(4) Blog Posts Made in August 2013

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 25 Aug

Glossy Ibis at Akhna Dam on 24 Aug

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

Apologies for the late post this week but a combination of a few days off and a busy period at work for obvious reasons have left me with not much time.  Monday and migration is in full swing.  Lots of good birds flooding through but still more to find and last week’s successes prove if you get out, you’ll find something.  Monday saw me a Lady’s Mile, Limassol, searching for and finding a Broad-billed Sandpiper amongst the throng of Kentish Plovers and Little Stints.  A pair of Dunlin were unexpected and a lone Sanderling adult moulting out of breeding plumage was a good year “tick”.  Bishop’s Pool was quiet but held a drake Ferruginous Duck whilst on the Salt Lake at Akrotiri, Greater Flamingo numbers were in the thousands with some attempting to breed whilst Slender-billed Gulls numbered c350.  At Kensington Cliffs at least 10 Eleonora’s Falcons hawked the hillside and a distant Griffon Vulture, like a flying barn door was obvious.  A brief visit to Akhna Dam produced nothing new but at least 8 Hoopoes were impressive and a Little Owl sat in its usual hole.

The heap of a car in the garage on Tuesday in an attempt to rectify a recurring issue doesn’t sound good but I await the outcome.  However, it was returned pending the delivery of a part and I was able to meet Colin Richardson at Akhna Dam by 1600.  Colin had already had a successful day at Petountas Point, Larnaca Sewage Works and the Ayia Napa Area bagging a few autumn migrants but fortunately our luck was in and more migrants were present.  The usual Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers were present but 4 Temminck’s Stint were a good count.  Shrikes, Red-backed, Lesser Grey and Masked were much in evidence as were a good number of Hoopoes.  As we walked the East bank of the southern arm at Akhna we flushed a bird which eventually gave itself up as a Wryneck which was a good autumn record.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts were present with about 20 Yellow Wagtails and around the site at least 10 Kingfishers were very vocal.  A little further along a Little Crake, my first for the autumn flushed as did a Collared Pratincole which circled for a while and a count of 27 Night Herons was my highest ever for the site accompanied by 3 Squacco Herons.   Spur-winged Plover numbers had risen to circa 50 and at the reed bed we observed a couple of Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers.  We saw the usual Little Owl whilst exiting the site on route to the Cattle Egret roost.  As the Cattle Egrets came in they were joined by 9 Glossy Ibises and eventually the roost must have totalled 500+.

I quickly visited Akhna Dam on Wednesday afternoon but nothing was new and on Thursday I had to visit Troodos again.  Before leaving Ay Nik a Little Owl was seen.  With little time to look around, I saw 7 or 8 Cyprus Wheatears, a couple of Chaffinches and a Jay.  A single Masked Shrike continued around the station.  I retuned home late and was unable to get out anywhere so ended a fairly unproductive couple of days.

Friday had arrived and I visited the Fresh Water Lake in Famagusta via the “bread shop”.  Nothing special was present although a count of 14 Squacco Herons and 42 Grey Herons was good.  Waders have started to return as the lake dries out and reveals muddy fringes but surprisingly no marsh Terns were present.  A female Black Francolin was new for the site.  On Saturday the 24 August I went to the Cape Greco area in the hope of finding some migrants.  Ayia Napa Football Pitches held 19 Yellow Wagtails, 5 Lesser Grey Shrikes, 3 Red-backeds and 7 Hoopoes with a Spotted Flycatcher and a single Whitethroat.  Later at the sewage works, 47 European Beeaters drifted overhead and the bushes were alive with Sylvia warblers; Eastern Orphean, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Spectacled Warblers and a single juvenile Barred Warbler.  5 Masked Shrikes, a Common Swift, Spotted Flycatcher and a female Marsh Harrier rounded it off.  Akhna Dam in the evening was productive with my first Ortolan Bunting* of the autumn.  Waders were present in the form of Temminck’s and Little Stints* with a smattering of the commoner Sandpipers, however 2 Common Snipe was the highlight.  A single Sedge Warbler was seen as was a Glossy Ibis.  I stopped at Vrysoulles on the way home and reassuringly the Barn Owl was still in its usual roost. 

