me.

Look Forward:  Now is the time to look for Dotterel and a rarity such as Steppe Grey Shrike or Great Grey Shrike along with unusual wintering wildfowl.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Highlights for the week ending 11 Nov

Red-necked Phalarope at Bishop's Pool - 9 Nov 12.

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

A busy week at work coupled with the fact that it’s now dark by 1700 has meant that little birding was done in the early part of the week.  However, during a visit to Famagusta and on the way home in the darkness a Barn Owl flew over the city walls, towards Verosha (the dead city) which was an interesting sighting, no doubt roosting in the derelict buildings that remain under military control.

I took a day's leave on Friday so travelled to Akrotiri in the hope of achieving something from a fairly dismal week's birding.  After dropping Deb at work (hoorahh - some monies entering the BFBF - Big Fat Birding Fund), I arrived at Akrotiri at about 0830.  Noting immediately that the Greater Flamingos had increased to about 8000.  The recent heavy rains have transformed the salt lake, although access is now difficult with it not being as dry and driveable.

After noting a Black Redstart I proceeded to Bishop's Pool passing a couple of Stonechats and Spectacled Warblers.  On arrival at the pool I scanned the area quickly and didn't see much although a pair of Marsh Harriers were overhead.  On observing more closely, I picked out a Red-necked Phalarope that has been present for about 2 weeks but I thought it would have gone by now.  So a bonus to the Cyprus year list, I have previously seen one on Larnaca Salt Lake in 1999 - anyway a good bird.  I decided to walk around the pool and flushed a covey of Chukar and a Grey Wagtail.  I got into position and managed a not bad shot of the Phalarope (above).  The bushes were alive with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps as I carried on around the pool.  As I reached the next hide and stopped a bird flew from the reeds.  With a dark blue back and obvious white flashes in the wings it was a White-breasted (Smyrna) Kingfisher.  Having seen the bird in September and with reports being sporadic, I think this was the first sighting since early October.  To be honest I was surprised it was still present - perhaps it will over winter?

After that success I went to the Akrotiri Environmental Centre where a few other birders had congregated.  One a Cypriot named Thomas, I recognised and this was fortunate as he is taking Roger ringing in February when he visits so I sorted that one out.  Then an RSPB chap named Doug Radford noticed my AOS polo shirt and said "Do you know Richard Sargeant"?  I thought is there no escape? and said "Never heard of him", only joking, so we shared some tails of stringing and the like.  The views from the centre brought a male and female Hen Harrier, Bonelli's Eagle, Sparrowhawk, 5 Common Cranes and numerous Slender-billed Gulls and Flamingos with a lone Whiskered Tern making an appearance.  The waders were too distant to confidetly identify although 6 Lapwings were obvious.

Driving to Larnaca in a deluge and heavy thunder storm, the forked lightening was very impressinve, lighting the skies pink, which is normal at this time of year.  On the Larnaca Salt Lake c250 Greater Flamingos had gathered (the first sizeable flock of the year) and the Stone Curlew flock was in its regular place.  Sprios Beach and fields was full of Skylarks and Crested Larks accompanied by several Chukars, a single male Black Francolin and Red-throated Pipit.  As I scanned the fields I picked out 3 Golden Plovers - my first for the year taking the Cyprus year list to 199.  Larnaca Sewage Works held nothing new but the 2nd Winter Meditteranean Gull, 2 Ferruginous Ducks, 2 Greater White-fronted Geese and a female Red-crested Pochard were still present, along with a couple of Dunlins and Redshanks, although there was no sign of the Shelducks.  An increase in Meadow Pipits was noticeable as I flushed at least seven whilst walking the the hide.  I returned home and the rain continued. 

On Saturday we visited Famagusta for a bit of shopping, lunch and a shave - more of that later.  Prior to this I visited the pond to the north east of Famagusta known as the Fresh Water Lake South.  Here 3 Great White Egrets and 5 Little Egrets were outnumbered by the 63 Spur-winged Plovers.  A juvenile Whiskered Tern flew about but the highlight strangely, was 2 Cormorants and admitidly they weren't that exciting but they did represent my 200th species achieved in Cyprus this year in exactly 5 months to the day - so not a bad effort.

I had a haircut and wash, double shave, eyebrow threading, nose hair clipping, ear hair burning, hot Vic towelling and a Turkish coffee for 20 euros.  Great value and a must for any visitor.  It took at least 10 minutes off me, anyway I'll look my best for Remembrance Sunday!

Sunday and of course Remembrance Parade, although being my usual organised self (?), I did manage to get to the Ayia Napa area prior to attending the parade and obligatory curry lunch.  Ayia Napa was hopeless, I've never seen so many shotguns in one area; there must have been 30 "hunters" in an area of about a mile square, so finding any birds was impossible - one can only hope that they do what they usually do and shoot one another.  I carried onto Ayia Thekla in the hope of recording a few species for the month.  On the rocky shore a Common Sandpiper which appears to be overwintering was quickly followed by 11 Greater Sand Plovers on the usual stretch of rocks along with 34 Kentish Plovers.  A lone Golden Plover* was a surprise and a Cormorant flew west over the sea.  A few beers at the curry lunch put paid to any afternoon birding, so a fairly mundane week drew to a fairly mund

For pictures of birds with * please click on the following Flickr links:

Highlight of the Week:  Finding the White-throated Kingfisher again and seeing my second Red-necked Phalarope on Cyprus

Look Forward:  More winter visitors and hopefully a few surprises.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Highlights for the Week Ending 4 Nov

One of Six, Lesser Short-toed Larks at Larnaca Airport Fields

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

At the end of October the Cyprus list stands at 275 an increase of 13 species and the year list stands at a respectable 197 for only 5 months birding. 

