(6) Blog Posts Made in March 2015
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 29 Mar 15
Rock Thrush at Limnara Valley on 29 Mar.
With the end of March fast approaching and a posting looming in the summer – where is the year going?
Monday again and lots to do before my departure. I had time to visit Paralimni Lake after work and the Spotted Crake showed well again. A couple each of Sedge, Reed and Cetti’s Warblers were present and once more I heard the Great Reed Warbler, singing on this occasion. Some Yellow Wagtails were amongst the White Wagtails and Little Ringed Plovers but there wasn’t much else happening.
On Tuesday came the news of my posting. I’m off to Uphaven in Wiltshire (soon to become UK’s rarity hotspot – I don’t think) and will depart the island on Saturday 11th of July – so no more BLOGGING! In the afternoon I visited Cape Greco once more. In the pines it was alive, albeit with c100+ Chiffchaffs in the main. A couple of Eastern Bonell’s Warblers remained and at least 3 Eastern Subalpine Warblers were seen. This coupled with Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Common Whitethroats, Common Redstarts and Ruppel’s Warblers made the place very busy. I saw and then heard an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler before a few Tree Pipits flew up from the grass. I flushed a Great Spotted Cuckoo as I made for the car to continue onto the cape. On the cape Wheatears was the flavour of the day with 4 species being present but not much else. At the picnic site a Cretzschmar’s Bunting and an Ortolan Bunting were the highlights before I drove around the sea caves on route to Limnara Valley where more Wheatears were present. A Tawny Pipit was amongst the rocks and the 2 Audouin’s Gulls continued to loaf at Kermia Beach.
At Ayia Napa Sewage Works at least 15 Cretzschmar’s Buntings were present with a male Masked Shrike providing a flash of colour. At least 5 Eastern Bonelli’s and 2 Eastern Orphean Warblers were in the bushes with several Ruppel’s Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats. A female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush was with 2 Blue Rock Thrushes and 2 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were with their Northern and Cyprus cousins. I finished the day at Paralimni Lake where I eventually saw the Great Reed Warbler and found the male Citrine Wagtail that had been previously reported. At least 500 Ruffs were present with smaller numbers of Green and Wood Sandpipers. As I watched an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, 6 Little Egrets and a Great White Egret were overhead. A Water Pipit was in the reeds but perhaps the biggest surprise was a male Reed Bunting which concluded proceedings. As I drove home I passed a Long-legged Buzzard perched on a telegraph post just outside Freneros.
On Wednesday, I managed to get to Cape Greco for a couple of hours. A couple of Common Redstarts and an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler were in the pines and Chiffchaff numbers had reduced significantly from yesterday. A bird dashing through the trees finally perched and turned out to be a Common Cuckoo and several Tree Pipits flushed from the grass and perched in nearby pines. I continued onto the cape where many of the commoner migrants were still present in smaller numbers. Tipped-off regarding the presence of a Bimaculated Lark – which I didn’t find, a beautiful male Pallid Harrier appeared and cruised along the rocky outcrops. It’s Always a joy to see one of these in the spring and my 200th bird of the year. I continued around the cape but didn’t relocate the Lark. Driving past the sea caves and onto Limnara Valley, 6 Greater Short-toed Larks alighted along with a Tawny Pipit. The hillside contained Northern, Isabelline, Cyprus and a lovely dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. The bushes contained Lesser Whitethroats, Ruppel’s Warblers and Blackcaps along with a handful of Chiffchaffs. A bird flying from the undergrowth to a pylon caught my attention and it was a cracking male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. A Hoopoe and 2 Audouin’s Gulls at Kermia Beach rounded off the day – but no Bimaculated Lark! I attended a Silver Lunch in the mess in the afternoon, but I’m not planning a heavy session.
Not planning a heavy session – failure! Still feeling a bit ropey I headed off to Akhna Dam where the highlight was an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and onto Paralimni Lake. The Spotted Crake showed again and a female Marsh Harrier flew over. 3 Temminck’s Stints were with a single Kentish Plover and on the lagoons, a Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and numerous Ruffs. Several Little Egrets and Grey Herons were also present but it wasn’t a huge haul of species.
On Friday I visited Cape Greco in the morning. Much of the same was still present in the area with Wheatears and Sylvia warblers being in the ascendency, although a couple of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers were still in the pines. Pallid Harriers continue to come in from the sea and they’re a fantastic site. In the afternoon I visited Koprulu Dam in the north which is a fantastic wetland. Species not found anywhere in the south of the island at the moment are still present including Gadwalls, Pochards and Wigeon. My first 3 Sand Martins of the year were over the water and a Great White Egret flew in and landed next to 5 Common Cranes. A few Common Shelducks remain and a breeding plumaged Black-necked Grebe was a surprise. A few commoner waders were present all continually harassed by 4 or 5 female Marsh Harriers. At Fresh Water Lake North 2 Marsh Sandpipers were with c110 Black-winged Stilts and many Ruffs including a Spotted Redshank and 3 Common Redshanks. Another pair of Gadwalls were present and amongst the Teal a fine male Garganey. At the south lake a Glossy Ibis roosted with the c600 Cattle Egrets with c85 nests being noted. 5 Cormorants remain at the site and a drake Ferruginous Duck flew by as I watched. 5 Garganeys were present here (3 Drakes and 2 Ducks) and another pair of Gadwalls were present.
