(3) Blog Posts Made in March 2014

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 23 Mar 14

Collared Flycatcher at Cape Greco Pines on 17 Mar

A quick Monday evening trip to Sotira and Paralimni Lake revealed the arrival of many Lesser Whitethroats and my first Sedge Warbler was seen.  4 Black-winged Stilts are now on the ponds and a Wood Sandpiper flushed as I arrived.  Yellow Wagtails were also present in good numbers with the majority being Black-headed with a few Blue-headed and several supercilliaris hybrids.

On Tuesday afternoon, I visited the Cape Greco are in the hope of finding arriving migrants.  I wasn’t disappointed.   Arriving I immediately saw my first Eastern Black-eared Wheatear of the year perched on a dead snag.  As I progressed to the point, Northern and Isablelline Wheatears were present in good numbers with a supporting cast of Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit and a Hoopoe.  As I walked the coastal path another dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear was present with a Ruppel’s Warbler.  Above me 21 Cormorants made their was north eastwards.  At Cape Greco Picnic Site I was relieved to find 2 singing male Cyprus Warblers, on of which was joined by a male Ruppel’s.  I then thought I’d have a quick walk around the Cape Greco Pines area.  It wasn’t a quick walk around – the place was heaving.  4 Hoopoes were on the ground and I saw the red tail of a Redstart.  I eventually got good views of an early Common Redstart male – Ehrenberg’s usually being present at this time of year.  As I moved, another bird gave a flash of black and white.  I got on it and was amazed to find a Collared Flycatcher* – at least a month early.  I secured not bad photos under the circumstances and moved on.  Another flycatcher moved amongst the pines and this was a male Pied Flycatcher – even earlier.  I continued to walk around finding a female Pied Flycatcher and another male Collared.  With 2 also being reported from Akrotiri, there seems to have been a very unusual early movement of the species.  Coupled with the arrival of numerous Vagrant Emperors, associated with North African sand storms (which we’ve seen the tail end of this week), perhaps this explains the bird influx. 

I continued to the sea caves finding another 2 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, this time light throated forms with 2 Isabellines, 2 Northerns and a female Finsh’s.  With 3 Cyprus Wheatears on territory only a Desert missing.  I photographed 2 Ruppel’s Warblers* there were 5 in total and a couple of Lesser Whitethroats before seeing a singing male Blue Rock Thrush, attracting a female and a Black Redstart.  With migrants in mind, I moved on to Ayia Napa Sewage Works.  A Northern and Isabelline Wheatear greeted me.  I moved around the vegetation being attracted by a singing Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and as I walked flushed a Common Nightingale.  3 more Eastern Bonelli’s were in the area along with a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Willow Warblers and at least 6 Song Thrushes.  At Paralimni Lake on the way home, Yellow Wagtail numbers had reduced, Green Sandpipers numbered 7 with Little Ringed Plovers totalling 6.  Another couple of Lesser Whitethroats performed and a Sedge Warbler sang.  I flushed a Hoopoe whilst departing for home.

Wednesday was a silver lunch in the mess so I was unable to get out.  On Thursday, I took a day’s leave to visit the north in search of an Orchid.  I met with my contact and after a coffee and a chat I was photographing an Ochris anatolica (Anatolian Orchid)*.  Another that I’d missed last year and seemingly it only exists in the north of the island.  So down to 9 to see on the Cyprus list – a fairly good effort.  I stopped on the way back at an Alpine Swift site and 5 were present.  Up over the top via Kantara Castle and along the road on the way to Bogaz a Little Owl and a Cyprus Wheatear.  I stopped in the Famagusta area and at Gulsering, Dunlins, Little Stints and Ringed Plovers but not much else.  Fresh Water Lake South was very quiet with only 11 Cormorants, the Cattle Egrets a single Grey Heron and Little Egret with a female Marsh Harrier flying through.  In the evening AOS accom admin and stocking the beer fridges.

On Thursday, I visited the north to see an Orchid – Ochris anatolica (Anatolian Orchid) as it was another that I hadn’t seen last year.  This was successful and I saw several Red-rumped Swallows and 5 Alpine Swifts at a known breeding site.  On the way home through Bogaz a Little Owl was on a rock and a Cyprus Wheatear nearby.  On Friday Akhna Dam produced the now common waders such as Ruff, Wood and Green Sandpipers with a selection of Yellow Wagtail species.  2 Bluethroats were probably migrants and the Great Crested Grebe remained faithful to the site.  2 Stone Curlew that are unusual for the site flushed as I walked but there wasn’t much to get excited about.

