(6) Blog Posts Made in April 2014
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 27 Apr 14
Ortolan Bunting at Fresh Water Lake South on 22 Apr
On Monday 21st, the Larnaca area produced little but a pair of Ferruginous Ducks were still on the sewage works lagoons, with a Shoveler and Shelduck. A 1st winter Caspian Gull lingered and a Great Spotted Cuckoo was a surprise. The Bar-tailed Godwit was still feeding at Oroklini Marsh and the Cormorant remained at Akhna Dam. An Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler was also present with a Wood and a couple of Lesser Whitethroats. A female Masked Shrike remained from last week and a Great Reed Warbler was heard.
We stayed overnight in the north so I visited Gulserin Pond on my return which is now completely dry with only 4 Spur-winged Plovers and a calling Black Francolin being present. At Fresh Water Lake South, I watched for about half an hour seeing a good selection of herons including Grey, Purple, Squacco, Night, Little (2 nests) and Cattle (c150 nests). 16 breeding plumaged Whiskered Terns were present – a good count and I then saw a Black and White bird at the other side of the lake. It flew and then perched with its back to me for about 2 minutes revealing itself as a Pied Kingfisher – a good bird for April as it’s usually a winter visitor and having missed the wintering birds at Zakaki and Finikari – a year tick. In the afternoon I went to Akhna Dam but still no Great Snipe!
On Wednesday afternoon, I visited Akhna Dam and all was fairly routine and quiet. The Cormorant continues its stay and my first Temminck’s Stint of the month was amongst 50 or so Little Stints. Wood Sandpipers continue to pass through in good numbers although Common Sandpipers appear to be reducing. In the tamarisks, passerines appear to be reducing with only a couple of Tree Pipits, Spotted Flycatchers, a Wood Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat. 4 Squacco Herons flew across the dam and resting on a pipe in the water were 5 breeding plumaged Whiskered Terns.
On the 24th I visited the Larnaca area. Although relatively quiet, a 1st winter Caspian Gull lingered on Spiro’s Beach and at the Sewage Works my first Little Terns of the year with 4 being present. A Spotted Redshank nearing breeding plumage was a bit more obvious with 3 Greenshanks nearby and on top of the divider between the 2 lagoons were 27 Collared Pratincoles – a good count. A Great Spotted Cuckoo was still present and a Tawny Pipit at Larnaca Airport Pool North was unexpected. 5 Curlew Sandpipers were amongst the throng of Ruffs and Little Stints on the smaller pool at the old airport terminal. On the way home Oroklini Marsh didn’t much new to offer but a male Garganey is always nice to see.
On Friday I travelled to the Limassol area where a Snipe was at Zakaki Marsh with a Squacco Heron but little else of interest. The terns reported from the salt lake the day before had all gone and only the Flamingos and a lone Greenshank remained. 6 European Bee-eaters came in off the sea feeding actively and I saw my first Linnets and Sardinian Warbler of the month with a migrant Willow Warbler. Bishop’s Pool had 3 Ferruginous Ducks present with 9 Night Herons and a single Squacco. The Akrotiri Gravel Pits area produced 4 Hoopoes but little else until Phassouri Reed Beds providing views of a Purple Heron. So a fairly disappointing visit to the Limassol area. I drove to Kensington Cliffs before departing for the east and at least 7 fantastic Eleonora’s Falcons were hunting and displaying around the cliffs as a couple of Alpine Swifts and a few “real” Rock Doves passed by. Tunnel Beach cliffs allowed good views of a Peregrine but little else with no Vultures being present. I stopped at Finikaria on the way home and found a Little Bittern and a Night Heron but no Crakes. On the buoys at Spiro’s Beach, a Shag was roosting and in the Airport Fields a female Red-footed Falcon rested which was my first of the year. At Akhna Dam, a breeding plumage Spotted Redshank looked impressive and as I walked the scrub, a Willow Warbler, Wood Warbler, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats fled quickly followed by a fleeting glimpse of a male Barred Warbler.
Saturday at the Cape Greco area brought a Red-rumped Swallow, a Roller and a Greenfinch feeding young but nothing notable. However, Cape Greco Pines didn’t fail to deliver with a male Pied Flycatcher, female Collared Flycather (getting late in the season), several Blackcaps and Spotted Flycatchers and a Thrush Nightingale darting into a bush, never to be seen again. Up at Ayia Napa Sewage Works I passed a male Red-backed Shrike, only my second of the spring and a male and female Redstart flitted around the fence line. Several Turtle Doves flushed and then a familiar sound of a singing male Black-headed Bunting, my first of the year which I eventually tracked down at the top of a Eucalyptus tree. On the way home a pair of male Black Francolins fed in the open on the football pitches.
The following day, Akhna Dam held 2 Temminck’s Stints and 3 Curlew Sandpipers with a Greenshank and the breeding plumaged Spotted Redshank. A Great Reed Warbler sang loudly and was eventually seen with Wood, Reed, Eastern Olivaceous and Cetti’s Warblers also being seen, a male Redstart revealed itself before I departed. A bit of shopping in the north allowed a visit to the Fresh Water Lake South where 4 Squaccos, a Purple and 2 Night Herons were eclipsed by the 500 or so Cattle Egrets and 8 Little Egrets. 14 European Beeaters flew over calling and 12 Glossy Ibises were also in the Cattle Egret colony. An evening visit to Akhna seen things moving on with a Cuckoo and female Golden Oriole making appearances. As I returned home a Little Owl remained faithful to its cliff face in Vrysoulles and a Roller was in the Orange grove. As I cooked a BBQ 30 or so European Beeaters rested briefly in the woods at the back of the house. Eating belly pork, having a KEO and listening to Beeeaters – I was glad to be alive!
Highlights of the Week: Collared Pratincoles are cracking birds to encounter but a Pied Kingfisher stole the show, closely followed by an Icterine Warbler, with a fleeting glimpse of a Barred Warbler not quite cutting it.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 20 Apr 14
Collared Pratincole at Akhna Dam on 16 Apr
A new week and a new BLOG to fill. After a long day on Monday, I managed to get to Akhna Dam for a couple of hours. 51 Glossy Ibises dropped in at dusk and prior to that a Squacco Heron flew east across the dam. A couple of Snipe hid in the reeds and whilst I was scanning through the Wood Sandpipers and Ruffs, I came across a bobbing Jack Snipe which was a good bird for the month. The lone Cormorant is still present and a Turtle Dove flushed as a Greenshank looked on. A few Yellow Wagtails were present of the Black, Blue and melanogrisea variety but little else was present so I returned home earlier than expected which caught Deb by surprise.