On Saturday, an early morning start at Cape Greco and a bit of a sea watch which produced 24 (2 groups of 12) Common Cranes flying East along with several Baltic Gulls and an Armenian Gull. 3 Audouin’s Gulls headed east and Pallid Harriers came in from the sea. I soon moved to the picnic site, alerted to the presence of a Savi’s Warbler. I wandered around with the 2 UK birders I’d met – Bill2 (both called Bill which made it easy for me) and soon the Savi’s started to reel intermittently and showed in flight briefly. We continued around the cape area and found many of the usual commoner migrants including Ruppel’s Warbers, Eastern Orpheans, Cretzschmar’s Buntings and 4 species of Wheatear. Greater Short-toed Larks were fairly numerous and at Limnara the male Rock Thrush continued to show well. A Great White Egret came in off the sea further down the coast before we headed of to Ayia Napa Sewage Works.
At the works, more of the same but a cracking male Ehrenberg’s Redstart showed in the open for a change and aside from the Warblers and the Wheatears, good numbers of Red-rumped Swallows were above us and contained a pair of Alpine Swifts. 8 Black-crowned Night Herons were seen to the east coming in from the sea, which was a year tick for me. At Paralimni Lake a Spotted Crake showed briefly, with a Lesser Whitethroat and Cretzschmar’s Bunting showing well as another couple of Red-rumped Swallows passed overhead. Then came the news of a couple of good birds in the Larnaca area and a large movement of passerines. We were off to Spiro’s beach. Driving as fast as my car would carry me we arrived at Spiro’s at about 1215. A short walk on the beach and there it was – a near mythical bird for me in Cyprus an Oystercatcher*. I don’t think the Bills had ever seen a UK birder get so animated about an Oystercatcher – but a Cyprus “tick” does things for you after a while. We continued to Larnaca Sewage Works where careful searching revealed 2 Collared Pratincoles in the ploughed field with a Stone Curlew, Greater Short-toed Larks, a couple of Red-throated Pipits and many Ruffs and Wood Sandpipers. On the raised area separating the lagoons a few Armenian Gulls remained with a Yellow-legged Gull and amongst the Black-headed Gulls was an adult Gull-billed Tern. On the lagoons 5 Garganeys and 2 Ferruginous Ducks was the highlight. A male Black Francolin called from a fence post, giving excellent views before we left. Another flew across us at Pervolia fields as we watched a pair of displaying Calandra Larks, (members of the AOS will remember this site as the “drive by” Calandra Lark site. A brief stop at the north airport pool produced a Redshank, 5 Ringed Plovers, 8 Little Stints and 10 Dunlins with 3 Sanderlings also being present. 30 or so Slender-billed Gulls spiralled overhead and on the salt lake there were c400 and 8 Black-necked Grebes with c900 Shovelers. I left the 2 Bills here and arranged to meet them at Cape Greco the following day. Thanks for your company throughout the day and the 50 bucks for a few beers, some petrol and a bite to eat.
Turning into an epic day, a Water Pipit was in JUMBO Drain with some Black-headed Yellow Wagtails and a Green Sandpiper. At Oroklini 53 Slender-billed Gulls were with a handful of Black-heads and a male Red Crested Pochard skulked in the undergrowth. A final visit to Paralimini Lake in the evening saw the Spotted Crake show once more and a Sedge Warbler added to the day list. A Citrine Wagtail also showed with at least a 1000 Ruffs being present along with other commoner waders. Standing with Joe and John we saw 3 sad GROWN MEN? Shoot a Black-winged Stilt and we saw it fall into the water – what a waste, pointless, stupid and f…ing annoying – It is these events which make me glad I am leaving Cyprus in July. The Irish birders were shocked and stunned having never seen this sort of thing before but sadly, I had a resigned look on my face and it was another species added to the list of those that I’ve seen shot pointlessly over the last 3 years. The following day although I wasn’t present, another couple birding in the area had the back window of their hire car put through with stones. So much for “What a lovely place Cyprus is”? The day ended on a high with a flyover Peregrine.
The following day, Sunday I headed to Cape Greco again and met the 2 Bills once more. A bit of early morning sea watching revealed a surprise bird with a pale phase Arctic Skua chasing 2 Gulls as it headed east. Several Red-rumped Swallows were in off the sea and 4 Baltic Gulls passing east concluded the watch and with the weather coming in, it was time to move on. 2 newly arrived male Pallid Harriers were over the picnic site area and a Nightingale was heard but other than that the same migrants were still around from yesterday. Our first find in the pines was a Wryneck closely followed by a Redstart and at least 5 Eastern Orphean Warblers. 2 Masked Shrikes eventually gave themselves up amongst the more familiar species. At the Sea Caves, I paused to photograph a male light throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear* as 5 Greater Short-toed Larks passed overhead calling. The male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush* remained in situ which was again a pleasure to see. We continued to Ayia Napa Sewage Works where our first find was a Tawny Pipit. A couple of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers and a female Ruppel’s added to the day list amongst a sea of various Wheatears. Perhaps the surprise of the day was a pair of dark phase Booted Eagles, harassed by a Kestrel as they thermalled northwards. A female Blue Rock Thrush ended the session here but another Masked Shrike was seen on the way to the football pitches.