On Saturday morning I visited the Cape Greco area as a recce for day 1 of the AOS tour tomorrow.  Plenty of migrants were about including Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Wryneck, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and a male Redstart all at the Cape Greco Pines area.  The remainder of the Cape held Eastern Orphean Warblers, Short-toed Larks, more Wrynecks and a male Cyprus Warbler sang and performed well.  Around by the Army Camp, Blue Rock Thrushes had increased in numbers.  At Ayia Napa Sewage Works,  more Eastern Orphean, Subalpines and Wrynecks with some commoner Wheatears and a Ruppel’s Warbler showing well.  I returned home took over the remaining accommodation and stocked the rooms with breakfasts.

At 1815 the vanguard of the AOS tour arrived and by 1945 the straggler “Tardy” Tony Kaduck was in country – The Magnificent 7 had formed!  We arrived at Ay Nik dropped the cases and enjoyed an excellent Greek grill with salads at the local taverna, at a very reasonable price before retiring to bed with a bag of free Grapefruits each and a belly full of KEO and protein.

Highlights of the Week:  Collared Flycatchers are always a joy to see.  But the early arrival in March hasn’t occurred since 1993, so a good find.

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 16 Mar 14

Laughing Dove at Limassol Port Canal 16 Mar

Visiting Akhna Dam for the first time in a while paid dividends with my first Montague’s Harrier – a female of this years campaign.  A female Marsh Harrier was also present along with a couple of Green Sandpipers and a Redshank.  4 Ruff flushed and drew my attention to a rocky area which contained 11 Little Ringed Plovers.  1 Cormorant and a reduced number of Grey Herons were present and a fairly dull looking Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler was actively fly catching from a nearby bush.  As I returned home via Vrysoulles, a Little Owl was in its favoured roost site.

On Tuesday I went to Cape Greco via Ayias Trias, at the fishing shelter a lone Sandwich Tern flew east however the Greater Sand Plovers and Grey Plovers appear to have departed.  I continued to Cape Greco where at the pines, 3 Hoopoes flushed and several Chiffchaffs called.  Further down onto the Cape, 4 Isabelline Wheatears, 1 male Northern* and a female Finsch’s were present.  There had obviously been an influx of Chiffchaffs with at least 6 being in one bush.  A male Blue Rock Thrush sang from below me and a couple of Song Thrushes called as they went.  Towards the picnic area, a Woodchat Shrike* obligingly posed for the camera but it wasn’t exactly heaving with migrants.  At the Cape Greco Tip area, a pair of Cyprus Wheatears appeared to be on territory and a Yellow-legged Gull did a fly-by.  I continued to Kermia Beach but again no Greater Sand Plovers to be seen and continued quickly on to Ayia Napa Sewage Works.  Again, numerous Chiffchaffs and the harsh “Zit” call revealed a feeding Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.  Several Spectacled Warblers sang in the open and a flighty male Ruppels Warbler gave itself away with its conspicuous tail feathers as it flew across in front of me and perched briefly.  A male Blue Rock Thrush and a Black Redstart were also present and a local gave me some wild artichoke to taste as she picked them – quite tasty in a Bear Grylls type way.

Pausing at Paralimin Lake as I returned home was not a wasted trip.  A Sedge Warbler sang, a Quail called and a Black Francolin also remained hidden as it called.  3 Temminck’s Stints were the highlight amongst Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed, Kentish and Ringed Plovers and 2 Snipe called as they passed overhead.

On Wednesday the duty visit to JUMBO gave me the opportunity to cut around the Oroklini area briefly stopping at the now famous JUMBO drain.  In the drain, 8 Little Ringed Plovers, 9 Temminck’s Stints, 2 pairs of Spur-winged Plovers, a Snipe, a Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, a flyover Little Egret and 18 Black-headed Gulls – so a good start.  The new hide at Oroklini, just in time for the AOS trip is excellent and in the right place for a change.  As I worked my way through the gulls 6 Slender-billeds were amongst the Black-heads.  Wildfowl was still well represented with c340 Shoveller, 6 Pintails, 5 Red-crested Pochards and several other commoner species.  11 Greater Flamingo remain at the site and as I scanned through amongst the Black-winged Stilts a Black-tailed Godwit.  As I watched I heard a Penduline Tit calling and when I scanned the reeds, a nice male was in full view.  As I watched the reed bed, a Reed Warbler was singing and was then chased by another and a male Bluethroat showed briefly.  At the south end of the marsh, 2 Water Pipits were still present, Redshanks flushed and a pair of Great Tits carried food.  I returned via Oroklini coast (Dolphin Rocks), where 4 Slender-billed Gulls were amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls with 3 Sandwich Terns also being present.  An adult Mediterranean Gull with partial breeding hood also stood on the rocks and a Hoopoe flew over the road as I departed.  I also shopped for victuals for the impending AOS tour and all is going to plan!