Tuesday was a fairly low-key day. My intention was to visit Cape Greco and then return via Paralimni for the shopping. Unfortunately, rained curtailed the activities. Cape Greco Pines was its usual productive self with 3 Wood Warblers, 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers a Wryneck and 3 Common Redstarts and on the Cape, fairly quiet with 2 Woodchat Shrikes and a male Blackcap. And that was that for the day as the rain came down.
On Wednesday Akhna Dam beckoned. It’s prime time for a Great Snipe but not on this occasion. However, the area was heaving with passerines including 7 Collared Flycatchers (5 Males), 3 Wood Warblers, 2 Common Redstarts, 7 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, 4 Spotted Flycatchers and 11 Whinchats at least. Waders were well represented with the highlight being the first Collared Pratincole* of the year – one of my favourites amongst the wader families. Yellow Wagtail variants were also evident with Dombrowskii, Syke’s (Beema), Feldegg and Flava being present, with a couple of Tree Pipits for good measure. As I walked around the dam a raptor was being mobbed by crows as it made its way north, heavily moulting and looking a bit bedraggled, the Osprey was not looking in the happiest of spirits. A Black Francolin called and c110 Glossy Ibises headed NE at 1730 in “V” formation. Eastern Olivaceous Warblers are now singing widely around the dam and the last birds of the day were a female Pied Flycatcher, a fleeting Cetti’s Warbler and a pair of Northern Wheatears.
I visited Akhna again on Thursday and there were many waders around but none that were unusual. 3 Golden Orioles and 2 singing Great Reed Warblers were a bonus. As I walked the tamerisks, male Ruppell’s Warbler was a surprise and a Skyk’s Wagtail continued its stay. I eventually dug out a Jack Snipe and then 24 Collared Pratincoles descended, stopped for a drink and were on their way north again. At Paralimni Lake, a pair of Stone Curlews flushed and a lone Isabelline Wheatear sunned itself.
On the 19th still searching for a Great Snipe at Akhna Dam without luck I did see 10 Glossy Ibises and a lone adult Night Heron*. A male Shoveler continued its stay and it was joined by a Garganey. As I walked around the southern arm – now completely dry, it was obvious that there had been a considerable fall off warblers. At least 7 Wood Warblers were present with 2 Eastern Bonelli’s, 8 Lesser Whitethroats, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Great Reed Warblers and eventually, briefly, a fine Icterine Warbler, complete with raised crest, lemon wash and obvious orangey bill. 2 Ruppell’s Warblers and a male Eastern Subalpine Warbler added to the mayhem and 6 European Beeaters called as they passed overhead. 2 Rollers were at a possible nest site and 26 Grey Herons were above me as a Cuckoo and Woodchat Shrike flushed. It was quite a spectacle with so many birds in such a small area. At Oroklini, Greater Flamingos now number 23, with 28 Glossy Ibises and 26 Night Herons circling at the coast. 13 Red-crested Pochards were present and another Great Reed Warbler. JUMBO Drain was a little quiet but a Sedge Warbler was good to see. I returned via Akhna Dam where many of the morning’s birds had moved on but a Hobby flew through as I was there and a female Marsh Harrier moved slowly north.
On the 20th in the Cape Greco area I flushed a Stone Curlew from the pines area and several Woodchat Shrikes were obvious. A male Cyprus Warbler showed well from the pines and a male Ortolan Bunting flew from the ground. In the Cape Area a Golden Oriole* sang and was then seen at close range, although a bit obscured. 3 Greater Short-toed Larks called as they passed overhead and a late Chiffchaff was feeding actively as a Red-rumped Swallow fed close to the cliffs. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, at least 3 Woodchat Shrikes and an Isabelline Wheatear were present and a female Sparrowhawk spiralled above me. A couple of European Beeaters fed above me as they called and as I was leaving the site I saw my first Red-backed Shrike of the spring – a female. A Pallid Harrier – ringtail and 2 Squacco Herons were the highlight as Paralimni Lake before at Akhna Dam, a Whitethroat and female Masked Shrike were present before I returned home for breakfast.
Highlights of the Week: Collared Pratincoles are cracking birds to encounter but an Icterine Warbler stole the show.
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The sun has been shining on the Plain these last 2 weeks. Blackcaps have arrived in force and there are numerous Chiffchaffs. Corn Buntings are found around the edges of the area and Yellowhammers are across the whole area. I was with the RSPB staff looking at Stone Curlew plots and around Imber Clump we found quite a few Wheatears. There are plenty of Buzzards and Kestrels around plus there was a Sparrowhawk in the grass last Friday. Stonechats are singing as are Skylarks. Birds seem to come alive this time of year as there are plenty of Goldfinches, Linnets, Chaffinches, Wrens and tits. I can still hear Goldcrests in the woods and there are plenty of corvids about. Ravens are nesting around the area and near Knook Camp the nest is above a Kestrel Box. Pairs of Red-legged Partridges are everywhere. Obviously the shoot did not do a very good job. Not only are the birds getting into Spring but puddles of water can be found with adult Fairy Shrimps and some are full of tiddlers. Some puddles even have Palmate Newts breeding in them. Mammals are doing well and as I was watching a Reed Bunting, 3 Fox Cubs were watching me. Tawny Owls are doing well as the vole population has fought back from the previous 2 winters; the boxes are filling up. I even took a couple of days off to go and see the Two-barred Crossbill in Norfolk though the Baikal Teal did not show whilst I stood on a windswept Fen Bank. Today I checked out some Stone Curlew sites with 3 birds and 4 lapwings on 2 sites. There are 2 Peregrine nests still active and I am waiting for Whitethroat, Nightingale and Whinchat to arrive. I did manage some ringing which was biased to Greenfinch in the valley and Blackcap on the Plain. It is Easter Weekend so Imber Village will be packed but the rest of the area will be open with no troops; more surveys.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 13 Apr 14
Syke’s Wagtail at Akhna Dam on 12 Apr
A new week and a visit to Akhna Dam beckoned. Waders were present in good numbers with 6 Common Snipe, so surely only a matter of days before a Great Snipe appears. Ruffs, Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers and Little Stints were all present along with a lone lingering Cormorant and drake Ferruginous Duck. I was rewarded with the first Whiskered Tern of the year that was in breeding plumage and 2 Yellow Wagtails of the Dombrowskii* (Romanian Wagtail) hybrid form. 3 Meadow Pipits were late and 6 Little Egrets was a good count with 2 Purple Herons and 7 Grey Herons.
