(3) Blog Posts Made in January 2015
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 25 Jan 15
Crimson-winged Finch at Mandria on 20 Jan.
It’s still not quite bright enough to get out after work on a Monday but next week it could be a possibility. So Tuesday, a day’s leave and another early departure for the Crimson-winged Finch at Mandria near Paphos. I am getting sick of seeing the full-frame images of this bird. It seems Me and Bill Stacey are now the only birders not to have managed to connect with the bird! I picked Bill up on the way at Limassol and proceeded to Mandria arriving at about 0730. 2 other birders were already in situ with cameras at the ready. With us spread out looking in different areas, I received a phone call from Colin Richardson saying he’d found it! I rushed to his location only to find the bird had flown. About 20 minutes later Matt Smith said he could see the bird on a rock about 200 meters away. Scope on it – BINGO, a male Crimson-winged Finch*. The bird stayed on view for about a minute or so and then flew towards the beach. I found it again on a small mound. Later with at least 6 people looking the bird was found again foraging on the beach – with a female. We continued to watch gaining some photos*.
We relocated to Asprokremnos Dam and looked for the reported Goldcrest – not an easy bird on Cyprus. We found at least 2 with a Black Redstart, a couple of Great Tits and several Sardinian Warblers in the area with a Long-legged Buzzard passing overhead. On the opposite side of the dam, we saw a couple of Cyprus Warblers briefly before returning to Mandria. At Mandria the Crimson-winged Finches were soon relocated feeding on some seed heads. That was a relief with only my 3rd lifer in Cyprus in the bag – I had found the other 2 myself so this was really the only serious twitch during my time on the island so far.
Bill and I returned to Limassol via Happy Valley at Episkopi where we saw 6 Griffon Vultures – a good count these days. At Zakaki Marsh, it was fairly quiet but a male Penduline Tit was a bonus with a couple of Water Pipits, a Kingfisher, a Snipe and a Green Sandpiper putting in appearances. I dropped Bill off (the journey home was much more enjoyable today having not dipped) and proceeded to Larnaca and Oroklini Marsh. 104 Flamingos and 214 Cattle Egrets was a good count but I soon found a year tick with 1 Drake and 3 Red Crested Pochard females slowly drifting into the reeds and out of site. I returned home and Deb was also delighted that I’d seen the Finch, bearing in mind that she’d suffered me dipping twice previously. A great kebab at the local grill and it was the end of a great day!
In the late morning on Wednesday I visited Akhna Dam briefly where a pair of Great White Egrets were with a Grey Heron and a Marsh Harrier quartered the reed bed, flushing at least 7 Reed Buntings. With nothing else happening I carried onto Paralimni Lake and the group of 9 Ruddy Shelducks were present with 117 Flamingos. Another 2 Great White Egrets were with several Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Careful scanning with the scope brought a single Lapwing and a year tick in the form of a group of 7 Ruff.
On Wednesday afternoon, it was a trip over the north. At Silver Beach a single Curlew. Lapwing and Redshank were seen. A single Shelduck remained and 2 Snipe were flushed. At Clapsides Beach 3 Curlews were in the surf and amongst the many Caspian, Yellow-legged and Armenian Gulls were 2 adult Siberian Gulls. Moving along to Gulserin Pond, c150 Greater Flamingos were feeding and amongst them were good numbers of wildfowl including c20 Pintails. 2 Penduline Tits called from the reeds and 9 Shelducks were present on the water with 5 Black-winged Stilts feeding along the water’s edge. Fresh Water Lake South was fairly standard with 4 Ferruginous Ducks and a Great White Egret coming to roost with the Catle Egrets, Grey Herons and the remaining, over wintering pair of Glossy Ibises.