Onto Akhna Dam where another Wryneck was seen with many Black-headed Yellow Wagtails amongst which was a Water Pipit, Supercilliaris hybrid and a Syke’s (bema) Wagtail. I finished the day at Fresh Water Lake South in the north. 6 Cormorants remained, a count of the Cattle Egrets revealed c650 with c85 nests and 31 Glossy Ibises flew in towards dusk. The surprise and end to another fantastic week was a flythrough Blue-cheeked Beeater.
Highlights of the Week: A Cyprus “tick” and MEGA – Oystercatcher at Spiro’s Beach!!!! My 319 Cyprus’ species. Migrants are still pouring through and the diversity remains if not the numbers. A male Pallid Harrier and another male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush are always enjoyable moments.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 22 Mar 15
Semi-collared Flycatcher at Asprokremnos Dam on 21 Mar.
The weekly BLOGs are becoming a bit delayed due to the fact that I don’t have the time due to too much birding – if that’s possible.
On Monday, a day’s leave and I headed to Cape Greco. Wheatears were very much in evidence with 5 species being present. In the pines, the male Ehrenberg’s Restart* was still present with 2 Common Redstarts and the Great Spotted Cuckoo (or a different one) continued its stay. Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, although reduced in numbers are still present with at least 4 being in the pines. Blue Rock Thrushes and Hoopoes appear to be everywhere still. A few Black Restarts and Stonechats remain from the winter but they continue to decrease in numbers. A Wryneck was still present in the antennas area as were several Tawny Pipits. Cretzschmar’s Buntings continue to pass through in good numbers and a few Nightingales have begun to sing from hidden perches. 2 Audouin’s Gulls continued to loaf at Kermia Beach and that moved me quickly onto the Ayia Napa Sewage Works area. In the area Cretzschmar’s Buntings were obvious as were more Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers. My first 2 Masked Shrikes of the year were seen and Whreatears were also well represented. 4 male Ruppel’s Warblers were noted and Blue Rock Thrushes continue to populate the bluff.
In the afternoon I visited Larnaca and at Dolphin Rocks, 7 Sandwich Terns were present with 64 Black-headed Gulls and 2 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls. Oroklini Marsh still holds 35 Greater Flamingos and a Reed Warbler was heard. A Marsh Harrier flew over the marsh and disturbed and Avocet and 5 Snipe. Whist watching I noted 2 adult Baltic Gulls, a 2nd winter Armenian Gull but perhaps the surprise of the day was a male Penduline Tit. I visited Akhna Dam before returning home but a few Wheatears were all that was of interest.
On Tuesday at Akhna Dam Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers were present with Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Cetti’s Warblers also being fairly obvious along with c20 Spanish Sparrows. On the 18th, I picked up Caitlin at Paralimni for an early morning start at Cape Greco. The pines held much the same with a Great Spotted Cuckoo still being present with Hoopoes. A late Robin was heard from the undergrowth but we moved on to the Cape to see what was happening. No real change here with lots of Sylvia Warblers and Wheatears being present. An Eastern Orphean Warbler was a good find but typically didn’t show for very long. 9 Tawny Pipits were at Limnara Valley and a Nightingale sang sweetly. More of the same at Ayia Napa Sewage Works but we did manage to photograph an obliging Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Greater Short-toed Lark*. As we passed Avgorou on the way to Akhna Dam I spotted a Long-legged Buzzard* perched on a small cliff which we took time to admire, but soon enough we were at Akhna. Several Black-headed Yellow Wagtails were present including Supercilliaris and melanogrisea (White-chinned Wagtail) forms. Some more Greater Short-toed Larks8 posed for the camera and Caitlin took time to photograph Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers. A Tree Pipit was seen briefly as it called and 4 Water Pipits were also present. With nothing else for it we stopped at Stelios snack bar for a mega Cyprus mixed sandwich – the birding food of choice. At Oroklini 6 Sandwich Terns were present with the 2 1st winter Med Gulls, c50 Black-heads and 1 Armenian. The marsh still held the Avocet and a couple of Black-winged Stilts. A female Mallard had 11 ducklings in tow and a Marsh Harrier rose in the distance. JUMBO drain held a Little Ringed Plover, 3 Green Sandpipers and 3 Spur-winged Plovers. I dropped Caitlin off and continued to the Larnaca area before waiting for “H” hour when Deb would land at Larnaca on the famous BA662 arriving at 1825. On the south airport pools, 31 Black-winged Stilts were joined by a Spotted Redshank, with good numbers of Greater Flamingos and 5 Common Shelducks still being present. Nothing much else was in the area but I did manage to scope a calling male Black Francolin at Pervolia. I drove to Petounta Point for the first time this year and sadly it’s been drained and is a shadow of its former glory. A Hoopoe, Meadow Pipit and Common Redstart flushed as a Reed Warbler sang from the reed bed and 13 Baltic Gulls passed the point. A male Ruppel’s Warbler showed well but that was it. The Larnaca Salt Lakes were fairly boring with nothing much of interest and by this time “The Eagle Has Landed”, so it was time to pick Deb up and finish the day with a curry at the Balti House on Larnaca Strip (I can recommend it)!
