(5) Blog Posts Made in April 2015

Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 26 Apr 15

Cirl Bunting at Babadag on 20 Apr

Continuing in Turkey, on Monday I visited the area around my friends house in Ovacik, near the tourist resort of Hisarinou.  I heard and then found a pair of Syrian Woodpeckers although, skittish, I was unable to photograph them but a male Cirl Bunting sang and posed for the camera.  A Masked Shrike was singing and the most common bird remained the Jay.  In the afternoon, I drove to Dalyan and visited the Kaunos rock tombs and ruins.  Once more Western Rock Nuthatches were very evident and a pair of White Storks were overhead.  As we walked the ruins and the lake side, at least 100 Little Egrets were present and overhead a Short-toed Eagle and Common Buzzard performed well.  In the same area Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were common and a few Woodchat Shrikes were seen.  A pair of Purple Herons chased each other over the marsh before landing and the only Cormorant of the trip was seen along the Koyciez River before we did a bit of shopping.  Stopping at Chalis Beach, Fetihye, was not very impressive but a pair of Gull-billed Terns were present and a Great Reed Warbler was heard.

On the 21st, I retuned to Babadag and the meadow I’d visited on Sunday.  Most of the Serins had moved on along with the Red-fronts.  However, a few good birds were seen with a male Finsch’s Wheatear and the Whinchat still being present.  Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were once again common as were Cretzschmar’s Buntings.  A male Ruppel’s Warbler was singing as was a Cirl Bunting and a couple of Mistle Thrushes flushed.  A pair of Masked Shrikes were present and I eventually saw a Treecreeper.  Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers were very vocal and a Coal Tit appeared briefly.  In the Fetihe Fish Market for lunch the last bird of the day was a Grey Wagtail in the canal that runs through the town.

On Wednesday, I headed for the Korkoutelli Hills area as mentioned in the Gosney guide.  Many of the roads had expanded which changed the environment and possibilities for stopping easily but we pushed on. At Seki the usual farmland birds were present, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and Starlings.  A couple of Feldegg Yellow Wagtails were on the wires and a Calandra Lark flew across the road.  Spanish Sparrows were seen and Finsch’s, Northern and the ubiquitous Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were well represented.  Stopping for a comfort break a male Eastern Orphean Warbler sang and showed nearby.  At the Essenkoy junction a Rock Sparrow and several Linnets were seen and at the Cavdir drinking trough, the habitat and layby had changed dramatically from what I remembered and seemed less appealing to the birds.  A highlight here however was an adult Golden Eagle drifting above the hillside, a Hobby and an Eastern Subalpine Warbler.  Calandra Larks were common on the farmlands towards Sogut and a European Roller was seen perched on roadside wires.  Long-legged Buzzards were along the road to Korkoutelli as were Woodchat Shrikes and Calandra Larks.  In the Korkoutelli area Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were once again common and a few Western Rock Nuthatches were seen.  With the search for the target bird proving difficult (early in the season) we went for a mixed kebab in the town.  Luckily, I met a group of visiting birders and asked if they’d had any luck with a White-throated Robin, fortunately they spoke English and said they’d seen one on the opposite side of the road to where I was looking.  I made for the area about 4Km east of Korkoutelli on the road to Emali.  I watched any area of rocky scrub noting Cretzchmar’s Buntings, Eastern Orphean Warblers and a pair of Black-eared Wheatears.  The male then chased a bird which once it settled back down was a crack male White-throated Robin, which fed underneath me in the open for about 5 minutes. I went for the camera but it had retreated.  Probably and early arriving male, I was lucky to see it as it wasn’t singing.  When I visited the area in May 07, the species was probably the most common and obvious in the area.  At Seki lake on the way home, a Little Ringed Plover and Great Crested Grebe were present with 4 Grey Herons flying above me.

