(5) Blog Posts Made in March 2013

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 24 Mar

Male Ruppel's Warbler at Cape Greco 19 Mar  - I'll try harder next time to get the tail in.  * indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

A day’s leave on Monday so a full day out in search of some lingering migrants from the fall on Saturday which I missed due to attendance at the tulip festival.  Cape Greco was the obvious choice but it was Green Monday -  a Cypriot bank holiday.  With hundreds of people usually heading for the National Park it was essential to start early.  Why it is called Green Monday I have no idea as judging by the amount of rubbish, drinks cans and other debris left lying around it has little to do with any conservation, ecological or environmental credentials (if they exist) that the Cypriots may hold.  Whilst at the Konnos Bay area, I saw a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, an Isabelline Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, several Cyprus Warblers, a Ruppel's Warbler and the star of the show a male Masked Shrike.  At the Cape’s tip, more Isabellines and 3 Greater Short-toed Larks were present.  As I transited from this area to the rubbish tip and sea caves I saw a Woodchat Shrike* and another Ruppels Warbler. 

The highlight of the day was seeing 5 species of Wheatear in the area including 3 Deserts* (1 male), 4 Isabelline, a female Finsch’s, 3 Cyprus and a single male Northern with the 6th of the day, a cracking male Eastern Black-eared* being added at Ayia Napa Sewage Works later.  Also present were 3 Tawny Pipits, a couple of Ruppel's Warblers and at least 3 Lesser Whitethroats.  As I was leaving the area 3 Alpine Swifts stopped briefly to feed at the sea caves.

I returned home for lunch and some admin before driving to the Larnaca area for the afternoon’s migrant hunt.  At the sewage works and surrounding areas good numbers of Slender-billed Gulls, Black-winged Stilts and Spur-winged Plovers with a couple of Green Sandpiper.  The highlights were however 2 Gulls, a migrating adult Baltic Gull* and a 1st winter Caspian which is hanging on its wintering quarters.  At the north side of the Salt Lake, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck and other wildfowl numbers are decreasing rapidly but good numbers of migrant waders were present including, c40 Snipes, 2 wintering Jack Snipes, c50 Redshanks, 2 Greenshank, 3 Marsh Sandpiers, 4 Green Sandpipers, a couple of Ringed Plovers and at least 9 Little Ringed Plovers.  A Water Rail was heard along with a few Cetti’s Warblers and a Reed Warbler and the first Sedge Warbler of the year revealed itself.  A ringtail Hen Harrier, male Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard harassed the waders and I left to the sounds of singing Blackcaps and a flushed Song Thrush.

On Tuesday afternoon I headed off to Cape Greco, visiting Ayia Napa Sewage Works on the way.  On the approach road to the sewage works I flushed a Tawny Pipit and whilst walking around saw a few Lesser Whitethroats and a Blue Rock Thrush.  3 Green Sandpipers were on the lagoons but that was about it apart from an influx of hirundines one of which was a Red-rumped Swallow.  I also freed a female Vagrant Emperor that had become stuck on a plant.  Numbers of these are now much reduced and in their tens – mostly females as opposed to the hundreds that were present after the sand storm.

I proceeded to the Cape Greco rubbish tip and sea caves area.  Immediately seeing a couple of Isabelline Wheatears and at least 9 Lesser Whitethroats.  As I walked my usual route, a few lingering Meadow Pipits flew away calling and I then came across 4 Tawny Pipits, obviously a movement of this species is taking place.  As I continued, 2 female Desert Wheatears* remained with a single male Northern and Cyprus.  I then managed to photograph a Ruppel's Warbler* albeit not managing to get its tail in shot – note to self – must try harder!  We returned home via Carrefour and Lidl and then got lost in some mental road works where the diversion signs had run out – brilliant and a great end to the day.

Wednesday had arrived and with limited time to get out due to the fact that I had spent most of the day attempting to avert my own banking crisis by moving money to the UK and changing allotments etc, I still managed to get out.  For those of you concerned about my fiscal well being, please save yourself the worry, I will not be eating Lidl Baked Beans and Smash for the next month!  I got as far as Paralimni Lake but this was productive enough.  On Sotira Pond, 11 Garganeys including 7 drakes – a much awaited year tick.  As I watched the main lake and spotted a Black-tailed Godwit, several Black-winged Stilts with Green and Wood Sandpipers, numerous Snipes and Ruffs also rose from the vegetation.  In the nearby vegetation, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat.  I saw good numbers of Yellow Wagtails in the distance so had to drive around to the north-west corner of the lake.  Here I also discovered a flock of c40 Greater Short-toed Larks.  Amongst the throng of c50 Black-headed (feldegg) Yellow Wagtails, at least 5 Blue-headed (flavas) and 3 supercilliaris (believed to be a Black-headed / Blue-headed hybrid) but a very striking bird nonetheless.

