(5) Blog Posts Made in February 2015
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 22 Feb 15
Griffon Vulture at Santa on 22 Feb.
Akhna Dam was very quiet after work on Monday. In fact I’ve never seen it looking so birdless. A Grey Heron was on the lagoon with a Black Redstart and c30 Corn Buntings on wires as I left. Very Dull indeed, but it does have a habit of redeeming itself as migration picks up and it turns up a good rarity when it’s least expected.
Tuesday brought a trip to the north and Koprulu Dam. Wildfowl were present in good numbers with c300 Flamingos. Of most interest was a pair of Black-necked Grebes, 8 Wigeon, a Gadwall and a couple of Pintails. As I scanned I found a pair of Red Crested Pochards which is unusual for the site and Common Pochards numbered 86. 2 female Marsh Harriers were in the area and a ghostly male Hen Harrier was mobbed by Hooded Crows. 2 Great White Egrets were in the grass and a Common Buzzard perched in a tree. Circa 300 Greater Flamingos remained in situ and 8 Ferruginous Ducks eventually showed well. I stopped at Fresh Water Lake North for a changed and the 2 Glossy Ibises rose from the reed bed. Good numbers of Redshanks and Spur-wiinged Plovers were present with a single Ruff. 12 Pintails was a good count and 24 Flamingos fed actively on the far side of the marsh. At Silver Beach 14 Flamingos were present with 14 Common Shelduck and a drake Pintail. A Spotted Redshank was with 2 Common Reshanks and a Green Sandpiper called as it went. Gulserin was fairly quiet, with the c200 Flamingos still at the site and 7 Black-winged Stilts loafed in the grass with Spur-winged Plovers. 2 female Blackcaps were in nearby tamarisks and although many Black-headed Gulls came to roost there was nothing interesting amongst them. A Robin was in the quarter area as I drove home and they appear to be reducing as they come to the end of their wintering period.
On Wednesday with a howling wing, I went to Cape Greco – still no migrants. Yellow-legged Gulls were being blown along the coast and a Common Buzzard cruised by the Sea Caves. At the picnic site a male Blue Rock Thrush and Black Redstart were seen. Stopping at Paralimni Lake on the way home, the 9 Ruddy Shelducks had been joined by a Common Shelduck. Ruffs had increased to c300 (a good count for Feb) and a single Spotted Redshank and 2 Common Redshanks were also present. 14 Dunlins were with the Ruffs and several Little Egrets were seen.
On Thursday I visited Paralimni Lake once more which is looking interesting. The Ruddy Shelducks were still present with c250 Flamingos. Ruff numbers had grown to c150 and 2 Spotted Redshanks were also present, with a Ringed Plover and 43 Dunlins. I eventually spotted a previously reported Black-tailed Godwit and c200 White Wagtails flew to roost as I was departing.
On Friday morning I met the US birder again at Paralimni bus station and we proceeded to Ayias Trias where 3 Grey Plovers were in the company of their Greater Sand Plover cousins. 3 male Cyprus Warblers were singing at Cape Greco Picnic Site and Song Thrushes were everywhere, with in excess of c150 being seen around the cape. A cracking male Finsch’s Wheatear was still present under the Army Camp Cliffs with a male Blue Rock Thrush and several Black Redstarts. Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers were very vocal but no Sylvia migrants were present yet. Travelling from the cape to the sea caves my first Isabelline Wheatear of the year was in fields near Cape Greco Pines and at the Sea Caves another was present with good numbers of Meadow Pipits. A Great White Egret came in off the sea and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls drifted by. A pair of Audouin’s Gulls loafed at Kermia Beach before we headed off to Akhna Dam via Paralimni Lake to see the Ruddy Shelducks. At Akhna Dam it was fairly quiet with c120 Corn Buntings, a Great White Egret, a few Grey Herons and 3 Cormorants. The highlight was a Peregrine attacking a Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard. Returning to Paralimni via Vrysoulles a pair of Little Owls were in their usual nesting hole.
On the way to the airport in the north for a 0430 flight to Istanbul and onwards to Barcelona, we passed a Barn Owl and later on the approach road to Ercan Airport a Long-eared Owl. We arrived in Barcelona at 1050 without incident and headed north to Sietamo near Huesca for a 4 night stay. We stopped at several sights along the way seeing a Bonelli’s Eagle at Santana Dam and White Storks and were all along the roadsides.