The 23rd of April – St George’s Day and our 27th Wedding Anniversary and yes, you do get less for murder.  Firstly as Saklikent Gorge – well worth a visit, several Crag Martins were above us and I also saw a Beautiful Damselfly and a Green-eyed Hawker.  A Grey Wagtail was also in the gorge.  After this we visited a few Lycian sites with our friends stopping for lunch at Tlos which is an impressive set of ruins complete with large amphitheatre.  Here nothing new with Cretzschmar’s Buntings and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears being the order of the day.  A Short-toed Eagle was above the hills and several butterflies were seen with the highlight being a Chapman’s Blue.

On Friday, we were on our own so we drove to the other Lycian sites at Letoon, Xanthos and Petara.  All very interesting and impressive places which are worth a visit but Petara probably being the pick of the bunch.  At Letoon, finally some waders a Wood Sandpiper and a Common Snipe were near to the Terripin and Tortoise pools and 6 European Beeaters flew through calling as they went.  At Xanthos more Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, a Whinchat, Masked Shrike, Sand Martins and a fly through Hobby.  Woodchat Shrikes were the order of the day at Petara although I did see a Squacco Heron and a Black-winged Stilt.  A Calandra Lark and White Stork were seen as we travelled back to Fetihye and in the evening I visited the woods at Hisarinou seeing another Kruper’s Nuthatch and a couple of Long-tailed Tits.

The following day, I had asked Clive if he knew of any coastal marshes.  He said he had “Hashed” around one – On On!  So he took me there.  Just west of Fetihye on the D400 towards Dalaman is a sign for Yaniklar.  On the way Alpine Swifts were numerous over the Chalis Beach area.  Take the exit and head under the road.  On the left as you rise over the hill there are some seasonal pools and these were excellent for a short impromptu look which yielded a few good species.  At least 4 Little Bitterns were here with a Little Egret, Squacco Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron.  A female Little Crake appeared briefly and at least 4 Wood Sandpipers were obvious with a Little Ringed Plover.  We proceeded to the coastal marsh which had good numbers of Little Egrets on it.  As we walked around a female Marsh Harrier quartered the marsh and a few Long-tailed Tits were in the trees.  I noticed some perched birds and I couldn’t believe it when I saw 12 Pygmy Cormorants perched on snags in the water.  Not an easy bird in Turkey but it does appear to be increasing in coastal wetlands in the west.  A couple of Greenshanks called as they went with some Wood Sandpipers and a Purple Heron rose from the reeds.  As we walked I heard but couldn’t locate a reeling Savi’s Warbler and on the way back to the car, I was bitten by a F---ING dog.  A scrawny little shit of a thing, smaller than a poodle sidled up growling and then just bit me!  Drawing blood, and biting through my trousers, I wasn’t happy and the stupid Cloggy owner didn’t even look apologetic which incensed me and she was lucky I didn’t drive back in the car and run her and her little shit of a dog over.  The only thing that stopped me was the very large dog that was with them which would probably have taken my leg off.  NOT BLOODY HAPPY!!!!  My friend then took me to the vets?  for some iodine and antiseptic cream.  Anyway, a burger and a great coffee later, I had recovered my composure.  Deb and Carol just laughed when they were informed, which once more caused what I think is referred to in Officer Circles as “visible irritation”.

On the 26th we flew back to Istanbul from Dalaman at 0755 arriving in the city at about 1130.  Alpine Swifts were above the hotel and obviously breeding in the area as were Laughing Doves.  A few Shags were seen flying along the Sea of Marmara with numerous Yellow-legged Gulls.  A walk in Gulhane Park in the afternoon saw the Tulips in bloom which was impressive and in the park Ring-necked and Alexandrine Parakeets were obvious.  As I sea watched from the hotel window at least 4 Bottlenose Dolphins in a small pod were seen crossing the bay.  The end of a fantastic week.  Thanks to Clive and Carol for putting up with us and sharing our Wedding Anniversary celebrations.

