(7) Blog Posts Made in December 2014
On Sunday I visited the Starling murmuration however the majority of birds went straight in after the initial crowd flew around a bit. It was the same today when I watched from 5km away at NZ farm where I was looking for Short-eared Owls; 2 hunting plus a ringtail Hen Harrier. On Monday I followed a hunting female Hen Harrier for 3 km in the car along Tinker's Track. I was on the Berril Valley SE of Imber for today and yesterday. Stonechats soon became another "Just a" (another Stonechat). Today I led a walk for the Wiltshire Ornithological Society with 34 species seen. The highlights were 2 Woodcock that were flushed for the group. A Peregrine chasing a feral dove (mainly white) and as it went in for the kill a second time disappeared behind a wood so we do not know what happened. The final highlight was when I went to flush 2 Stock Doves from a box a Barn Owl flew out instead. The day started well with a Raven throughout the morning there were a reasonable number of birds. Goldcrests were singing in every direction when we traversed a wood. They were found in other woods as well. Even 3 Skylarks put in an appearance as well as a few Meadow Pipits despite the cold frosty conditions. There were also plenty of Roe Deer and Fox sightings on the walk. A lovely day that did resemble the retreat from Moscow at times as about 50 were spread out along the Berril Valley however a good morning birding.
When I look back at the year I have recorded 76 species and that only includes one gull species; I think my recording was a bit lapse at times. Of course some of our uncommon species have flourished including Montague's Harrier, Stone Curlew, Whinchat, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Sonechat, Grasshopper Warbler and Barn Owl. It has been a very good year for breeding Barn and Tawny Owl as well as Kestrel. A highlight of the year was the Bio-blitz in June when we "did" the Warminster Range danger area for birds, plants and butterflies. Actually there have have been quite a few highlights including finding a Marsh Harrier in the centre of Imber in the summer and not content with one another was found a few weeks later. I will not go but instead wish a Happy New Year to everyone.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 28 Dec 14
This report covers 2 week’s worth of activity. With Christmas upon me, birding was limited. On Mon 22nd, I had been informed that a Great Black-headed Gull had been found the previous day in the Larnaca area. I set off in search and as I approached the airport’s south pool, a lone good stood motionless. Quickly scoping it with no other gulls in sight at the time – there it was a 1st winter Great Black-headed Gull* – result and taking the year list to 262 (with Mentries’ Warbler pending). Circa 180 Greater Flamingos were in the area as were a good number of Black-headed Gulls. At the sewage works a female Tufted Duck was the highlight and the 8 Greater White-fronted Geese were still present. About 30 Skylarks were flying around and a lone Red-throated Pipit called as it passed overhead. On Spiro’s Pool 9 Dunlins were in the company of a Little Stint and a male and female Black Francolin were seen. A Sandwich Tern flew by over the sea. With nothing else doing, I looked at the star of the day before proceeding to Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini where 2 adult Armenian Gulls were with a couple of 1st winter Caspians and good numbers of Black-headed Gulls.
On Tuesday I ventured over the to the north and managed to see a Water Rail, rather than just hearing one.. 41 Spur-winged Plovers were present and the 2 Glossy Ibises continued to roost with the numerous Cattle Egrets. A single drake Ferrruginous Duck wasn’t obvious but a Great White Egret was. A Kingfisher flitted around as did a Great Tit and the Starlings flying to roost numbered a staggering (for Cyprus) c8000. Earlier at Oroklini Marsh, a pair of Red-crested Pochards were new arrivals and a pair of Marsh Harriers flushed the numerous wildfowl 80 or so of which were Shovelers. 39 Greater Flamingos remained in situ but there were few passerines to speak ot.