On Thursday, I took a day’s leave and visited Petounta Point and the Larnaca area.  Although not very impressive Petounta produced a couple of Isabelline Wheatears, a Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, 3 Green Sandpipers, a Bluethroat and a Snipe – with another Black Francolin, heard only.  I drove back via the coast road to the Pervolia area.  Along the road another Isabelline Wheatear, a Hoopoe and hundreds of hirundines and Swifts coming in off the sea, also reported by many at various locations across the island.  The throng included at least 25 Red-rumped Swallows, there seems to have been a large movement of this species today.  I stopped sharply overlooking a cereal field to confirm my first male Pallid Harrier of the year which is a fantastic bird.  At Pervolia, I heard another Black Francolin* which was determined to play hide and seek.  Being fed up with heard only records, I eventually won the battle, another Red-rumped Swallow passed overhead. At the Larnaca Airport Fields, I flushed 4 Whimbrels and at the sewage works which has had a mass exodus of wintering wildfowl, a breeding plumage Black-necked Grebe, male Pintail, a pair of Ferruginous Ducks and a lone male Garganey were the highlights.  Apparently c1000 Garganeys were sat off Akrotiri in Curium Bay during the day with Shovellers etc.  This is a known migration pattern in the spring, so my chap appears to have fancied a stop over and departed the group.

Shellduck and Greater Flamingos were present on the salt lake but Slender-billed Gulls, in pink plumage were represented in good numbers.  At the north end of the salt lake a couple of Water Pipits in breeding plumage were nice to see and a little further out, lots of Ringed and Kentish Plovers with 4 Ruff, a Redshank, 3 Dunlin and 2 Little Stints were flushed by a passing Common Buzzard.  A brief stop at Oroklini revealed all the same as the day before save for a newly arrived Spotted Redshank and I paused to photograph the Red-crested Pochards* that were on a pool close to the road.  Akhna Dam was productive with a Marsh Sandpiper*, accompanied by 5 Green Sandpipers, a Redshank and 7 Ruff.  A Great Crested Grebe was still present and with 10+ Water Pipits (obviously migrants), numbers were up.  The “zit, zit” revealed the presence of a very active Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and a couple of Chiffchaffs also fed.  3 Serin “jingled” away and flew revealing their yellow rumps and a female Marsh Harrier caused havoc with the Coots.

In the afternoon I headed over to the north to do some more AOS provision’s shopping – I hope you appreciate the loss of birding time?  I stopped at the Fresh Water Lake South and unbelievably the drake Goosander* had returned, a little closer, I fired off a few shots.  The Cattle Egret roost numbered c400 and 8 Glossy Ibises were now in situ.  A Great White Egret continued its stay and Little Ergets had increased to 3.  The Cormorant roost remains at a constant 25, a Reed Warbler sang and 2 Teal flushed.

After a heavy night on Friday, Saturday and heavy drinking stopped play.  On Sunday, I headed to Limassol to see 2 new Orchids, more of that later stopping at a few sites.  At Larnaca Sewage Works, the drake Garganey was still present and 2 late Wigeon were seen.  A year tick came with a lone Avocet and 4 Red-throated Pipits were heard and then flushed from the grass by the hide.  At Pervolia a pair of Calandra Larks displayed (a site recce for the AOS trip), for the month.  Checking Petounta Point revealed a late Lapwing – my first March record and at least 7 Black-headed Yellow Wagtails and a “supercilliaris” hybrid.  2 late Skylarks went out to sea a Hoopoe came in.  As I drove to Limassol a Common Buzzard and a Long-legged Buzzard were over the motorway at Moni and as I drove past Limassol Port hoping to see the lingering Pied Kingfisher, unsuccessfully I did see a Laughing Dove*.  This species is probably from as escaped population but now growing fast and extending in the Limassol area, it’s self supporting so by all accounts “tickable”.   The hide a Zakaki Marsh has been finished and is now accessible – very timely, as this will be an excellent site with the AOS group arrive.  On Lady’s Mile amongst the numerous Dunlins, Little Stints and Kentish Plovers, 3 unexpected Sanderling were present and a little further along a pathetic looking singleton Flamingo looked a bit lost, whilst 13 Grey Herons came in off the sea.  Akrotiri Gravel Pits didn’t hold much apart from a Hoopoe and Isabelline Wheatear and a Curium Beach 38 Cormorants flew in formation, purposefully north east.