On the 19th I visited Paralimni Lake where I heard and saw my first Sedge Warbler of the year which kept the year list on target. An Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers was active near a Blackcap and a Black-winged Stilt called as it went. At Cape Greco Pines, another 3 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, a Common and Ehrengerg’s Restart wer present and a Hoopoe flushed from underfoot. At the Cape, still good numbers of Ruppel’s Warblers, Blue Rock Thrushes and Wheatears, with a Tree Pipit being heard. A Sandwich Tern cruised west as I watched and several Tawny Pipits and a Cretzschmar’s Bunting were quite vocal as they flew over. The same species were present all over the cape area and 2 Audouin’s and a Yellow-legged Gull remained at Kermia Beach. I walked around Ayia Napa Sewage Works noting good numbers of the same species that were present earlier on the cape. I had been walking for a while when a raptor rose over the escarpment. Going through the data base of species in my head and after a bit of thought and confusion (that was the key) a worn pale phase Booted Eagle was added to the year list which was quite unexpected, although previous record show that there is a small spring passage at about this time. In the afternoon I visited the north which was quite unproductive for a change. The highlights were a Great White Egret and a Glossy Ibis amongst the c500 Cattle Egrets at Fresh Water Lake South.
On Friday after work we headed to Troodos for a dinner, stopping on the way in atrocious weather to see 4 Crossbills at Levadia Tou Pasha, 2 of which were immatures. As I left on Saturday morning in the snow, I noted a late Mistle Thrush and at the Caledonian Falls 7 Siskins. On the way down the Dhiarizos River Valley on route for an overnight stay in Paphos, Kidasi held a Northern and Cyprus Wheatear but no Finsch’s as the AOS discovered last year. The wintering birds appear to depart by the 2nd week in March from this site. I met Colin Richardson and Bill Stacey at Anarita Park where at the entrance at least 4 Lesser Kestrels* hawked over the fields. Moving on 2 Blue Rock Thrushes performed well for the crowd and a little later on male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush* was and excellent bird to see for the year, it was joined by a Northern and Cyprus Wheatear before a magnificent adult Bonelli’s Eagle flew over flushing a couple of Meadow Pipits. It was then that Colin received a text from a visiting birder (Jim Wilson) alerting us to several Semi-collared Flycatchers in the pine woods above Asprokremnos Dam. With no time to waste a semi-twitch was on. As I arrived I soon located a female Semi-collared* feeding actively and flushed several Hoopoes, A pair of Garganeys landed briefly below us on the dam and it took a while to find another female flycatcher and eventually the male. The male Semi-collared Flycatcher* fed actively flying to the ground and showed well as we watched and photographed it. The least numerous and most difficult of the black and white flycatchers to see was in the bag!
At Mandria 78 Cormorants headed out to see and Northern and Isabelline Wheatears were common. I checked in at the hotel, dropped Deb and headed off to the headland. I walked along seeing 3 Common Redshanks, 3 migrating Spur-winged Plovers and a late, migrating Greater Sand Plover. The surprise was eventually (this year) catching up with the only winteriing Whimbrel* on the island, a bird I thought I’d missed for the year. At least 12 Yellow-legged Gulls passed to roost as I walked to the car. The usual trip to Armou Village near Colin’s house produced 2 Cyprus Scops Owls and that was it for the day except for watching the rugby, a few beers and an excellent Steak and Kidney Pie in Tramps Bar.
On Sunday, we departed earlyish and stopped at Mandria. Much the same here but a flock of c800 Yellow Wagtails – mostly feldeggs was amazing. From the same field I flushed a Quail and a few Tawny Pipits and Greater Short-toed Larks were also present. At Kouklia Soakaways, a Long-legged Buzzard was over the hills as were a pair of Alpine Swift with many Common Swifts and House Martins. Onward to Episkopi where another 4 Alpine Swifts and 3 Griffon Vultures were seen. At Akrotiri Gravel Pits, a Marsh Sandpiper was with c20 Ruff and a Water Pipit showed briefly amongst the Yellow Wagtails. A late Hawfinch was near Phassouri Reed Beds as a Marsh Harrier went about its business. At Zakaki Marsh from the hide I caught up with 2 Little Crakes, a male and a female whilst Sedge and Reed Warblers were active in the vegetation. A Kingfisher was the last bird I saw in the area before heading to Larnaca and 2 Lesser Kestrels passing over the car at Kivisili. Akhna Dam held nothing new so after stopping at home for a cup of tea and to sort out some dirty washing admin, I drove to Paralimni Lake to end the week.
On arrival I quickly saw a Spotted Crake in front of the reeds and after watching for an hour or so it was chased by a Water Rail as another swan close by. As I scanned the reed bed another Crake appeared – an adult male. All grey on the front with obvious barring on the flanks reaching the legs – BAILLON’S, my first of the tour – RESULT, and a good decision to visit, the hybrid “dombrowski” (Romanian Wagtail) nearly when unnoticed in the excitement. As I watched the reed beds, a couple of Sedge, Reed and Cetti’s Warblers were very active. Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs chased each other and then the familiar deep croaking and grating of a Great Reed Warbler which remained hidden. A great end to another productive week.
Highlights of the Week: Another superb week’s activity, culminating in Rock Thrush, Semi-collared Flycatchers and 3 species of Crake.