I ventured over to the north again on Christmas Eve and on Gulserin Pond (now very wet) 142 Greater Flamingos were present with c450 Teal. An adult Armenian Gull was with the Black-headed Gulls and 6 Shelducks were unusual for the site. 14 Spur-winged Plovers rested on the exposed mud and 2 Bluethroats hopped in and out of the reed beds. 2 Black-winged Stilts were inconspicuous before I moved along to Clapsides Beach. In the surf, a Curlew waded and on the rocks a single Cormorant rested. Gulls were present in good numbers with 12 adult Armenians and 2 1st winters along with 4 Caspian Gulls. Silver Beach held another 2 Curlews with 4 Redshanks, 7 Golden Plovers, 4 Lapwings a Green Sandpiper and a Grey Heron. Finishing at Fresh Water Lake South brought a drake Pochard which was unusual with 4 Ferruginous Ducks 3 Night Herons were present (1 Adult and 2 1st calendar years). That was it until the 28th when driving past Dasaki Achnas c70 Stone Curlews alighted from the roadside fields. Reaching Larnaca, there was no sign of the Great Black-headed Gull but an adult Siberian (Heuglin’s) Gull was present with Armenians, Caspians and Yellow-legged. At Larnaca Sewage Works, 4 Black-necked Grebes were near 4 Wigeon and the only other bird of note was a forlorn looking Cormorant. On Spiro’s Pool c300 Golden Plovers were present with a couple of smaller waders. The Kittiwake* was still present at Larnaca, McKenzie Beach Marina along with an adult Armenian Gull.
Returning home, the drake Red-crested Pochard was still at Oroklini Marsh and a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull was also present. A drake Pintail is always an impressive sight and a lone Black-winged Stilt looked lost. I finished off at Fresh Water Lake South where 3 Green Sandpipers were the highlight with 3 Great White Egrets coming second. Counting the roost consisted of c435 Cattle Egrets harassed by 2 Marsh Harriers and a remarkable c9000 – 9500 Starlings. The 2 Glossy Ibises made a late appearance and that was it for the year.
On the 29th I flew to Istanbul for the New Year and returned on 2nd Jan 2015. The birds were much the same as my previous visit but I did add a Sparrowhawk and manage to get Alexandrine Parakeet on my 2014 and 15 year lists prior to my departure. Against my better judgement, I went for a Turkish Bath in Istanbul and to be honest felt dirtier than when I went in, not to mention defiled and violated – enough said but when dressed in a VERY SMALL wrap and with a not particularly good looking chap brushing your scrotum as he massaged my thighs, all was not well in my rose garden and I continue to have nightmares and flashbacks. It is no laughing matter and not a good way to start the year!
Back to Cyprus and on the 3rd I was determined to start the year list and ended on 62 species for the day. Ayias Trias had a single Greater Sand Plover and 5 Grey Plovers whilst at Cape Greco the highlights were 2 male Blue Rock Thrushes and a female (dark throated) Finsch’s Wheatear. An adult Audouin’s Gull and Common Kingfisher were at Kermia Beach whilst 2 Common Sandpipers were on the lagoons at Ayia Napa Sewage Works. Another female Finsch’s Wheatear was along a line a rocks towards Ayia Napa Football Pitches and at Ayia Thekla a Dunlin was with Kentish Plovers and a Common Sandpiper. The Spanish Sparrows appeared on cue and a small flock of Linnets was a surprise. In the afternoon in the north at Gulserin an out of place Wood Sandpiper was a bonus with some more expected waders although the Black-winged Stilts had increased to 6. At Silver Beach a Curlew was an addition to the list as was a Spotted Redshank with 8 Common Redshanks. A quick stop at Fresh Water Lake North added wildfowl including Pintails, Wigeons, Gadwalls and Mallards. At the south lake the Glossy Ibises and Night Herons let me down for the new year but a Great White Egret, Marsh Harriers, a male Peregrine and a lone drake Ferruginous Duck had read the script.
On the 4th the day before returning to work (deep joy) I went to Larnaca and onward to the Limassol area. A 1st winter Med Gull was at Oroklini with 49 Lapwings, 2 Water Pipits, 2 Black-winged Stilts and a male Bluethroat. At Larnaca Sewage Works I added Black-necked Grebe and 3 Tufted Ducks (2 drakes) and on Spiro’s Pool Golden Plovers and a very surprising Avocet. At least 4 Black Francolins called but could not be located in the thick vegetation and off shore on a buoy 2 Shags loafed. Circa 80 more Golden Plovers were in the airport fields and a single Curlew flew over. Next stop Phassouri Reed Beds. I was greeted with a female Blackcap and 2 Marsh Harriers over the reed bed. A Water Rail showed well and a couple of Water Pipits flushed calling. Snipe and Kingfisher alighted as I walked the reed bed and a Common Buzzard landed in a tree (they have not been that numerous this winter – so a good bird). A Moustached Warbler took a bit of patience but it eventually gave itself up briefly. Armenian and Black-headed Gulls were at Lady’s Mile with a single adult Slender-billed Gull being amongst them. Akhna Dam offered little on the way home but a ringtail Hen Harrier was a welcome addition to the list. Finally stopping at Vrysoulles the Little Owl was sitting in its usual roosting hole and another Buzzard flew form a nearby tree bringing the year list to 90.