Thursday brought another visit to the north but this time a little further afield at Koprulu. On route I saw a Lapwing on a muddy flash, several Corn Buntings, Stonechats and a ring tail Hen Harrier. Arriving at Koprulu, the site was still looking great with the water being retained. Consequently there were thousands of wildfowl and not having the time to do a count I concentrated on the less numerous species. 3 Black-necked Grebes were amongst the hundreds of Coots as were 13 Pochards including 2 drakes. As I continued to scan I found 4 Ferruginous Ducks, 13 Wigeon and 10 Shelducks amongst the throng of Shovelers, Mallards and Teal. As I counted the Greater Flamingos which numbered 107 in the background I noticed 2 birds that I had not recorded for the site previously, with 2 Greater White-fronted Geese being present. At least 5 female type Marsh Harriers were in the area and finally I spotted 2 drake Pintails. I travelled back via Fresh Water Lake North and managed to find another area near to the water where I saw numerous White Wagtails, a single Redshank and Green Sandpiper. As I departed a hand full of Spur-winged Plovers alighted noisily.
Friday afternoon and with some shopping due I worked in a visit to Ayia Napa Sewage Works, although only a Common Sandpiper and 3 Song Thrushes were seen. Of note were the first Orchids of the year with Barlia roberitiana (Giant Orchid) and Orchis collina (Fan-lipped Orchid) being in flower with the rare Orchis papillionacea palistina (Caspian Butterfly Orchid) having the green plant leaves well established. I carried on to Paralimini Lake where at least 2 Great White Egrets and the 9 Ruddy Shelducks remained. Circa 120 Greater Flamingos remained and a few Grey Herons were dotted about.
With news of a large flock of Black-bellied Sangrouse being reported from the north at Cape Kormakiti, Saturday was set aside in an attempt to see them. Obviously brought in by the weather system that brought the Crimson-winged Finches and Little Swifts, seeing 1 Sandgrouse in Cyprus is hard enough so this was an opportunity not to be missed. My friends from KUSKOR (special thanks to Birtan – who found the birds), had provided me with a Google Earth map of the area with pins in the places where the birds had been seen in the past 2 weeks. Deb and I set off at about 0630, crossed the border at Astromertitis and drove through Morphou before reaching Kankanli Dam. Here the highlight was 133 Pochards – a good count, several Wigeon and a Black-necked Grebe. 9 Gadwalls were present and a female Marsh Harrier passed by. However, no Sangrouse – 1 had been seen in the area a week before and over the past couple of years this has been a popular site for them. Alas, onto Cape Kormakiti. I drove through Sadrazamkoy and onto the Cape. At the lighthouse, 52 Golden Plovers were present but not much else. I then saw a car full of Turkish and Greek Cypriot photographers including Birtan. They said they’d seen the flock of Sandgrouses about 10 minutes ago and showed me some distant video footage – so they were still in the area. We both drove various tracks and as the other car rounded a hill, a large flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouses took flight. We followed them around trying to relocated them and as I was walking up the hillock, they took off again about 20 meters in front of me, allowing for cracking flight views. The birds landed in a field about 200 meters away briefly and then took to the sky again flying around and landing in a distant field out of view. They then took off again and couldn’t be relocated. But a very pleasing Cyprus “tick” with exceptionally close flight views. A ringtail Hen Harrier flushed a Song Thrush before I departed for Nicosia’s IKEA and a celebratory meat ball lunch – what else? I paused at Oroklini Marsh on the way home, where 2 female Red-crested Pochards were with 2 Gadwalls and 58 Greater Flamingos remained. At Dolphin Rocks – Oroklini Coast an adult Med Gull was with the Black-headed Gulls and a 1st winter Caspian Gull loafed nearby.
On Sunday I left home at about 0900 heading for the Larnaca area. The sewage works was fairly dull with 2 Black-necked Grebes and 4 Wigeon being notable. 23 Greater Flamingos were on Spiro’s Pool as were 2 Black-winged Stilts. The beach held a few Dunlins, a Little Stint and a couple of Kentish Plovers as a Sandwich Tern flew by at sea. I decided to visit the north side of Larnaca Salt Lake where I had seen a bit of a Gull roost forming. As I walked the foreshore of the lake, I flushed a Green Sandpiper, several Meadow Pipits and a Water Pipit. As I looked amongst the Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints, Kentish Plovers and Redshanks a very white wader drew my attention. I quickly had the scope on the first Marsh Sandpiper of the year – a nice winter plumaged adult. 2 pairs of Spur-winged Plovers were very vocal as 2 Marsh Harriers soared above me. I got to a position to view the Gulls and to my surprise the majority were Mediterranean Gulls with 10 adults, 1 2nd winter and 2 1st winters being present. As I drove away from the area past the aqueduct, a bird called from the damp drain which proved to be a smart looking Grey Wagtail. After the obligatory KFC for lunch I walked the south end of Oroklini Marsh where 40 Lapwings remained. A Ruddy Shelduck and 6 Common Shelducks were a surprise but the pair of Red-crested Pochards were expected. 3 Black-winged Stilts were still present and a small group of Dunlins and Little Stints were flushed by the restless Redshanks. At Dolphin Rocks a pair of Sandwich Terns rested but that was all so I carried on the finish the day at Akhna Dam. The Little Owl was back in its usual roost site and I saw my fist Black Francolin of the year, scurrying underneath the tamarisks. I returned home after a very productive week and the year list resting on 126, 1 short of last year’s January haul.