The next day was an early start and we began birding at Rio Formiga, where we saw 2 Rock Buntings, a Wren, several Griffon Vultures and a few Red Kites. At a nearby Vulture feeding station, c200 Griffons* were in the area and allowed close views and 2 Lammergeier* were also seen circling above. We continued to Cacon Dam where we found our first Wallcreeper and 3 Ravens were overhead. We proceeded to Monte Aragon where a pair of Black Wheatears, a male Blue Rock Thrush and 17 Choughs were notable. A Red Kite* drifted overhead and a male Dartford Warbler* posed as it sang. We finished the day at Sotonera Lake where Common Cranes roost before attempting to cross the Pyrenees the next day. Circa 1000 Cranes were present and on the lake 9 Greylag Geese were a Spanish “tick” 73 Baltic Gulls were of interest, not common and obviously migrants were joined by c250 Black-headed Gulls. Marsh Harriers and Cormorants were also present before we returned to the hotel for “Tea and Medals” – well Tapas and Vino Tinto.
Highlights of the Week: The first Isabelline Wheatears of the year and of course Lammergeier.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 15 Feb 15
House Martin at Paralimni Lake on 11 Feb
9 Ruddy Shelducks were amongst c230 Greater Flamingos at Parllimni Lake late on Monday afternoon. Little Egrets had increased to at least 10 with 1 Great White and several Grey Herons. 28 Ruffs were present with 1 Wood Sandpiper and a Greenshank. Swallows numbered at least 200 and a female Marsh Harrier cruised over the Lake. I awoke on Tuesday morning to find a Serin singing in the garden on my way to the gym – shock, horror – yes it does happen!
On Tuesday, I invested time at Gulserin Pond in the hope of finding a Common Gull. Without luck, the things you invest time in whilst in Cyprus – remarkable! Anyway as I watched the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls coming to roost, an Audouin’s Gull flew in briefly and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls rested. 2 Penduline Tits emerged from the reeds and 8 Black-winged Stilts were flushed. 4 Pintails remained but there wasn’t much else happening. Of interest amongst the 20 or so migrating Swallows were a couple showing characters of the Levantine Sssp transitive – a liitle larger and redder on the underside.
With a gale force wind blowing on Wednesday, I headed to Cape Greco, but even in this blow nothing was doing. A Sandwich Tern fished in heavy seas and a couple of Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls drifted by. At Paralimni Lake on the way home c300 Barn Swallows were present with c250 Greater Flamingos, however the Ruddy Shelducks appear to have moved on. On the wires amongst the Swallows were my first House Martins* of the year. 21 Ruffs, 3 Redshanks and a Black-winged Stilt were on the north side of the lake, where a Black Francolin could be heard calling.
In the morning as I walked around camp, a Serin sang from some conifers, a Black Redstart quivered on the tennis court fence and I flushed at least 4 Wood Larks as I headed down to the admin office. The weekly JUMBO excursion provided me a little time in the Oroklini area. At JUMBO Drain, 8 Spur-winged Plovers had taken residence, with a Moorhen and several Black-headed Gulls. The site may be coming into its own again but it’s still a far cry from the excellent site it was a year ago. At Oroklini Marsh, at least 8 Chiffchaffs were very active and above me an influx of at least 50 Common Swifts with some hirundines mixed in provided the next year tick. A pair of Red Crested Pochards were in the reeds as 2 female Marsh Harriers cruised above them. A male Pintail remained and at least 10 Armenian Gulls* were present amongst the Black-heads with a 3 winter Yellow-legged Gull*. 89 Greater Flamingos were still present and a lone Black-winged Stilt was with the Spur-winged Plovers. At the coast 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls were loafing at the back of a raft of Black-heads and were complete with black hoods.
A Serin sang once more outside the house on Friday morning as I went to work. I didn’t manage to get out on Friday afternoon and with Valentine’s Night in the Mess in the evening, I stayed in and watched the Rugby on Saturday. On Sunday I visited Cape Greco in the hope of some early migrants – which failed. However, a female Finsch’s Wheatear was with a cracking male, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes were in the area with several Black Redstarts, but perhaps the surprise were 2 Mistle Thrushes with the commoner Song Thrushes. A Long-legged Buzzard headed off the cape and out to sea whilst a Yellow-legged Gull loafed offshore. I moved onto Ayias Trias where 9 Grey Plovers were on the rocks with a Little Egret.
Paralimni Lake held 9 Ruddy Shelducks once more amongst the c250 Flamingos and a pair of Avocets was a surprise. In the afternoon we headed to the north where the highlight was an Audouin’s Gull at Clapsides Beach. I returned home early as there was not much occurring and watched the rugby.