Great Black-headed Gull at Larnaca Airport Pool South on 22 Dec
Highlights of the Week: A last minute addition to the Cyprus year list with a 1st winter Great Black-headed Gull at Larnaca Airport Pool South.
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Founder and first Chairman of The Army Bird Watching Society (ABWS), precursor of today's Army Ornithological Society, Major General “Griff” Caldwell has died aged 93.
His obituary, detailing his distinguished career, has been published in The Telegraph.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 21 Dec
Blue Rock Thrush at Cape Greco Army Post Cliffs on 21st.
After a lay off of a week with no birding, I managed to get back into the saddle on Thursday 18 Dec. Dodging another festive celebration, I thought I’d better regain some birding credibility and add a few records to the monthly tally. I visited what is known as the Famagusta Wetlands. These are basically, all the sites in the north around Famagusta that contain water in the winter.
Silver Beach was very quiet so I moved along to Clapsides Beach where I was met with 4 Grey Plovers on the beach and another 2 on the rocky outcrop. A Grey Heron waded in the surf and was close to a good number of Armenian Gulls with an adult Slender-billed and 1st winter Mediterranean Gull also being present. At Gulserin Pond 59 Greater Flamingos were present with a pair of Pintails, 1 Snipe, 2 Black-winged Stilts and 4 Spur-winged Plovers – not exactly heaving. The not often visited Fresh Water Lake North, as it’s very difficult to view currently looks exceptional and has a lot of potential. Good numbers of wildfowl were present with 11 Gadwalls which is a very high count along with Widgeon, Teals, Mallards, Shovelers and 14 Pintails. C250 Greater Flamingos were also present but there must be outer interesting things here that remained out of sight.
My final stop was at Fresh Water Lake South as I wanted to count the roosting species. The Cattle Egrets reached a credible 362 with 1 Great White Egret and the usual pair of wintering Glossy Ibises. 82 White Wagtails flew to roost and a massive c5650+ Starlings. 79 Cormorants roosted in the eucalyptus, a Water Rail was heard and a single Little Egret made an appearance. Grey Heron numbers have reached 22 and a Peregrine did a fly through. Only 9 Spur-winged Plovers were present and were the only waders present. 7 drake Ferruginous Ducks were looking very appealing and a Kingfisher fed from a dead snag. The usual wintering passerines were present but that was it for the day and it was good to be out. Friday at Akhna Dam was a washout with a very heavy thunder storm stopping proceedings and all I managed was 2 Redshanks and a Little Stint before retiring to the bar.
On Saturday afternoon we visited the Famagusta Wetlands in the north. Gulserin Pond held good numbers of Flamingos and Black-headed Gulls and amongst them was a breeding plumaged Slender-billed Gull complete with a pinkish was to the breast. 3 Black-winged Stilts were a surprise but 3 Spur-winged Plovers were expected. At Clapsides I paused before reaching the beach to photograph a male Kestrel* and at the beach another 2 Slender-billed Gulls, an adult and a 1st winter were present along with a good number of Armenian Gulls (7) of differing ages. A Curlew rested on the rocks and 2 White Wagtails were on the beach. Moving along to Silver Beach, another Curlew* passed overhead and on the marsh 8 Redshanks were joined by a Green Sandpiper and a Greenshank. 9 Teal had taken up residence and a Meadow Pipit and 2 Woodlarks called as they went. Stopping briefly at Fresh Water Lake North – I have found a place to wade in wellies, revealed 4 Snipe, a Marsh Harrier a Great White Egret and c30 Spur-winged Plovers. Viewing is still difficult but when the water resides a little this new viewing area should prove fruitful; I’m thinking Feb/Mar time. Finally at Fresh Water Lake South, 8 Ferruginous Ducks were looking very handsome, whilst a Kingfisher was seen and a Water Rail Heard. The regular birds were present although because it was too early for the roost, in reduced numbers. 42 Cormorants were joined by 15 Grey Herons and 2 Great White Egrets.