Highlights of the Week: Naturally a LIFER – a pair of Crimson-winged Finches at Mandria and 35 Black-bellied Sandgrouse was an exceptional number at Cape Kormakiti – the year has started well, although I expect to be back in the UK in Aug, so I need to get my skates on, if I am to reach 220 for the year by then.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 18 Jan 15
The Long Staying Striated Heron at Zakaki Marsh on 15 Jan.
As is the norm no birding on a Monday at this time of year. On Tuesday the 13th I visited Paralimni Lake where 9 Ruddy Shelducks were new arrivals. Greater Flamingos numbered 43 and were supported by Grey Herons, Little Egrets and a single Great White Egret. I flushed a Green Sandpiper which was a year tick and 4 Common Snipe. A female Marsh Harrier flushed the waders that were present and when they rearranged, 2 Ringed Plovers and c20 Dunlins were noted as a Song Thrush flew from the tamarisks.
Visiting Paralimni early on Wednesday on route to Cape Greco revealed that the Ruddy Shelducks were still present with the Flamingos and 4 Lapwings hid in the grass, A Common Shelduck was new as were a pair of Shovelers but there was little else of interest. Onward to Cape Greco and as it was a bit windy the Cyprus Warblers were keeping low. However, Spectacled and Sardinian Warblers were quite conspicuous. Song Thrushes were present in large numbers as were Stonechats although a female Blackbird was a surprise in a lowland location. 8 Yellow-legged Gulls passed by in the windy conditions and a couple of Black Redstarts kept low. At the Sea Caves, my first visit in a long time, I quickly spotted a female Finsch’s Wheatear and Crested Larks were numerous. I drove to Oroklini where 3 Armenian Gulls and 3 Mediterranean Gulls were present with 4 Gadwalls (unusual for the site) and 45 Greater Flamingos. A Black-necked Grebe was notable but otherwise if was fairly mundane.
As I passed Kiti Pools in Larnaca, c400 Greater Flamingos were feeding and across the road on Larnaca Airport Pool South I could see a good number of large Gulls roosting. Walking across the fields to get to a point where I could scope the birds, I flushed a female Marsh Harrier. As I scoped the mainly Armenian Gulls, I noted at least 9 Caspians and then came across a bird sleeping with a partial diffused black hood and white eyelids. I watched further and as the bird stood up, with its posture, head shape, bill colouration and size, it was clear that it was a 2nd winter Great (Pallas’) Black-headed Gull. 11 Flamingos were on Spiro’s Pool which is looking very full and deep, however there was nothing else visible. At the sewage works 2 Black-necked Grebes consorted with a Great Crested Grebe* but it was fairly unremarkable. I drove to Parthenitis Dam, a seldom visited site, where I flushed a Green Sandpiper from the pig slurry pits (not a particularly enjoyable experience) but by far the most interesting sighting of the day so far was an immature Black Kite being mobbed by a couple of Jackdaws at it headed purposefully east. At Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini another adult Mediterranean Gull* was present which posed for the camera but was just a bit too far away for a crisp image. Akhna Dam was predictably birdless which is becoming rather to frequent, but again several Hooded Crows mobbed a Black Kite – sure the same one that was seen earlier at Parthenitis Dam. I left the site with a couple of year ticks under the belt. As I drove the back road to the Dam, I noticed several grey pigeon like birds in the fields. Without much trouble, as the birds took off, of which there were 5 – A Cyprus tick and a difficult bird to catch up with – Stock Doves*.