Highlights of the Week: The arrival of Swifts and House Martins but migration seems to be a bit behind last year perhaps because of the unsettled weather in the last week.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 8 Feb 15
Female White-headed Duck at Mia Milia Sewage Works on 7 Feb
February has arrived, Swallows are well and truly in and a couple of Swifts have also been seen – migration is underway! A singing Serin and a mobile Black Redstart on camp brightened the day and in the evening, with the light improving, I managed to get to Fresh Water Lake South for half an hour. That said, there wasn’t much there. 5 Swallows passed overhead, 53 Cormorants came to roost and along with the c350 Cattle Egrets, the 2 Glossy Ibises remained faithful and roosted with them. The significance being that I’ve seen Glossy Ibises in every month of the year of Cyprus; they are not usually known to overwinter. A couple of Cetti’s Warblers were very audible, however that was about it for the day.
A bit of shopping in Paralimini on Tuesday allowed me to visit the lake and Ayias Trias. At the coast, 2 adult Audouin’s Gulls* loafed and posed for the camera. What a beautiful Gull they are! Anyway, there were no Plovers on the rocks surprisingly so we went and did the shopping before looking at Paralimni Lake. The 9 Ruddy Shelducks were still present amongst the c150 Greater Flamingos and 1 Great White Egret fed on the fringes. Circa 30 Swallows were hawking over the lake – they have arrived! 18 Ruff flew over the lake and as I scanned I saw 4 Wood Sandpipers, obviously early migrants and a Common Snipe. 3 Water Pipits and 2 Meadow Pipits flushed and I could hear several Cetti’s Warblers. A single Black-winged Stilt appeared and before I left the Grey Herons numbered 11 and the Little Egrets 6.
A mid week visit to Cape Greco provided 2 female Finsch’s Wheatear in their usual wintering haunts by the sea caves and under the Army Post Cliffs. 2 male Blue Rock Thrushes were also there along with 1 Black Redstart. A male Sardinian Warbler was vocal as was a male Peregrine that passed overhead, pausing briefly above the cliffs. Chukars were much in evidence as were Song Thrushes – good to see and surprised there are any left alive after the recent round of mindless Cypriot slaughter. On to Ayia Thekla and after much searching and 2 Little Egrets, I found my quarry in the form of 9 Greater Sand Plovers, the largest count this winter.
On Thursday, dropping Deb in Larnaca and picking up the US birder I headed off to the usual sites. 4 Black-necked Grebes on the sewage works were of interest but nothing much else was doing. 6 Ruffs were on the Airport Pool South and several Swallows passed overhead. On the main salt lake a nice adult Slender-billed Gull was with the many Black-heads. At the north end of the lake, Water Pipits, Meadow Pipits, a female Marsh Harrier and the usual waders and although a wintering Green Sandpiper was present the Marsh Sandpiper had moved on.
On Friday, a quick visit to the north produced 14 Pintails at Gulserin Marsh with c150 Greater Flamingos and at Silver Beach a Greenshank and 17 Shelducks. On to Fresh Water Lake South where a single drake Ferruginous Duck loitered and 8 Yellow-legged Gulls passed overhead on the way to roost. With it being fairly quiet I left before the roosting birds started to appear.
Saturday was a KUSKOR field trip and we met at Five Finger Mountain (Besparmak (TU) or Pentydactylos (GR)) – so many names for 1 place – crazy but that’s the politics of birding in Cyprus. We continued to what is known as Kyrenia Rock, a viewpoint at Alevkaya. Here we first heard and then saw the pair of breeding Ravens – a rare sight indeed these days and they were joined by a male Peregrine. In the nearby conifers, a Great Tit, 2 Goldcrests and a pair of Sardinian Warblers. I also saw my first 2 Cleopatras of the year. We met the remainder of the group at Demirhan Roundabout and continued to the nearby pools. The fields contained Corn Buntings, Skylarks and at least 8 Calandra Larks. A Bluethroat was near a muddy, wet semi-pond and was joined by a singing Chiffchaff and a lone Song Thrush. As Fan-tailed Warblers displayed, a stunning male Hen Harrier quartered in the distance. Erecting a couple of Roller nest boxes, a male Peregrine passed overhead at Mia Milia Sewage Works. The lagoons contained the usual wildfowl with good numbers of Pochards being present – not common in the south. We came to a lagoon that contained what appeared to be the majority of wildfowl. A pair of Gadwalls, several Shellduck, Pochards and many Mallards. In amongst the Shovelers, I paused to see a female White-headed Duck – amazed, I got the rest of the group onto it and took some record shots as it was a little distant for my camera – all the same the images saved me a thousand words on the rarity report. Submitted, it turns out that it’s the 15th record since the 1980s of a species that has become increasingly scarce in recent years. Happy with that I heard a Moustached Warbler singing and as I left the site 4 Spur-winged Plovers took flight. As I drove the road to the Fresh Water Lakes, I passed a Great White Egret in a flooded field at Pirhan.