Tuesday and rain stopped play. A very heavy thunderstorm lasting about 5 hours drenched the area so I decided to stay in, catch up on some sleep and go for an Indian in the evening – so still an enjoyable day! On Wednesday, with news from the wider island of migrant breeders arriving, I visited the Cape Greco area. At the pines good numbers of migrants were present with a Wryneck*, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 4 Collared Flycatchers (3 Males & a Female), 3 Common Redstarts (2 Males) and an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler which are becoming a bit thin on the ground. I moved onto the Cape area and more migrants, with Cretzchmars’ Ortolan and Corn Buntings with a Woodchat Shrike and numerous Whinchats nearby. A pristine Eastern Black-eared Wheatear is getting late and a male Cyprus Warbler continued to sing. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, I saw my first Eastern Olivaceous Warbler of the year, with a Wood Warbler, Eastern Bonelli’s, Willow and Common Redstart. As I drove home via the Ayia Napa Football Pitches several more Whinchats were obvious and 2 Turtle Doves flushed. I paused at Paralimni Lake driving across it – still no joy with a Caspian Plover! Around the other side by Sotira Pond, 2 Glossy Ibises continued their stay as did 3 Black-winged Stilts. Suddenly 15 Purple Herons* lifted off from the reeds and continued their migration and my first roller of the year sat on wires with a Cuckoo*.
On Thursday, I had to visit Troodos and saw most of the mountain specialities with the exception of Crossbill and Wren. As the AOS knows, these are the 2 most difficult to catch up with. Red-rumped Swallows were seen on the ascent as were Serins and singing Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. At Larnaca Airport Pools North, another Red-necked Phalarope was present with numerous Ruffs, Wood and Common Sandpipers with a small group of Dunlins also being present. The Black-tailed Godwit continued its stay at Oroklini, Flamingos numbered 30, Red-crested Pochards 15 and Little Egrets have increased to 15. 4 Garganeys were present (3 Drakes and a Duck) and Black-winged Stilts remained constant at about 40. Later at Akhna Dam, the first Curlew Sandpiper of the year feeding with a group of 50 or so Ruffs was overlooked by the Cormorant which appears to have forgotten to migrate and a drake Garganey. At the dam wall end of the site, a Wood Warbler was a good find with 3 Collared Flycatchers, another couple of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, a Cetti’s, 2 Sedge and a couple of Reeds. Eventually, I connected with my first Common Whitethroat of the year, progressing the year list onto 218. As I left, a Whinchat showed and a “supercilliaris” Wagtail was perched in a tamarisk.
With wine tasting in the Mess on Friday afternoon with a curry to follow, no birding took place and if events run true to form, I am not hopeful of an early start tomorrow. As predicted, I got to Akhna Dam at about 1500 after suffering all day. In any event, it was a good decision. As I worked my way through a flock of Yellow Wagtails including, Black-headed, Blue-headed, I found a “Dombrowskii” hybrid and then a couple of Syke’s (beema) Wagtails*. A late Water Pipit was also present with a Purple Heron flushing from the reeds. Whinchats totalled 3 and a male Redstart added a flash of colour. A lone Glossy Ibis fed amongst the Ruffs but other than the Yellow Wagtails it was routine business.
On Sunday as I drove to the market, a female Montague’s Harrier was over the fields at Akhna Dam. I dropped Debs at the market and did a quick round at Oroklini Marsh. The Black-tailed Godwit was still present with 2 drake Garganeys. Flamingos totalled 38, 3 Greenshanks were noisy and my first Kingfisher of the month flushed from a small “skanky” pool. Picking Deb up I moved to the Larnaca area where 2 drake Ferruginous Ducks were still on the sewage works lagoons along with 2 late staying Shelducks. Nothing much doing, the airport fields had a Woodchat Shrike keeping watch from the fence and at Pervolia the regular “drive by” Calandras did the business. Kivisili Fields were disappointing with only 1 female Pallid Harrier being present, so I drove past Larnaca Airport looking in at the pools. The Phalarope was no longer present amongst the numerous Ruffs but the 9 Dunlins hung on. For a change JUMBO Drain let me down with only a Snipe and Common Sandpiper being notable. In the afternoon I visited the Cape Greco Pines area where the trees were alive with black and white flycatchers. At least 3 Collareds, 2 males and a female, 3 Pieds, 2 females and a male and 2 Semi-Collareds – one of each. Added to this my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, a couple of Whinchats, 3 Common Redstarts, a Hoopoe, several Tree Pipits and a Wryneck. I retuned home via Paralimni Lake finding a small flock of Greater Short-toed Larks and along the water filled bund line, a spanking Wood Warbler. Wheatears are coming towards the end of their passage with only 1 Northern being present. I arrived home, cooked a BBQ and had a surprise as a European Nightjar flew through the garden at dusk, thus ending a productive week.
Highlights of the Week: Semi-Collared Flycatchers and grilling my way through Yellow Wagtail flocks to eventually find a Syke’s.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 6 Apr 14
Red-necked Phalarope at Larnaca Airport Pool North on 3 Apr
Alone again treading a lonely path. With the AOS tour departed, on Monday, the last day of the month, I decided to get back in the saddle and visit Paralimni Lake. There wasn’t much about but I was greeted by a fly-through male Pallid Harrier. Many Lesser Whitethroats were present with an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler. On the quickly reducing flash, a Redshank, Ruff, Wood Sand, 3 Little Stints and 4 Little Ringed Plovers. As I searched the dried out lake for a possible Caspian Plover, there wasn’t one, I did find a perched male Peregrine. I flushed a Purple Heron and a Kingfisher and that was the last bird of the month. My highest total ever, with 170 for a month, thanks to thrashing about with the AOS for a week, which delivered some great and unexpected birds.
The first of the month and a JUMBO outing – why not? Stopping at Dolphin Rocks, an adult Baltic Gull loafed with a 1st winter Caspian and Yellow-legged. 7 Black-headed Gulls remained and 3 migrant Little Egrets perched on the rocks. After dropping Deb, I visited the now famous JUMBO drain. No Little Crake this time but 3 Citrine Wagtails – 2 males and a female, a Common Sandpiper and a few other common birds. Onward to Oroklini Marsh where the Spotted Redshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Marsh Sandpiper remained whilst the Red-crested Pochards looked resplendent and a lone Shelduck was amongst the increased 15 Greater Flamingos. Home via Akhna Dam, a flyby Cuckoo, another 2 Citrine Wagtails and the Cormorant remains, providing a good “tick” for April – It’s all about “The List”. A Marsh Harrier drifted lazily by and 9 Ruffs were on the ponds.