Thursday’s visit to Cape Greco in search of the reported Desert Lesser Whitethroat was a failure.  I did however see good numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, a Sandwich Tern and a male Black-eared Wheatear with a couple of commoner Isabelline Wheatears.  As I passed the lagoons at Ayia Napa Sewage Works 4 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were present.  On the bluff above the works, a male Blue Rock Thrush continued and many Lesser Whitethroats were evident.  Perhaps the highlight was a female Subalpine Warbler, sometimes a difficult species to catch up with and really only possible in the spring as they appear to take a different return migration route in the autumn.

On Friday and Saturday one of the annual Coptic Storms ensured the wind was howling and with heavy rain showers, it was pointless going out as I couldn’t hold the scope still and in any event couldn’t see anything fot the rain.  On Saturday morning we headed off to Paphos to stay with friends via the Limassol and Episkopi sites.  Although it had stopped raining, the wind was still strong so birds were in short supply.  At Lady’s Mile, 23 Ruff, 5 Marsh Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover was about it, whilst at Bishop’s Pool, a drake Garganey, and 4 drake Ferruginous Ducks was the highlight.  At the orchid glade, I added 2 new specimens.  The first a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera – the same one as you get in the UK) and the second a Bug Orchid (Ochris fragrans).  We stopped briefly at Akrotiri Gravel Pits for a female Masked Shrike, a few Isabelline Wheatears and Greater Short-toed Larks were present but little else.  No Griffons were present at Episkopi however I stopped half way down the road to Happy Valley and eventually found my 3rd new orchid of the day – 6 Eastern Marsh Helliborines (Epipactis veritriflouria) , a large sprawling and impressive plant.

Onwards to Paphos and the Ayia Varvara and Anarita Park areas.  At Anatrita Park several wheatears and Corn Buntings were present and at Ayia Varvara, incredibly the male Finsch’s Wheatear was still in residence.  Good news for the AOS trip next year which has raised the expectation of this species from a *** to a ** star – more of that in the message board later next month.  At Mandria beach, more Greater Short-toed Larks and at least 200 Yellow Wagtails, mostly Black-headed* (feldegg), many Blue-headed* (flava) and several hybrid (supercilliaris*), a Syke's Wagtail (beema) alwo posed for the camera.  With the wind still howling we made for our friends house and an enjoyable curry at a local restaurant.

Sunday was butterfly day and a visit to one of the dams above Paphos.  Prior to this we drove to a hilly area above Paphos and photographed several Paphos Blues* - a new species for me and an endemic to boot.  We arrived at Kannaviou Village and walked around a nearby meadow where at least 15 Eastern Festoons* were and some posed for the camera – a fantastic butterfly.  2 Sardinian Warblers vied for my attention and they were clearly nesting in the area with the male carrying food.  The area and the dam itself held more Eastern Festoons, Orange Tips, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellows and a few Speckled Woods*.  Vagrant Emperors, Common Darters and a single Lesser Emperor were also present before we stopped for coffee and lunch.  After lunch we headed for Everetou Dam and the area near Skarfor Bridge.  Here we found the target an Odilisque* (Epillage fatime) (Deb's photo) -  a peculiar Damselfly that holds its wings like a Dragonfly and Spreadwing.  A Long-legged Buzzard soared above and at least 4 Hawfinches were in the trees behind us.  At the dam the muddy fringes had attracted 4 Black-winged Stilts, a Common and a Wood Sandpiper with good numbers of Linnets and a few Meadow Pipits.  The day drawing to a close, we returned to Paphos and then Ay Nik via a restaurant for a well earned steak.

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

Highlight of the Week:  Seeing 6 species of Wheatear in a day was pretty impressive.

Other Interesting Finds:  4 new orchids, 2 at Akrotiri,  Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid) Ochris fragrans (Bug Orchid), Epipactis veritrifloria (Eastern Marsh Helliborine) at Episkopi and Ophrys mammosa herae (Spider Orchid) at Everetou Dam.  Eastern Festoon was a cracker and it was good to finally see the endemic Paphos Blue.  Another addition to the creatures list with a Troodos Lizard (Deb's photo) at Kannaviou was also seen.

Look Forward:  3 weeks without any visitors and a few trips planned in the peak of migration should be productive.  With many early migrants now passed through the island the turn of the Nightingales and acrocephalus warblers should be upon us.