I stopped at the north lake first and 22 Redshanks were present with c60 Spur-winged Plovers, amongst them were 2 Ruffs. A Great White Egret alighted with 2 Grey Herons and my first female Sparrowhawk of the year passed to my left. I once again rejoined the group at the south lake where a couple of Marsh Harriers flew to roost. With good numbers of Cattle Egrets coming to roost, they were soon joined by 62 Cormorants, c2500 passing overhead and the last to arrive the pair of Glossy Ibises. 2 Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper and a Reshank were on the far bank and a pair of Spur-winged Plovers appeared to be looking to nest.
On Sunday a brief visit to Akhna Dam before going shopping produced a Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, c30 Corn Buntings and the regular Little Owl. On the platforms off Dhekelia Power Station 5 Shags loafed. The end of a productive week which finished with a roast dinner and my first beer of 2015 – Dry January was extended due to its success, but alas the draw of a cold KEO became irresistible!
Highlights of the Week: A Female White-headed Duck and 9 Greater Sand Plovers was a good count with Audouin’s Gulls always being a treat when posing for the camera.
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January is normally a quiet time on the Plain for birds and the military. What is noticeable is that only a few Short-eared Owls are about though one is regularly seen at NZ Camp. There are no roosting Hen Harriers on the west and are usually found on the Impact Area though this year they tend to be ringtails. During a Hen Harrier survey mid month we only saw one Buzzard all afternoon despite there being quite a few about. Even Kestrels that were suceesful fledging last year have moved on. There are still lots of corvids and Woodpigeons about and Jays are common. There are still good flocks of Fieldfares and Golden Plover plus there was a flock of 40+ Linnet at Bishopstrow Down and 48 Corn Bunting at Vedette 8. Stripwood had numerous Great and Blu Tits as well as Bullfinch but very few Chaffinches. There are plenty of Stonechat about and even Goldcrests are in full song from most copses. The Starling murmuration at COTEC continues though whether all the birds twirl and dance in the sky is pot luck. There has to be around a million birds at times (I was 3 miles away when I saw that many) as a huge cloud continually morphed in the blue sky. This month I have counted 44 species on the Plain which is about right given I spend a lot of time in other parts of Wiltshire birding and ringing; never mind the excellent trip to the AOS weekend in Norfolk.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 1 Feb 15
Common Buzzard -Phassouri Reed Beds 31Jan.
So, the end of the first month of 2015 and the year list stands at a very respectable 134 – 7 better than last January and 14 better than 2013, so a good start, although I’ll only be here for half a year and miss the autumn migration. I was unable to get out on Monday but a visit to the polyclinic in Limassol allowed me a quick look at Zakaki which held a Marsh Harrier a Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. There were plenty of Armenian and Caspian Gulls at Lady’s Mile but nothing remarkable. On Tuesday afternoon I visited Paralimni Lake and the 9 Ruddy Shelducks were still in residence. Great White Egrets numbered 3 amongst the commoner Grey Herons and Little Egrets. Ruffs had increased to 11 and 2 Common Snipe flushed. With Greater Flamingo numbers at 137 and a couple of Marsh Harriers flying around, which concluded the day, save for a mixed flock of Dunlins, Little Stints and Kentish Plovers.
Wednesday’s visit to the North was eventful. At Silver Beach, my first Greenshank of the year was with a pair of Redshanks, a Curlew flew in and 3 Shelducks were on the lagoons. 14 Flamingos were present before I carried on to Clapsides Beach which was quiet. A Little Egret was on the rocks with many gulls which were hiding beyond the rocks and were unidentifiable. I did however see a pair of Turnstones and although I’ve seen them there in early 2013, they are usually only reported from the Paphos Headland. At Gulserin 125 Flamingos were present with good numbers of wildfowl including 7 Shelducks, 52 Shovelers, 28 Pintails and c200 Teal. With not much else happening I finished the day at Fresh Water Lake South. The pair of Glossy Ibises continue to roost with the Cattle Egrets, 3 Mash Harriers flew to roost at the north lake and a lone Ferruginous Duck appeared from the reeds. Starling numbers were much reduced and I waited to count 55 Cormorants flying to roost in the eucalyptus trees.