On Sunday, at Akhna Dam there was much disturbance and shooting – of European Beeaters unfortunately.  It never ceases to amaze me how Cypriots derive pleasure?  A very sick and selfish people indeed.  Anyway 15 survived to live to fight another day and continued their migration.  A handful of Sand Martins passed with the Swallows but there weren’t any additional arrivals from Saturday’s records except for a solitary Ruff.  I returned home to cook the BBQ (no women allowed at the grill), which was enjoyable and looked forward to the bank holiday Monday.

Highlight of the Week:  Watching at least 10 Eleonora’s Falcons is always enjoyable and a Wryneck in the autumn is always a good bird to get.

Look Forward:   The bank holiday weekend and hopefully a working car that will allow me to get to Akrotiri for some migration.

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 18 Aug

Red-backed Shrike at Akhna Dam on 18 Aug

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

Monday and Akhna Dam.  Yellow Wagtails have increased to c40 although waders were in short supply with only 17 Spur-winged Plovers, 1 Wood Sandpiper and 1 adult Black-winged Stilt.  Glossy Ibises remain constant at 5 and Squacco Herons at 2.  3 Masked Shrikes were present including a pristine adult male.  I found an area to watch a reed bed which revealed 2 Sedge Warblers, a Cetti’s Warbler, 4 Eurasian Reed Warblers, 2 probable Eastern (Caspian Reed Warblers) and a putative adult Marsh Warbler (TBC, tomorrow if it’s still there).  A couple of Common Kingfishers called and were seen as I sat by the reed bed and a Grey Heron flew over.  The adult Dunlin was seen again and 3 Hoopoes flushed as I drove around the site.  On the way home an adult Roller perched in its usual tree on the main road near Avgorou.

On Tuesday a visit to Troodos allowed me to catch up with the mountain specialities plus a few goodies.  At Amiantos Asbestos Mine, 4 Crag Martins hawked the screed slopes and up the road at Giant Junipers Picnic Site 2 Red-rumped Swallows flew across the treeline.  With most of the mountain species in the bag, after my meeting and lunch I headed back to Ay Nik, catching up with a Grey Wagtail and Wren at the Caledonian Falls Trout Farm in Platres.  I visited Akhna Dam in the evening and there had been an influx of Common Sandpipers – 14, but nothing else was new and no sign of the probable/possible Marsh Warbler – so I’ll have to put that one down to experience.  A difficult species at the best of times unless singing and add that to the complexity of the Eastern Reed Warbler and you have a recipe for a stringy record without a positive ID and a good photo to look at, as was the case last year.

On Wednesday, since Koprulu in the north is now dry, I reverted to last years plan to visit Ayia Napa Sewage Works mid-week and what a good decision that proved to be.  As I walked the area Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were much in evidence and 8 Pallid Swifts hawked over the lagoons along with numerous Swallows.  I explored further and saw at least 4 Red-backed, 2 Lesser Grey and 2 Masked Shrikes.  Spectacled Warblers were obvious and 3 Eastern Orphean Warblers gave reasonable views, a bit of a skulker and difficult to view at times.  As I rounded the end of the Carob grove, a bird sat motionless on a dead snag.  I quickly raised by bins and though I knew what it was immediately although several very strident tail cocks with a rufous rump confirmed it was a Rufous Bush Chat or Scrub Robin if you prefer, in any event a view of about 6 seconds confirmed it was of the nominate race Ssp syriacus, which is greyer on the head, nape and mantle than the browner Middle East form – a Cyprus “tick” for me an about as good as it gets these days!  It flew into the scrub, (as you’d expect) and I was unable to relocate it for the photo opportunity.  As I returned to the car, a Grey Heron gained height and drifted out over Cape Greco and a browner bird flew across me; about the same size as an Orphean Warbler, as it perched in a bush briefly the oversized Garden Warbler looking individual gave itself up as a juvenile Barred Warbler, my first of the autumn.  Driving from the area a Common Whitethroat fed on berries.  Feeling extremely happy Deb and I stopped for a celebratory ice cream and later a beer where 6 European Beeaters flew over us – the end of a good day.

Larnaca Sewage Works was a bit predictable on Thursday afternoon although added a few month ticks including 5 Little Stints, a juvenile Whiskered Tern with 2 White-winged Black Terns, 4 Northern Shovellers and a Teal.  With Oroklini now dry, I returned via Akhna Dam where a Temminck’s Stint was new for the month, a Night Heron passed overhead and Hoopoe numbers had increased to 8.  A couple of Sedge Warblers were still present and roosting Yellow Wagtails numbered about 40 whereas Cattle Egrets were in excess of 600.  On Friday I attended the Mess and the Horse Racing Night which ended up with not getting out until Saturday evening.