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This week there is live firing on the west all week so quite understandably there is no access. Over the last 4 weeks I have visited Norfolk and Somerset whilst in between I have looked at various sites in Wiltshire and even strayed into Hampshire. On the Plain the winter birds are leaving. On a walk last Sunday there were still some Fieldfares and Redwings. There were some last week on the Centre. I have started to carry out surveys there as well and a new BBS square is in the middle of the impact area! Birds seen over the last period include Snipe and Woodcock as well as raptors including Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Red Kite. There are plenty of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits about though some cold winds seem to hampen their singing. I have put up 18 bird boxes arond Imber Village and 8 re-furbished boxes along Gurkha Track. It will be interesting to see what nests in them as they are all at shoulder height so I can look in without a ladder. On area R there was a Chiffchaff and there is a pair of ravens with a nest nearby. They are nesting in the quarry as well. There are lots of tits and Chaffinches all over the place. In a flock of Chaffinches near Z Range there were 2 Brambling. Unfortunately I have not found any others. Corn Buntings remain by famland though Yellowhammers are moving about in more central areas. There are plenty of Stonechat pairs. The Spring migrants are on their way so hopefully they will stop and hang around the Plain for a while so I can note where they are, once I can get back on.Comments
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 15 Mar 15
Blue-cheeked Beeater at Vrysoulles Village on 15 Mar.
I awoke in the middle of the night to hear Stone Curlews calling and a hear tick – a calling Quail. Monday evening started slowly with a trip to Akhna Dam. Again it was very quiet with only 5 Green Sandpipers, 1 Ruff, 1 Grey Heron a couple of Corn Buntings and as I left the Little Owl was in its usual roosting hole.
As I walked to work on Tuesday a Song Thrush passed overhead and a Black Francolin called. In the afternoon I headed for Cape Greco, the weather was glorious and it was the first time this year that the shorts and a T-Shirt got an outing. . Male Blue Rock Thrushes continue to sing and Hoopoes are becoming more numerous. Song Thrushes and Black Redstarts are building in numbers prior to departure and Stonechats are reducing in numbers as are Meadow Pipits. In the Sea Caves area 7 Greater Short-toed Larks called as they flew over and landed nearby which alerted me to the presence of 5 Tawny Pipits consorting with Isabeline and Northern Wheatears. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, I found a fresh female Subalpine Warbler and on the lagoons a single Black-necked Grebe was with Little Grebes. As I walked around, Song Thrushes were once more very numerous and a Black Redstart gave itself up. At least 3 Ruppel’s Warblers were in the area, with 2 males and a female being seen. As I left a Common Buzzard flushed from the bushes and on the way to Ayia Napa Football Pitches, several Isabelline and a single Cyprus Wheatear was seen. A Robin showed itself near to the football pitches and a Meadow Pipit called as it went.
I visited Cape Greco again on Wednesday and the appalling weather had returned. That said, some good migrants were found, albeit all looking a bit bedraggled in the rain. Northern and Isabelline Wheatears are now everywhere, Cyprus Wheatears are on territory and the female (light throated) Finsch’s Wheatear continues its winter stay at the Cape Greco Sea Caves. Several Lesser Whitethroats were seen around the Cape, with Ruppel’s building in numbers. A female Blackcap was at the picnic site area and a Spectacled Warbler sang and displayed as did at least 2 Cyprus Warblers. Once more at the Sea Caves a single Tawny Pipit and Greater Short-toed Lark was seen. As I continued another Lesser Whitethroat was on top of a bush with Chiffchaffs nearby. The best find was a male Eastern Orphean Warbler, which was spot on time, looking at previous earliest dates for the species. At Kermia beach a pair of Audouin’s Gulls loafed. The rain stopped briefly in the late afternoon so at Gulserin Pond in the north 61 Greater Flamingos remained with 4 Pintails, numerous Shovelers and Teal with 4 Black-winged Stilts looking like they may attempt breeding at the site. At a very quiet Fresh Water Lake South, 7 Cormorants hang on before their departure and a Hoopoe did a fly by. The day over I returned home, where it’s getting pretty lonely in Deb’s absence – I will have to turn to drink!
Following the storm, I made for Cape Greco once more on Thursday afternoon – it was an amazing day with hundreds of birds everywhere. A considerable fall of Wheatears had occurred with all 6 regularly occurring species being present. Cyprus, Isabeline*, Eastern Black-eared. Northern*, Finsch’s* and a single female Desert. Tawny Pipits numbered at least 17 with supporting Wrynecks*, Ruppel’s* and Subalpine Warblers* with a few Cyprus* thrown in for good Sylvia measure. Blue Rock Thrushes and Song Thrushes were everywhere and a Common Whitethroat also put in an appearance. The Rock Sparrow was once again present and some lovely looking Cretzchmar’s Buntings sang from the bushes. A single Nightingale was at the Picnic Site and several Greater Short-toed Larks were in the area. At least 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers were in the pines and at Ayia Napa Sewage Works an unprecedented 17+ were present.
On the 13th I returned to Cape Greco and although many birds had moved on there were still some interesting species present. One of the first birds I saw was the Rock Sparrow* once more, followed by a Wryneck and many Ruppels and Lesser Whitethroats. Much of the same was around but a male Common Redstart was a new arrival. Subalpine Warblers continued to pass and a few Common Stonechats and Black Redstarts hung on to their wintering territories. A Lesser Short-toed Lark with its distinctive drilling call was a good find at Cape Greco Sea Caves.