After hearing the news of a Crimson-winged Finch (2nd for Cyprus) at Mandria near Paphos on my return home, there was only 1 option for Thursday as it was too late for me to get there on Wednesday and have light left. So, on Thursday, I departed for Mandria at 0500 arriving on site at just after 0700. Immediately, there was a large flock of Linnets and Finches. Scanning through the birds, a bloody dog walker and a yappy shit of a dog dispersed the flock. This coupled with another bloody dog walker and from that moment onwards it was all over. I did however add a year tick with a single Red-throated Pipit being seen and heard amongst the commoner Meadow Pipits. Despite several people looking for the bird, it wasn’t to be. It didn’t show and I DIPPED! It didn’t show for the whole day but with the current weather system over Cyprus, it’s unlikely that it will depart so hopefully it’ll be re-located. I returned hope with that all too familiar depression that results from twitching and dipping – I really is the pits! I stopped at Zakaki Marsh seeing a Kingfisher and a female Marsh Harrier and then met a visiting birder – Bill Stacey and together we saw the Striated Heron* sitting in the open once more. I took bill to Finikaria at the head of Germasoiga Dam where 2 Crag Martins were present and soon, on cue an adult Long-legged Buzzard appeared. With nothing else doing, I dropped Bill at his hotel and returned to the Larnaca area for a look at Oroklini Dam. At the dam 48 Lapwings were above me flushed by a male Peregrine and 2 female Marsh Harriers. A male Reed Bunting called from the reeds and a couple of Chiffchaffs flitted about with a Black Redstart. 3 Black-winged Stilts were present still and a Stone Curlew flushed from the marsh. The single Black-necked Grebe remained and that was it for the day.
On Friday I visited the North . Gulserin Pond had filled somewhat with 18 Pintails, a couple of Shovelers, many Teal and Mallards being present. 8 Black-winged Stilts were present, probably relocated from Fresh Water Lake North and amongst the 114 Flamingos, 7 Shelduck were feeding. Clapsides beach was interesting with 7 1st winter Caspian Gulls with 3 adult Armenian Gulls and close scrutiny revealed and adult Siberian (Heuglin’s) Gull with them. The rocks had a Sandwich Tern and 3 Shags resting and a Kingfisher, Little Grebe and Little Egret were in the channels from the beach to the marsh. On to Silver Beach where another 8 Shelducks were feeding with Teals and 29 Flamingos. A Snipe and Redshank flushed and a Grey Heron hid amongst the vegetation. At Fresh Water Lake North, viewing was difficult once more but it’s a reliable place for Wigeon of which there were 20 or so with c120 Flamingos also being present. The highlight at Fresh Water Lake South was a calling and flying Penduline Tit – they’ve been scarce this winter and it was my first for the year. The pair of Glossy Ibises remained faithful to the Cattle Egret roost and a single drake Ferruginous Duck was amongst the many Coots. A female Blackbird was unusual for the site and a couple of Marsh Harriers flew over heading to the north lake as the usual Cormorants flew in the opposite direction to roost in the eucalyptus trees. Returning home, I found that the Crimson-winged Finch had been seen again – Arrrgghhhhh, with a full-frame picture to boot!
On Saturday it was an early start for Mandria once more picking up Bill Stacey at Limassol on the way. All aboard, we arrived at Mandria at about 0730 where another birder was already in attendance. 6 hours of looking – NO BLOODY FINCH AGAIN!!!!! – THAT IS ALL. I did however photograph a male Sardinian Warbler* as it sang – scant consolation! A Sandwich Tern flew by and an immature Shag was in its usual place on the rocks, whilst 35 Golden Plovers were in the fields. We finished at Anarita Park where a nice male Finsch’s Wheatear continues to winter along with a male Blue Rock Thrush. At Lady’s Mile, 4 Dunlins were with 19 Little Stints. The long depressing journey home seemed to take a while for some reason.