Monday, my last day’s leave post Deb’s parents departing.  I decided to visit the Larnaca area once more.  I firstly checked on the South Airport Pools, the first 2 Flamingos (1 juvenile) and 10 Redshank.  In the surrounding scrub a pair of male Black Francolins and 63 Stone Curlews.  I proceeded to the Sewage Works and scanned with the scope.  The pair of Shelducks remained along with a pair of Ferruginous Ducks that I hadn’t picked out on Sunday.  Black-headed Gull numbers had increased to 144 and amongst them the first Mediterranean Gull of the winter with a 2nd Winter bird being present.  The fields adjoining the works held numerous White Wagtails, circa 30 Red-throated Pipit and at least 3 Water Pipits.  I drove onto towards Spiros Pool and the Airport Fields.  The corn crop has just been harvested and the birds have obviously found a good food source in the newly ploughed fields.  Numerous Skylarks fed with the Red-throated Pipits but the highlight were 6 Lesser Short-toed Larks* feeding on the grass and waste ground next to the fields.

On the way home, Oroklini Marsh held nothing noteable, however, it has had some water let into it which may prove attractive to wintering wildfowl.  A stop at Akhna Dam was productive where 2 Marsh Harriers quartered and an Osprey continued to fish.  The now resident Sparrowhawk female was harassed by Hooded Crows and a 2 Kingfishers were behaving very territorially.  The highlight was a juvenile Pallid Harrier* first hunting and then landing for a drink at water’s edge.

I returned to work  on Tuesday (very large groan) and with lots to do and many things to catch up on at home, the prospect of getting out in the afternoon didn’t look too promising.  Tuesday afternoon and with the clocks going back an hour there is little time to waste as it now gets dark at about 1730.  I visited Akhna Dam, however it was fairly uneventful.  A pair of Marsh Harriers and a female Hen Harrier were present and 6 Chaffinches were obviously newly arrived since they were the first record for the site this autumn – no doubt part of the big influx of finches noted last week at Cape Greco.  A Great White Egret was the highlight of the afternoon.  The strategy at the moment is to scan the ploughed fields at the rear of Akhna Dam for endless hours in an attempt to find something different.  The activity produced a field full of Corn Buntings and White Wagtails, accompanied by 2 Red-throated Pipits, 2 Skylarks and several Stonechats.  October ended with a whimper, I didn’t go birding as I was completing my monthly records for submission to the recorder.  I submitted 784 records detailing 143 species in the month.  Not a bad effort bolstered by some late migrants and the arrival of some early winter visitors.

Thursday the 1st of November and the beginning of a new monthly list and hopefully the arrival of some more speciality winter visitors like Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit and Reed Bunting.  However, Oroklini Marsh and Akhna Dam presented no such opportunities and although the first monthly counts were undertaken the highlight at Akhna Dam was a pair of Marsh Harriers.

Friday and Trafalgar Night looms, oh dear, the chances of birding tomorrow look decidedly poor and I was unable to go out before the function as I had too much going on elsewhere.  On Saturday I managed a couple of hours in the afternoon at Sotira Pool and Akhna Dam.  2 Green Sandpipers were a surprise at Sotira although little else showed itself apart from my very bad headache.  As I continued to Akhna, I saw a ringtail Hen Harrier over Avgorou and a Snipe in a rain filled puddle.  At the dam itself another 2 ringtail Hen Harriers, a drake eclipse Pintail, 2 Lapwing and a Kingfisher were the pick of a fairly talentless bunch.

On Sunday, I visited the fresh water lake on the Turkish half of the island near Famagusta in an attempt to twitch a Caspian Tern - in any event I dipped.  The lake did hold a juvenile Whiskered Tern which is quite late, 3 Great White Egrets and a juvenile Night Heron.  I then proceeded to Larnaca Sewage Works where a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese had arrived, the pair of Shelducks remained and 2 drake Pintails were also present.

We then drove to Kornos and a site to see the first Orchids of the season; Autumn Lady's Tresses*.  We were successful and also managed a photo.  The site also held a Kingfisher several Chaffinches, a Robin, Cetti's Warbler and a new Dragonfly - Blue-eyed Hawker or Southern Migrant Hawker a pair of Winter Damselflies, which were also new and Deb gripped me off when she showed me a picture of a Pygmy Skipper that I didn't see!

For pictures of birds with * please click on the following Flickr links:

Other interesting finds: At Gambion Dam, definitely the first Orchids of the year – Autumn Lady’s Tresses, several Blue-eyed Hawkers (Southern Migrant Hawkers), a pair of Winter Damselflies and a Pygmy Skipper.

Highlight of the Week:  The discovery of 6 Lesser Short-toed Larks at Larnaca and the arrival of 2 White-fronted Geese also at Larnaca.

Look Forward:  Everything is slowing down but there are the arrivals of wintering wildfowl to watch out for.

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

Mark Easterbrook