An early rise on Sunday morning saw me heading for the Cape Greco area for the first time in months. I drove via Ayias Trias to find 3 Greater Sand Plovers, 3 Grey Plovers, a Kentish Plover and Kingfisher on the rocks. As I was departing a Shag flew by and 2 adult Audouin’s Gills paused briefly on the rocks before continuing east. At the Cape’s Picnic Site, several Spectacled Wablers, Sardinians and a single Cyprus Warbler were all singing. My first Greenfinches of the month were obvious and 2 Song Thrushes were their usual flighty selves. I continued along under the Army Camp Cliffs to be welcomed by good numbers of Stonechats, Spectacled Warblers and Chukars. As I continued at least 5 Black Redstarts were noted and then 2 male Blue Rock Thrushes* were looking cracking. A little further and I was pleased to find a pair of wintering Finsch’s Wheatears. A flock of c40 Linnets was the largest I’ve ever seen in the east of the island which was a surprise. A single Chiffchaff kept the monthly figures on the increase. At Kermia Beach another adult Audouin’s Gull was loafing and a lone Greater Sand Plover hid amongst the rocks. Ayia Napa Sewage Works was mobbed with hunters – more shotguns than birds, however I did add my first Common Sandpiper of the month on the lagoons with some more Chiffchaffs but there was little else of not amongst the echoes of many shotguns – A very sad nation!
As I continued around the back of the football pitches, I paused at a site I’d discovered in previous years for wintering Finsch’s Wheatears and there sat on a rock was a dark throated female which was a result – I don’t give much for its chances with the amount of shooting however. Driving to the coast at Ayia Thekla, I was pleased to find good numbers of Corn Buntings, a small flock of Spanish Sparrows and on the rocks 74 Kentish Plovers, 6 Greater Sand Plovers, 6 Dunlin and 2 Common Sandpipers – a good day for Sand Plovers. There was also another sizeable flock of Linnets further along the coast towards Potomas Liopetri.
After picking up Deb we headed for Larnaca, Jumbo, Lidl, Lunch and of course Oroklini Marsh. The marsh held 46 Greater Flamingos and a Marsh Harrier circled above. At least 300 Black-headed Gulls were present but nothing unusual was amongst them. Circa 50 Spur-winged Plovers was a good count and as I moved to the south side of the marsh, I flushed 2 Redshanks and a flock of 42 Lapwings – so that’s where they were. A Peregrine flushed the wildfowl and as I watched I spotted a Long-legged Buzzard circling high above. Having lunch at the Dolphin Rocks café allowed me to scope the loafing gulls which were all Black-headed with the exception of a 2nd year Armenian, 2 1st year Caspians and a Sandwich Tern resting on the rocks.
On the way home a brief stop at Akhna Dam revealed the presence of 4 Redshanks, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Cormorants and at least 5 Crested Larks. Not a bad day and a good end to what was a fairly birdless week to begin with.
Highlights of the Week: C5650+ at Fresh Water Lake South was an impressive count. A wintering pair of Finsch’s Wheatears is always a good find.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 14 Dec
A year ago this week Little Bustard at Geri in the Buffer Zone.
No play on Monday and a brief visit to Akhna Dam on Tuesday produced a Reed Bunting that was the first for the site this winter. 7 Redshanks, 7 Dunlins and a Temminck’s Stint were present with 2 Grey Herons and 41 Coots, however 20 Water Pipits was a good count with a similar number of Meadow Pipits and White Wagtails. C60 Corn Buntings were in the fields with a handful of Stonechats in various places but that was about it on a wet, dull and thundery day.