On Thursday, I took a US birder out for the day in the Larnaca area. Since she’d not birded in Europe previously, it was an eventful day for her with some good sightings. 5 Curlews and a female Black Francolin were at the sewage works, with Wigeon and Black-necked Grebes on the lagoons. Another Curlew was at the airport fields and 3 Black-winged Stilts were on Spiro’s Pool. Opposite on the beach 4 Dunlins, 3 Little Stints and c50 Kentish Plovers were all lifers for Caitlin – I envy those who have just started birding – they still have it all to see! Shelducks, Shovelers and numerous Flamingos were on the main salt lake and at the north end, the Marsh Sandpiper was still present and a Spotted Redshank flew over calling. I got a 1st winter Med Gull in the scope and several adults were a little further out. A Marsh Harrier was overhead which flushed a solitary Green Sandpiper and some Song Thrushes.
At Oroklini coast we stopped for some lunch and viewed 7 Sandwich Terns and another adult Med Gull which added to the adult Slender-billed Gull that I’d seen earlier before the pickup. An adult Baltic Gull flew by heading purposefully west and an adult Armenian Gull and 2nd winter Caspian Gull were on the nearby Oroklini Marsh – a good day for Gulls. Pintails were on the marsh and a walk around the south end produced a Bluethroat, Grey Wagtail, female Reed Warbler, several Water Pipits and 3 Black-winged Stilts. 2 pairs of Red-crested Pochards are now in the area with the 40 or so Lapwings and several Spur-winged Plovers also proving to be popular. We stopped in Larnaca for a coffee before I departed and stopped at Akhna Dam on the way home which is still proving to be very unproductive. 2 Redshanks, 2 Grey Herons and a Great White Egret were all that was on offer on the water’s edge. Try as I may, as I scanned 10s of Chaffinches, Corn Buntings and Serins, I couldn’t find a Brambling.
On Saturday we journeyed to Troodos to stay the night via the Limassol and Akrotiri sites. There weren’t really any highlights at either location so we continued to Troodos. The snow was still lying and the cloud cover was very low and it was raining. The only new bird for the year that I saw was a couple of Coal Tits. We settled down for a night of DVDs and I typed up some records for the KUSKOR annual bird report. Sunday was a glorious day, it couldn’t have been more of a difference from Saturday. After breakfast we got out early and I had not gone more than 200m from the camp when a flock of birds flew past me calling. A sizeable flock of Yellowhammers. With yellow markings and rufous under tail coverts, I couldn’t managed to find a Pine Bunting but it’ll be worth another look later this month. Knocking around the various Troodos sites, I found, several Jays and Short-toed Treecreepers but no Wrens or Crossbills. A Goldcrest was a good find at Giant Juniper Picnic Site and a Mistle Thrush was heard at Levadi Tou Pasha Picnic Site. I retraced my tracks to where I’d started but there weren’t as many Yellowhammers as there had been previously. I drove a track that I hadn’t been on before and came across a large flock of Chaffinches. I watched them feed on the side of the road and in the bare patches between the snow. Amazingly, there it was, a male Brambling and a Cyprus “tick” for me – my 4th this year! I secured good views of this much sought after winter visitor but with the birds being very flighty, I couldn’t get a photo of the birds before they took flight and disappeared over a nearby ridge. A good moment though!
We continued down the mountain via Limassol but again there was nothing really to write home about. I did stop and photograph a Buzzard which was perched on a post before moving on. Stopping at Larnaca Sewage Works, a Black-necked Grebe was the highlight with 2 drake Wigeon also being note able. 3 Black-winged Stilts were on Spiro’s Pool and on Larnaca Airport Pool South a huge number of large Gulls. Mostly 1st winter Caspians but many adult Armenians and amongst them an adult Siberian and Baltic Gull. 6 Ruffs flew in whilst I was departing. At Larnaca Salt Lake, Shelducks and Shovelers were present in good numbers and I then spotted a flock of 24 Black-necked Grebes – the highest this winter. At Oroklini on the way home I saw my first to Swallows of the year and a female Marsh Harrier. The end of a fairly productive week had arrived.
Highlights of the Week: A fine male Brambling bringing my Cyprus list to 317.