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

Mark Easterbrook



Woodcock and Wheatear

The area is open again after the big exercise and last weekend a walk around Imber Firs and Fish Hook was held with the theme being Woodcock and Wheatear.  The weather was kind despite a horrendous forecast though the wind was strong.  There is nothing to protect you from the wind blowing in any direction as it is a high point.  Using the woods as shelter became rather important.  Only a few hardy souls turned up including the Canadian Liaison Officer with his wife.  The walk meant a survey of 2 grid squares which turned up 32 species.  The stars were the 7 Woodcock (an addition to his UK list for one visitor to these shores) which turned out for us with some very good views.  Unfortunately there were no sightings of Wheatear but for those who drove out by Imber Clump there was one on a post waiting for its photograph to be taken.  A pair of Bullfinches put on a display for the group as did a large mixed flock of Starlings and fieldfares.  Skylarks sang when the sun came out and Meadow Pipits provided a collective fly-past.  Goldcrest sang from the woods and a Short-eared Owl quartered the ground close up, demonstrating to the group how it should be done.

The next day was the last Hen Harrier survey of the winter.  I stationed myself at Copehill Down where the only excitement was a Yellowhammer singing and the distant murmuration of Starlings; only a few hundred thousand this time!  The other teams managed to see Short-eared and Barn Owls flying by but no Hen Harriers.   There was even a Little Owl by one Vedette.  Spring must be on the way as Sand Martins and Swallows have been reported around the area as were a few Meditteranean Gulls (I dipped but they were in the flock somewhere).  It does not seem Spring is here given the current weather but I am now keeping an eye out for arriving migrants.


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 17 Mar

Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Cape Greco 13 Mar

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

Tuesday and a trip to the dentist in Dhekelia allowed me views of 3 Cyprus Warblers.  In the afternoon, we'd arranged to take a couple of visiting parents, who were birdwatchers out.  I took them to the Cape Greco area firstly stopping at Ayia Napa Sewage Works to see the Orchid - of course.  In any event, a male Blue Rock Thrush, a cracking male Masked Shrike and good numbers of Isabelline and Northern Wheatears.  The Cape provided more views of the same species, so we stopped at Paralimni Lake on the way home, where a Great White Egret, numerous Green Sandpipers and a couple of Spur Winged Plovers were of interest.  A flock of c400 Ruff was the largest of the spring so far.  Of interest at Ayia Napa Sewage Works was huge numbers of Vagrant Emperors following a heavy dust storm.

On Wednesday morning, I had arranged to meet 2 orchid enthusiasts from the Limassol area to show them the rare Caspian Butterfly Orchid.   Prior to this, I stopped at Paralimni Lake where good numbers of waders were present, including a Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh, Green and Woodsandpipers with a couple of Greenshank and 2 Lesser Whitethroats.  We achieved the orchid sighting and in doing so we also saw a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes, several Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, a Lesser Whitethroat, the male Masked Shrike again, a Long-legged Buzzard, a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper.  We continued to the Cape Greco Sea Caves area where we found good numbers of Northern Wheatears, a couple of Black Redstarts, good numbers of Pyramidal Orchids and where I photographed the male Subalpine Warbler – above.

I returned home to meed Matt & Karen, where we headed to the North for an overnight stay at Bellapais.  We arrived to an excellent hotel and restaurant where we celebrated Matt’s birthday before a good night’s sleep in well-appointed rooms.  We rose and after breakfast visited the Bellapais monastery, but not before seeing a couple of Red-rumped Swallows and an adult Bonelli’s Eagle over the hills above Kyrenia.  After the monastery we drove east on the north coast stopping for coffee and birding along the way, where we saw Northern Wheatears, a Long-legged Buzzard and at Balalan, at least 4 Cretszchmar’s Buntings, 2 Red-rumped Swallows*, a Corn Bunting, Song Thrush, Sardinian Warbler and a couple of Stonechats.  We crossed the east end of the Kyrenia range and headed down the south coast via Bojaz and Salamis.  We had lunch at the restaurant at the ruins and then walked around hearing several Cetti’s Warblers and seeing Cyprus and Sardinian Warblers.  As we were leaving 2 Audouin’s Gulls did a fly by and Matt managed a couple of good shots of them.  The Famagusta wetlands were a bit disappointing but the Chinese for dinner at Clapsides beach wasn’t – the end of another day!

