(19) Blog Posts Made in October 2013

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 27 Oct

Penduline Tit at Akhna Dam on 21 Oct

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

A day off on Monday and I attempted unsuccessfully to see a Knot at Akrotiri – a rare bird in Cyprus although I have seen one previously.  As I searched a Gull-billed Tern and 2 Shelduck were over the salt lake with a couple of Marsh Harriers but amongst the thousands of Greater Flamingos there was little else.  Search complete and with only Dunlins, Little Stints and Kentish Plovers noted I headed to Lady’s Mile for more of the same.  At Zakaki Marsh where there is a large amount of construction work taking place, a huge area has now been opened making the marsh visible for the first time since I’ve been here.   Anyway, 2 Wood Sandpipers, an immature White-winged Black Tern, 3 Kingfishers, a Grey Heron and 2 Stonechats graced the area.  I moved on back towards the Larnaca area and visited the sewage works where I heard and saw my first 4 Skylarks of the winter.  The first Caspian Gulls had arrived along with an adult Baltic Gull.  All things being equal – it was pretty dull.

In the afternoon I went for a shave and haircut, which was its usual unique experience and visited the Fresh Water Lake South in Famagusta where a Great White Egret was obvious and 2 Redstarts were very active.  A couple of Black-winged Stilts, a Spotted Redshank and a Common Sandpiper added to the numbers and as I left a female Blackcap chased a Redstart.  In the evening I made for Akhna Dam where 5 Penduline Tits were present, a Reed Warbler lingered and I caught up with the Black-necked Grebe which was a new bird for the site.  A Sedge Warbler was late as was a female Whinchat and Chiffchaff numbers appear to be increasing as Willow Warblers dwindle.  Stopping at Vrysoulles on the way home, the Barn Owl remained faithful to its roost site. 

On Tuesday, a quick visit to Akhna Dam, where patience and persistence were rewarded with a not bad picture of a male Penduline Tit*.  3 Greenshank and a late Squacco Heron flushed and the Reed Warbler* was again very showy at the top of a reed.  A single Bluethroat was difficult but obvious to see, a Spotted Crake flew away into the reeds and a single Cormorant sat on a dead snag in the water.  A Sparrowhawk did a fly through flushing what remained of the passage waders.  In the fields above the dam, Corn Bunting numbers are increasing and a single Red- throated Pipit was visible in the furrows of a ploughed field.  I stopped opposite Dhekelia Fire Station where Stone Curlew numbers had increased to 38 and a Robin was seen, meanwhile at Dhekelia Power Station, 7 Shags were present.  After dropping Deb off, I returned home in the dark without further observations.  It is now dark by 1810 and once the clocks go back, birding in the evening will be all but over.

After 3 Dotterel being found at Akrotiri yesterday, I headed off to the fields surrounding Larnaca Airport, a likely place for the species – in any event it was without success.  However, on the Sewage Works lagoons, a Spoonbill and Greater Flamingos had increased to 41.  At least 4 Armenian Gulls had arrived with Black-headed numbers rising by the day and another Baltic Gull loafed by the lagoons.  Few waders were seen, although a single Yellow Wagtail is getting late and 2 Common Cranes passed high overhead.  As I drove to the Larnaca Airport Fields area I saw a Wheatear on the dried out Spiro’s Pool which after investigation turned out to be a female Desert Wheatear* and another was in the stubble fields further along.  A Red-throated Pipit was also there and a couple of Skylarks called as they took off.  In the general area, I flushed a couple of male Black Francolins.  I stopped at Oroklini Marsh on the way to Akhna Dam and at least 5 Redshanks and 4 Snipe were present with a reduced number of smaller waders.  I then found a couple of Little Stints and at the end of the channel the Terek Sandpiper was still present entering its 3rd week of residence, a Common Sandpiper also flushed from the same area.  My arrival at Akhna Dam was greeted by a perched, fly catching male Black Redstart – my first for the winter.  Much was the same at the dam although a Green Sandpiper alighted as did a Greenshank when I entered.  A Reed Warbler was still present, 2 Bluethroats performed as usual and the Penduline Tits have increased to 7.  As I departed the Black-necked Grebe continued its occupancy and a pair of Lapwings called noisily as they landed.

On Thursday a quick visit to Akhna Dam produced little new of interest although 2 Lapwings were moving through and Penduline Tits remained at 7.  On Friday the SSAFA “Big Brew” ate up some time and therefore no birding took place.  I rose early on Saturday and made for the Cape Greco area via Ayia Napa in search of my first Finsch’s Wheatear of the winter.  The football pitches at Ayia Napa produced 2 late European Beeaters but little else.  As I drove the track to the sewage works, Stonechats were very common and then a flash of white, scope to the window – a female dark throated Finsch’s Wheatear in exactly the same place as last year – a very pleasing result.  At the sewage works a couple of Black Redstarts, Song Thrushes, a female Blue Rock Thrush and finally a female Hen Harrier signalled that migration must be nearly over and the winter visitors are arriving in good numbers.  At Cape Greco Pines, a late Red-backed Shrike and a couple of Chiffchaffs, although notable was the number of Chaffinches in lowland areas – another tell tale sign of winter arriving.  I drove to the area below the Army camp at Cape Greco and walked along photographing 2 Pygmy Skippers which are getting towards the end of their flight season.  A Blue Rock Thrush* male sang above me and I noted 2 female Fincsh’s Wheatears and 2 Northern Wheatears.  I then saw a cracking male Finschs’ and walked across the volcanic rock in an attempt to photograph it.  Without luck as it gave me the run around, I lost my footing and fell over, cutting my hands to shreds, but saving my bins and camera.  I hope the AOS are happy that I have identified a wintering area for a male Finsch’s Wheatear in March at great personal injury to myself?  Wintering Sardinian Warblers could be heard everywhere but not much else was about.  At Akhna Dam in the evening a Lesser Whitethroat was late, 4 Bluethroats was a good count and a Sedge Warbler was still present.

On Sunday morning, I visited Oroklini Marsh whilst Deb was at the market and found my first Temminck’s Stint of the month amongst Little Stints and Dunlins and although the Redshanks were vocal there was no sign of the Terek Sandpiper.  A Bluethroat and Water Rail added to the interest and Spanish Sparrow were very active in the reeds.  After picking Deb up we moved to the Larnaca area where on the approach to the Sewage Works I flushed a pair of Black Francolins.  The Sewage Works held 2 adult Armenian Gulls and the Bar-tailed Godwit was still present but apart from 3 Cormorants and a pair of immature White-winged Black Terns there was not much amongst the hundreds of wildfowl.  On the way back along the Larnaca Strip we stopped for a Cyprus mixed sandwich – they truly are the food of the kings and I noticed 2 birds perched on the rocks (I call them Dolphin Rocks – as there is a small statue of the obvious on them), which proved to be a pair of Sandwich Terns.