In any event Saturday evening was a great success.  There had been a large influx of waders at Akhna Dam and I was attracted to a calling wader, the call of which I didn’t recognise.  In profile, it became obvious – a brown looking, immature Terek Sandpiper, a great find for Cyprus and an addition to my Cyprus list.  Not seen annually, I scoped it briefly before some cretin on a motor cross bike flushed everything.  The bird with Green and Wood Sandpipers flew high to the south and did not return.  Sunday morning at Akhna brought my first Willow Warbler of the autumn and 2 Purple Herons whilst later at Larnaca Sewage Works, 2 Avocets and a Ringed Plover added to the monthly total.  In the evening at Akhna a good looking although moulting adult Whiskered Tern fed actively.  The end of a good week had arrived with the addition of 2 difficult birds to my Cyprus list bringing it to 300 including full species and recognisable sub-species.

Highlight of the Week:  A couple of Cyprus “ticks” of course with the sighting of the semi-rare Rufous Bush Chat, the highest count ever for a year is only 3 so any sighting is a chance moment and an excellent, less than annual Terek Sandpiper.

Look Forward:   Migration is hotting up and I can’t get out enough but with the Bank Holiday weekend approaching, I’m hopeful of catching up with some Demoiselle Cranes.

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 11 Aug

Common Kingfisher at Akhna Dam on 11 Aug

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view or click on the link

Migration gathered pace this week with the first visit to Akhna Dam producing some good birds.  The first of which was a Purple Heron quickly followed by a Sedge Warbler, an adult male Little Bittern and 2 Squacco Herons.  The site’s vehicular access has been blocked off so a walk is necessary to gain any benefit of a visit.  As I walked around, several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were obvious as were the Common Sandpipers.  3 Yellow Wagtails, female types, not ID’d to race were noted which were my first for the autumn.  2 Common Kingfishers were present and I then caught site of a loan Common Starling.  Masked Shrikes and Hoopoes were present as usual for this time of year as were the commoner waders – Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Spur-winged Plovers.  A good start to the week with some visible migration underway and completed by 2 Rollers over the road at Avgorou as I returned home.

Tuesday’s visit to Cape Greco and the North were productive.  In the morning at Ayia Napa Football Pitches, 2 female Black Francolins strutted their stuff out in the open whilst further on at the Sewage Works, a male Eastern Orphean Warbler and Cyprus Warbler were seen briefly whilst 2 male Red-backed Shrikes and a Lesser Grey Shrike were more obvious sat on top to their lookout perches.  A Common Swift was heard overhead and 4 Common Sandpipers were on the lagoons.  At Cape Greco Pines, nothing much doing but 3 Chukars scampered away, a male Cyprus Wheatear caught flies and 2 Eastern Olivaceous Warblers tried to hide.

In the afternoon, it was the weekly trip to Koprulu Dam.  Now reduced to two small puddles which will probably be dry in about 2 or 3 days, I didn’t expect much.  But proving me wrong, it’s amazing how migrating waders find even the smallest patches of water to feed in, it was quite productive.  An adult male (moulting heavily) Spotted Redshank stood out and as I watched, at least 7 Wood Sandpipers came into view with a Ruff and finally a very white, winter plumaged Marsh Sandpiper with its needle thin bill joined the feeding flock.  With 16 Cattle Egrets, 6 Grey Herons, 5 Spur-winged Plovers and 4 Black-winged Stilts present, it’s probably going to be the last visit to the site until November/ December and the first rains.  Returning home via the Fresh Water Lake in Famagusta which is beginning to reduce in water and revealing some mud produced 8 Squacco Herons, 4 Little Egrets, an adult Night Heron, with 23 Spur-winged Plovers, 1 Black-winged Stilt and 6 Glossy Ibises, so not exactly heaving yet.

