(4) Blog Posts Made in November 2013

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 24 Nov

Woodlark at Akhna Dam 20 Nov

Woodlark at Akhna Dam - 20 Nov 13

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

No birding on Monday but I did catch up with “Dusky Gate” episode.  Being a Devon birder, I can imagine the dilemma that was caused by the find and also the resulting anguish that it’s caused.  If you’re expecting anything as exciting, thought provoking or emotive, read no further.  Rest assured, if I find anything at Akhna Dam, there will be no suppression, so if you wish to twitch it – feel free.

On Tuesday, the hunt for the Buff-bellied Pipit commenced.  Well, having grilled at least 30 Water and Meadow Pipits, I’m now more than happy with their features, but no Buff-bellied, so another session tomorrow will have to take place.  In the process, 2 Great White Egrets, a Bluethroat, 11 Starlings, 6 Redshank and a male Sparrowhawk was seen as the latter flushed the birds I was observing.  A Little Owl was on the wires in Ay Nik as I returned home.

On Wednesday, I once again headed to Akhna Dam to search for the Buff-bellied Pipit – without luck.  However, as I arrived I photographed the presumed long staying Booted Eagle*.  I progressed around the site where at least 15 Water Pipits* were present.  A Great White Egret flew in and a Marsh Harrier and Buzzard were overhead.  A single Dunlin, couple of Redshanks and Greenshank were present but an adult Little Ringed Plover was unexpected.  A common Buzzard flew over and searching the reed beds, at least 7 Bluethroats and 4 Song Thrushes were seen.  Photographing a posing Wood Lark* was a bonus, as 4 were present as usual in the winter, a couple of Kingfishers made their presence felt but generally although the weather is still great for November and a good couple of hours was spent at the site, not that much was happening.

Silver lunch on Thursday – end of – nothing further to report and as a consequence Friday was also a write off with the mother of all hangovers.  I managed to raise my sorry self on Saturday and visited Akhna Dam.  The immature White Pelican was again present as were a pair of Great White Egrets.  Water Pipits and Meadow Pipits were again feeding in good numbers, although 3 Linnets was a good site record.  As an adult Little Ringed Plover and Little Stint crouched in the lagoons, a pair of pale phase Booted Eagles put on a fantastic display above me.  Later after visiting the barbers in the north, Clapsides Beach was quiet with a Grey Plover and Yellow-legged Gull being the only sightings. 

After attending the panto on Saturday night in Dhekelia, which was a great show – Oh no it wasn’t – don’t start that again, I stayed over and walked the local area on Sunday morning finding a male Blackbird, (unusual for lowland sites) and a male Cyprus Warbler.  I visited Oroklini next, which must have been flooded in the week as the water levels were high, having been bone dry for the last few months.  It’s amazing how the birds quickly re-colonise any piece of water.  At least 250 Teals were present with Shovelers, Mallards, Coots, Little Grebes and a pair of Pintails.  6 Lapwings, 2 Redshanks and 2 Dunlins were also feeding but were soon flushed by a quartering male Marsh Harrier.  Onward to Larnaca Sewage Works where 7 Lapwings were on the lagoons.  In the water, 5 Black-necked Grebes, a surprise Wigeon, 48 Shelduck, a couple of Armenian Gulls and eventually a lovely adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the commoner Black heads.  On Spiro’s Pool, Golden Plover numbers had increased to 119.  At Akhna Dam in the evening, a couple of Red-throated Pipits flew over, a Green Sandpiper flushed from a muddy pool and after grilling hundreds of Water and Meadow Pipits in the last week, I believe I found and photographed the Buff-bellied Pipit that was reported last week – the outcome awaits confirmation.  On the way home the Barn Owl was not present in Vrysoulles but a Little Owl was.

Highlight of the Week:  A pair of pale phase Booted Eagles was nice to see and again the potential Buff-bellied Pipit.

Look Forward:  Grilling some more Pipits and wintering species – all getting a bit samey at the moment

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 17 Nov

Osprey at Akhna Dam in Nov

With photographic opportunities being very limited this week - a species at Akhna Dam that's always worth a photoshoot.

Monday and bad light stopped play as usual.  On Tuesday, avoiding the monthly shop, I had arranged to meet Colin Richardson at Akhna Dam at about 1430.  Meeting successfully, the White Pelican was still hanging around and 6 Starlings flew overhead.  The dam was alive with Pipits, mainly Water and 3 Redshanks and a Greenshank were present.  At least 4 Bluethroats were seen, 10 Song Thrush flew overhead and perhaps the surprise of the day was 2 very late Swallows.  As we left, a Marsh Harrier hawked the reed beds and at Dhekelia 40 Stone Curlews were present at the roost.