At Akhna Dam in the evening, as I drove along the road a call of a Water Pipit alerted me to the presence of at least 3 in a ploughed field and a bird landed on the road which I photographed.  There had obviously been a sizeable influx of the species and with a bird with pinky/orange legs it alerted me to the possibility of a Buff-bellied Pipit.  Still under discussion with the photos being studied, they are thought to pass through Cyprus but have never been reported until last year’s first with many now believing that they are more common than previously thought – we shall see.  The drawback being it didn’t turn around and I couldn’t relocate it.  With no hope of birding on Monday due to the long day and the clocks going back, I’ll have to look again on Tuesday – but I don’t hold up much hope.  No less than 16 Common Snipes and 2 Jack Snipes were present and the 3 Greenshanks continued their stay with the Black-necked Grebe.  A Sparrowhawk perched in a eucalyptus briefly and at least 4 Penduline Tits were in the reed bed where I also photographed another Bluethroat*  A call alerted me to the first Reed Bunting of the winter – a female type, a Red-throated Pipit called as it passed overhead and a (Caspian) Reed Warbler* was outstaying its welcome.  Across the water I noticed a fairly large duck which proved to be a female Red-crested Pochard but with the light failing early – 1650, it was time to go.

Highlight of the Week:  Finsch’s Wheatears are always good to find, the first Reed Bunting of the winter and the mystery Pipit.

Look Forward:   I’m off over the north next weekend for a field trip with KUSKOR the Turkish group into the Troodos hills in the north.

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 20 Oct

Terek Sandpiper at Oroklini Marsh on 18 Oct

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

After a long day at work I decided to unwind and visit Akhna Dam for a few hours – not an unusual occurrence in itself.  When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by 2 large dark shapes in the open near to the tamarisk bushes and on the dried out mud.  I raised my bins and bingo – 2 Black Storks*; an adult and an immature, a year and site tick.  This kicked off a splurge of photographs and an hour and a half’s worth of quality birding.  I worked my way around the site finding the Spoonbill with the broken leg once more amongst a group of Little Egrets.  2 Greenshanks called as they flushed from the water’s edge and 4 Lapwings also alighted.  A lone female Redstart caught flies and returned to a nearby perch and a single Squacco Heron flushed from the reeds.  I made my way around to the mouth of the southern arm where the reed bed has been fairly productive recently.  It is clear that Bluethroats have arrived in good numbers, with one being of the svecica – Red Spotted form and a Sedge Warbler is still hanging on.  As I walked amongst the mud in the reeds I sensed a movement down to my right and an adult Spotted Crake made its way along the reeds.  Try as I might the camera’s auto focussed failed me on this occasion as I continually focussed on the reeds in front of the bird, a good bird nonetheless!  A flurry of activity saw a Common Starling flushing from the reeds, 2 Whiskered Terns came in over the dam feeding actively and 3 Cormorants flew over heading south east.  Above me a heaving mass of c600 Swallows were feeding which contained 1 House Martin that I could pick out. 

As I was leaving the area, my attention was caught by a Cetti’s Warbler type call that wasn’t quite right.  I moved around to an area where I could see the front of the reed bed and watched the water’s edge.  I firstly caught a movement and then a glimpse of a bird walking slowly amongst the tamarisk roots and broken reeds.  I noticed it had fairly obvious pink legs and was plain on the back, with a large rounded tail.  It was lost to view but then about 5 minutes later it flew from the reed bed to another and continued to walk around.  Having seen it in flight with it’s brown plumage with rufous tones and noted its behaviour which I remembered seeing many years ago at Akhna Dam, I was fairly certain of what I was looking at.  I found the bird once more in amongst the reeds crawling around, noted its lightly streaked sides of the breast, plain off white underparts and supercillium extending behind the eye and for sure it was my first Savi’s Warbler of the tour.  Having found a River Warbler in August, there was little difficulty in recalling the differences.  A great bird seen more in the spring than the autumn and often caught by ringers, sight records are not as common.  The secret to Akhna Dam is to work the area thoroughly and I tend to stick to 2 or 3 defined areas of habitat.  There must be many birds that pass through unnoticed due to the size of the site but my system and strategy has produced some good birds to date.  At Avgorou on the way home, a Stonechat flew in front of the car and a Red-back Shrike sat atop its lookout post.  What a great start to the week!

As I was eating my breakfast, I heard the call of a European Beeater to find a relatively late group of 21 over the house – a good way to start a Tuesday.  We visited the north to book a restaurant for tomorrow evening and I stopped at the Fresh Water Lake South, where a Great White Egret, a couple of Black-winged Stilts, a Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank were present with c50 Spur-winged Plovers.    I headed to Akhna Dam and many of the same species were present including the 2 Black Storks, Savi’s Warbler and 2 Spotted Crakes*, that performed a little more openly than the previous evening.  A Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper were seen and a Greenshank heard as a Hobby flew through the site.  3 Bluethroats* were noted with one posing in the open as the light faded.  A couple of Robins were heard and c120 White Wagtails flew to roost.

A quick jolly to Oroklini Marsh on Thursday afternoon confirmed that the Terek Sandpiper was still present, although remained impossible to photograph.  It consorts with Redshanks which flush at the drop of a hat and hence the Terek flies with them – damn annoying!  A Great White Egret was still present along with the lonely looking Shellduck and small waders were well represented with Dunlins, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers being present.  The waders along with a good number of Spur-winged Plovers were regularly flushed by a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier.  Onward to Akhna Dam after being given the run-around by the Terek for about 2 hours, without photographic success!  At Akhna Dam the excitement of the last couple of days has subsided with the Black Storks and Savi’s Warbler moving on.  The Spoonbill with the broken leg remained in situ and an Osprey paid a visit as I was scouring the reed beds only to find Bluethroats, Reed Warblers and Willow Warblers.  2 Green Sandpipers flushed, but if that was the highlight, you know things are getting desperate.  A couple of Beeaters flew over and in the fields above the dam, 7 Red-throated Pipits called as they went, a Corn Bunting perched briefly and 5 Yellow Wagtails lingered.