I met my Orchid buddies at Anoygra and was seen photographing a White Naked Man Orchid* and Green-winged Orchid* and further down in the valley 2 new species in the form of Monkey* and Dense-flowered Orchid* – reducing the wants list to 10 on the Cyprus list.  A bye product was a calling and showing well Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.  On the way home I stopped at Oroklini Marsh where 12 Greater Flamingos were present along with the Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Red-crested Pochards (4 spanking males).  I returned home and went to the local village restaurant to book a table for the AOS’ last night Meze and to ensure that it was still up to standard.

Highlights of the Week:  A Laughing Dove was a good one to find if not a little plastic but it’s good to see migrants arriving in reasonable numbers.

A Look Forward:  1 week to go until “The Eagle Has Landed” – the AOS tour of Cyprus – I hope the weather improves!

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 9 Mar 14

Goosander at Fresh Water Lake South 9 Mar

Before I departed for the UK, I checked the assignments signal and guess what?  I’ve been extended for a year in post – I know , but someone has to do it!

As you know I’ve been in the UK on compassionate leave, but all is stable and I even had time to write the BLOG despite thinking I wouldn’t be able to.  In between bouts of “TAXIing” etc I managed to get out in the UK on most days.  So a bit of a busman’s holiday this week but seeing common British birds that don’t occur in Cyprus was a real joy from a Cyprus birder’s perspective.  When I’m in the UK I do a lot of birding in the North East so I’m no stranger to the sites.  In the morning, in the garden I got a nice image of a singing Dunnock*.

My first day out was Sunday and the highlight were 7 Purple Sandpipers on the rocks at Seaton Sluice, although lots of Oystercatchers* (a scarcity in Cyprus) was also good to see.  I photographed some Eiders* at Amble – well who wouldn’t whilst eating fish and chips.  I also “twitched” the long staying Siberian Lesser Whitethroat* at 9 Tynemouth Place, Tynemouth and after confirming the features – brown extending up the nape, indistinct face mask, long tail etc, managed a distant record shot.

On Tuesday, more of the same but I managed to photograph some Purple Sandpipers* at St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay along with Sanderlings and Redshanks.  The Fulmars gliding over the cliffs, now on nest sites was a bird I’d forgotten about (20 months is a long time in birding) and the fields were full of Curlews.  Rock Pipits were good to see again, noting the differences between the very common Water Pipits that occur on Cyprus.  At North Shields Fish Key, no good gulls but I photographed a Carrion Crow*.  Tuesday had arrived and I gave East Chevington another whirl.  What a result, with a Red-necked Grebe, 2 Slav Grebes, 3 Long-tailed Ducks and a Black-throated Diver* all being present.  Photographing Tree Sparrows* at Hauxley Nature Reserve was very pleasing and seeing Blue Tits was unusually exciting!

On Wednesday, I travelled to Cleveland and Saltholme RSPB.  No sign of the roosting Long-eared Owls or the Green-winged Teal but I added some other wildfowl to the list and a flock of 40 or so Twite was unexpected.  The highlight here for the locals was a Little Egret judging by the amount of shutters clicking.  A little further on, at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park – (Ah Cowpen Bewley reminds me of a manic “twitch” with Tim Cowley some years ago – Glaucaus-winged Gull), common woodland birds but striking male Yellowhammers are always good to see.  I returned via Rainton Meadows, Durham Wildlife Trust to find numerous Bullfinches* around the feeders.  The male was nearly picture of the week as a tribute to fantastic UK common birds but was surpassed at the last minute.  A couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen here – no Woodies on Cyprus unfortunately.  3 Redwings were unexpected and a male Sparrowhawk over the reserve was predictable.  Later at Big Waters Nature Reserve, I saw 3 Goosanders (a male and 2 females) and a singing Song Thrush – they wouldn’t dare do that in Cyprus, they wouldn’t last 2 minutes before being blown apart by a shotgun.