On Wednesday I ate breakfast as a Sardinian Warbler passed through the trees, a Chaffinch flew in and a Song Thrush flew over the house.  I departed for Troodos at about 0730.  Stopping at Giant Juniper picnic site, Song Thrushes were evident along with the usual mountain suspects but 4 Crossbills flying over was a good count.  A Mistle Thrush, my first of the winter flew over, however, with hunters everywhere, blasting everything, I’m not sure how long it will last – this really is a despicable, sick nation!  In the village at Troodos, a Wren sang in the open, a Coal Tit was less obvious, several Blackbirds flushed and Chaffinches were obvious.  At Prodromos Dam in the afternoon, more of the same but a Grey Wagtail was an addition to the monthly tally.

On Thursday I returned to Ay Nik.  At Larnaca Sewage Works, 8 Black-winged Stilt remained, 2 immature Greater Flamingos looked lost and a male Cyprus Warbler was unusual for the site.  On the lagoons, gull numbers are growing but with nothing unusual, 3 Black-necked Grebes were present and a pair of Gadwalls were new.  The dried out Spiro’s Pool now holds 12 Golden Plovers and a Black Redstart was present by the sewage works offices.  Oroklini had a fair collection of smaller waders with mainly Dunlins and Little Stints being present however the Terek Sandpiper appears to have gone.  12 Lapwings was a good count prior to departing the area.  At Dolphin rocks, conveniently near the KFC, 4 Sandwhich Terns were amongst the Black-headed Gulls and a Common Sandpiper – the only one for the month so far flew in.  At Akhna Dam in the evening the immature White Pelican was still there and the highlight was a male and female Marsh Harrier and a cracking adult male Hen Harrier.  Bluethroats numbered 4, Water Pipits are declining in numbers although good numbers of Red-throated Pipits remain in the fields.  A Great White Egret had returned to the site and a Little Owl was in its usual roost as I left.

On Friday, I ventured over the north, but as Movember progresses, there was no need for the barbers.  At Clapsides Beach, 2 Curlews were present along with an adult Audouin’s Gull, Grey Plover and numerous Kentish Plovers and Dunlins.  Fresh Water Lake South held 3 Great White Egrets a couple of Kingfishers, a Spoonbill and the Cattle Egret roost numbered c250.  A Grey Wagtail called and as dusk drew in, 6 Night Herons took to the sky.  As I drove away from the site a Little Owl perched on a telegraph wire in front of me.

On Saturday the monthly jaunt to Ayia Thekla revealed 7 Greater Sand Plovers and 16 Kentish Plovers whilst at Ayia Napa Football Pithces, 19 Meadow Pipits and 1 Woodlarks fed actively on the grass..  The female dark throated Finsch’s Wheatear remained to the east of the football pitches and at the sewage works 126 Little Grebes was a good count.  A male Black Redstart and my first Spectacled Warbler of the month were overshadowed by the large number of very vocal Sardinian Warblers.  20+ Chiffchaffs were in bushes on the approach road but there was little else of interest.  As I approached Cape Greco, a Wheatear flew across in front of me which proved to be a late female Northern, I was hoping for something rarer.  Male Blue Rock Thrushes numbered 3, Black Redstarts 5 with numerous Spectacled and Sardinians under the Army Camp.  Another female Finsch’s Wheatear was present and a Peregrine was mobbed by a pair of Kestrels.

On Sunday to avoid the mass shooting, I went to the Larnaca Sewage Works area – next the airport, shooting is forbidden – which is good for the birds.  3 Shelducks were on the lagoons, Black-necked Grebes totalled 7, a Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and 6 Ruffs were on the lagoons along with the long staying Bar-tailed Godwit.  A Sanderling was also present and a Marsh Harrier and then a Hen Harrier flushed everything.  I flushed 2 Black Francolins as I drove away and Skylarks numbered 30+.  At the dry Spiro’s Pool, 43 Golden Plovers were present along with a male Sardinian Warbler.  I returned via Oroklini Marsh and a chance drive around the drainage channels revealed that remarkably the Terek Sandpiper, which was thought to have gone was still present into its 6th week.  A single Shellduck and 5 Teals were in the channels along with commoner waders.  I stopped at Dolphin Rocks on the way home to find c80 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Sandwich Tern and 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls – my first for the winter period.  Akhna Dam was fairly quiet with 2 Great White Egrets, the immature White Pelican and a female Hen Harrier.  I was however shown a picture of an Asian Buff-bellied Pipit taken at the site 2 hours previously, however, no Water Pipits were present when I checked – I knew they must be here!