On Friday we made for the north and Hisarkoy where our friend Tony Hutchinson lives, he’d agreed to let us stay for the night in order to be at Cape Kormakiti early on Saturday morning to do a spot of seawatching.  We travelled via Oroklini where I managed to get a good shot of the Terek Sandpiper*.  Onward via IKEA in Nicosia – there’s always a penalty and then we crossed the border to the west of Nicosia.  We arrived at Tony’s at about 1400 and he gave me directions to Kalkanli Dam just to the east of Morphou.  The dam was an excellent site and having not visited previously, I was surprised at what I found.  2 Great White Egrets and 2 Marsh Harriers were present although the highlight was the amount of wildfowl:  146 Ferrruginous Ducks (I’ve never seen so many), 71 Pochard, 1 female Wigeon, 11 Teal ,15 Mallard, 7 Pintail and 21 Shoveller, along with hundreds of Coot and Little Grebes.  A lone adult Black-winged Stilt looked misplaced.  At Hisarkoy a Redstart flitted about and 5 late Beeaters were over the road.

On Saturday I was at Capt Kormakiti for 0800 and at least 16 Stonechats were in the area.  At the water tank at the beginning of the cape, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Redstart, female Blackcap and a Spotted Flycatcher were active.  As I moved along the cape a juvenile Red-backed Shrike was leaving it late to reach its wintering grounds.  I settled down for a few hours sea-watching and the first birds of any note were 5 Pintails and a male Peregrine coming in off the sea.  As I continued to watch a steady stream of Scipoli’s Shearwaters passed from east to west but only 1 Yelkouan.  9 Black-headed Gulls moved through with 3 Slender-billeds following behind and a juvenile Shag overtook them.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was the first Sandwich Tern of the season and a lone Serin was also unlikely.  7 Corn Buntings fed in stubble as I left the cape and headed towards Cape Kormakiti Lake or Kouracam Lake.  Sardinian Warblers were everywhere in the woodland and a Long-legged Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were overhead.  Another Serin was in a tree and at the lake proper we were greeted by a pair of superb Bonelli’s Eagles.  As we scanned the lake and walked around a Chiffchaff was amongst the Willow Warblers, a Little Bittern fed in the open and my first Water Rail for many months took a bit of “digging out”  On Sunday whilst returning home we stopped at the Fresh Water Lake South in Famagusta where a Redstart, Great White Egret and a Baltic Gull were the highlights.

Having been away from Akhna Dam for a couple of days, I headed there in the afternoon.  An Osprey was still present although waders had reduced with only 8 Ruffs being present.  The highlight was hearing and then seeing 4 Penduline Tits – the first for the winter as a Sparrowhawk flew over me and a late Reed Warbler fed in the reed bed.  A couple of Bluethroats were as usual elusive and a couple of Snipe and a Jack Snipe flushed.  As I was leaving the site, 3 Whiskered Terns were over the dam and 16 Common Cranes* circled and then headed off in “V” formation to the south west.

Highlight of the Week:  Black Storks* and a new patch tick with the added bonus of a Savi’s Warbler the same day – both year birds.  The first Penduline Tits of the winter was a good find and sea watching is always enjoyable.

Look Forward:   A day’s leave on Monday, although migration is waning but the search for winter visitors will commence.

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

Mark Easterbrook



A few late Wheatears are passing through.  Winter thrushes are arriving  with flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares present.  Over the weekend I saw 3 major flocks of Fieldfares at over 100 birds.  Redwings are found by the small woods and I was able to count 17 flying around Imber Firs on Saturday.  During that walk besides 27 bird species there were numerous fungi, some Fairy Shrimps and good plants including Small Toadflax, Pale Flax, Dwarf Spurge and of course a non UK plant, Hairy Rocket, found on training areas in Germany.  On the walk there were large flocks of Goldfinch (50+), Rooks (150+), Linnet (30+) plus a range of woodland and grassland birds.  Meadow Pipits have formed small flocks and Skylarks were calling.  Small flocks of Starlings have started to form and on Sunday night I saw several flocks of over 200+ heading for refuge near their favourite winter haunt on Larkhill.  There was also another flock of 100+ Fieldfare flying overhead and 50+ Golden Plover flying around the escarpment.  There are quite a few coveys of Red-legged Partridge about that must belong to the local shoot but have survived so far. Sunday was not a good day for weather but this did not stop a team ringing near Marlborough so I can add Marsh Tit and Willow Tit to my ringing list.  My fingers were easy meat for Blue Tits and Coal Tits though the greatest haul out out of the nets were Goldcrests.  Last weekend was also rubbish weather and our Hen Harrier survey on the Imber area recorded no birds though one was recorded on Larkhill impact area.  In fact hardly any birds were seen the previous weekend though there was a Snipe, some Starlings and in my location a miserably looking Robin.  The weather forecast for the next week is not looking good.


Gibraltar Ringer 19

The last day of the Gibraltar joint Services ringing project and the pressure is off less for the need to take down an awful lot of nets with only three of us remaining. Trafalgar Night had taken its toll yet we were only slightly later at opening. Not a huge number of birds, less of course, for Blackcaps but a reappearance of Garden Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, and Pied Flycatcher helped to maintain interest. Our second Sparrowhawk, a young male (pictured) was one of the few raptors seen, and contrasted with the big female ringed by Mark Cutts two weeks ago. Charlie Perez joined us to ring a couple of birds including a Garden Warbler and confirmed our earlier ageing methods.

A last visit to upload our data into IPMR at Jew's Gate confirmed that since we started ringing at Middle Hill on 25 Sep:
1136 birds were processed;
1099 were new birds;
32 were retraps;
5 were controls;
In addition, 7 birds were ringed in the Bruce's Farm garden.

Acknowledgments go to Charlie Perez for allowing us to ring on Middle Hill in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, Julia and Robin Springett for all the preparatory planning work required to find equipment and accommodation, all our ringers, particularly Mark Cutts and Carl Powell, the back up teams of Ann Powell, John and Sue Wells and John Hughes, and it was good to catch up with Ray Marsh, a long standing AOS member.

Finally a photo of one of our ringing lanes, overlooking Gibraltar town.



Gibraltar Ringer 18

We finally topped the thousand birds ringed today. Not bad against some difficult weather conditions. Admittedly they are nearly all Blackcaps so there will be absolutely no excuse next year for mis-ageing juveniles at home. We have also got our act together in splitting Iberian from normal Chiffchaffs. All juvenile Chiffs are coming through here dressed in bright yellow similar to Willows and so even in the hand it has not been easy. With the Willows and Iberians gone last month, only basic Chiffs should be going through now. The hope that we could catch more Red-necked Nightjars has faded although a European Nightjar (pictured) was lured into the nets before dawn yesterday. The use of tape lures has been with mixed results. The weather plays a more significant part with nightjars and we have tried a variety of calls to attract migrants. This has not been an exact art and where we have played typical northern woodland calls, there have been Blackcaps. Clear though is that nets without tapes have caught less.