Highlights of the Week:  A White-throated Robin is always a special bird but the Pygmy Cormorants were also and unexpected addition to the Turkish List – “It’s All About The List”

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:  birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 19 Apr 15

Dotterel at Akhna Dam on 13 Apr

Walking back from being CDT’d for about the 10 time this year, a Red-rumped Swallow flew over my head on camp.  A long day on Monday but now that it’s light until about 1915, I had time to get to Akhna Dam which proved to be a wise choice.  As I drove in from the southern arm, the water levels had risen once more (pumped in from other dams on the island which are full due to a very wet winter), the first bird I encountered in a newly wet area was a Great Snipe* feeding actively – great result!  It was very confiding and allowed for some excellent close photos.  It suddenly looked skywards and ran into the grass crouching, as I looked up, another year tick, and Osprey was overhead being mobbed by Hooded Crows, number 233 for the year!  It was a great decision to visit Akhna Dam today.  Anyway as the Osprey circled a female Marsh Harrier flew up to meet it and as a result the rest of the birds flushed.  31 Glossy Ibis, the 5 Black-tailed Godwits from yesterday and 4 Wood Sandpipers with a number of other Egrets.  That over as the Osprey continued north and left the dam things settled down again.  I photographed a Common Sandpiper and flushed several as I walked around.  Finally, a Snipe rising from a reedbed with no white trailing edge and no distinctive call as it rose was another Great Snipe.  I headed home content with a good start to the week.

On Tuesday I visited the Larnaca area in the hope of finding some of the birds that had been reported yesterday.  As I arrived at the Larnaca Airport Fields – 4 Dotterels, 2 Males and 2 Females with a couple of Kentish Plovers.  I observed the birds for about 15 minutes and was then moved on by an over zealous Policeman as it was facing the airport and no photographs were allowed, I explained that it was not a camera but a telescope to no avail and was unceremoniously moved on.  So at the sewage works a dozen or so Sand Martins were still around with a couple of feldegg Yellow Wagtails.  A Collared Pratincole flew over the lagoons but there wasn’t much about until 15 Gull-billed Terns flew through. On the Airport Pools South, a couple of Greenshank and Marsh Sandpipers were amongst the Ruffs and Black-winged Stilts with a single Common Sandpiper on the fringes.  As I looked at the c450 Greater Flamingos, there it was standing out like the proverbial sore thumb – the “Black Flamingo”*, which had obviously relocated from Akrotiri.  Assumed to be the only one of its kind in the world it was a novelty more than anything.  As I looked at it I noticed two small birds on the surface of the water amongst the Flamingos which, once scoped proved to be 2 Red-necked Phalaropes – “tick” for the year. 

At Akhna Dam several fisherman were present (illegal – but never mind the law – as usual), with nobody enforcing it and the Cypriots being like naughty schoolboys, unless they are continually corrected and monitored they begin to push the boundaries until somebody does something – which is very rare.  In any event as a result I was unable to relocate the Great Snipe, if indeed it was still present.  I did however manage to photograph a very vocal and fairly obliging Great Spotted Cuckoo* before returning home.  As I drove, my first Whinchat for the site this spring was in the fields along with a Fan-tailed Warbler.

Taking Deb to Limassol for an appointment, I managed a bit of birding in the area – shame not to. The area was generally quiet with only a pair of Ferruginous Ducks and 2 Glossy Ibises being present at Zakaki Marsh, that were of any note.  We returned via Larnaca where the Dotterels* were a little closer to the track allowing for some acceptable photos.  4 Collared Pratincoles* were in the field adjacent to the hide at the sewage works and on the south pool Red-necked Phalaropes had increased to 4 but were a little far away for a photo. After returning from the Poly Clinic in Limassol with Deb, we headed to the north for some last minute fancy dress shopping and I managed a couple of hours at Koprulu.  Again, an excellent site which soon produced a year tick with 2 White-winged Black Terns hawking the water and a female Montague’s Harrier in the fields behind with a 2 female Marsh Harriers. Circa 50 Glossy Ibises were present and 4 Squacco Herons flushed from the vegetation.  3 Great Reed Warblers sang and 2 were seen whilst the site remains the only place in the east to see Gadwall and Pochard with good numbers of Garganeys also being present.  Several Calandra Larks were in the surrounding fields and a pair of Stone Curlews called as they came into land.