On Wednesday afternoon I visited the Cape Greco area. Stopping first at the small pine plantation, on the left before you enter the cape proper, migrants were everywhere. As is the norm for this time of the year and following a bird tour, the next, different tranche of migrants come through. A couple of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers were present as they continue to pass in reasonable numbers and they were joined by my first busy Wood Warbler of the year. As I walked around, I connected with 3 Common Redstarts*, a male Collared Flycatcher, and 2 Pied Flycatchers- a male and female. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a Semi-collared. Continuing to walk a Cuckoo flushed, followed by the bird of the day…… a Long-eared Owl, which was consequently harassed by Corvids. The Cape held Isabelline, Northern and Cyprus* Wheatears but nothing rarer; I’d hoped that the Hooded Wheatear might still have been about, but I should’ve known better. At Cape Greco Picnic Site the area was alive with the song of Nightingales*, as 2 chased each other, 1 sat up and sang allowing me to get an unlikely, reasonable shot of this usually skulking migrant. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, I met Joe and John the 2 Irish birders who put me onto another male Collared Flycatcher*, there ended up being 2 present with another 2 Wood Warblers, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler – FULL HOUSE! A couple of Red-rumped Swallows drifted overhead and as we were leaving a male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear posed atop a bush, a male Pallid Harrier hawked the scrub and a Cuckoo flew away from it. Finally, at Paralimni Lake, a Glossy Ibis, 15 Kentish Plover and a flyover, calling Red-throated Pipit – but once again no lurking Caspian Plover – the search continues……..
With the month list off to a flyer, I decided on a change of tack and dropping Deb into Larnaca for a change, I visited the local sites on Thursday afternoon. Joe and John (the visiting Irish birders) had tipped me off regarding a Red-necked Phalarope in the Larnaca area so I thought I’d give it a whirl. On the small pool, opposite the main salt lake and to the left of the VIP terminal, there it was, a Red-necked Phalarope*, along with c80 Ruffs, a Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Black-winged Stilts and 2 Kentish Plover – a good year “tick”. The sewage works retained its 3 Ferruginous Ducks, a couple of Shovelers, and about 80 Black-winged Stilts but little else. Spriro’s Pool had a Northern Wheatear on it and offshore a Baltic Gull migrated. Picking Debs up laden down with “Kippling Bags” – whatever they are, I drove home and as I passed Akhna Dam a cracking male Pallid Harrier flew over the road.
Cape Greco again on Friday afternoon, with Deb for a Cyprus Sandwich – excellent. As it was being cooked I walked around the Pines. Nightingales* were out in force and I saw my first Wood Warbler of the year with an Eastern Bonelli’s for good measure. A pair of Redstarts were present with good numbers of Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats. I flushed a Tawny, Tree Pipit and Hoopoe and proceeded to the Picnic Area. A pair of Cyprus Warblers sang, a couple of Cyprus Wheatears with Northerns, but it was pretty quiet. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works along the fence line, more Chiffchaffs, a couple of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers and another Nightingale. A Masked Shrike was present as I left the area and at Vrysoulles on the way home a Little Owl remained faithful to its roost.
On Saturday morning I drove across Paralimni Lake in the hope of finding a Caspian Plover – without luck, there was however, and Isabelline and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear present. Later at Cape Greco Pines, it was very quiet and this was the case generally in the whole area. At the Picnic Site I caught a glimpse of a male Pallid Harrier as it made its way north. Whilst doing so, in my bins in the distance I saw 2 White Storks, very high gliding north-west. I paused to photograph an Eastern Orphean Warbler* which, unusually had perched on top of a bush for a while. On route to Ayia Napa Sewage Works I stopped to photograph a Cuckoo* perched on a telegraph wire and continued to the sewage works where a couple of Woodchat Shirkes, a Masked Shrike, another Cuckoo, Eastern Orphean Warbler and a male Blue Rock Thrush were the highlights. Onward to Akhna Dam where a couple of Cormorants remained and I photographed a female Eastern Black-eared Wheatear* amongst the Yellow Wagtails. Of the waders 2 Marsh Sandpipers with 3 Wood Sandpipers, 3 Little Ringed Plovers and 4 Snipe was all that could be found. In the afternoon, over to the barbers in the north for the regular love-in and a brief stop at the Fresh Water Lake South, brought 23 Little Egrets, 4 Grey Herons and 2 Glossy Ibises. As I attended my “enforced fun” belated Birthday Party, c25 Glossy Ibises passed over the house in “V” formation heading north east.
On Sunday, I visited Petounta Point and it was very quiet save for a couple of Nightingales and a male Eastern Black Eared Wheatear. I photographed some Black-headed* and Blue-headed Wagtails* however. Before reaching Petounta I’d stopped at Larnaca Sewage Works where the usual Black Francolins were seen and waders consisted of Marsh, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers with Redshanks and Greenshanks also appearing. Black-winged Stilts look set to breed with c80 being present. Slender-billed Gulls were outnumbered by Black-heads but there wasn’t that much to talk about. At Pervolia, I engaged in the usual “drive-by” Calandra Lark sightings with 1 in display flight and a female Marsh Harrier was being mobbed by Crows. The small pond adjacent to the airport had good numbers of waders present again but the Red-necked Phalarope had moved on. JUMBO drain was a bit of a disappointment for a change and Oroklini Marsh had 5 pairs of Red-crested Pochards and a lone male present with 35 Greater Flamingos and a single Black-tailed Godwit. Having had news of Lesser Kestrels moving through I finished the day at Paralimni Lake which is usually a good place for the passage of the species. I arrived and saw 7 Kestrels feeding actively and most were females, however I got a cracking male in the scope complete with blue wing panels in the median coverts and an elongated black centre tail feather – so a good year tick. I moved along the raised banks and found a Wood Warbler and Eastern Bonell’s Warbler but I also managed to see the first Little Bittern of the year as a Sedge Warbler fed actively nearby. So ended the week, which despite me singing “I’m so Ronrey, in a Team America type style, went quite well.
Highlights of the Week: A Long-eared Owl at Cape Greco Pines is always a good find and the arrival of spanking Wood Warblers is always a good find. An earlyish Red-necked Phalarope was a bonus, it’s always good to get that one under your belt and a male Lesser Kestrel is always good to see
The Army Ornithological Society Tour of Cyprus 22 – 30 March 2014
This Week’s Birding Highlights will take the form of the Trip Report of the Army Ornithological Society’s tour of Cyprus from 22 – 30 March.