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

Highlight of the Week:  In a fairly dull week a Mistle Thrush and late Swallows were good finds although the re-finding of the Terek Sandpiper at Oroklini was a good record..

Look Forward:  Cold weather (relatively speaking of course), winter visitors and some long awaited rain I think.  With the news of the japonicas Buff-bellied Pipit confirmed – some more grilling of Pipits no doubt.

Other Interesting Finds:  Although I have seen this species before in the Canaries, it was the first Crimson Spotted Moth* that I’ve see in Cyprus.

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 Nov

An Iconic bird that needs no Introduction at Avagas Gorge on 9 Nov

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

With it now being basically un-birdable after 1645 the opportunities on a Monday are non existent.  So, on Tuesday I took Deb to Famagusta and visited the lagoon by the Palm Beach hotel (an excellent hotel to stay at if you’re visiting the area).  On the lagoon, a Little Egret and Grey Heron were predictable, the single Grey Plover less so but a cracking adult Slender-billed Gull was a real surprise.  After the success here I thought a trip to Clapsides Beach (a good site for wintering species) was a good idea.  I walked down the beach to the tide line and scanned the rocky outcrop.  I was delighted to find a pair of adult Audouin’s Gulls, 6 Black-headed Gulls, 7 Kentish Plover, 2 Dunlin and 3 Grey Plovers.  Following this I visited the Fresh Water Lake South where 3 Great White Egrets, a Green Sandpiper and 4 Ruffs were the highlights.  Dropping Deb off at home, I continued on to Akhna Dam for the last 45 minutes of light.   Working quickly, 7 Snipe,  a Jack Snipe (always a good bird), an immature Marsh Harrier, ringtail Hen Harrier and a Redshank were seen.  I moved to the reed bed area where a Reed Bunting called and was then seen, a Moustached Warbler hopped about in the open briefly and Chiffchaffs were present in good numbers.  As I walked to the firework display, a Little Owl sat on the telegraph wires in the quarter area.  I was unable to get out on Tuesday and on Wednesday, I was also busy.

On Thursday afternoon, I managed to get to Akhna Dam for a couple of hours where I photographed a lonely looking immature White Pelican*, which was fishing in a puddle with some success, as with the lack of rain so far this winter, it’s drying out quickly.  Water Pipit passage continued and a Greenshank and Redshank were present.  A Great White Egret flushed, Bluethroats were still active in good numbers and Snipes totalled 9.  A Sparrowhawk flew by and Chiffchaffs have now relieved the Willow Warblers of their duties.

I took a day off on Friday and visited the Larnaca Sewage Works area.  This proved to be a good decision.  Gulls are increasing with Black-headed being in the ascendancy, however 5 adult Armenian and a few immature Caspians were present.  Black-necked Grebes have increased to 4 and 23 Shelducks flew in.  The Bar-tailed Godwit remained faithful to the site and as I scanned the lagoons I found the first White-fronted Goose of the winter.  An immature Whiskered Tern was hanging on at the lagoons, a Garganey was amongst the Teals, a Bluethroat hopped about outside the hide and a Sanderling was with the Little Stints.  A lone Wigeon and a couple of Ferruginous Duck was all I could manage before everything was flushed by a passing Marsh Harrier.  Further along the coast at Spiro’s Beach and Pool, 10 Golden Plovers roosted (no Pacific’s this time), and a sizeable flock of Spanish Sparrows had gathered.  I flushed a pair of Black Francolins and on the buoys on the sea, 5 Sandwich Terns and a Shag loafed.  With a little water falling during the week, I stopped at the now dry Oroklini Marsh which has developed a small flash.  On it were several waders including, remarkably the adult Terek Sandpiper, unusually a long-stayer, will it overwinter?  It was joined by some unseasonal Little Ringed Plovers, 10 Little Stints, 1 Temminck’s Stint, 2 Dunlins, a Ringed Plover and 3 Snipe.  Unbelievably, as I watched attempting to get a photo, these birds were also flushed by a male Marsh Harrier.  At Akhna Dam on the way home I found my first Wood Lark of the winter and the Great White Egret and White Pelican were still present.  A Red-throated Pipit did a flyby, a Green Sandpiper flushed and 46 Spur-winged Plovers were present.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was a late male Redstart which had me going for a while as a possible Eastern Black Redstart.