On Thursday it was an overdue visit to Cape Greco.  I arrived at about 1400 and looked in the pines first.  It wasn’t particularly busy but a female Pied Flycatcher and male Common Redstart were immediately visible.  11 or so Tree Pipits flushed from the grass and perched in nearby trees and a female Pallid Harrier* was on the open ground opposite the pines.  Cape Greco was empty save for the 2 on territory, singing Cyprus Wheatears.  I carried on to Ayia Napa Sewage Works where 2 Masked Shrikes and a male dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear where near the approach track.  A lateish Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler was calling and feeding in the bushes along with a female Redstart.  An Ortolan Bunting flushed from the undergrowth and a Lesser Whitethroat showed itself as I walked around.  A Hobby and Lesser Kestrel passed overhead together and the usual Spectacled Warblers went about their business.  As I was leaving a bird perched on the works fence was my first Red-backed Shrike of the year – a cracking male.  Later in the afternoon, I visited Akhna Dam where a Greenshank was with 7 Wood Sandpipers and 4 Common Sandpipers flushed from the water’s edge.  Herons were well represented with Grey, Squacco*, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets and a showy (for a change) Purple Heron*.  A female Marsh Harrier cruised around and my first Turtle Dove of the year, made for the eucalyptus stand.  A drive around the back of the camp at Ay Nik produced a Great Spotted Cuckoo.

On Friday, before attending the Mess I managed to get out for a few hours and visited the Famagusta wetlands in the north.  A Spotted Redshank was present and an Osprey was mobbed by Hooded Crows.  At Clapsides a Great White Egret* was with Little Egrets and a lone Gull-billed Tern was with 3 Slender-billed Gulls on the rocks.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was the large number of Armenian Gulls that were roosting.  2 Greater Flamingos were at Gulserin Pond with 4 Spur-winged Plovers and 8 Black-winged Stilts.  My final stop in the north was a Fresh Water Lake South where 6 pairs of Glossy Ibises were in the Cattle Egret* colony and a 2nd CY Night Heron flushed from the reeds.  A female Marsh Harrier flew over as I was departing.  In the late afternoon I visited Akhna Dam where a Great Reed Warbler was heard and not seen.  An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was singing on territory, chased by a Cetti’s Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat was in the tamarisks.  A pair of Rollers* were my first for the year as was a fleeting glimpse of a Turtle Dove.  A couple of Common Sandpipers were flushed with a Greenshank and a Squacco Heron as a female Marsh Harrier flew over.

On Saturday morning, following a Back to School fancy dress in the Mess (images on Facebook), I slept in and in the afternoon we flew to Dalaman via Istanbul for a bit of a Turkish adventure before we depart the island.  Arriving late on Saturday I didn’t manage to get out birding until early on 19th when I visited Kayakoy Ruins.  Many of the species that had passed through Cyprus last month were present with a singing male Cretzschmar’s Bunting* and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.  At least 4 pairs of Rollers were on territory and in display flight and a Common Buzzard passed overhead.  Alpine Swifts and Red-rumpled Swallows were numerous as were Serins and the most common Wheatear was the Eastern Black-eared.  I finally located the bird I’d come for and photographed a Western Rock Nuthatch*.  The most common butterfly was the Eastern Festoon with Eastern Dappled White also being present.  In the woods nearby I saw a Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit and a surprising Rock Sparrow.  I soon heard the distinctive call of another target bird and managed to photograph an obliging Kruper’s Nuthatch*.  Returning to the car 2 Common Buzzards and a Long-legged Buzzard were over the hills.  Jays were the most common bird and eventually I saw a calling Coal Tit.  In the afternoon we visited Babadag (where the para scenders leap off for Olu Deniz beach).  We climbed to 1900 metres but unfortunately no Ascenters were present and once more the most common bird was the Eastern-black Eared Wheatear with a single Northern also being present.  We descended to the 1200 metre area where our friends new of a plateaux.  I had specifically asked if there were any such habitats and they took me to it.  Things looked promising – an alpine meadow and perfect habitat to speculate about a potential lifer.  Serins and Cretzschmar’s Buntings were common and a couple of Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers and Cirl Buntings were also seen.  A Cuckoo was heard along with at least 2 Green Woodpeckers and a single Whinchat was also obvious.  As I scanned the hillside I was struck by a flash of red in a tree.  It must be!  Yes – a male Red-fronted Serin – LIFER what a result!  I watched as the birds came down and fed on seeds with the more numerous Serins.  Creeping forward; the birds were quite tame and confiding, I photographed a cracking male Red-fronted Serin* as it fed.  The end of a perfect first day!