The report will adhere to the following format:
• Daily Itineraries with Birding Highlights
• Consolidated Species Trip List
The Group – Akhna Dam 30 Mar 14
(L-R) Roger Dickey, Andrew Bray, Tony Kaduck, Mike Williams, Mark Easterbrook (Leader), Richard Seargent, Dave Pentelow & Andy Harrison
Courtesy of Roger Dickey
It started with an arrival which was reminiscent of the retreat from Moscow and ended with a finale that nobody could have predicted. In between there were great views of birds, some disappointing dips, the highs and lows of birding but most of all great company, a common purpose and a very fulfilling and enjoyable tour. Covering 1048 miles during the tour, which is a lot in Cyprus, all of the main habitats and sites were included with the exception of the Polis and Lachi areas which would have required a 10 day tour to do the areas justice.
• Roger Dickey – For his part in the planning and advice given during the recce of Feb 13.
• Colin Richardson – For his advice/suggestions for birding success, the Cyprus Scops Owl and his company during the tour.
• Debs Easterbrook – OC Rear Party – for dealing with necessary admin to ensure the tour ran smoothly in the group’s absence.
• The “Crew” – For their commitment, stamina and light hearted view of life, despite the lack of coffee.
Daily Itineraries with Birding Highlights
Day 1 – Saturday 22
No birding took place today as the 3 different flights from the UK arrived in the late evening. After a slightly disjointed arrival process the team were formed and on route to Ayios Nikolaos (Ay Nik) for 2 nights and the first phase of the tour. After arriving in the accommodation, bags were dropped and we all ate at the local grill restaurant where much pork, sheftalia and chicken was eaten, all washed down with several KEOs. A good night’s sleep on a full belly and ready for the inaugural trip to Cape Greco in the morning.
Day 2 – Sunday 23
Cape Greco can be a bit hit and miss as with any migrant hotspot, but today it was an outstanding intro to Cypriot birding. Checking the Cape Greco Pines area the first bird that was heard and seen was an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and several Hoopoes flushed from the ground – a good start. As we walked the area it became clear that there’d been a large influx. Wrynecks were seen well with Tree Pipits, Eastern Orphean Warblers and a female Pied Flycatcher as back up. The ploughed fields in at the Cape gave opportunities to get fantastic views of Cretzschmar’s Buntings, Water Pipits, Tawny Pipits, Corn Buntings, Isabelline, Northern and of course the endemic Cyprus Wheatear. We continued to walk under the Army Camp cliffs where 2 late Black Redstarts were joined by a Common Redstart, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and a male Siberian Stonechat. Blue Rock Thrushes, Ruppell’s Warblers and Spectacled Warblers were everywhere and we soon discovered a single female Ortolan Bunting. As the group watched a couple of Eastern Subalpine Warblers another sylvia came into view and showed very well giving everyone perfect views of a male Cyprus Warbler – pressure off, both endemics in the bag on the first morning.
We continued towards the sea caves from the Army Camp and as we rounded a corner I heard what I thought was a Coal Tit. I saw it in the bins and it was darker and longer than the endemic race that do not leave Troodos. I called Richard over and said “What’s this”? He nonchalantly replied “A Coal Tit” – obviously thinking I’d lost it. The group viewed the bird and concurred it was a Coal Tit – Eurasian Coal Tit! The first record for Cyprus. With other birds on their minds, it took me a while to ensure they realised the importance of the find which would require a description – unfortunately the bird was very flighty and as we attempted to get closer for a photo – it did one.
We drove to Ayia Napa Football Pitches on a speculative search and as we drove up I pointed out a target bird on the fence – a stonking male Masked Shrike which was admired by all. Continuing to the famous Ayia Napa Sewage Works we walked around and Tony spotted a black and grey Shrike which proved to be a very early Lesser Grey Shrike. We eventually tracked down and secured great views of a male dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, with more of the same migrants we’d seen earlier. A Common Sandpiper was on the lagoons and as we left I broke hard to allow the group to see and photograph a male Siberian Stonechat*. We ate our packed lunch at Ayia Thekla but sadly no wintering Greater Sand Plovers remained.
Siberian Stonechat – Ayia Napa Sewage Works
After lunch we continued to Paralimni Lake and Sotira Pond where a Yellow Wagtail fest ensued. As we grilled them we saw Black-headed (feldegg - the majority), Blue-headed (flava), a single Grey-headed (thunbergi) and many hybrid supercilliaris forms. Suddenly, the birds took flight and as we watched a ringtail Pallid Harrier complete with neck collar was the cause. The Wagtails settled and Dave Pentelow called a superb male Citrine Wagtail – it just kept getting better! Eventually, Tony Kaduck found a supercilliaris with a yellow supercillium making it a xanthrophis hybrid – a rare form but sadly it was only seen by one other. Spanish Sparrows and Corn Buntings were numerous and the Spur-winged Plovers gained the usual attention afforded to them when they’re first seen. It was time to move onto Akhna Dam to finish off the day. Although there wasn’t much here we added Bluethroats, Ruffs and a lone late wintering sinensis Cormorant. Sadly, here a Starling was suppressed and the culprit shall be berated for ever more – it was the only one of the tour and would have added to the group total. I stopped in the local village for the final bird of the day - a Little Owl.
Day 3 – Monday 24
The Larnaca area beckoned and with 83 species in the bag on day one it was going to be a tough act to follow. We paused at Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini Coast initially and our luck was in with 5 Sandwich Terns and 2 Baltic Gulls being on the rocks amongst the reducing Black-headed Gulls – the list was moving. It’s all about the list you know? We drove the short distance to Oroklini Marsh and the new hide and started to find new birds immediately with 4 Black-tailed Godwits, numerous Black-winged Stilts some over wintering wildfowl including Pintails, Shovelers, Teals with the stars being breeding Red-crested Pochards that were viewed by all. 12 Greater Flamingo remained and a Snipe crept from the undergrowth. No time to waste, to the Larnaca Sewage Works and Airport Fields area. As is the norm, many Black Francolins could be heard and we flushed 5 as the mini-bus passed but views were not good enough for such a target bird. At the sewage works the only Armenian Gull of the trip – an adult, along with 1st winter Caspians, a single Slender-billed and a surprise 1st winter Little Gull. 3 drake Ferruginous Ducks were a bonus here and eventually we located a calling Black Francolin which was seen well by all – “tick” another target in the bag.
We stopped at Pervolia on the way to Petounta Point for what was described as a “drive-by” Calandra Lark. I had previously located a cereal field where 2 birds had been displaying. As we drove up, sure enough I could here them. We stopped the crew alighted and I pointed out the large Larks with dark underwings, white trailing edges and a bubbling liquid song flight to the assembled audience. All took in the relevant features and were content – how is that “drive-by”, I call it a judicious use of valuable time and good planning!