I visited Paralimni Lake early on Sunday morning where the 9 Ruddy Selducks had been joined by a Greater White-fronted Goose. 101 Greater Flamingos were present and a single Great White Egret was with 11 Grey Herons and 2 Little Egrets. Stopping at Ayias Trias fishing shelter, 3 each of Grey and Greater Sand Plovers were on the rocks with a Kentish Plover. After lunch we visited the north for a shave and haircut and concluded the week at Fresh Water Lake South, Famagusta. Ferruginous Ducks were not at 3, The 2 Glossy Ibises roosted with the Cattle Egrets, not so many Starlings flew to roost and a couple of Marsh Harriers flew over. Song Thrushes and 2 male Blackbirds were conspicuous and at least 6 Chiffchaffs caught flies from the reeds.
Highlights of the Week: A Penduline Tit was a good find and seeing the long-staying Cyprus 1st was also a good year tick.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 11 Jan 15
Bittern at Phasouri Reed Beds on 9 Jan.
Nightmare! A massive weather system fell over Cyprus for the first 3 days of the week making getting out very difficult. As I’m getting soft and becoming a fair weather birder, I was unable to get out much in the first half of the week. On Tuesday in between down pours, I got to Paralimni Lake for the first time in at least 6 months. After the recent storms, the lake was the fullest I’ve ever seen it with c50 Greater Flamingos taking up residence. A Grey Heron and at least 6 Little Egrets were present. Not an easy site to observe due to distances, it’s necessary to view from a number of areas involving driving around the 10 mile site. As I observed a pair of smaller gulls hawking the water proved to be the first Little Gulls of the year obviously blown in from the sea in the fairly violent (for Cyprus) storm. A Marsh Harrier disturbed the waders and a Kingfisher flew in front of me from the tamarisks surrounding the lake. As I observed the waders, Kentish Plovers were in the majority but as I scanned 3 Greater Sand Plovers and 2 Grey Plovers were present and they had also obviously come in from the coast to avoid the weather. 2 Ringed Plovers and a lone Redshank were also seen before I departed for home.
With news that Koprulu in the north was full of water, I visited on Wednesday afternoon. On route I stopped briefly on the road at Guvercinlik to view a very large flock of Skylarks and Calandra Larks. The site looks excellent and if managed will become a significant wetland. 23 Pochards were present with a couple of Shelducks and hundreds of Shovelers, Mallards and Teal. A single female Marsh Harrier hawked the bund line and at least 45 Greater Flamingos were feeding. As I scanned I scoped 143 Lapwings and with them was a single Golden Plover. As I left the site I scoped a huge mixed flock of Skylarks and Corn Buntings that contained at least 7 Calandra Larks. A beautiful male Hen Harrier flushed them as I watched. I continued to Fresh Water Lake South, where a Great White Egret remained along with 3 Ferruginous Ducks. Cattle Egrets and Cormorants gathered for the roost and at 1645 as the light was fading the over-wintering pair of Glossy Ibises flew into join the Cattle Egrets. Circa 5000 Starlings made a remarkable “Whhhooosshhh” as they flew to roost and with the light finally disappearing I retired for the day.
So it was Thursday soon enough and needing some shopping I stopped at Paralimni Lake which is actually full of water and looking pretty good. A Great White Egret was present along with commoner Grey Herons and Little Egrets and at least 45 Lapwings were quite vocal. 2 Marsh Harriers flushed some waders but they were too far away to identify but it did alert me to the presence of an adult Common Crane which had been previously reported. As it was getting dark I returned home.