On Thursday prior to heading over the north for dinner out at the Turkish kebab emporium, I walked around Akhna Dam for about an hour.  As I arrived good numbers of Yellow Wagtails flew from the grass and 2 Green Sandpipers took to the air.  As I walked around the usual flock of Common Sandpipers were present including a Wood Sandpiper and a Redshank called and then landed not far from me.  With 4 Glossy Ibis and a Squacco flushing, I noticed a wader on the shore which I managed to photograph that was my first Dunlin* of the autumn, a breeding plumaged bird.  An immature Masked Shrike was still present as were 3 Little Ringed Plovers and 2 Little Owls.  As I stood above a reed bed, I first heard 2 and then saw a Reed Warbler.  A couple of European Beeaters called as they passed high above me but that was about it for the visit.

Friday had arrived and I watched the cricket.  On Saturday I made an early start and returned to the Cape Greco area.  At Ayia Napa Football Pitches, a male and female Black Francolin fed on one of the pitches whilst 2 Common Swifts were above me.  On an adjacent pitch 5 Yellow Wagtails and a female Red-backed Shrike fed actively.  As I drove past the Ayia Napa Sewage Works lagoons, 5 Common Sandpipers were present but not much else.  Clearly there had been a mini fall with many Sylvia warblers being present including at least 5 Eastern Orphean Warblers, 2 Common Whitethroats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Spectacled Warblers and 2, a male and female Cyprus Warblers.  Another Red-backed Shrike at the top of the hill was also fairly obvious.  As I reached the top of the hill, vehicles were present – not a good sign.  Sure enough the song of an unseasonal Blackcap alerted me to a tape lure and a pair of poachers with about 60 – 100 limesticks being set – the first of the autumn and quite early.  There, the grotesque site of several birds hanging from the deadly sticks awaiting their demise and their lives and migration to Africa cut short.  So, despite my efforts to report the site throughout last autumn – no action!  The barbaric, narrow-minded, uneducated slaughter of millions of migrating species continues unabated, quite sickening.  I reported the incident but I know nothing will be done.  3 juvenile Black-headed Buntings* called as they flew across me and one stopped to have a look around before proceeding south.  As I left the area an adult Roller perched on a small conifer, 2 Grey Herons flew west and several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were very vocal.

On Sunday evening I visited Akhna Dam and all appeared quiet.  A single Squacco Heron fed in the water soaked vegetation and not much else appeared to be occurring.  With persistence, I saw 4 Glossy Ibises and 18 Yellow Wagtails.  As I scanned I saw 3 Wood Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper with 4 Garganeys flying in and landing on the water.  A juvenile Masked Shrike revealed itself briefly and 3 Little Ringed Plovers called and flew over the water.  I eventually found 3 Kingfishers* and amongst the hundreds of migrating Swallows, a single Sand Martin and 2 House Martins.  I also snapped a breeding plumaged Cattle Egret*.   That concluded the day and the week and with England recovering against Australia all was well.

Highlight of the Week:  A couple of juvenile Black-headed Buntings were good August records.

Look Forward:   More braving the heat in an attempt to find some rarities.

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 4 Aug

Juvenile Yellow Wagtail at Akhna Dam

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

On Monday, I took a day’s leave in an attempt to find a few early migrants.  It was on the same date last year that I found an unlikely Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler at Ayia Napa Sewage Works, which is where I headed initially.  I visited yesterday but there were few birds evident.  What a difference a day makes (that is not a cue for a song).  There were clearly more birds present with several Spectacled Warblers and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers being present with an immature Masked Shrike.  I then found a cracking male Red-backed Shrike, the first of the autumn to my knowledge followed by the first Eastern Orphean Warbler of the migration period.  A Common Sandpiper was on the lagoons with the usual Little Grebes and at Cape Greco Pines the Cyprus Wheatears were still present along with another Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.  I returned via Sotira Pond to find 4 Glossy Ibises, a Green Sanpiper, Stone Curlew, 5 Black-winged Stilt and 7 very vocal Spur-winged Plovers.  Retuning home for lunch a Hoopoe flew across the road at Freneros. 

In the afternoon I visited the Larnaca area where the north side of the salt lake was completely dry although overhead 7 Pallid and a Common Swift drifted southwards.  At the sewage works, a pair of immature Whiskered Terns and a Little Tern were present along with a couple of Common Sandpipers and 2 Ruff.  Retuning via Akhna Dam as usual a large influx of waders had taken place although most were Little Ringed Plovers with 26 resting on the mud, 8 of which were adults.  2 Common Sandpipers and a single Ruff fed actively whilst a Little Owl and immature Masked Shrike sat quietly on their respective look out posts.