Friday morning and out early to Cape Greco via Paralimni Lake.  The lake held good numbers of waders and a good variety with Snipe, Spur-winged Plovers, Marsh, Wood and Green Sandpipers with Greenshanks and Redshanks also being in attendance.   A flock of c400-500 Ruffs was an impressive sight.  3 Great White Egrets also fed amongst the numerous Cattle Egrets.  We proceeded to Ayia Napa Sewage Works and another Orchid photostop – we saw 7 species in total.  At least 8 Cretszchmar’s Buntings were present along with Lesser Whitthroats, a Common Whitethroat, 2 Ruppels Warblers, a Blackcap and a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes.  I managed to capture a Vagrant Emperor female*, that had become entangled in the long grass, which was useful as they had proved incredibly difficult to photograph previously.  At least 3 Cyprus Wheatears were present along with Northerns and Isabellines.  We proceeded to Cape Greco where Matt photographed a singing male Cyprus Warbler (incidentally, it had a single white feather on its head and appears to be the same bird I photographed about a month ago and on the same bush).  A walk around revealed a couple of Blue Rock Thrushes, several more Cyprus Warblers and as we walked we flushed several birds some of which did not look like Sparrows.  As we studied them, and listened to the calls once more, it became clear that they were Greater Short-toed Larks* and we both managed some good shots of them. 

We returned home for the by now compulsory end to a holiday and a visit to the Turkish barbers for the full-monty 20 Euro treatment.  Feeling completely, clean, abused and revitalised and not to mention looking a lot younger we went for a beer and a kebab for lunch before Matt & Karen departed for the airport.  Another set of visitors behind us – we settled down for a bit of a subdued night of TV.  It’s always strange and the house is a bit empty when visitors depart and you have to settle back into the routine.  But at least I don’t have to struggle another Meze down for a few weeks.

On Saturday we left early and headed for Hisarkoy in the North to stay with a friend and Orchid guru – Tony Hutchinson.  We arrived at about 0800 but not before seeing a long awaited year tick with a nice Great Spotted Cuckoo flying across the road and landing in an olive tree.  We drove to Camlibel and onto Tepabasi, where we visited the Cyprus Tulip* fields and saw a new and impressive orchid; Naked Man Orchid (Ochris italic)*.  We returned for Hallim (Halloumi) cheese pittas for lunch that we’d purchased in Morphou and after a lovely lunch walked into the local hillsides and woods.  Here we saw Dull Ophrys (Ophrys fusca fusca israelitca)*, (Cyprus) Woodcock Orchid* (Ophrys lepethica) and Serapias vomeracea bromelii, which were all new as well as some others that I’d seen before.  We continued walking and flushed another Great Spotted Cuckoo and a single Alpine Swift flew over the hillside.  I managed to add a Cyprus butterfly “tick” in the pine woods with a patrolling male Orange Tip*.  We went to the local restaurant for dinner and enjoyed and excellent and inexpensive full Turkish kebab and a statutory Efes larger.  We returned to watch the second half of the Wales, England game, an experience I could have done without especially in the presence of a Welshman.

On Sunday we visited the Tulip Festival at Tepabasi.  We enjoyed an excellent couple of hours of folk music, dancing, crafts and chicken gyros.  The first three items keeping Deb very happy and the final one making me extremely happy rounded off an interesting morning.  We returned to Famagusta via Koprulu Dam, where 59 Greater Flamingos, 33 Ruff and several Pintails were seen.  The numbers were made up with thousands of Teal, Shovellers and Coots.  Several Calandra Larks displayed around the surrounding fields and a pair of Stonechats hung on to their wintering territory.

The Famagusta sites held little, although 160 Greater Flamingos, 4 Wigeon and some Black-headed Gulls were at Fresh Water Lake North.  We returned home, completed the post weekend admin and headed off to Paralimni Lake for the last hour of light in an extremely strong wind.  The lake is now being drained and is attracting good numbers of waders.  Today, 12 Black-winged Stilts, 5 Green Sandpipers, a Snipe, c40 Kentish Plovers, 2 Ringed Plovers and a Great White Egret were present.  I also added 2 welcome year ticks if you’re into sub species with a flock of c30 Yellow Wagtails of the Black-headed (felldegg) race, which included 2 Blue-headed (flava) birds.

We returned home and the most important event of the week took place – “List Maintenance”.

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

Highlight of the Week:  Lots of migration, a trip to the Tepabasi Tulip Festival and finding a very rare Orchid at Ayia Napa Sewage Works – only the 3rd record for Cyprus.

Other Interesting Finds:  An Orange Tip in the North – my first for Cyprus and a couple of new orchids including Naked Man Orchid, (Cyprus) Woodstock Orchid, Serapias vomer berelii and Dull Ophrys.  Also a Pyramedial Orchid at Cape Greco.