Highlights of the Week:  2 Great Snipe at Akhna Dam and an Osprey on the same day were good finds.  Dotterels are rare in Cyprus so to find and photograph 4 was quite an event.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:  birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


Ascension Island 2015

For some great photos from this April's expedition to Ascension see Rich Mooney's photo set on Flickr.


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 12 Apr 15

Caspian Plover at Mandria on 11 Mar and a Hooded Wheatear at Cape Greco on 11 Mar.

Bank Holiday Monday and a planned visit to Troodos and Limassol occurred with Caitlin the US birder.  We stopped briefly in the Larnaca area but didn’t manage to find any Red-necked Phalaropes.  We continued to Zakaki Marsh near Limassol Port and immediately saw a male Little Crake.  Numerous Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers were very vocal and a Great Reed Warbler flew across the front of the hide.  6 Ferruginous Ducks were present and another Little Crake, female was found as we walked along the edge of the reeds next to the road.  8 Slender-billed Gulls were on the pools at Lady’s Mile along with 5 Greenshanks and 6 Black-winged Stilts.  Akrotiri Salt Lake was quite quiet with only Black-winged Stilts and Ruffs being present but on the way in we saw a Woodchat Shrike, several Linnets and a Northern Wheatear and on exiting a found an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.  Phassouri Reed Beds produced a Common Buzzard and another female Little Crake but the highlight was a pair of Squacco Herons.  A Kingfisher alighted from the reeds as a Hoopoe flew past and numerous Common Snipe rose from the reed beds.

On the way up to Troodos many Cyprus Wheatears were seen along the road and at Amiantos a male Blue Rock Thrush flew up from the ground and landed on a nearby rock.  The first stop was Giant Juniper Picnic Site where at least 4 pairs of Masked Shrikes were on territory.  Coal Tits were soon seen as were a couple of Jays but Short-toed Treecreepers, although heard remained elusive.  A small flock of finches were a mix of Siskins (10+) and Serins but the biggest surprise was Hawfinch perching briefly in front of us.  Wrens were also heard but not seen.  At Levadia Tou Pasha Picnic Site, more of the same with another Hawfinch but we did manage to see, and Caitlin photographed a Short-toed Treecreeper which was a lifer for her.  Chaffinches were numerous but yet no Crossbills were seen at the site which is unusual.  In Troodos village we stopped for lunch at the Ben Nevis restaurant (recommended for a kebab) but not before we stopped to see 8 Pallid Swifts weaving in and out of the buildings.  More were seen at the Jubilee Hotel after lunch and a Masked Shrike was at the top of Mount Olympus.  We left the mountains “Crossbill-less” which was a great pity.  On the way down we saw 2 Red-rumped Swallows at Mandria and another 2 at Episkopi but the Griffon Vultures weren’t present unfortunately.

At a small pond at the back of Phassouri Reed Beds at the beginning of the track to Akrotiri Gravel Pits there was a fair collection of waders including a Spotted Redshank, Ruffs, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Snipe and a few Greenshanks.  The Yellow Wagtails were worth a look, containing Blue-headed, Black-headed, a supercilliaris hybrid and my first 2 Grey-headed (thunbergi’s) of the year.  There being nothing further and dipping on the Temminck’s Stint that had been in JUMBO drain the previous day, I dropped Caitlin at her apartment after a productive day.