On Thursday, I returned to the East Chevington and Widdrington area.  I met a local birder here that I’ve known for sometime and provided me with some useful Int.  Anyway at Widdrington Moor Lake, a female Marsh Harrier and 3 Buzzards were hanging around and 7 Whooper Swans with another 13 flying in the distance was a good moment.  Along the tree line c2000 Pink Feet noisily flew by and in the fields by the pool a pair of Stock Doves, another pleasing bird to see and missing from my Cyprus list.  Following the Int I’d received I went to East Chevington and made my way to the beach and “Burn” mouth.  On the beach amongst the seaweed were 5 Snow Buntings* with 4 of them being ringed.  5 Ringed Plovers also displayed and Sanderlings ran along the tideline.  I moved along the coast to the Cresswell area and on the rocks, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits* were amongst the Oystercatchers and a single Grey Plover was a bonus bird.  At Beacon Hill, a flock of 80 or so Fieldfares and in the trees a Treecreeper and 2 Nuthatch (none of them on Cyprus either)

I departed Newcastle at 1000 on Friday, stopping in Bedfordshire to have lunch with Jim Porter which was very enjoyable and a welcome break.  Jim being unable to lay on a rarity or addition to my UK year list, I moved on down the A421 through Milton Keynes on route to Brize Norton.  In Ampthill, Beds, Debs spotted a pair of Red-legged Partridge incrementing the week list close to 100.  At Bicester, a Red Kite passed over the A4421 which was my last UK bird with the list for 6 days ending on 97 – not a bad effort despite everything.

On Sunday morning it was an early start trying to catch up with some of the early migrants that I’d missed.  It was fairly productive with the first bird I saw being a Hoopoe.  Cyprus Warblers, Sardinians and Spectacleds were all in good voice as was a male Blue Rock Thrush at Konnos Bay.  The winter visitors are still hanging on with Stonechats, Song Thrushes Black Redstarts and Robins all being present.  2 Red-rumped Swallows came in off the sea with a House Martin and 2 Sandwich Terns flew east.  I moved onto the Rubbish Tip and Sea Caves area with a feeling of anticipation.  On the open rocky area, a Cyprus Pied Wheatear, 2 Isabelline, 3 Northern and a female Finsch’s were present.  A couple more Hoopoes and 5 Tawny Pipits aided the recovery of missed species.  However, last week included Black-eared and Desert Wheatears, none were present and the Desert can be difficult if the initial influx is missed – we shall see.  At Ayia Napa Sewage Works 2 Common Sandpipers and c40 Little Grebes were on the lagoons.  As I moved up the slope, Chiffchaffs were singing and at the top a Northern and Isabelline Wheatear were in attendance.  As I walked the area a cracking male Eastern Subalpine Warbler revealed itself, typically briefly before disappearing once more into the scrub.  The Caspian Butterfly Orchid* is now in flower and Serapia levantinas are now out in good numbers although the Yellow-bee Orchids are all but over.  I walked to the eucalyptus stand and saw a male Cyprus Warbler and a Chiffchaff.  I then heard a call that I recognised and fly-catching were a pair of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers complete with bright yellow rumps, yellow panels in the wings and plain grey head – result.

Later at Paralimini Lake, a pair to Black-headed Yellow Wagtails (felldegg), 3 Green Sandpiers and a Greenshank along with 2 Little-ringed Plovers and 6 Kentish Plovers.  Badly in need of a haircut and shave, I went to the north and the barbers.  Stopping at Gulserin Pond first, 9 Little Stints and 28 Dunlin were present and at Clapsides Beach, 2 adult Armenian Gulls “hung in there” after the winter stopover.  After some “man love” at the barbers I went to the Fresh Water Lake South where 2 Great White Egrets were present along with the usual Cattle and Little Egrets.  A female Sparrowhawk passed overhead and I noticed a white bird on the water to my right through the gloomy rain.  As I watched, I thought this is familiar to earlier in the week.  I waited as the bird slept.  It awoke and sure enough, it was a drake Goosander*, a very rare bird in Cyprus, only the 7th record and a great find on my first day back in the saddle - it was 1610.  I reached around for my camera – no camera!  I drove like a maniac to get to Deb at the shop that I’d dropped her at.  2IC twitching recovered; we headed home, across the border, collected the camera, back across the border, arriving at the site at about 1630ish.  The bird was still present, although much more active.  I managed some record distant shots through the gloom to attach to the rarity report thus easing acceptance of the record.  After about 10 minutes of frenetic activity, with a stretch of the neck, a flap of the wings the 7th record for Cyprus was off over the trees heading in a northerly direction.  Twitching my own find was a first.  Note to self in a Top Gun type way – never ever leave you camera.

Highlights of the Week:  Great to see some common birds in the UK that don’t occur in Cyprus, but finding the 7th record of Goosander for Cyprus on my first day out since returning was a real bonus

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

Mark Easterbrook