Friday and I had to take Deb to the clinic in Limassol which allowed for a long weekend in Paphos and some birding en route. 3 female type Reed Buntings were at Zakaki Marsh which was a year tick but the Striated Heron remained unseen and is becoming more difficult to see as its stay continues. A Moustached Warbler and Chiffchaff were also seen before departing. Onto Phassouri Reed Beds after a Cyprus Sandwich for lunch. At Phassouri a pair of Common Buzzards were new arrivals and a Song Thrush flushed from the reeds. A Kingfisher fished in the now fairly large pools and a 2nd or 3rd year sub-adult Bonelli’s Eagle was mobbed by the small Buzzards in comparison. We departed along the back road for Episkopi but not before I had nearly run over a Bittern* running along the road and pausing to adopt an outstretched neck posture as if it was in the reed bed. I had heard several people say they’d seen a Bittern along the road but I never thought I’d actually see it for myself. With it clearly confused and posing for the camera – churlish no to, I grabbed a couple of shots through the windscreen and under the circumstances they came out pretty well. Regaining its sense, it soon flew over the reeds and landed deep within. At Kensington Cliffs another Buzzard hung in the wind and 2 Griffon Vultures drifted by. With the year tick in the bag I journeyed to Asprokremnos Dam in the hope of seeing a Great Crested Grebe that had been previously reported. No Grebe but a spectacular booby prize with 21 Ruddy Shelducks newly arrived in the storms. I phoned Colin Richardson immediately who went to see the large flock of ducks, which proved to be a good decision on his part. Prior to booking into the hotel the only bird of interest at Paphos Headland was a Common Sandpiper and at Kalafos Beach a Kingfisher was present.
On Saturday, I did a quick walk along the Paphos Headland turning up 2 Greater Sand Plovers and 61 Golden Plovers and a Common Buzzard flew past heading west, but nothing else. I met Colin Richardson for a day out, quickly adding 30+ Hawfinches, which was a good count and good numbers of Wood Larks in the Armou Village and Hills area. There had obviously been an influx of Serins, Common Buzzards and Song Thrushes were present in large numbers. As we drove through Episkopi in the Ezouzas Valley, we stopped at a rock face and heard and saw a singing male Blue Rock Thrush and a male Peregrine. Onward to a wooded area overlooking a water course and with a little encouragement 3 Siskins (a male and 2 females were observed). In the Marathounta Hills area more of the same with 3 Hawfinches drinking at a puddle and the addition of a cracking male Finsch’s Wheatear. I had lunch with Colin and visited Asprokremnos Dam once more. It was a good job Colin had gone to see the Ruddy Shelducks yesterday as they had left the site. I did catch up with the Great Crested Grebe and 2 beautiful ghost like male Hen Harriers hawked the fields above the dam. Stopping at Kalafos Beach, Paphos once more I eventually caught up with a lone Turnstone, perhaps the only one on the island at present. 2 Shags flew by and at least 10 Yellow-legged Gulls drifted past on the way to roost, which ended the day.
We travelled back from Paphos on Sunday stopping along the way. With nothing doing in the Paphos area I proceeded to Zakaki Marsh. Pulling up at the white railings – there it was, the Striated Heron*. A year tick, but now playing hard to get and not seen as frequently as it used to be. A Kingfisher zipped by but it was the gull roost that occupied most of my time. Amongst the Black-headed Gulls, were good numbers of Armenian Gulls* of different ages. On to Finikaria, a seldom visited site but a place where resident Crag Martins routinely feed in the winter. When conditions are harsh in the mountains, they descend to more favourable altitudes to feed. With snow falling in the Troodos range today was no exception and 3 of this difficult to find resident were hawking over the Germasogia Dam. There was little else here, so I drove to the Larnaca area. On the sewage works the target bird was found in the form of 10 Greater White-fronted Geese. A Black-necked Grebe was present and good numbers of gulls but nothing to write home about. Another Black-necked Grebe was at Oroklini with 24 Flamingos and the usual commoner wildfowl. We stopped at Dolphin Rocks – Oroklini for a coffee and I photographed an adult Mediterranean Gull* and my first Sandwich Tern* that I’ve been able to get close enough to. 3 adult Armenian Gulls were also loafing as we departed. A brief final stop at Akhna Dam brought a Great White Egret and another Common Buzzard. Unfortunately, the mindless hunters were out – although shooting Song Thrushes, Corn Buntings and Skylarks and allowing them to drop in the water and reed bed has little to do with hunting to my mind and is just stupid, narrow minded destruction and killing for the sake of it. But a Cypriot would say I am uncultured and untraditional – they really do make me sick!
Highlights of the Week: A couple of Little Gulls and Koprulu returning to its former 2013 glory: as it was dry last year. However, actually seeing the Bittern in the road was a great moment. In a week of good birds 21 Ruddy Shelducks and 30+ Hawfinches are also worthy of mention.
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