At Petounta, although relatively quiet, in the marsh we saw our first Wood Sandpipers, heard a Water Rail, Great Reed Warbler and Lapwing and secured more great views of a fine Citrine Wagtail*. On the upper rocky areas we grilled Isabelline, Northern and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears in the hope of a Desert Wheatear – but no joy. Back at the marsh, more Yellow Wagtails but nothing new and close views of a flock of Greater Short-toed Larks and a couple of Red-throated Pipits. Transiting back through Larnaca to the next site we stopped at Larnaca Airport Pools North where we saw 4 Greenshanks, 149 Greater Flamingos (yes, sadly I counted them), and circa 20 Slender-billed Gulls with a few more on the Salt Lake and our first Great Tit next to the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque. I offered a visit, but the uncultured “A” Team were more interested in birds – can you believe that?
Citrine Wagtail – Petounta Point 24 Mar 14
We arrived at the north side of the Salt Lake and as we walked, flushed a Green Sandpiper. We walked across the now dry salt lake to view a remaining puddle which held some waders. Advancing further to reduce the considerable heat haze, we scoped the waders where Dunlins and Ringed Plovers – the only ones of the trip where in the majority. As we scoped, Ruffs and Little Stints became apparent. Then Tony “chipped in again”, as he found 2 Sanderlings which were most unexpected for the trip but a great addition to “The List”.
We then drove to one of my favourite self-found sites which always turns up something – Larnaca JUMBO drain. Sure enough and running true to form a Temminck’s Stint and a few Little Ringed Plovers with several Common Snipes. A sharp “shrrreeeep” call alerted me to another male Citrine Wagtail – I’ve never seen so many in a spring. Then Richard found one of the birds of the tour – a female Little Crake bathing and feeding in the open next to the smallest of reed beds – I LOVE JUMBO DRAIN!!!!
Little Crake – Larnaca JUMBO Drain 24 Mar 14 Courtesy of Roger Dickey
We continued to Oroklini Marsh but this time the southern end, as its great Wader habitat and I had a bird in mind. In a MR Ben (for those that remember him) type way, as if by magic the shopkeeper appeared – no sorry the Marsh Sandpiper appeared with 5 Ruff and another was seen later – RESULT and the only ones of the trip. After many hints about coffee related colours and birds etc, I relented and stopped at the Dolphin Rocks café for an afternoon coffee break – I never thought it would come to this, but such was the relentless moaning and winging (mainly from our colonial and chairborne contingent, who were suffering withdrawal symptoms) that I relented. After a short stop we moved to the last site of the day Akhna Dam. We immediately scored with a migrating flock of Night Herons about to roost for the night. Another Greenshank, several Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper nearly finished the day but around the corner in a small pond, some Little Stints and another male Citrine Wagtail – amazing numbers. With the totals now in excess on 100 after 2 days, things could not have gone better. A curry and chilli night around my house, coordinated by OC Rear Party went well and was naturally all washed down with several KEOs – there’s a pattern forming.
Day 4 – Tuesday 25
Phase 2 of the plan commenced with a road trip to Troodos for an overnight stay stopping at Akrotiri, Episkopi and the Dhiarizos River Valley on the way. The best laid plans were interrupted by an enforced early start and late departure due to the news of a Caspian Plover at Paralimini Lake. So we attempted to twitch it. A very early bird (usually seen in April), it would have been a great addition and lifer for most on the trip. Unfortunately despite extensive searching and gnashing of teeth the bird had departed. We did add the first Purple Heron of the trip though and heard a couple of Quails. We had an uneventful journey to Limassol and arrived at the Port Canal in an attempt to see the White-breasted Kingfisher which was unsuccessful and indeed this bird along with Bimaculated Lark consumed valuable time on the tour and became our nemesis. We did however see Common Kingfisher, Sedge Warbler and the Laughing Dove that I’d seen a couple of weeks previously remained faithful to its telegraph wire. On the way to the new Zakaki Marsh hide 4 Common Buzzards (the first for the trip) circled above us and at Zakaki were joined by a Marsh Harrier. Zakaki was fairly quiet but a Little Egret, Kingfisher and amazingly another Citrine Wagtail broke the boredom.
Driving along Lady’s Mile was fairly dull so we parked about a mile from Akrotiri Salt Lake, as I didn’t want to suffer the indignity of getting bogged in and walked to the waters edge. Circa 30 Shelducks were present with about 250 Greater Flamingos and careful scanning revealed the only Great White Egrets of the week amongst 129 Grey Herons – Yes I counted them. I scanned the many Kentish Plovers and alerted the team to an interesting bird; we needed to move closer. Finally in position I directed the group onto a pair of Greater Sand Plovers in breeding plumage, complete with orange breast band. Interestingly, their bills were large and noticeable even at distance making them the migratory species crassirostris and not the regularly wintering sub-species columbinus. As all the wintering birds had departed, this was the only chance of the species so it was a real bonus bird on the list. I had earned my fee again – Ah forgot, there isn’t one but at least I wasn’t getting grief about coffee stops – thank heavens for small mercies. We proceeded to Bishop’s Pool and climbing over a fence got access. A good count of 13 Ferruginous Ducks were present and a Purple Heron perched in the open and was joined by another as they alighted. An Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler was seen when leaving the site and we had lunch in the Akrotiri Orchid Glade – well some of the more rounded members of the group enjoyed it but we did add our first Sardinian Warbler of the week.
We drove around Akrotiri Gravel Pits seeing a Wryneck in the Church gardens and a Marsh Harrier nearby. Phassouri Reed Beds was quite disappointing with only 5 Cattle Egrets being present so we proceeded to Episkopi and Kensington Cliffs. The wind had got up but we did have extremely good views of our first Long-legged Buzzards and only Alpine Swifts of the tour. However, the resident Griffon Vultures were conspicuous by their absence so another visit would have to be vectored in when returning from Paphos. At Kouklia Soakaways another Long-legged Buzzard was seen and as we drove to Troodos via the Dhiarizos River Valley another couple were seen. As we drove up the valley floor a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos were seen – it’s a good year for them and was appreciated by all, much better than dipping in Pembrokeshire. Despite checking the known wintering sites for Finsch’s Wheatear sadly for the crew they had all departed about a week prior to their arrival. Moving up the valley there was a lot of raptor activity on the hillside above Kadares with a male Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and a Kestrel. Tony alerted me to anther bird which mysteriously morphed into a Kestrel but his persistence paid off and with a large puff-ball looking white rump and accipiter wing shape, it was the most difficult of all the resident raptors to see – a Goshawk. The decision I’d taken to drive the long way to Troodos as opposed to up the normal Limassol route had very luckily paid dividends. We arrived at Troodos Environmental Centre at about 1730 and with the sun still up, although much cooler than the lowlands I speculated that we should give some of the island’s sub-species endemics a whirl. Within 20 minutes we had secured good views of Jay, Coal Tit, Short-toed (Dorothy’s) Treecreeper and Blackbird with Pallid Swifts above us. Four of the 6 sub-species had been seen. We had dinner in the Troodos Hotel Restaurant which was enjoyable and went to bed listening to calling Cyprus Scops Owls and Andrew secured a view of one.