On Saturday, I took a Turkish birder to Cape Greco and to see the rare Orchid at Ayia Napa Sewage Works. Orchid photographed, it wasn’t long before we found my first Masked Shrike of the year – a beautiful male. An Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (dark throated)* posed for the camera, which was new but many of the same birds were still hanging around with good numbers of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, Ruppel’s Warblers, Cretzschmar’s Buntings* and Blue Rock Thrushes being present. We moved onto the Cape Greco Pines area where a Common Redstart soon showed and then an stonking male Ehrenberg’s Redstart* gave itself away when it called. It played hard to get for sometime but I eventually attained an acceptable image showing the white panel in the wing. A Great Spotted Cuckoo continued to hide in the woods and flushed periodically. Nothing much had changed around the cape but an Eastern Orphean Warbler was a good bird for the day. At Akhna Dam in the afternoon a good selection of Wagtails was present with Black-headed*, and hybrids – xanthrophys* and supercilliaris* being present.
On Sunday, once more to Cape Greco and although bird numbers had reduced the same variety was present in all the usually visited locations. Down at the Cape just north of the antennas, I was watching a Northern Wheatear when I came across a small bird hopping on the rocks. Realising immediately what it was I grabbed a quick record shot for reporting purposes. My battery then ran out on my camera and by the time I had “made safe”, the bird had gone. Nonetheless, an acceptable record shot of a female Trumpeter Finch*. A new bird for the tour taking the tour’s total to a round 300 species and identifiable forms. A Red-rumped Swallow came in off the sea as I tried relocate the bird without luck. The first Willow Warblers were in the pines with Chiffchaffs and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers. On the way home, another Eastern Orphean Warbler was at Ayia Napa Sewage Works.
Having had lunch and caught up with some husbandly chores at home I departed for Akhna Dam at about 1500. No sooner had I got outside Vrysoulles Village when to my amazement a Blue-cheeked Beeater* was sat on the telegraph wires. As I continued to photograph the bird another joined it and then calling on the other side of the road another 7 – my highest count in Cyprus – a good record!. Incidentally this was obviously the day for them as a further 29 were reported throughout the island. Akhna Dam’s highlight was 2 Serins and at Paralimni Lake, a Marsh Sandpiper, 3 Greenshanks and a Water Rail was present.
Highlights of the Week: An amazing week, Trumpeter Finch, Blue-cheeked Beeater, the first Eastern Orphean of the year and lots of migrants now pouring through is always an exciting time – you never know what you’ll find!
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 8 Mar 15
Rock Sparrow at Cape Greco on 7 Mar.
As I went to work several Swifts were overhead and had obviously returned to their breeding sites. Back to the routine and a Monday evening visit to Akhna Dam. Fairly quiet with 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Grey Heron and a Common Buzzard being obvious. Circa 30 White Wagtails were on the grass and c50 Corn Buntings were perched on wires. At the far end of the dam 7 migrating Great White Egrets rested. 4 Spur-winged Plovers have returned and as I left a female Hen Harrier was over the fields whilst a number of Jackdaws sat on out buildings. I stopped at Vrysoulles on the way home and 2 Little Owls were in their regular spot.
On Tuesday I drove Deb to the airport seeing a Black Redstart in the quarter area as I departed. A few Swifts were overhead but there was nothing else as I drove away. On my return from the airport I stopped briefly at Oroklini Marsh where 12 Great White Egrets (obviously a passage of this species occurring), were amongst the c150 Cattle Egrets. 6 Spur-winged Plovers were present with 36 Greater Flamingos and with them was an Avocet. On the Petrol Station pond, 3 Red-crested Pochards were noted - a drake and 2 ducks.
On Wednesday I was “Man Down” with the dreaded Man Flu – it’s worst than Bird Flu apparently and I was testament to that. I returned to work on Thursday and a pair of House Martins were seen nest building on the Command Group wall. A Black Francolin called from the fields behind the camp as I entered the building. In the afternoon I headed to the coast. At Ayia Thekla 1 Greater Sand Plover remained with a Stonechat nearby. On to the Ayia Napa Sewage Works area and in the housing estate near to the Football Pitch complex 4 Laughing Doves were on wires – my first for the year. I continued to the sewage works lagoons where 11 Coot and 12 Little Grebe were obvious and on the edges a Green and Common Sandpiper fed actively. There wasn’t much happening but a male Cyprus Warbler and Sardinian Warbler were good sightings. I checked a few likely spots in the area but there didn’t seem to be any passerine movement as yet. Stopping at Paralimni Lake on the way home, only 4 Greater Flamingos remained and c150 Ruff were scattered all over the area. A Green Sandpiper was with a Wood Sandpiper and Spur-winged Plovers numbered 9. I moved to the area on west side of the lake in a housing estate where several Song Thrushes flushed as I arrived. I eventually caught up with the likely candidate with 6 Little Ringed Plovers being present – another first for the year for me. It was quiet after that so I returned home.