With the news of 2 Wallcreepers at Avagas Gorge on the Akamas, west of Paphos earlier in the week I arranged to meet Colin Richardson at 0730 in an attempt to achieve my annual Wallcreeper “dip”.  I met Colin and proceeded to Avagas Gorge.  On the beach at White River Cliffs, a male Blue Rock Thrush, Kingfisher and several Black Redstarts, however, ominously, no Wallcreeper.  We drove to the entrance to Avagas and started to walk up the Gorge.  Several Song Thrushes were obvious as were a few Sardininan Warblers with Blackcaps being less so.  Chiffchaffs flitted about the trees, Robins were numerous and a showy Cetti’s Warbler performed well.  We made our way up the Gorge and overhead a dark silhouetted shape with rounded wings and very little tail projection flew above me – I shouted Wallcreeper* and then another called and we secured excellent views of 2 birds feeding together for about 10 minutes – fantastic – a Cyprus “tick” and a special bird at any time.  After our success we returned to the car and had a brew seeing a Sparrowhawk, male Blackbird and several more Song Thrushes. 

Colin and I did a tour of some of the Paphos sites confirming that 3 male Finsch’s Wheatears were on their wintering territories, Wood Larks were also at lower levels and that the Little Owl remained above Asprokremnos Dam, in its regular roost site.  A speculative search of the pines at Asprokremnos Dam car park revealed the presence of 2 Goldcrests* which was an addition to the year list.  I proceeded back to Ay Nik via Happy Valley in Episkopi Garrison, where a Long-legged Buzzard went after a Jackdaw and 7 Griffon Vultures were over the cliffs (with the population believed to be 9 – this was not a bad count).  I arrived at Phassouri Reed Beds, where I saw several Water and Meadow Pipits, a Jack Snipe, c80 Starlings and 2 Reed Buntings, before heading for home and a night out with a Chicken Phaal – ouch, you know that’s going to hurt!

On Sunday after Remembrance Day, I took Deb to the Theatre Club in Dhekelia, dropped her off and counted 39 Stone Curlews in the Dhekelia Fire Station roost.  At Akhna Dam the White Pelican and Great White Egret continued, Bluethroats had reduced considerably, Water Pipits had increased once more and the Red and Greenshank were still present.  The Little Owl had returned to its favoured roost site after an absence of a couple of weeks and on the way home a cracking adult male Hen Harrier was mobbed by Jackdaws at Avgorou – so ended a very good week.

Highlight of the Week:  Undoubtedly a pair of Wallcreepers at Avagas Gorge; a bird that I’ve tried to see on Cyprus many times.

Look Forward:  Dark early evenings and winter visitors.

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 Nov

Booted Eagle at Akhna Dam on 3 Nov

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

Monday and as suggested no time to birdwatch as it was dark when I left work at 1700.  I did manage an hour at Akhna Dam, locating the Pipit flock once more.  At least 10 Water Pipits were present along with a Meadow and 2 Yellow Wagtails (immatures).  The Corn Bunting flock has grown to c30 and the Spanish Sparrow flock is also increasing.  I managed to find the mystery Pipit again and photographed it once more.  I sent the images to James P Smith of Birdfinders fame and a member of the Israeli rarities committee who was kind enough to spare his time and have a look.  He categorically confirmed that it wasn’t a Buff-bellied Pipit and commented furthermore that it was a very pale form of the Middle East race coutelli*.  Interestingly, I am imformed that the Birds of Cyprus 1938 detailed a number of skins as the race spinolletta which were later proved to be coutelli, so perhaps they are more commonly occurring in Cyprus than supposed?

On Tuesday afternoon, I stopped searching for Pipits and returned to more normal pastures at Akhna Dam.  Nothing much doing but the Black-necked Grebe continues its stay and Bluethroats remain in good numbers.  In the same reed bed, a Reed Warbler and a Sedge Warbler were hanging on late into the season and Common Snipes had reduced.  An Osprey was present and interestingly, the 29th October last year was the last one I saw for the year at Akhna Dam – remarkable how reliable the timing of migration is?  A couple of Marsh Harriers were over the reed beds, with one suffering the indignity of being shot at by a young moron with nothing better to do and just because it was there?  In any event it continued without harm.  As I searched the far shore of the dam a Common Crane was feeding with Grey Herons and a Red-throated Pipit flew over calling as it did so.