Day 5 – Wednesday 26
All hands to the pump for the remaining sub-species. We visited Giant Juniper Picnic Site and had walked about 500m gaining more views of the birds we had seen last night and adding Chaffinch to the list, when I heard some Crossbills above us. Eventually, the group got views of a male and 2 females feeding on the Black Pine cones. One of the more difficult birds to see, I was very pleased. Job done, we continued and came across a brilliant male Masked Shrike that was early on its breeding grounds and I feel sure the fast growing “David Bailey” contingent got some good images – may I remind you, THIS IS NOT A PHOTGRAPHIC TOUR, DO NOT FLUSH THAT BIRD! We continued, a short distance to Levadi Tou Pasha Picnic Site. All quiet, a Eurasian Wren tape was played which incited the resident to wake up and start singing moving from tree to tree. Great views of the last endemic sub-species and my pre-tour promise had been fulfilled – Both endemics and all the sub-species endemics.
We headed off to Prodromos Dam in search of a Grey Wagtail. This was unsuccessful as it would appear that the wintering population had departed. We did however get the last target bird of Troodos in the form of several singing Serin, 2 of which were in display flight. Once more, the crew’s thoughts turned to Coffee and the relentless pressure caused me to keel in and stop at my favourite café in Troodos, the Ben Nevis. Here we enjoyed great coffee, Apple Pie and Chocolate Cake. I know – what sort of an outfit am I running. It was like a dudes’ day out at Titchwell. Stopping at the much frequented nut stall before departing Troodos, many varieties of nuts were purchased amidst the usual stall holder’s banter about Viagra, eroticism and generally inappropriate sales pitches in the promotion of nuts. On the way down we paused at the Caledonian Falls in the hope of a Grey Wagtail but were unsuccessful but did see another Wren.
We travelled down the Dhiarizos River Valley in the reverse of the ascent. We paused at Kadares once more and right on queue, a superb adult Long-legged Buzzard showed all of the necessary ID features in beautiful sunshine. A little further down opposite a cliff face, I stopped as Roger and I had seen a Peregrine nearby in the recce of Feb 13. Extraordinarily, we first heard a Peregrine and then witnessed the “shift-changeover” at the nest site, the bird stooping and displaying twice, what a fantastic moment for the group. Time in recce is never wasted! Then, another stroke of luck as 3 Griffon Vultures passed over the cliff saving me a regain on the return trip, which would allow us another crack at the White-throated Kingfisher and a visit to another site. We stopped at the Extreme View Café for lunch and the breeding Red-rumped Swallows performed well for the group.
We departed after lunch for Mandria in the hope of finding the Bimaculated Larks that had been there for a few days – another dip, this was becoming an uncomfortable habit, we did see 15 migrating Black-winged Stilts offshore and the only Shag of the trip sat on the rocks. The fields contained the by now familiar Wheatears and Pipits. With morale ebbing, we drove to Anarita Park as Colin Richardson had joined us at Mandria and suggested it might be productive. What a great decision. As we drove in a couple of Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were seen and as we stopped and exited the vehicle a Stone Curlew flew and then posed for the assembled scopes. A Little Owl perched in the open on a rock, Great Spotted Cuckoos flew by and a Hoopoe put in an appearance. A male Blue Rock Thrush was higher up the valley on a rocky scree slope and then “2IC Bagging Birds” Richard found a cracking male Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush if you prefer. We decided to move further up the valley and secured fantastic views of this scarce and difficult to catch up with migrant as it went about its business. Birds were moving everywhere and we saw Cretzschmar’s and Ortolan Buntings and discovered the “Bush Of Love”, so named as it seemed to attract every bird in the area. A small leafless dead bush attracted the Buntings, Blackcaps, a lone female Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroats and Eastern Subalpine Warblers – what a great site and enjoyable hour and a half. As we left another male Rock Thrush sat on telegraph wires – like number 10 busses.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush – Anarita Park 26 Mar 14
We finished at the Paphos Lighthouse, where some Yellow-legged Gulls loafed and the Black-winged Stilts had made their way around from Mandria. With a nutter walking on the headland contemplating the meaning of life and flushing everything we checked into the hotel. A near mess up with the booking (not my fault, before you start), had me visibly agitated, I think the phrase is - as an LE Officer, I don’t do poor admin. Anyway, all resolved we booked in without difficulty and left the hotel for Colin Richardson’s house and the chance of a Cyprus Scops Owl. As we arrived we could hear the Owls in his garden but they then flew and stopped calling – Sods Law. We travelled down the hill slightly to the village of Armou where at least 6 were heard calling with their double noted, different to the nominate Eurasian Scops Owl’s call. Eventually, we got one calling in the torch light and very good views were achieved of this most enigmatic of owls, that will surely be split. We returned to the hotel, did the call-over and went to Tramps Bar, where we had a few beers and supper and thanked Colin for his help as we bought him dinner. We will not mention the leader waking up confused and having a nightmare whilst screaming at Dave Pentelow who started screaming back until the initiator woke up – or will we? Very comical, but we’re all friends here.
Day 6 – Thursday 27
Refreshed we rose early and the Kings Hotel had kindly provided a full Greek style early breakfast. We headed for Mandria for another bash at the Bimaculated Larks which was unsuccessful. As we walked the area an extroverted Wryneck gave crippling views for everyone as it fed actively on the ground. A Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and Red-throated Pipits gave excellent prolonged views and the ever present Black Francolin called nearby. We drove to Asprokremnos Dam, where Colin Richardson joined us and walked the pines where an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and male Pied Flycatcher were seen. Many Tree Pipits were present and 13 roosting Night Herons flushed as we walked the area. The day had been set aside to achieve views of Bonelli’s Eagle and perched views of Great Spotted Cuckoos which all were keen to achieve. We stood at a good vantage point above the dam. As we watched we noted Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Red-rumped Swallows, an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, the only Montague’s Harrier of the trip and a single Pallid Swift. Then, the shout went up and eventually everyone was securing good views of a sub-adult Bonelli’s Eagle. That one in the bag we drove up the Dhiarizos River Valley to Kidasi once more. Soon we were viewing perched Great Spotted Cuckoos and once more at Kidasi a Peregrine was visible on the nest and a Blue Rock Thrush was close by. Bonelli’s Eagles were seen again and as we ate lunch at the Extreme View Café more Bonell’s Eagle views and the sight of 11 Griffon Vultures spiralling over the hillside (probably the whole of the wild Cyprus population). The afternoon became very hot and we moved from site to site without really producing anything of much interest. As enthusiasm was dwindling and people were wilting in the heat, I turned to the tour guides best friend – coffee, beer and a rest. Two in a day, I hear you say and so did they – I must be getting soft? From Mandria we drove to the coast at Paphos in a speculative bid to “make something happen”. As we arrived and started to walk, a Whimbrel flew by – a rare bird in Cyprus and it was extremely fortunate timing that we added this to the trip list – although I put it down to good decision making and planning! Then, missing Garganey from the list Richard found a drake flying up the coast which everyone managed to get onto. The trip list continued to grow unabated.