On Friday afternoon, I visited the north. Koprulu is still looking like and excellent site and the species represented upheld this opinion. The 2 White-fronted Geese were still present with 6 Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Common Shelducks, good numbers of Teal and Shoveler and 88 Common Pochards with 2 Red-cresteds thrown in for good measure. Circa 900 Coot were present and c280 Greater Flamingos. As several Marsh Harriers passed over the marsh a pair of Common Cranes rose from the grass which was a surprise. A lone drake Wigeon and Great White Egret were seen on the far side of the dam as a pair of Black-necked Grebes continued to dive. I spent an hour of so at the site and convinced I’d seen everything moved on to Fresh Water Lake North. A male Sparrowhawk was mobbed by Hooded Crows and a Green Sandpiper flushed as I arrived. Cattle Egrets* were doing what Cattle Egrets do and 3 Spotted Redshanks were amongst c40 Ruff with 3 Common Redshank. I drove to Fresh Water Lake South which was fairly quiet. 3 Ferruginous Ducks took off, 4 Cormorants remained and passing over c550 Black-headed Gulls contained a number of Yellow-legged Gulls. As the c400 Cattle Egrets roosted, a single Little Egret was seen and the 2 Glossy Ibises remained faithful to the roost.
On Friday evening I received news from Colin Richardson that Stavros had found a Rock Sparrow at Cape Greco. I had planned to visit the cape anyway on Saturday in the search for migrants so the news added to my interest as Rock Sparrow is a Cyprus “tick” for me. I arrived at the Cape early on Saturday morning and it was very windy. There was no sign of the Sparrow in the area that it had been seen in, so I visited the Picnic Area. A male Blue Rock Thrush was obvious and a couple of Spectacled Warblers were singing and in display flight. Song Thrushes were still present in good numbers and a Robin showed briefly. With the wind still blowing I decided to head for the cliffs under the Army Camp. As I passed along the road a calling bird caught my attention. With bins up quickly, there it was a Rock Sparrow*, calling amongst Spanish Sparrows. I quickly grabbed the camera and got a not bad shot of the bird, under the hasty circumstances. It took off and continued to feed on the floor with the Spanish Sparrows, although remaining out of site. It perched on a nearby bush briefly and then it was gone. A good Cyprus bird under the belt and very unexpected. The Cyprus list grows to 318 – “It’s All About The List”, someone once said. I continued under the Army Camp cliffs where a female Finsch’s Wheatear remained. A good number of Song Thrushes were still present and as I rounded the corner – my first Cyprus Wheatear of the year! 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, a male and female added to the day tally with a lone Black Redstart also showing well. A Marsh Harrier, Cormorant and 3 Starlings were present at Akhna Dam but there wasn’t anything else of interest.
On Sunday with Deb being in the UK – it was all set for a Leo Sayer (All Dayer). I started at Larnaca Airport Pool South which was full of birds. In excess of 500 Greater Flamingos were present with rafts of Shovelers, one of which contained 2 drake Garganeys – my first for the year. Good numbers of lovely pink flushed Slender-billed Gulls* were present and outnumbered the Black-headed Gulls. In the middle of the gulls were 20 superb, summer plumaged Mediterranean Gulls* that were looking resplendent in the full hooded, breeding regalia. 36 Shelduck were also feeding actively at the west end of the pool. The sewage works was fairly dull with 2 Ferruginous Ducks being the only item of note. 11 Flamingos were on Spiro’s Pool and as I drove the airport fields a Corn Bunting sang and my first Hoopoe of the year sat on a dead bush. Several Black Francolins were heard, but I didn’t manage to see one. As I passed the Salt Lake, c5000 Flamingos remained and at least 600 Shelduck were still present. I drove to the north end and 5 Green Sandpipers flushed with 3 Redshanks whilst 2 Black-winged Stilts remained motionless. 4 Mediterranean Gulls (3 Adults and a 1st winter) were amongst the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and c80 Slender-billed Gulls.
At Oroklini the theme continued with 9 Slender-billed Gulls on the water. In the reed beds, 5 Reed Warblers, newly arrived sang and 2 were seen. Whilst looking for the warblers, 2 Snipe flushed and I heard a Penduline Tit. Eventually I got good views of a cracking male feeding atop a redhead. 4 Armenian Gulls were on the water and 18 Flamingos were also present. At Oroklini coast – Dolphin Rocks, a 1st winter Armenian Gull and 2 1w Mediterranean Gulls* were present. I returned home for lunch before heading to Cape Greco for the afternoon.
As I passed Ayios Georgious, 3 Starlings passed overhead and that was it until I reached the Cape Greco Sea Caves. Driving along rough tracks I flushed 3 Isabelline Wheatears and several Meadow Pipits. At the sea caves, at least 6 Isabelline Wheatears and numerous Song Thrushes were present along with a male Blue Rock Thrush. A female (light throated) Finsch’s Wheatear continued its wintering stay , but surely this must depart in the coming week. A Cyprus Wheatear completed the wheatear numbers. As I continued further a female Blue Rock Thrush was under the Army Cliffs with several Chukars also being evident. A female Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff were quietly going about their business when another Sylvia flushed which proved to be my first male Ruppel’s Warbler of the spring. Finishing at Cape Greco Pines, I flushed many Song Thrushes, 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos and a female Hen Harrier.
I paused briefly at Paralimini Lake on the way home noting a reduced number of Ruffs, 2 Little Egret, only 4 Flamingos, 4 Green Sandpipers, 4 Black-winged Stilt and a single Common Snipe. So ended a productive week, with the first signs of visible migration taking place, in reasonable numbers.
Highlights of the Week: A Cyprus “tick” – a Rock Sparrow at Cape Greco on 7 Mar was most unexpected!