Look Forward:  A day off on Monday and lots of migration during the week with a trip to Paphos next weekend.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 10 Mar

Male Cretschmar's Bunting at Ayia Napa Sewage Works 10 Mar

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

I quickly nipped over the North to Fresh Water Lake South on Tuesday before Cape Greco.  Not much doing but a Great White Egret and at least 45 Cattle Egrets on nests was interesting.  Crossing the border, I continued to Cape Greco to see the deluge of migrants – disappointment ensued.  Although a Baltic Gull* at Konnos Bay was a good record consorting with several Yellow-legged.  Under the Army camp there was the male Cyprus Wheatear that looks set to breed a lingering male Blue Rock Thrush and a couple of wintering Black Redstarts remain.  A good find was a new butterfly for me in the form of an Eastern Baton Blue*.   A confiding female Serin* gave me the only photo opportunity of this bird thus far so I took it with not a bad result.

Wednesday’s outing was to the North but it has to be said things are pretty quiet still regarding migration.  Silver Beach produced some Teal and a Little Egret whilst Clapsides Beach held a Redshank and a Curlew which appears to be the only one remaining of the wintering group.  Gulserin Pond faired little better but 4 Armenian Gulls was noteworthy. A drive around the back of camp before returning home left me surprised as I saw 4 Hen Harriers (1 adult male) quartering the grasslands but little else.

On Thursday, staying local, I made for Akhna Dam, a site that I don’t visit much at the moment but once the water reduces a little should come back into its own.  Anyway, a single Snipe, a couple of Song Thrushes, some Swifts, Corn Buntings and a Buzzard was all I had to show for a couple of hours.  I counted the roosting Cattle Egrets which totalled 151 and a much reduced flock of Starlings landed on telegraph wires.  I returned home via the Little Owl site and at least this bird performed on queue – so a good month tick achieved.

On Friday we needed to do some shopping before our friends arrive in the evening but I’m still trying to figure out how I can get some birding done.  Plan hatched, we visited Oroklini Marsh, where 2 Bluethroats (1 male svecica), c80 House Martins and 7 Black-winged Stilts were in residence with a couple of Pintails still hanging on.  Shopping completed we headed to the North side of Larnaca Salt Lake, where I flushed a single Jack Snipe and about 25 Snipe.  Waders were much in evidence with 6 Greenshanks, c40 Redshanks, 1 Marsh Sandpiper and 5 pristine breeding plumage Greater Sand Plovers which were obviously migrants.  4 Little Ringed Plovers and 3 Ringed Plovers with Little Stints and Dunlins added to the throng and finally a single Green Sandpiper hid amongst the rocks.  A couple of Water Pipits and a Bluethroat completed the line-up, whilst in the distance good numbers of Shelducks and a reduced number of Greater Flamingos were still in situ post their winter visit.

Matt Laing had arrived on the evening of the 8th and wanted to go to Cape Greco for an early morning round and some photography.  Not a bad day, having looked at previous annual reports it looked like Ruppels Warbler was a distinct possibility.  It was windy when we arrived so the Cyprus Warblers weren’t behaving although we did get 2 fleeting views of singing males.  We moved to the Cape and under the army camp there was a distinct air of migration feel to the place with at least 40 Stonechats and about 15 Black Redstarts – more than I’ve seen in the last month.  A Cyprus, Isabelline Wheatear and lots of Chukars were seen and Matt got some good photos of Spectacled Warblers.  As we walked away I saw 7 large birds flying in off the sea – Common Cranes*, migration was certainly taking place.  We moved to the rubbish tip area pausing to photograph Crested Larks and a singing Corn Bunting.  As we walked, I immediately got onto a Sylvia Warbler – bingo!!!  A male Ruppels Warbler – the first of the year.  We watched it and Matt managed a couple of record shots.  The area was alive with Chiffchaffs* but nothing more interesting and by the number of Black Redstarts and Stonechats here, there had certainly been a movement of these species.  An Isabelline Wheatear finished off the migrant hunt.

With migrants much in evidence we headed to Ayia Napa Sewage Works.  As we drove the approach track, numerous Chiffchaffs were seen and with them a male Ruppels Warbler – one of 3 seen in the area.  We walked towards the famous olive grove and I heard and then saw my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year but not before seeing 2 Cretzchmar’s Buntings*, one of which a cracking male posed for the camera.  Stonechats* and Black Redstarts were once again numerous and Matt managed a good photo of a male Blue Rock Thrush.  6 Little Grebes and a Spectacled Warbler along with a few Song Thrushes completed the tally, although a Buzzard made a late appearance.  As we crossed the area a good patch of Giant Orchids was found, with a single well developed species that could be a very rare specimen and a new orchid in the form of many Serapias levantina*.