With Julia and Robin Springett at a Trafalgar night, I am now preparing to check all our data transferred to a memory stick from Jew's Gate this afternoon. I have no faith in this exercise without my IT guru Mark Cutts. I may just tweet the results!

No blog from Gib would be complete without the obligatory phot of a Barbary Macaque. Less for the theft of an apple, we have been unaffected by these guys who merely pass through under the nets.



Gibraltar Ringer 17

The current weather patterns are predicted to remain and so time to do something completely different. Having dropped off Carl and Ann Powell at the airport, we joined the cross border queue and later drove to La Janda - a birding site of some repute. Stinking hot day but driving through the rice fields at midday we were too wrapped up in Calandra and Crested Larks, Fan-tailed Warblers, storks and Griffons to worry. Of a total of 50 species within a few hours, highlights included a flock of over 1000 Glossy Ibis (pictured), Great Spotted Cuckoo, Black-shouldered Kite and a single Black Stork. Jury is still out on a single bird perched on a telephone wire (pictured below) for which we have three 'stake my life on it' opinions. A great day though and welcome break.

Ringing was resumed today but some enlightened individual had untied all our net guy ropes and ties in our absence. More a gesture of some kind than criminal damage but all nets had to be retied in the dark and so delaying our start. No wind means no birds and so we painfully climbed to a total of 40 ringed before drawing stumps. Charlie Perez joined us and once more gave us an insight into local peculiarities of moult, ageing and sexing, Gibraltar style. My juvenile female Black Redstart picture of 2 days ago therefore reverts to just juvenile despite my protestations! Garden Warblers should be aged on their tertials rather than tail. To address the balance, we did convince him that there was a way of sexing juvenile Nightjars by wing and tail pattern!

We now stand at 900 birds with little prospect of making the thousand with the current wind strength and direction but a final burst is needed before the weekend.


Gibraltar Ringer 16

Apologies should not be necessary for this shorter missive and our two readers can therefore get an early night. Yesterday's catch was a little similar to the previous day, a total of only 27 birds, but a chance retrap of the Wheatear allowed me to check out the less than distinctive plumage of a juvenile bird. To our raptor watch were added 15 Griffon Vultures circling quite low - a spectacle after endless Booted Eagles. We have also been troubled by a predator and so the cat trap was set for the third night running. While opening the nets I checked the trap to find a very large and angry, but well fed feral occupant. Some nice people from Avian Control took it away.

Today's slow start under clear skies (nice for stargazers, rubbish for ringers) picked up later and our second Black Redstart (pictured) was caught. Another juvenile and therefore an almost total grey plumage less for the tail which also helps to prove a female bird. At lunchtime, 4 Blue Tits were found in one of the nets. The first had been ringed at Jew's Gate, second and third by ourselves in the last few days and the fourth was unringed - quite a mix. Thirty birds in all and the Blackcaps just keep on coming.

Today was Carl and Anne Powell's last full day and Robin returns tonight. Carl never did get his C to A assessment as the paucity of birds at Jew's Gate made it impractical. One day!


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 13 Oct

Lesser-spotted Eagle at Phasouri Reed Beds on 10 Oct 13.

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

Monday has arrived once more and the regular jaunt to Akhna Dam.  The Little Owls appear to have left their roost sites for the time being, however as I entered the dam, an Isabelline Wheatear was on a ploughed field and a Spotted Flycatcher was doing what it’s supposed to do from a nearby tamarisk.  Driving to the northern end of the southern arm, an adult Spoonbill was still present with a broken leg as were the regular waders with a Greenshank extending its stay.  A movement below a tree caught my eye which turned out to be a late Wryneck which is always nice to see.  The waders were suddenly flushed giving a clue to the presence of an adult Sparrowhawk.  A lone Black-winged Stilt was a new arrival and as I scanned the reeds, a Sedge Warbler was also late amongst the many Willow Warblers.  I then flushed a Little Crake and a Jack Snipe and an Osprey drifted in over the water ending an enjoyable couple of hours.

On Tuesday, after undertaking the monthly shopping – what a joy. I returned via Sotira Pond.  2 Greenshanks and 4 Redshanks were noted along with a Wood Sandpiper.  Herons were well represented with 13 Little Egrets and a couple of Grey Herons, whilst ducks consisted of a couple of Mallards, Teal and Garganeys.  I went to Akhna Dam in the evening adding a couple to the monthly tally with a Little Bittern and a male Bluethroat was a nice find.  The 2 Lapwings were back and the adult Spoonbill* with a broken leg was still present, as was the Isabelline Wheatear.  As I was leaving the site I spotted 21 Night Herons going about their twilight business.

On Wednesday I had to undertake an overnight MS visit to Troodos Station and managed to catch up with the mountain species except for a Blackbird which are quite elusive at the present time for some reason.  The resident population is relatively small supplemented by winter visitors and when they’re not vocal they can be difficult to locate.  Anyway on the way up, at Amiantos asbestos mine 9 Crag Martins and 4 late House Martins were present and surprisingly good numbers of Cyprus Wheatears were still present.  There were no other surprises however the morning after on the way down at the Caledonian Falls trail I finally found a male Blackbird – surprising what joys can be derived from a common bird – still with a shrug “This is Cyprus my friend".

Further down the mountain in the foothills, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers (they are not restricted to wetlands and reeds in Cyprus), 2 Sardinian, 2 Spectacled and 4 Blackcaps were seen and another Cyprus Wheatear.  At Kensington Cliffs at least 6 Eleaonora’s Falcons and a Long-legged Buzzard were present and a little further along at Tunnel Beach cliffs, 2 Honey Buzzards headed out to sea, 2 Peregrines hunted around the cliffs and a female Marsh Harrier quartered the hillside.  At Phasouri Reed Beds a large raptor rising from the reeds caught my attention and I was delighted to identify it as a juvenile Lesser Spotted Eagle*, a good bird for a chance visit and a species which I have so far failed to catch up with, a ringtail Montague’s Harrier also caught a thermal and drifted east.  Speaking to Colin later, he had said that with the wind changing from south westerly’s to northerlies. There had been a good raptor passage the day before with at least 5 Lesser Spotted Eagles, an Egyptian Vulture, a couple of Short-toed Eagles and a Black Stork passing over the Akrotiri area.  In any event I was delighted to catch up with my first Lesser Spotted Eagle of the tour.