On Wednesday the 9th I visited Gulserin Pond, which now has water once more. 28 Flamingos were present along with a handful of Spur-winged Plovers and a Snipe. A sizeable Black-headed Gull flock was roosting and 3 Redshanks fed along the edges of the water. Moving onto Clapsides Beach, nothing was on the marsh, however, on the rocky outcrop looking from the beach a flock of at least 100 Golden Plovers were roosting with 3 Grey Plovers foraging amongst the rock pools. A good flock of Dunlins also roosted and on the beach, Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plovers and a few Little Stints ran around. A single curlew was in the surf and a Slender-billed Gull was the only gull that was present. Silver beach also had 21 Flamingos present along with a lone Golden Plover. I stopped at Fresh Water Lake North, which looks like an excellent site but it’s very difficult to get into a position to view anything. Anyway, I found a pile of rubbish and balanced on top with my scope and found some good birds but there must be lots of occurrences that go unrecorded here. Wildfowl were in good numbers including, Pintails, Widgeon, Shovelers, Teal and Mallards. 38 Greater Flamingos were present and a good winter count of 8 Black-winged Stilts was notable.
My final stop of the day was Fresh Water Lake South. Always worth a visit and probably the best wetland on the island at the moment, notwithstanding the potential of the North Lake. Herons were the flavour of the day with 2 Great White Egrets, 9 Grey Herons, 14 Night Herons, 2 Little Egrets and c450 Cattle Egrets which were joined by the 2 wintering Glossy Ibises. A couple of Kingfishers chased each other, c600 Starlings flew to roost and a couple of Snipe hid in the undergrowth. Finally a good count of 66 Cormorants roosted in the eucalyptus and a Water Rail was heard.
The rest of the week was a washout due to heavy rain, work commitments, seasonal festive activities, the inevitable hangovers and Deb’s Birthday on the 14th, so consequently the longest period without any birding since being on Cyprus commenced.
Highlights of the Week: In a week full of dulls and personal inactivity, wintering Grey Plovers and a Slender-billed Gull were good records.
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In Imber the Warriors had taken up all round defence however a Merlin with prey clutched in its claws was having none ot it as it sped past. It has been a cold and windy start to the month and at times there were few birds. That said at a small wood about a km from NZ Farm there were over 200 Chaffinches mainly on the ground looking through the beech mast. Nearby a pair of Stonechats were surveying their territory. In fact I have seen quite a few pairs this month across the area. Early in the month I gave a talk to the Wiltshire Ornithological Society about the area and am expecting quite a number for the walk at the end of the month. Hopefully we will see some of the more specialist birds. The Starling mumuration has reached at least 500k birds at the COTEC site and the other day at the Signpost by Bombard OP I watched a male Hen Harrier and a Merlin for at least half an hour. There have been plenty of Kestrels about as well as Buzzards. I have also seen a ringtail near NZ Farm heading to the Centre. The whole area is covered with Fieldfares and Redwings that number hundreds in the size of flocks. The scrubby area at Imber Firs was covered in them. Fishhook provided 8 Woodcock yesterday and there were 2 Snipe out in the open grass. The valleys and slopes to the east of Imber Copse have been cleared of scrub and only Meadow Pipits seem interested in it. I checked out the perimeter of the "Green Zone" and found 2 Chiffchaffs! There are plenty of tits around including Coal Tits in the dense area of firs. They have formed large flocks in the main as at the tank traps there was a single Long-tailed Tit! Wherever there are large flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares there is normally a pair of Mistle Thrushes lurking nearby. The highlight for me was when a Peregrine flew directly overhead at a few metres height; naturally I did not have my camera for this event. Anyway so far this month I have recorded 41 species on SPTA West.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 7 Dec 14
1st Winter Kittiwake at Larnaca Sea Front – McKenzie’s Beach Marina on 7 Dec (The 7th Record for Cyprus).
Monday and a long day prevented any birding once more. On Tuesday I managed to get to Fresh Water Lake South for about 45 minutes as dusk which was productive. 7 Night Herons were in the usual roost and the 2 wintering Glossy Ibises joined the Cattle Egret throng at dusk. Cormorants numbered 61 (the biggest count so far this winter) and 7 Ferruginous Ducks were present. A few Redshanks were amongst the numerous Spur-winged Plovers and several Kingfishers were very vocal.