We drove back via tracks to the east of Ayia Napa Football Pitches where we flushed a female Finsch’s Wheatear.  At Paralimni Lake on the way home, several Greenshanks, 11 Black-wiinged Stilts and 5 Spur-winged Plovers were noted.  Lunch in Famagusta with our friends gave me an opportunity to visit Fresh Water Lake South briefly where the highlight was 2 Great White Egrets.  The week ended with a snooze on the setee after a satisfying Iskender Kebab and a bottle of EFES - life is good!

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

Serin at Cape Greco.

Baltic Gull in flight (record shot) at Konnos Bay.

Meadow Pipit at Cape Greco.

Buzzard at Cape Greco.

Chiffchaff at Cape Greco.

Cretzschmar’s Bunting at Ayia Napa Sewage Works.

Common Cranes in off the sea at Cape Greco.

Stonechat at Ayia Napa Sewage Works.

Lang’s Short-tailed Blue at Cape Greco

Common Blue at Cape Greco

Painted Lady at Cape Greco

Highlight of the Week:  Discovering only the second record ever for Cyprus of a very rare Orchid - Orchis papillionacea* above Ayia Napa Sewage Works has put me on the orchid map!   Finding a male Ruppels Warbler having not seen one for since 2011 with Tim Cowley in Israel was a moment that I enjoyed.  Spring Cretszchmar's Buntings was also enjoyable.   Only a week after Roger’s departure – which just goes to show how quickly things change in Cyprus.

Other Interesting Finds:  A new butterfly with a lovely Eastern Baton Blue at Cape Greco and a new orchid – Serapias levantina* at Ayia Napa Sewage Works, however Orchis pappillionacea takes the biscuit!

Look Forward:  With my 3rd set of visitors for the year, some time off, some birding, some eating and some drinking – huzaaarr, it promises to be a good week.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 3 Mar

Black Francolin at Clapsides 26 Feb.

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

Monday and the 2nd day out with Roger.  After a good start yesterday with 63 species, we headed off to Troodos.  A Pine Bunting had been reported amongst Yellowhammers – rare enough in their own right.  We left at 0700 and arrived in Troodos at about 0900.  We were immediately greeted by a Crossbill sat atop a dead tree – a good start.  As we walked around the village we picked up some common species along with Coal Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.  Blackbirds, a Hawfinch and a single Mistle Thrush was first heard and then seen.  We moved around the village and connected with a Yellowhammer – this was turning into a cracking day.  As we continued to walk the trails I photographed a thrush on top of a dead tree.  Not having my scope at the time,  I thought it was another Mistle, however, when I returned home and uploaded the photos, my instincts to photograph the bird were well founded as it proved to be a Fieldfare – another difficult to see winter visitor.  With at least 5 Jays seen we were doing well for the endemic races.

Prodromos Dam produced little except for a couple of Siskins and a movement of some 300 Chaffinches.  We returned to Troodos Village and Roger flushed a number of Yellowhammers (at least 8), however, search as we might, we could find no Pine Bunting.  With 1 Cyprus sub-species endemic remaining for a clean sweep, we headed down the eastern slopes of Troodos to Levadia Tou Pasha.  After a little searching, a Wren sang briefly and we saw it retuning to a probable nest hole.  Job done, endemic sub-species in the bag we headed off to the Akrotiri area and Bishops Pool.  As we headed down the mountain we saw and heard some more Serins and photographed a freshly road killed Scops Owl.  We tried desperately to revive it, but it wasn’t possible so no “tick” there then!

Onward and on arrival at Bishop’s Pool we picked out 7 Drake Ferruginous Ducks.  As we worked our way around the pool we stopped at a small reed bed.  A Moustached Warbler was calling and then another.  We eventually secured good views of the bird, which was pleasing considering we’d missed it yesterday.  As we watched the reeds a Little Crake ran across in front of us.  Clear that we weren’t going to connect with the Smyrna Kingfisher today, we headed to Phasouri Reed Beds but not before Roger was treated to a mosquito ridden Orchid Glade.  We saw 7 species including the Cyprus endemic Bee Orchid (Ophrys Kotschiy)*  Yellow Bee, Green Winged, were also present and I could tell Roger enjoyed it.  On arrival at Phasouri everything seemed normal with a couple of Marsh Harriers and some Cattle Egrets.  As I drew to a halt opposite a gap in the reeds, I couldn’t believe it.  After months of failure there was a very light straw coloured Bittern* feeding in the open, I managed a record shot and under the circumstances and the distance it wasn’t too bad.  As I edged closer another flushed – an incredible end to a fantastic day.  The trip list ended the day on 83.
Tuesday and a late start, leaving the house at 0815.  Roger thinks I’m going soft.  So off to Cape Greco in the hunt for migrants and a few lingering wintering species.  At Cape Greco Tip, 2 earlyish Isabelline Wheatears, a male Blue Rock Thrush, a wintering female Finsch’s Wheatear and several Song Thrushes.  As we moved around to the other side of the Cape, a very early singing male Cyprus Wheatear on territory was a bonus and showed well for the camera.  We returned for lunch at the house via Paralimni Lake where we added Grey Herons and 2 Great White Egrets to the growing list.