I returned via Larnaca Sewage Works and the Pacific Golden Plover was still present on the lagoons amongst a few Little Stints and Ruffs.  On the other side of lagoon 1, (left hand lagoon), a Bar-Godwit fed actively with a Marsh Sandpiper and several more Ruffs.  5 Greater Flamingos were present of which 2 were adults.  On the buoys at Spiro's Beach 3 Shags were in their regular spots.  On the way home 4 more Shags were off Dhekelia Power Station and the Stone Curlew roost opposite Dhekelia Fire Station held 21 individuals.  I returned to Akhna Dam and nothing much had changed, however a Great Reed Warbler , a couple of Redstarts and the Jack Snipe were nice to see.  A Whiskered Tern sat on a rock and the first Cormorant of the season landed in the water.  A Red-backed Shrike was at Avgorou along with 7 Swallows as I returned home for tea. 

Planning to take Debs to the theatre club in Dhekelia at 1800, I checked my emails to find one from Colin Richadson highlighting the presence of a Terek Sandpiper* at Oroklini Marsh in the drainage channels.  We left at 1740, I dropped Deb off and headed to Oroklinin with the light fading.  I managed to locate the bird fairly quickly with Redshanks and Little Stints and with the light fading quickly managed to grab a quick record shot at distance for ID and recording purposes.  Although, I had found one in August at Akhna Dam, Terek Sandpiper is such a rare bird in Cyprus, I felt compelled to “twitch it” and I don’t like other birders finding rarities on my patches without me seeing them.  On Friday I had a day off from birding (I know – weak) and caught up on some sleep from a hectic week and went to the north with our friends to a newly found Pakistani restaurant where the food was excellent and they sold Cobra beer – result!

I rose early on Saturday and headed to the Larnaca area.  The Terek Sandpiper was no longer present at Oroklini, however, the first Shelduck* of the winter was present along with some commoner waders.  I flushed a male Black Francolin as I approached the sewage works area and managed to drive closely enough on a ploughed field (good job I invested in the new 4WD), to get reasonable shots of a male Peregrine*.  A Great White Egret was on the lagoons, the Whiskered Tern continued its stay and on the approach road a female Redstart gave itself away as it flew across in front of me.  On the beach at Spiro’s a Grey Plover* was my first of the season and a couple of Kingfishers sat on rocks.  I proceeded to Akhna Dam, where another Osprey put on a show as a couple of Marsh Harriers, a Monty’s and a Lesser Kestrel sailed south.  With not much happening I returned home and took Deb to the material warehouse (it really is a superb example of a fire hazard for those wishing to enhance their Health & Safety knowledge), where I left her for an hour as I went to the Fresh Water Lake South – it really was too dangerous for me to hang around.  At the lake Grey Herons were visible in good numbers as were Moorhens.  A Black-headed Gull was new and a few waders were dotted around the area but a Grey Wagtail was a new arrival for the winter.

On Sunday, I had promised myself a day out at Akrotiri  to catch some raptor migration and it proved to be a productive day.  On the Lady’s Mile side of the salt Lake behind Zakaki Marsh, 4 Slender-billed Gulls flew around whilst 2 Spoonbills were amongst the c9500 Greater Flamingos.  In the scrub some Linnets – not easy on the east of the island, a male Stonechat and a Red-backed Shrike fed actively as a Marsh Harrier hawked the reed beds.  As I drove around to Phasouri Reed Beds, I could see large flocks of Red-footed Falcons and an immature Honey Buzzard sat in a tree along with another Red-footed Falcon and c20 European Beeaters.  I stood under the eucalyptus trees from 0930 – 1230 and was not disappointed, at least 5 Lesser-Spotted Eagles passed overhead with 1 lingering, c160 Red-footed Falcons, a Hobby, a Lesser Kestrel, 2 Eleonora’s Falcons and a Saker represented the falcons.  The skies had a steady flow of Honey Buzzards with at least 20 passing with several Steppe Buzzards mixed in, a couple of Pallid and Marsh Harriers, 5 Sparrowhawks, 3 Long-legged Buzzards, a distant Griffon Vulture, whether this was a wandering resident or a migrant may never be known and a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was a flock of 10 Red-rumped Swallows with a handful of Sand Martins mixed in.  On the way home at Larnaca, another Black Francolin, the same Whiskered Tern and a Eurasian Curlew was new for the month.

Finally Akhna Dam was its usual busy self with lots of waders, the single Spoonbill with a broken leg and a very downy looking juvenile Masked Shrike was a late migrant.  Around the reed beds at least 4 Bluethroats, 1 svecica*, 3 Sedge Warblers*, 5 Reed Warblers a Great Reed Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat*.  I also flushed a Jack Snipe, and a female Blackcap and Cetti’s Warbler fed actively in the tamarisks.  Surprisingly, the loud “tchacking” revealed the presence of a late Eastern Olivaceous Warbler that was feeding frenetically. So to the end of an excellent and busy week.  Late September into October is an excellent time to visit Cyprus.

Highlight of the Week:  Lesser- Spotted Eagles* and raptor migration is always thrilling!

Look Forward:   With a day’s leave on Fri and Mon, it’s a long weekend where we plan to stay in the north for a few days and visit Cape Kormakiti to sea watch.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Gibraltar Ringer 15

Last blog of this week and it sees us at a low ebb. The wind has changed again and we have gone from manic to depressive in a day. These current westerlies just prevent anything moving, keep us in sunshine early in the day when we need cloud cover, and even preventing raptors from crossing the Straits. We had to lay off our recorder and raptor counter early for some sightseeing, leaving self, Julia and Carl to patrol the mostly empty nets. Not all bad news, as we caught a juvenile Black Redstart (pictured) and spent some considerable time working out why it was not a Common. Not difficult but with a first for the trip we have to ensure that records are 100% before submitting to the Gibraltar Ornithologic and Natural History Society. A more IT savvy reporter would have a picture of both to compare the two. It's not going to happen!

With early furling of nets and unable to download our data as the Jew's Gate site were playing data catch-up, we decided in desperation to do some sea watching. Fifteen minutes was enough to clock Cory's Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Morocco Cormorant and endless Yellow-legged Gulls. No cetaceans. Besides, Ann Powell had been promised an ice cream and wasn't going to let us renague  on the deal. What a disappointment to miss a further hour and a half looking at the sea! On return to Bruce's Farm we were treated to a fly past of an African Monarch, more commonly seen at the Botanical Gardens. For those with an interest in bird food I include a photo below.

Tomorrow sees the return to UK of Sue and John Wells and we lose Carl Powell for the day to Jew's Farm where temporary resident ringer Ray Marsh will give him the once over. Mark Easterbrook's blog from Cyprus comes out on Sunday night and so I will create some blog space resuming Monday night when Robin Springett returns to us.


Gibraltar Ringer 14

Sitting in stifling afternoon heat having entered 145 records into the Jews Gate computer, Andrew's blog makes us all here yearn for cooler climes, winter thrushes and, dare I say it, variety. After 78 Blackcaps and 47 Robins, I made an unseemly grab for the single Wren that rose to the rarity value of the only Orphean Warbler (pictured) caught today.