Day 7 – Friday 28
After sleeping off a Meze and some more protein (Cyprus doesn’t suit the vegetarian option) an early departure from Paphos had us grilling the area at Mandria once more for a Bimaculated Lark – without success once again. Red-throated Pipits were evident as was a Tawny Pipit and a Black Francolin called in the distance. Alas, it was time to go and the Bimaculated Lark had lived to fight another day, however we did see a cracking Ruppell’s Warbler as we left the area. We continued to the Limassol Port Canal in the hope of seeing the White-breasted Kingfisher that had been previously reported and eluded us. Again without success and I don’t like dipping twice in a day, we moved on through Lady’s Mile to Akrotiri Gravel Pits. Save for a Masked Shrike, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and a ringtail Pallid Harrier, there wasn’t that much to get excited about, especially for the by now seasoned Cyprus birders desperate to increase the trip list. After lunch we made another effort for the Kingfisher and dipped again but did see the Laughing Dove once more before we departed. Stopping at Finikaria, a village on the north side of Germasogeia Dam it looked pretty boring and was until out of the bag – the first Squacco Heron of the year and only one of the tour – result! We drove straight to Oroklini where we added another 2 trip birds with a pair of Glossy Ibises and a Spotted Redshank amongst the many Black-winged Stilts. An impromptu stop at Akhna Dam before returning home for a BBQ was rewarded with a Cuckoo and a breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and as we left a pair of close Great Spotted Cuckoos. The day hadn’t turned out too badly after all! I say that because, at the BBQ having quaffed beer like it was going out of fashion, I thought people might like a “wee snifter”. Had I realised that the group were actually a bunch of Jura “Superstition” consuming drunks, I may not have followed this course of action. Not content with that they also demolished my other bottle of Glengoyne “Burnfoot” Malt. I went to bed feeling violated – but it was a good night and once again thanks to my wife for making it happen without a hitch.
Day 8 – Saturday 29
With time running out and wishing to catch some more migrants we headed to Cape Greco. Whilst more exceptional views of birds such as Ruppell’s Warbler and Masked Shrike were achieved there was nothing new for the trip, although noting the plumage differences of 2 female Siberian Stonechats was an interesting moment. 12 migrating Little Egrets and 2 Kingfishers were at Kermia Beach and at Ayia Napa Sewage Works more Masked Shrikes and a cracking Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. Paralimini Lake was disappointing so we moved to Akhna Dam where nothing much had changed from the day before although a White-Spotted (cyanecula) Bluethroat was seen. After an admin period we departed for the north at 1445. At Gulserin Pond a few Little Stints were on offer and at Clapsides Beach, good views of very pink Slender-billed Gulls were enjoyed. On route to Fresh Water Lake South, the alert driver pulled off the road and pointed out the first Woodchat Shrike of the trip, thus avoiding a blank day. The rest of the team were obviously already on the aircraft on the way home and so needed to receive the “Lets focus” speech – we still have birds to see. We proceeded to Fresh Water Lake South to view the 400 or so strong Cattle Egret colony – a spectacle in itself where 4 Night Herons and 2 Little Egrets were also present. On Saturday evening we enjoyed a farewell Meze at a local restaurant which was great value for money and enjoyed by all. Deb and I thank you for our dinner.
Day 9 – Sunday 30
With a real “hooley” of a wind blowing all night from the east, Cape Greco had much to promise. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Migrants were keeping low in the wind, so offshore a Sandwich Tern flew by with a Baltic Gull and several Yellow-legged Gulls. In a lull in the wind, the regular singing male Cyprus Warbler performed well for the crowd which was a bonus. As the wind dropped a little, a Cuckoo came in off the sea and I suggested that we looked under the Army Camp cliffs for birds that may be attempting to shelter from the wind. We had walked about 600m and the team were alerted to a movement that turned out to be a White-spotted (cyanecula) Bluethroat. Several mentioned a Cyprus Wheatear but were distracted by the Bluethroat. On closer inspection it proved to be a pristine male Hooded Wheatear. A Cyprus mega (the 21st record), and a lifer for most members of the trip and a Cyprus “tick” for me. It fly-caught and sallied, in typical Hooded Wheatear style, within 5m of us and allowed for some excellent observation of the key features and photographs. Another Cuckoo was seen and a male Cretzschmar’s Bunting before we headed off to Ayia Napa Sewage Works via Cape Greco Pines where an Eastern Bonell’s Warbler and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear were present. The sewage works didn’t have much to offer so we went for a typical Greek lunch at Ayia Thekla. After lunch we visited the final site of the trip – Akhna Dam. A couple of Common Sandpipers, the ubiquitous Zitting Cisticolas and Cetti’s Warblers were on offer but little else. We headed to the airport seeing Greater Flamingos at Oroklini Marsh before the team were eventually dropped off, thus ending a fantastic tour.
Hooded Wheatear – Cape Greco Cliffs 30 Mar 14 – 21st Record
An outstanding effort from the team! For this time of year the total it is unlikely to be surpassed. A combination of good planning, luck and commitment ensured that a total was seen that exceeded expectations by far. Furthermore, most of the group saw all of the birds, however as is the norm, inevitably some did not see all. That said, all the key species were seen and extremely good full frame views were enjoyed by all. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who attended for their contribution and making a tour of like-minded individuals so easy to lead. I would also like to thank the group for remembering my wife (OC Rear Party) for her considerable contribution in ensuring all ran smoothly and to the group for replacing my Whiskey which they enjoyed quaffing. Remember, looking for birds in the wind “Is as much use as a “Handbrake on a Submarine” – most of the time.
Highlights of the Week: Amongst a host of great birds, the first Eurasian Coal Tit for Cyprus, good views of Siberian Stonechats but the 21st record of a stunning male Hooded Wheatear (a lifer for all but Dave Pentelow and me) stood out and was a fitting finale to an excellent week.