After lunch we headed over the North, however, many of the wintering birds seemed to have departed but at Clapsides Beach a 1st winter Slender-billed Gull, was seen along with 2 Grey Plovers, 2 Turnstones and another Sandwhich Tern.  We proceeded for a guided trip around Haspolat (Mia Melia) sewage works, a particularly malodorous place which sadly on this occasion held few birds except for Marsh Harriers and Buzzards.  With a trick up my sleeve we finished the day at Koprulu Dam.  Thousands of wildfowl were present as well as 59 Greater Flamingo,, 11 Marsh Harriers, a couple of Buzzards and a single ringtail Hen Harrier.  Of the Ducks we added Pintails, Pochards and Wigeon to the trip list whilst 11 Ferruginous Ducks were also seen.  Water Rail was a heard only for the time being and the spectacle of c130 Cormorants migrating NE in 2 skeins was memorable.  The day finished with the trip list on a tantalising 99.

The road trip on Thursday began at 0700 and a brief stop at Akhna Dam.  Sadly the site is now too flooded to attract many birds and did not produce the expected Reed Bunting of Penduline Tit – not a good way to start the day by dipping.  Another 10 Cormorants passed overhead but little else.  We travelled to the Limassol area and Lady’s Mile.  The wintering gulls appear to have done a  mass exodus and a Marsh Harrier was not much consolation, it did however flush a Green Sandpiper.  We fared little better at Akrotiri Salt Lake, although at least 200 Grey Herons was impressive with 5 Great White Egrets also being seen.  We did add a trip bird with 10 Redshanks being flushed along with another ringtail Hen Harrier.

 Two Buzzards soared above us as we transited to Phasouri Reed Beds however we had dipped on the Pied Kingfisher so another visit would have to be vectored in.  On arrival at Phasouri, a speculative walk revealed 2 Penduline Tits calling and we soon got on to them, one being a fine male which gave exceptionally prolonged views – another recovery and one in the bag.  On to Bishop’s Pool in an attempt to find the Smyrna Kingfisher.  Not much doing and with a tourist wandering around aimlessly (as they do), I didn’t give much for our chances of success.  In the meantime we added Blackcap and Cetti’s Warbler and then Roger called Kingfisher.  The Smyrna fished from its hidden perch and returned, giving us a good flight view – about all most people get of this shy bird, if they see it at all.  Very pleased, as we were leaving the first Grey Wagtail of the trip was seen – a cracking male.  Moving to the Paphos area via Episkopi revealed no Griffon Vultures but lunch at another Orchid spot in Akrotiri Chapel had Roger photographing a Giant, Rainbow and Cyprus Bee Orchid.

We stopped at a few sites prior to reaching Paphos where we added Woodlarks and a Robin at Anarita Park.  We arrived at Ayia Varvara and were immediately greeted by a female Finsch’s Wheatear*.  As we moved down the slope we found the wintering male Finsch’s Wheatear, a bird I was desperate for Roger to see – so pressure off!
We finished at Paphos Headland adding another Isabelline Wheatear, 11 Golden Plovers and 2 Greater Sand Plovers, one of which was beginning to show signs of breeding plumage.  We had a Cyprus Coffee (similar to sand) before checking in at the King’s Hotel.  We met Colin Richardson in his local village yet despite hearing at least 5 (Cyprus) Scops Owls and being replete with torches, we couldn’t see one.  The day ended with some excellent (very large) Fish, Chips, Mushy Peas with Bread and Butter before a satisfying night’s sleep.