Yesterday lacked numbers but included two new species for the trip - Northern Wheatear and Reed Warbler - to accompany Bonnelli's Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Stonechat. The large number of Pied Flies has dwindled considerably and been replaced by Robins. Even the Sardinian Warblers have almost disappeared. We are not exactly blase about Nightjars - how could you be with such cryptic plumage and affronted attitude accompanied by loud hisses and a gape that seems larger than the bird itself - but today's European Nightjar was the first to be released without a photo record.

Hardly mentioned have been the raptors, but with John Wells here as the non-ringer, he has been able to spend more time on the raptor count than the rest of us. The result has been an impressive record of fly-by birds from sparrowhawks through harriers to eagles, and today, Egyptian Vultures to add to the GONHS data base. He has also assumed the post of cat catcher from Mark Cutts, while Sue Wells continues to record - today for two and a half hours before getting a leg stretch!




Actually it is more like SPTA Centre as the main western area was out of bounds as large metal hunks charged around with lots of other smaller metal hunks.  My car is not built to withstand that sort of impact so it took to stony tracks elsewhere.  Near the Deptford Down air strip they have been breeding pheasants, as I soon discovered when keeping a tally on numbers.  It went down on birdtrack as species present.  There were still lots of Chiffchaffs about and on the open areas there were Stonechat and Yellowhammer.  I also saw my first flock of Fieldfare for the winter as birds flew over me. It was also the day of my last sighting of a Swallow (so far).  A Robin tried to drown out the Apache flying nearby amongst the cacophony of other bird calls.  It was a a lovely day with 27 species plus lovely examples of Command Speckled Wood butterflies.  Visiting the impact area on a sunny afternoon produced a Red Kite and a soaring Ring tail as well as Meadow Pipits gallore.  A flock in the distant looked like Golden Plover and I was positive I saw another flock in Gloucestershire as I headed to Wales for a funeral.  All I need to do is confirm they are back on the Plain!  The cold chill now in the air certainly helps portray an autumn air though when ringing there was a Whitethroat and a Grasshopper Warbler in the nets which should not be here.  I have to remind myself that an Indian Summer was still here until a few days ago. As ever there were still lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps as well as Meadow Pipits.  Another Goldcrest was caught and Great Tits developed a taste for my flesh.  Ringing again on the site a few days later  we were distracted by the boom, whistle and bang coming from the west as we collected more Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Meadow Pipits from nets.  All morning this noise went on and from where my was parked I could see the dirt rising up as the whistling stopped.  That morning another Hen Harrier flew past and on a net run a Merlin also flew past very quickly.  It was the last day of ringing at West Down until April next year so having talked about the arrival of thrushes around the place I was able to ring my first Redwing.  The exercise on the West is over and this weekend winter surveys start.


Gibraltar Ringer 13

The story ended last night with us all just a little miffed that the water was not back on and we had been working hard on the hill all day. As duty dishwasher I was particularly unimpressed. The quote of the day (from a RAFOS member) was "No wife of mine goes outside in the pitch dark to collect water from the bowser...Here love, take my head torch!"

Our recorder was absent birdwatching today so the team is down to 3.  Not good as we are expecting the high numbers of birds from yesterday to be repeated today. And so it was with all of us laden with bird bags after the first round including two Red-necked Nightjar (pictured below) and a Eurasian Nightjar. Julia Springett was volunteered to go around again as Carl Powell and I started processing the birds (we believe in equality here). Having ringed all birds with nothing particularly out of the ordinary, it was off again to clear the nets. A very small dark bird excited interest and proved to be our first Dartford Warbler! Very much a 'Spanish bird' we hardly expected to see one on migration. It was poorly prepared for its flight across the Straits and had the minimum of fat aboard. Carl then extracted an Orphean Warbler from the nets. Such a very large warbler, the juvenile, as this was, is a dull bird and not as distinctively marked as some guides would have it. On virtually the last round of the day, we went from dull to flamboyant and took the first Hoopoe out of the nets. This one was an adult female, and I have to say that this bird is more impressive flying away than in the hand where it is difficulty to appreciate the full plumage.

Last point it that when we released the Red-necked Nightjar, it flew up the track on which we were ringing. Unknown to us, it then landed on the track and we walked past it repeatedly throughout the day, its camouflage plumage working perfectly. It took a call of nature for the bird to decide that this was really going too far and it flew a few feet into thicker vegetation where it alighted on a rock to resume its daylight slumbers.



Gibraltar Ringer 12

Yesterday's lesson appeared to be to expect the Gibraltar weather to turn at a moment's notice - from still to squall in seconds. Don't trust the water system was another lesson that we learned after the blog went to bed. The joy of carrying water from bowser to loos pales quickly - no pun intended. So a late start this morning as the wind was already high and we needed to replace some guy lines in the dawn light. The new Song Thrush tape worked wonders and the first net round showed a huge fall of birds. It became obvious that we were just going to have to continually empty nets, changing ringers after each collection. Seventy one Blackcaps and fifteen Garden Warblers later, I am SO looking forward to a Blue Tit but it was not to be. The gusty wind managed to wrap a net around some old barbed wire and extraction proved difficult but this was the only net closed all day. A pity as it seemed to be on the very steep transit route up the hill for Song Thrushes. More a test of consistent ageing and sexing under pressure than the chance to have really long looks at some of the more distant migrants but this was broken briefly in the early afternoon with the appearance of a juvenile Stonechat - all spots and streaks. Although looking very much like a female, evidence of some early black feathers and white collar suggested it was more likely to be a male. The day was disappointing for raptors and only a few Sparrowhawks and Booted Eagles were seen through the low cloud.

A visit to Jew's Gate followed in order to upload 109 birds into IPMR (and of course to check on progress at the only other ringing site on Gibraltar). Despite being separated by only a mile and a half and due south of us at the southern end of the Rock, they have not yet picked up any of our birds. We appear to catch more birds but we probably have more footage of nets. Species caught are very similar with the glaring exception of Scops Owl which we have yet to hear anywhere near Bruce's Farm or Middle Hill. But they have running water...