On Tuesday after work, I once more visited my local patch at Akhna Dam.  2 Little Owls were present as I entered the site and a Temmick’s Stint accompanied the 6 Little Ringed Plovers that were present.  As I drove the site, I flushed at least 7 Hoopoes and a Glossy Ibis, with an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Common Kingfisher and 3 Common Sandpipers putting in an appearance.  A Squacco Heron and circa 20 Spur-winged Plovers with a noisy Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), living up to its name completed an enjoyable couple of hours.  Wednesday, with the car in the garage, (again – but I have put it through its paces), it was returned in time for me to visit Akhna Dam.  Little had arrived from the previous day although Little Ringed Plover numbers had once more increased to 27.

With it being extremely hot (40 degrees +) on Thursday afternoon, I stayed in until later which allowed me the opportunity to watch the beginning of the 3rd Ashes Test with Deb.  OK, so it’s a lie, she does not enjoy cricket more than she dislikes my perpetual listing!  A quick trip over the north and stopping at Fresh Water Lake, Famagusta saw me recording 4 Night Herons, 1 1 CY and 3 adults, 6 Squaccos, 4 Little Egrets, c150 Cattle Egrets, 2 Glossy Ibis and a single female Mallard.  Later at Akhna Dam, situation normal although the Little Ringed Plover flock had moved on and 2 Rollers crossed the road at Avgorou on the way home.  A noisy Little Owl kept me awake for a while as I struggled to sleep in the heat – Aircon time one thinks.  On Friday, I stayed in had a few beers and watched the cricket before heading over the north in the evening to visit the best Chinese restaurant we’ve so far managed to find..

An early rise on Saturday morning and I headed straight for the Cape Greco area in the hope of some migrants and I was not disappointed.  As I walked to the car 2 European Beeaters were over the wood at the back of the house which was great – not so great was that the locals were shooting at them.  The MINDLESS, BARBARIC, annual SLAUGHTER begins once more with the authorities obviously being either unable or unwilling to do anything about it.  At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, a couple of Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper were on the lagoons, with Little Grebe numbers rising to c70.  As I walked towards the small olive grove, it was clear that there had been some movement as there seemed to be a lot more birds than earlier in the week.  At least 10 Eastern Olivaceous Warblers moved around restlessly and I caught sight of an immature Masked Shrike.  As I worked the area I disturbed at least 3 Eastern Orphean Warblers and 5 Spectacled Warblers.  I walked to the eucalyptus stand where a female Cyprus Warbler flitted about and a Spotted Flycatcher was actively doing what its name suggests.  With a few migrants obviously moving, I explored further and as I followed an in-flight Eastern Orphean Warbler, I caught a glimpse of a red tail.  I located a perched male Redstart and as it moved on the branch it revealed a large white wing patch.  Of the sub-species samamisicus, it was the Turkish and Caucasus race known as Ehrenberg’s Redstart.  During my previous visits to Cyprus I had recorded these as Eastern race Redstarts, with the Eastern Redstart now being recognised as a sub-species the discrimination of the samamisicus is in fact a Cyprus “tick” for me.  Having missed them in the spring when they are fairly common, to find one in the autumn where they are classed as very rare was indeed rewarding and worth the trip out in the by now (0800), blistering heat.  Happy, I moved to Cape Greco picnic site where 2 Rollers flew south, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler fed actively and a Cyprus Wheatear (now becoming scarcer) caught an insect.  With not much else happening I moved along to Ayia Thekla to check out the Greater Sand Plovers, of which there were 4 in the usual place along with 2 Common Sandpipers. 

At Akhna Dam in the afternoon, not much was changing, the Little Owl roosted, the usual waders were present with 26 Little Ringed Plovers being in the majority and 2 Hoopoes flew away as the car approached.  Departing for Dhekelia at 1815 we stopped at the power station to view 6 Shags and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls before going to our friends to attend a leaving function.  Staying overnight and a bit worse for the wear, we rose late, drove home, watched the cricket, suffered and stayed out of the heat.  Not a bad week with evidence of small migration but nonetheless, rewards are there if you get out in the heat.

Highlight of the Week:  It’s always good to catch up with a few firsts for the migration period and the Ehrenberg’s Redstart was a good moment.

Look Forward:   Migration – it’s that time of the year again when getting out as often as possible should pay dividends even though it is now uncomfortably hot.

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

Mark Easterbrook