On the 7th, I visited Koprulu Dam in the north – what a fantastic wetland this is turning into!  Circa 110 Greater Flamingos were still present and 2 Spoonbills were also typically sleeping, they were later joined by a pair of Great White Egrets.  2 male Red-crested Pochards were skulking in the reeds and although Wildfowl numbers had greatly reduced, c30 Garganeys (mostly drakes) were quite obvious.  16 Glossy Ibises took off from the reeds as a female Marsh Harrier passed overhead and 2 Red-throated Pipits called as they went.  4 Stone Curlews flushed from the fields as I drove by and from the raised bank and reed beds, numerous Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers could be seen and heard.  3 Great Reed Warblers were heard with one being seen and a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos chased each other.  A Quail called from the field and I watched at least 6 Calandra Larks displaying above the fields.  A familiar call alerted me to the passage of 4 Collared Pratincoles, that looked a little like Black-wings in overcast light but a glimpse of some red underwing revealed their true identity.  A Spotted Redshank called as it flew over and a female Little Crake was seen on the reed edge.  The pools were full of Ruff and Black-winged Stilts and a pair of Gadwalls was a good record to finish with.  2 Flamingos were at Fresh Water Lake North with a Glossy Ibis and some commoner waders as I returned home.

During the afternoon of the 8th I visited the Larnaca area once more.  On the airport north pool a collection of waders consisting of Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Dunlins and Little Stints were present.  Once more no Red-necked Phalaropes were present, however on the south pond 41 Greater Flamingos and c20 Ruffs were present with a reduced number of Black-winged Stilts.  The sewage works once more had 2 Ferruginous Ducks present and on the adjoining fields 3 male Black Francolins strutted their stuff.  Stopping at Oroklini on the way home, the drake Red-crested Pochard was hiding in the vegetation and a single Marsh Sandpiper was visible from the south hide.  On the north pool a single Black-headed Gull lingers on with a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull also being present.  Akhna Dam was a bit more lively with a good collection of Herons consisiting of 1 Little Egret, 14 Cattle Egrets, 3 Grey Herons, 1 Squacco Heron, 10 Night Herons complemented by 38 Glossy Ibises.  As I drove around 2 Green Sandpipers flushed, a Lesser Whitethroat moved through the tamarisks and them most obliging Common Cuckoo* I’ve ever come across posed for the camera.  At home c50 Common Swifts were very vocal over the quarter area.

On Thursday afternoon in a strong south westerly wind, I headed for Cape Greco.  With only a Northern and Isabelline Wheatear with a couple of Yellow Wagtails being around the fields, it felt fairly quiet.  That said, I decided to speculate and do a bit of sea watching – usually very frustrating and unproductive on the south coast of Cyprus.  My luck was in, after about 10 minutes a pair of unmistakeable shapes, arcing over the waves in bounding loops, getting blown quickly east were a pair of Yelkouan Shearwaters – a year tick and not an easy bird to find at the best of times.  Job done, I visited the pines where it was a little less windy.  I connected with a male Pied Flycatcher and then a female.  A Hoopoe and 4 Tree Pipits flushed and in the pines, in windy conditions a Lesser Whitethroat and Wood Warbler showed briefly.  As a good man once said “Not exactly heaving” – John Sanders c1998.  I continued to Ayia Napa Sewage Works where it was much the same story.  I firstly encountered a Masked Shrike, and then saw and heard 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers, which are still hanging on and one was singing.  A Tree Pipit flushed from the grass to a nearby bush,  perching and drawing my attention to a female Redstart that was nearby.  That done, it was over for the day.  The wind was increasing and I had to get home and book flights and hotels etc for my forthcoming trip to Turkey, Fethiye, Istanbul, Gallipoli and Troy starting on 18 April and it’s the start of my draw down!  Some would say I’ve been doing that for the last year – how dare they? 