Gibraltar Ringer 11

One of the buzzes with ringing during migration is that anything may drop in and we have had plenty of species over the last fortnight. It seems odd to get excited about the first Chaffinch or even the first Song Thrush and weirdly we look forward to the first Dunnock and Dartford Warbler. Today, with the addition of John and Sue Wells from RAFOS, and with the prospect of a further two European Nightjars, nets were opened in the mist and gloom of the Lavante on the upper slopes. The first net round was the most productive so far and provided a baptism of fire for Sue , our new recorder, with 19 birds including the Song Thrushes. The second round was equally productive but provided us with a new pipit. It is one thing to see pipits in familiar territory and habitat but another to take a new bird out of the net - names into the hat time! This was obviously a juvenile bird with all the inherent dangers, not all guides are good at providing plates of young birds. Time to fall back on convention and start with the obvious contenders, while at the same time proving that it is not something else. The lead picture of a juvenile Tawny Pipit gives the result away but it was by no means clear cut. The photos  were of use later to Charles Perez in confirming that it was the start of the Tawny Pipit movement through Gibraltar. Phew!

With such large numbers of birds being netted - a total of 61 birds in only a few net rounds - it was obvious that we would have to close the nets in the face of increasing winds. Fate beat us to it and a vital guy line broke in the upper line of nets bringing neighbouring nets down to the ground. Wild asparagus sounds innocuous but cacti would have been easier to remove from the nets. Now resembling a herbaceous border or well manicured hedge, the painstaking task of defoliating the nets began. We were later than usual getting away today.


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 6 Oct

Pacific Golden Plover at Larnaca Sewage Works on 3 Oct - A bit noisy, at distance.

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

The last day of the month and a long day at work so I only had time to visit Akhna Dam.  The Little Owl remained faithful to its day roost site and 19 European Beeaters fed over a ploughed field that held a couple of Whinchats.  3 Curlew Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, some Little Stints and 5 Snipe were on the muddy pools and a lone Redshank the only one of the month was also present.  A smart looking male Masked Shrike outshone its immature Red-backed cousins and the usual collection of herons were present.  As I worked my way around the dam to the reed bed, at least 5 Sedge Warblers were chasing each other and they were joined by a female type Bluethroat – my first of the autumn.  Flushing a Little Crake from the same area was a bonus, with the month list ending on a fairly respectable 135, considering I didn’t have a car for half of the month with some notable sightings including Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale.

Anyway enough reminiscing and onto Tuesday and the beginning of a new month.  Akhna Dam was fairly productive with a female Bluethroat, Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and a couple of Spotted Flycatchers.  Masked and Red-backed Shrikes continue to be present as do a couple of migrant waders.  A couple of Lesser Whitethroats were in the eucalyptus and a Squacco Heron flushed from the reeds.  European Beeaters continue to pass in small groups and a single Lapwing was present.  On the way home the Barn Owl remained faithful to its roost at Vrysoulles.

On Wednesday I had a day’s leave so headed for the Cape Greco via Ayia Thekla where 7 Greater Sand Plovers*, 6 Kentish Plover and a Common Sandpiper were present .  As I approached the track to the rubbish tip I immediately saw a late Lesser Grey Shrike.   A Northern Wheatear was in nearby fields as were at least 20 Chukar.  Onto the picnic area where a Cyprus Warbler sang noisily and a male Cyprus Wheatear lingered.  Further on underneath the Army Camp, another Cyprus Wheatear, plenty of Spectacled Warblers and my first Blue Rock Thrush male of the winter.  I continued onto Ayia Napa Sewage Works where Lesser Whitethroats were the most common bird along with Willow Warblers but I also found a nice looking Wood Warbler*.  The lagoons held a Common Sandpiper and a Spotted Flycatcher, Red-rumped Swallow* and first Stonechat of the winter were present on the wires.  An Osprey drifted steadily southwards, as did a female Marsh Harrier and a Sparrowhawk came in off the sea heading the other way – fantastic migration!  At the football pitches, a couple of Whinchats and an Isabelline Wheatear.  I visited Akhna Dam in the evening and much was the same, although another Osprey was present and at the side of the dam near to the donkey sanctuary I flushed a Little Bittern and a Great Reed Warbler.  In the same area a pair of Garganeys alighted and the trees held good numbers of Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps.

On Thursday, I had to visit Akrotiri and although it wasn’t prolific, a couple of Black Kites, 4 Honey Buzzards, a few Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk were all seen, the best of the bunch was a dark phase Booted Eagle complete with very obvious “landing lights”.  A Common Buzzard was also a good sighting and the salt lake held c8500 Greater Flamingos.  With not much doing, I headed for the Larnaca area where I photographed a cracking adult Baltic Gull* on Spiro’s Beach.  I then headed for the hide overlooking the sewage works and met Pete Wragg a local visiting UK birder.  I said the well used phrase “Anything about” – as you do and he replied nonchalantly a Pacific Golden Plover* (a Cyprus tick).  Now I have to tell a story and “Fess Up”.  As I got onto the bird, I realised that it was the bird I had seen on the 22 Sep and another had seen on the 21st and had ID’d it as a European Golden Plover.  As I looked at the bird, which I had photographed 2 weeks earlier as it “looked odd”, I thought it was a Dotterel at first glance but then didn’t make the connection and put it down as a European Golden Plover – STUPID!!!!  I was and am gutted at missing this bird.  I broke my own biggest rule in Cyprus, look at everything and expect the unexpected – a mixture of complacency, not thoroughly looking at the detail of the bird which I am familiar with structurally had cost me dear.  So Pete Wragg – well done, goes down as the finder.  My first cock up this tour, but it does prove that nobody is infallible or gets it right every time.  For good measure I also photographed the Desert Wheatear* that was present.  As I drove home through Vrysoulles a Hobby drifted past the car.

Friday was the Mess end of season Greek style BBQ which I had organised, so absolutely no prizes for guessing the outcome.  I did however, refrain from wholesale drunkenness and left at 2130 so I was able to rise early and visit Larnaca Sewage Works.  This I did and it was a fairly productive morning.  On the lagoons a Whiskered and White-winged Black Tern hawked and a Bar-tailed Godwit fed actively on the exposed mud (a relative scarcity in Cyprus).  On the fields several Sanderling* fed amongst the other waders an 7 female type Pintails had appeared on the lagoons.  A single Red-throated Pipit fed amongst the plethora of Yellow and White Wagtails and a ringtail Montague’s Harrier drifted over the fields whilst a Long-legged Buzzard hovered above.  The Pacific Golden Plover was flushed early by the dreaded photographers (great field craft) and remained out of site until I left at least.  I met a visiting birder in the afternoon and Ayia Napa Sewage Works and Football Pitches were fairly unproductive except for Lesser Whitethroats, Whinchats and Willow Warblers.  Cape Greco was the same except for a Cyprus Wheatear and as we stopped for an ice cream 2 Audouins’ Gulls rested on the sea at Konnos Bay – probably the most reliable site in the East of the island on the Greek side for this species – although by no means a certainty.  We drove along to Ayia Thekla where 2 Greater Sand Plovers, 2 Dunlins and a Little Egret were amongst the Kentish Plovers.  Later at Akhna Dam, a late female Citrine Wagtail was a surprise, another Montague’s Harrier appeared and a Greenshank was new.  As I watched a Sedge and Reed Warbler a Spoonbill landed in the dam with a broken leg and I flushed a couple of migrant Redstarts.