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 1 Mar 15
Alpine Accentor at Mallores de Riglos on 24 Feb.
The week continued in Spain and day 2 of the trip. We visited the Monegros Steppe area just south of Ontenino. On route we passed a male Hen Harrier and the ubiquitous White Storks. As we traversed the Steppe area we gained many views of Calandra, Thekla, Skylarks and eventually we heard and saw some Lesser Short-toed Larks. At the first stop we flushed 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and saw many large flocks of Spotless Starlings. As we continued Black Redstarts became numerous with 5 Hoopoes also showing amongst the vegetation. A small pond in the steppe provided views of c20 Red Crested Pochards, about a dozen Common Pochards and a single Little Grebe. Marsh Harriers, Corn Buntings and Lapwings were fairly common on the plains with a few Little Owls also perching on disused buildings. As we searched an area 34 Little Bustards took flight and 2 Golden Eagles soared in the distance, one of which was seen at close range later. At least 3 Southern (Iberian) Grey Shirkes* showed throughout the visit and a Red Fox flushed another 8 Black-bellied Sandgrouse which eventually settled allowing for satisfactory views. Nearby we located the flock of c40 Pin-tailed Sangrouse which showed well on the ground before taking off with their distinctive bubbling flight call. After lunch we stopped and located a Eurasian Eagle Owl* at its roost, which was a bonus.
On day 4, 24th Feb we headed to the Mallores de Riglos (Riglos) area. As we drove we could see large numbers (1000’s) of Common Cranes attempting to gain height and cross the Pyrenees without a hope and they consequently turned back in the low cloud and strong winds. At Riglos a very obliging Alpine Accentor* posed for the camera and at least 20 were in the area. Griffon Vultures, a lone Lammergeier and at least 12 (the first for the year) Black Kites hung in the wind. A Dunnock was seen with a couple of Blackcaps* and on the hillside a male Sardinian Warbler was also seen prior to locating our quarry – a very confiding Wallcreeper*. On route to the Crane roosting site we stopped at Las Nawas Reservoir which provided a few trip ticks with Great White Egret, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Gadwalls all being represented. We continued to Sotonera Lake once more and in front of us an amazing sight with c10000 Common Cranes feeding on the grass and in the vegetation next to the lake – Incredible! A Fieldfare* showed as we were departing and a Stock Dove flew over the road as we travelled to the hotel.
Early the next day we departed to meet flights from Barcelona and Deb and I continued our stay with 3 nights in a comfortable 4* near to the sites in the city. As we walked around the Magic Fountains, I saw Black Redstarts, Serins and Monk Parakeets. In the morning we visited the Gothic and Cathedral area near to Al Rambla. After lunch we visited the marina where the usual Yellow-legged* and Black-headed Gulls* scavenged and finished off in La Boqueria market eating Spanish delights and drinking Cerveza and Vino Tinto – a great day.
On the second day in the city we visited Guell Park which was very interesting and provided more views of commoner species including Monk Parakeets*, Chiffchaffs, Serins, Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Great Tits and to my surprise 2 Crested Tits. The next day we visited Segrada Familia, with Monk Parakeet nests being in almost every palm tree but there wasn’t much else of interest. On 28th we returned to Cyprus via Istanbul and after a bit of a delay and a hasty walk around Ata Turk airport (why is the gate you arrive at always the furthest from where you are departing)? We eventually boarded and arrived home at about 2200.
An early start on Sunday and I headed to Cape Greco. There weren’t many spring migrants about although 5 Swifts were over the house as I departed. A male Finsch’s Wheatear continued to hang on at the cape and a small flock of Linnets were together near a small covey of Chukars. Black Redstarts and Stonechats were much in evidence so perhaps migration isn’t that far along just yet. As I searched the Cape Greco Pine area, several Chiffchaffs were heard singing and seen well and then a familiar grating sound not unlike a Magpie revealed my first Great Spotted Cuckoo of the year. 4 Ruddy Shelducks were at Paralimni Lake with c 250 Ruffs and a reduced number of c70 Greater Flamingos. A female Marsh Harrier hawked the marsh and flushed 11 Lapwings and 2 Green Sandpipers. After lunch and sporting a beard, I visited the Turkish barbers for a hair cut and the obvious before returning to work. Afterwards, Gulserin Pond held c150 Flamingos and good numbers of Pintails, Shovelers and Teal. Coots and Moorhens were obvious, the few Black-winged Stilts and Spur-winged Plovers less so. A 2nd winter Armenian Gull was with Black-headed Gulls and at Clapsides Beach, an adult Heuglin’s Gull was with Yellow-legged Gulls as a pair of Shags and a Sandwich Tern rested on the rocks. A Black Francolin was heard as I drove to Silver Beach. Another Green Sandpiper was seen with some Flamingos, 2 Grey Herons and a Great White Egret but there wasn’t much happening.
Finishing the week at Fresh Water Lake South, 4 Serin sang and c250 Cattle Egrets were present. 7 Cormorants were on the water and 4 Ferruginous Ducks eventually revealed themselves. To be fair it was a pretty mundane end to the week with a Common Buzzard and c50 Starlings flying to roost.
Highlights of the Week: Wallcreepers, Lammergeiers, Eurasian Eagle Owls, Alpine Accentors and Cranes – what could be better? Tapas and Vino Tinto of course!