0700 already and a Cypriot style breakfast, but I did note Roger cutting into the Marmalade.  We departed for Mandria on the coast, a well-known migrant hotspot.  We were met by Colin and started to grill a freshly ploughed field.  Amongst the many Skylarks and Linnets, a single Corn Bunting, 3 Calandra Larks and an excellent find giving superb views a Lesser Short-toed Lark.  It was extremely light grey so must have been an eastern race ssp.  As we drove through the field towards the Xeros Potomas Lower Pools, 2 Hoopoes flushed – the first of the year and another addition to Roger’s wants, a list which is growing by the day.  Boyd on by our success a Green Sandpiper at Xeros Potomas and a low flying Alpine Swift – found by Colin as was a Little Ringed Plover but enjoyed by all.  Two more additions to the trip list and a couple for the year for me.
We now drove up the Diarizos River Valley towards Troodos.  Stopping  at a café for a Cyprus Coffee and a piece of cake was timely.  Had we not have stopped we’d have missed the male Peregrine that we saw a few miles on at Kaderes, we would have also missed the male Long-legged Buzzard that gave excellent scope views.  Now a strange thing happened.  I had been tipped off about a difficult to find Orchid at Kalavos Bridge which is 6km off the main road to Troodos.  I asked Roger if he wanted to go and he “jumped” at the opportunity.  We declined to the bridge in the base of the valley and overshot the spot.  As I was turning Roger pointed out a yellow Orchid, like a seasoned and manic Orchid “ticker” – he was quickly approaching the Rubicon.  We photographed the Roman Orchid (romana)* and happily I went on my way after discovering and photographing several Giant Orchids (barlia robertiana), which were impressive.  As we climbed to Troodos near the village of Mandria a large raptor flew across in front of us and banked over the hillside – a female Goshawk, a very difficult species to see in Cyprus – result!  We arrived in Troodos to freezing weather, a howling wind and low cloud – birding was impossible, just getting Roger used to the idea of going back home.  We managed a Crossbill and Coal Tit before buying a map and some smoked Almonds and Pistachios to have with a few beers that night.

Friday, the penultimate day had arrived and some ringing with Thomas once more outside the Troodos Environmental Centre.  We arrived at about 0715 and the valley was alive with thrushes.  The previous night had snowed with a sudden onset of low cloud and strong winds which must have “downed” many thrushes – possibly migrants.  In any event 40-50 Fieldfares, at least 9 Mistle Thrushes and numerous Blackbirds were noted.  Then a Ring Ouzel was seen followed by another.  I shouted to Roger to start looking at the thrushes as Ring Ouzel although a winter visitor is rarely seen in Cyprus.  Shortly after he confirmed that he’d seen one flying from where I was, which was in all probability the bird I’d been trying to photograph.   At least 4 Hawfinches and good numbers of Siskins and about 800+ Chaffinches – migration was taking place.  Ringing over and Roger had ringed his target birds – Short-toed Treecreeper*, Coal Tit*, and a Blackbird*.  We dipped the Griffons at Episkopi and the Pied Kingfisher on the way home but an Armenian and Slender-billed Gull were seen at Lady’s Mile.

We returned home via Larnaca and at the sewage works added a drake Gadwall to the list whilst at Spiro’s Beach we added Ringed Plover.  We headed to the North side of Larnaca Salt Lake and scoped some waders.  Amongst the numerous Redshanks an early or wintering Marsh Sandpiper was seen and above us 9 Common Swifts.  The trip list was still growing!  Birds we had seen before were encountered but a Bluethroat, Water Pipit and Little Stints were good finds.  We returned home for a good steak at the local restaurant, a couple of beers and a good night’s sleep.  Saturday and the Famagusta wetlands and the much awaited trip to the Turkish barbers. With Roger’s eyes smarting after the cheek and forehead threading experience, it left me grinning.  The trip list ended on 128, 126 plus 2 heard records (Scops Owl & Water Rail) with 1768 kms being driven.  Greenshank was added at Silver Beach, with Curlew and 3 Audouin’s Gulls being added at Clapsides Beach, with a Sandwich Tern putting in an appearance.  A good week with more species on offer had we not dipped on a couple of residents – Thanks to Roger for his company.

After dropping Roger at the airport – a shame to miss an opportunity, I headed to the sewage works and Spiro’s Beach.  At Larnaca Airport Pools South 1 adult Med Gull, 23 Slender-billed Gulls and c200 Greater Flamingos were in residence.  At Spiro’s Beach 3 Kentish Plovers* and 2 migrant Greater Sand Plovers*, whilst at the sewage works 4 adult Armenian Gulls, 7 Caspian Gulls, 2 Med Gulls (1 1ST winter) and 4 Gadwalls.
Sunday, with some grim weather looming, Cape Greco delivered 2 Song Thrushes, a male Cyprus Wheatear, a couple of Spectacled Warblers and a Black Redstart.  2 Swifts have arrived at Ay Nik.

Highlight of the Week: Amongst some very good sightings, without doubt the highlight was the sightings of 3+ Ring Ouzels (the first records since 2005).

Other Interesting FindsCyprus Bee Orchid*, Roman Orchid*, and Woodcock Orchid* were all seen and Roger took some time photographing a pair of Starred Agamas at Bishop’s Pool.

Look Forward:  A new month and lots of migration beckons.

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

Mark Easterbrook