On Sunday it was shopping and barbers day over the north which allowed my to visit a few sites.  There were still a large number of Grey Herons at Fresh Water Lake South with a single adult Spoonbill, a 1CY Night Heron and a single Squacco Heron.  At Clapsides Beach a Kingfisher and a Greenshank were the first signs of anything for a few months.  We did the shopping and at the barbers I’m sure his hands are getting softer – or maybe I’m just being molested to a greater extent.  Anyway after feeling suitably relaxed, we had lunch in Famagusta with a couple of EFES and then a couple of hours sleep on the setee – what a great Sunday!  At Akhna in the evening I added a Cetti’s Warbler to the month list and a Sparrowhawk flew by with a Lesser Whitethroat being new along with a Green Sandpiper.  Before I left I managed a few more shots of a Kingfisher*.

Highlight of the Week:  The Pacific Golden Plover – only the 8th Cyprus record but I’m gutted at not identifying the bird initially.

Look Forward:   Some seawatching in the north hopefully and a bit of exploration of ploughed fields for Pipits and a Dotterel.

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

Mark Easterbrook


Gibraltar Ringer 10

Yet another day when you just don't know what's around the corner, prospects not being hopeful for a large catch with dawn breaking with clear skies, and Mark and Robin due to catch the plane home mid morning. A quick credit to Mark Cutts whose company, advice, ID skills, and IT know-how, and his matelot sense of humour, will be very much missed by us all. Greatest accolade we can pay must be his grinning mug as lead picture on an AOS blog!

In semi darkness and with the nets opened, we watched a couple of fly pasts by a Red-necked Nightjar and thought little further about it. A later net round and there was a nightjar in the tape lure net - but surprisingly, a European Nightjar. Clearing the last net of the round and a long way from the tape lure was our fly-past bird, the Red-necked. Big grins all round from the guys who ringed them and Mark forgot for once to mention 'bloody A ringers'. Great chance to compare the two young birds and their respective sizes and plumage, though both hissed and gape-threatened throughout.

John Hughes arrived to help with the recording leaving only myself and Carl Powell to ring while the others visited the airport. Probably just as well as catches were poor but still including Redstarts, Nightingales, Garden Warblers and Iberian Chiffchaffs. The Whitethroats are still causing us to double check for Subalpine but no reshows as yet. Tomorrow the long promised levante returns with a complete shift in the wind from west to east and hopefully an increase in numbers...maybe...  Oh, the AOS has just opened a Twitter account - I must be getting too much sun.


Gibraltar Ringer 9

A really bad day if you are a black cat caught eating birds in the nets yesterday, but a good day for the rest of us - 'nuff said. Also, call off the search for John Hughes. He appeared like an 18th century explorer out of the blue having walked in from Spain, climbed to the top of the Rock, visited the (wrong) Bruce's Farm - the one that rehabilitates drug addicts, and found us up on the ringing site. Missing the pith helmet but really great to see him.

Not quite the same numbers as yesterday but still 44 birds ringed. The best was undoubtedly Orphean Warbler (pictured) which everyone seemed to have ringed except me. Another ringing tick then. Thankfully, a yellow eye and no barring allowed ID and ageing and the lighter head colour suggested a female. Once again a Whitethroat remained a Whitethroat despite an attempt to 'sex it up'. Lots of Garden Warblers coming in now and the Pied Flies have mostly moved on. Always nice to see old favourites and Robins and Blue Tits are building up numbers.

Leaving Robin and Julia to download results, Mark Cutts insisted on a nostalgic tour of downtown Gibraltar before he leaves tomorrow. Bad idea. We apparently visited (in Matelot terms) the Donkey's Flip-flop and the Mad Monk. Unable to walk much further but with Services ingenuity and following a short visit to the Botanical Gardens, we caught a passing cable car to the Peak (photo) and let gravity help us find Bruce's Farm on the way down. Will sleep well!



Gibraltar Ringer 8

A totally mixed day today with some great catches and a disaster. As seen by the opening photo, we managed to net an Ortolan Bunting. These are hardly ever seen on Gibraltar and if they turn up any year, it is only in ones or twos. A great bird but I spent ages ensuring that, as a first year bird, I hadn't confused it with Cretzschmar's or Little or a host of others. Satisfied, it was ringed, biometrics taken and quickly photographed. According to Mark, it was a 'Twitter bird'. This apparently means that I have to be indoctrinated into 'social media' before he leaves on Saturday.  I can't wait.

The Ortolan unfortunately knocked a very nice Whitethroat into second place. As the first of the trip, it again had to be looked at carefully but was a welcome addition to our list. A total of 63 birds ringed today and would have been more if a feral cat had not got into the nets. Shades of early Ascension days and just as distressing to see the damage that they can do. Suffice to say that a trap is out and the wardens warned.

Last point - has anyone seen John Hughes?  Meant to be visiting us but we have no contact information.



Gibraltar Ringer 7

A pause to give Mark's Cyprus blog some space and to recognise what a real blog should look like. So much information and consistently great photos.

Here we are on day 10 and two more housemates join us in Bruce's Farm - Carl and Ann Powell. Their arrival coincided with Mark's work experience day when he inspected something in the Dockyard. Never to miss an opportunity he joined us on the hill in uniform but surprisingly didn't try ringing Blackcaps for obvious reasons. His two mornings away coincided with the largest number of birds netted in one round. At this rate we are having to download data to IPMR daily at Jew's Gate and gives us a chance to compare numbers and species caught. This is getting a little embarrassing as the winds seem to favour us and they have had a week of poor results.

Today of course, Carl ringed all we could throw at him and he has caught up with most of the good birds such as Redstart but we could only get him one retrapped Iberian Chiffchaff. Yesterday's Willow Warblers failed to put in a repeat performance and must have moved on. Mark's face on one net round gave away that he was holding something special and I was therefore surprised that he offered it up after the promise of a beer. Not exactly a rare bird in Britain but I have never ringed Grasshopper Warbler until this one and spend some time looking at the differences with Lanceolated Warbler. It's all in the under tail coverts and tertials and did not take long to work out. A lovely bird and photogenic as the attached shows. A beer worth spent.

We now have two chefs - bad for all our waist lines and I have already failed on the no beer on weekdays rule, foolishly mentioned on Ascension and already picked up by our one avid reader!