A quick visit to Akhna Dam on Wednesday and the Little Owl was back in its favourite roost with a Great White Egret and 5 Redshanks on the dam was about it. A Grey Wagtail flew over the road at Ay Nik, however it was all pretty dull. On Thursday, came the news that I’d been selected for promotion to Major, so the obvious happened – no birding. On Friday, I was busy so didn’t manage to get out. Saturday 6th and I went on a KUSKOR field trip in the north in the hope of finding some Rock Buntings at Five Finger Mountain. The search was unsuccessful but there were numerous Black Redstarts, Sardinian and Cyprus Warblers with a good sprinkling of Song Thrushes. C90 Cormorants passed overhead and above the peaks a pair of Peregrines chased each other. As we were leaving a female Hen Harrier passed overhead. Onto Buffavento Castle where a Raven was a good sighting (they are becoming very difficult to find), with many Kestrels a Sparrowhawk and a Goshawk over the peaks. A few Blackbirds were present with the usual Sardinian Warblers. At Tashkent the search for Finsch’s Wheatears was successful with 2 being seen and a supporting cast of Black Redstarts and Stonechats.
We continued to a seasonal wetland at Sinirustu where a couple of Widgeon, Mallard and Teal were joined by a single Shoveller and several Little Grebes. The biggest surprise here was loan Greylag Goose – the first of the winter. Koprulu was a shadow of its former self but did provide views of 3 female Marsh Harriers and some Mallards and Teal, whilst in the fields Corn Buntings, Skylarks and Crested Larks flew away from the car. We finished the day at Fresh Water Lake South where a respectable c50 Cormorants were seen. The 2 Glossy Ibises came to roost, joined by 4 Great White Egrets and an impressive count of 23 Night Herons were in the roost. 11 Ferruginous Ducks flushed and c3000 Starlings were in a mermeration. Gulls of mainly Black-headed types with a few Yellow-legs and Caspians bathed before flying to roost. A wintering Spotted Redshank was with a handful of Common Redshanks, 4 Green Sandpipers were on the muddy fringes and a good count of 74 Spur-winged Plovers were in the majority. The only Snipes of the day were seen and as we were departing a Sparrowhawk did a fly though.
An early start of Sunday saw me driving to Asprokremnos Dam near Paphos in search of a previously reported possible 7th record of Scaup for Cyprus. The bird, a female looked convincing but a hybrid or strange Tufted Duck had not been ruled out. In any event it was gone but a male Pintail was amongst a sizeable flock of Teal, Mallards and Cormorants. A pair of low flying Bonelli’s Eagles was a bonus and a Great Tit and Sardinian Warbler was seen on the hillside as I watched. Whilst there I spoke to Colin Richardson who’d found the bird and he told me of a White-headed Duck and Kittiwake in the Larnaca area. I waited and searched for another half and hour before heading east. Arriving at Larnaca c200 Greater Flamingos were on Kiti Pool and on Larnaca Airport Pool South a few gulls, mainly Yellow-legged, and Caspians were joined by 2 Med Gulls – an adult and 1st Winter. At the sewage Works 12 Flamingos were present with the 8 wintering White-fronted Geese. A couple of Cormorants loafed with a Shelduck in close proximity. 3 Ruff and a Redshank were on the black plastic surround and careful searching produced a drake Pintail and 2 Black-necked Grebes. A pair of calling Curlews passed over the lagoons and 2 Black-winged Stilts were feeding near 4 Widgeon. Sadly, no sign of the White-headed Duck, so 2 dips in a day – not good! C150 Golden Plovers were on Spiro’s Pool but with nothing else for it, I decided to got to McKenzie Beach Marina in search of the previously reported Kittiwake for my 3rd dip of the day. As I looked amongst the yachts, remarkable there was a 1st winter Kittiwake* washing – the 7th record and a Cyprus “tick” for me - I was delighted so took a few decent photos of the bird. It washed for about 10 minutes as I watched and then gone over the breakwater and out to sea – so a stroke of luck to end the day. Heading for a celebratory KFC, I stopped at Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini where c150 Black-headed Gulls were joined by a single Yellow-legged Gull and on the rocks a pair of Sandwich Terns.
The day had ended in success with my 261st bird of the year and number 312 (with one pending on my Cyprus List).
Highlights of the Week: The 1st winter Kittiwake at Larnaca Seafront, McKenzie Beach Marina, constituting the 7th Cyprus record and a bird I didn’t imagine I’d get on my Cyprus List.