Deb was suffering from JUMBO withdrawal symptoms – signs are becoming temperamental regarding hours spent birding vs hours spent in the house, so we visited JUMBO on Wednesday afternoon and I headed for Oroklini Marsh for an hour where amazingly the Terek Sandpiper was still in residence with a few Redshanks, Snipes, Little Stints and Dunlins.  In a water canal next to JUMBO, 2 Temminck’s Stints, a Ringed Plover, 2 Spur-winged Plovers, a Redshank and a Bluethroat were a bit of a surprise.  After retrieving Deb from a “spendathon”, we headed to Akhna Dam on the way home where there was about half an hours light remaining.  The Common Crane remained as did a Greenshank and a Lapwing.  The Reed Warbler is becoming unseasonal and the highlight was finding my first Moustached Warbler of the winter, always a good bird to get in October.  Sometimes confused with Sedge Warbler once seen well with its black cap and Wren like jizz, it shouldn’t be mistaken for long.

Thursday was business as usual at Akhna Dam although it did seem very quiet compared with the deluge of birds during early October.  Nothing was new, however, the same or a different Osprey was fishing and the same 2 Marsh Harriers hawked the reed beds.  A Peregrine did a fly through and the Common Crane remained in situ along with a couple of Greenshanks and a Redshank.  Bluethroats were active around the reed beds, but there was little else to write home about.

The 1st of a new month but October was absolutely exceptional;  I submitted 1013 records detailing 171 species.  My previous best for a month was 149, that’s how good October was!  However, back to reality and November will consist of picking up some late migrants and checking in the winter visitors, especially the wildfowl.  Visiting the north to get the monthly allotment of Turkish Lira allowed me a visit to the Fresh Water Lake South in Famagusta.  2 Spotted Redshanks was a surprise, Great White Egrets totalled 4, as did Ruffs, however apart from the usual month ticks to be had, nothing much was doing so we went for dinner and enjoyed a cracking mixed kebab.

We rose early on Saturday to travel to Morphou (Guzelyurt) in the north to join the KUSKOR group for a field trip. We met up successfully and headed off to Lefke Dam an area which I was unfamiliar with.  When we arrived birds looked fairly sparse, but a pair of perched and then flying adult Bonelli’s Eagles gave crippling views and over the dam, 9 Crag Martins were a surprise.  A Song Thrush called and then flew, Sardinian Warblers called and 5 Cormorants, 3 Grey Herons and a Little Grebe were on the dam.  A Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and a Yellow-legged Gull made appearances but we soon moved on to Kalkanli Dam behind the university.  This is an excellent site for wildfowl and as we watched the dam, c120 Pochards, c90 Ferruginous Ducks, 6 Pintails, 5 Wigeon, Shovellers, Teal and Mallards were present.  A Great White Egret, another 5 Cormorants and a splendid adult male Hen Harrier added to the numbers, with an immature Peregrine also putting in an appearance.   A couple of Greenshanks gave themselves away as they called and eventually a female Garganey was seen amongst the Teal, as I left the site I flushed a Black Francolin.

I visited Akhna Dam on Sunday and it proved to be a very enjoyable couple of hours.  I managed to photograph another Penduline Tit* and at least 6 Bluethroats were all around the reed beds.  4 unseasonable European Beeaters called and were seen overhead, a Water Pipit flushed and an Osprey* fished the dam.  Another black and white raptor appeared and despite a bit of confusion was fairly quickly identified as a pale phase Booted Eagle* catching a thermal and rising, to be joined by an immature Marsh Harrier and White Pelican.  Another female type Garganey was seen, a Redshank and Greenshank called and flew from the water’s edge and a Great White Egret sailed by.  A Reed Warbler continued amongst the Chiffchaffs and a lone Kingfisher was seen.  At Ay Nik in the evening a cracking male Black Redstart was seen.  An end to a great week and month!

Highlight of the Week:  Moustached Warbler arrival and the heart fluttering Pipit* moment which turned out to be not so exciting and a Booted Eagle (pale phase) at Akhna Dam.

Look Forward:   No real expectations of November so I’ll just have to wait and see.

Other Interesting Finds:  Your favourite paragraph is back!  At Akhna Dam on Sunday, a Wandering Glider or Globe Skimmer, a new Dragonfly for me although impossible to photograph with my camera was seen patrolling high above the water line.

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

Mark Easterbrook