Late on Thursday the news of a pair of perhaps breeding and coming to drink Black-bellied Sandgrouse, at Akrotiri and a Terek Sandpiper, were good but further news of a male Caspian Plover at Mandria was exciting, however, with work commitments there was no way of getting there on Friday morning.  In any event, no new Cyprus birds but difficult year birds, it has to be said – Roll on retirement!

On Friday Akhna Dam held its firs singing Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, tail pumping in the usual way and at Vrysoulles on the way home a Little Owl was present in the usual place which was the first time in a while.  In the late afternoon prior to going for dinner with Caitlin, Deb and I visited the Larnaca area briefly.  Still no Phalaropes but a breeding plumaged Curlew Sandpiper with Little Stints was a good year bird.  The south airport pool had 7 Marsh Sandpipers amongst the numerous Ruffs and Stilts and at the sewage works there’d obviously been a large movement of hirundines, with c120 Sand Martins, c40 Swallows and c50 Common Swifts all feeding furiously over the lagoons.  As I passed the south pool on the way to dinner, 3 Squacco Herons flushed from a small wet area opposite.  The surprise on the north pool as I looked again was a breeding plumaged Greater Sand Plover of the Crassirostris (Caspian/Iran) sub-species.  This sub-species unlike the regular wintering Columbinus has a very large and obvious bill.

The following day, I rose and left the house about 0900 in an attempt to see the Black Flamingo (apparently the only one in the world) at Akrotiri Salt Lake, in any event it had moved on.  However, as I left the house I phoned Colin Richardson who confirmed that the male Caspian Plover* was still present at Mandria.  I drove at break neck speed and with empty roads arrived an hour and forty minutes later at 1050.  Several people were looking for the bird without luck.  Eventually, the bird rose from a furrow on the field and performed perfectly.  Usually a confiding species preferring to walk away rather than run, it allowed for some very close photos.  Always a good bird to get in Cyprus, as I didn’t see one last year and a cracking male to boot!  I continued back to Akrotiri and met Colin Richardson who’d earlier had a Dotterel on the Salt Lake which had left soon after heading north.  A small scrape has developed at Akrotiri Gravel Pits which is attracting a good variety of waders.  3 Marsh Sandpipers and 3 Spotted Redshanks (2 in breeding plumage) were amongst the commoner waders and a single Black-tailed Godwit was also present.  We watched Little Ringed* and Kentish Plovers* and a single Common Redshank also put in an appearance.  A Marsh Harrier cruised by and then out of nowhere a pair of Hobbys were hunting, fresh in from the sea, an excellent moment and the first of the year.  We continued around the Gravel Pits finding a Whimbrel*, 4 Short-toed Larks, a Linnet and 9 migrating Baltic Gulls above us.  Back at the pond, a couple of Whinchats, a Woodchat Shrike and a Lesser Whitethroat appeared before we moved onto Phassouri Reed Beds.  Here, 4 Squaccos, Little Egrets and Cattle Egrets were outnumbered by c25 Glossy Ibises.  A Kingfisher called and perched whilst Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted about the reeds and whilst looking a female Little Crake was seen.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was a pair of adult Starlings in the reeds before we headed off to Zakaki Marsh to complete the day.  On arrival a Common Sandpiper was with Wood Sandpipers and a couple of Squaccos eventually showed.  Several Sand Martins were over the marsh and it wasn’t long before we located the target bird below the hide in the reeds – a cracking male Baillon’s Crake, soon followed by a little less exciting male Little Crake.  A breeding plumaged Spotted Redshank flew in and a Purple Heron flew over the hide towards Akrotiri Reed Beds.  I departed to the song of Reed and Sedge Warblers and arrived home after a pretty good day.

On Sunday, having not visited Cape Greco since Thursday, off I went.  On arrival, it was depressing quiet.  7 Red-rumped Swallows flew in off the sea and a Beeater was heard, which didn’t sound quite right – of course it was a Blue-cheeked explaining why it sounded a bit strange for a European.  Suddenly, there was a bit of activity and Joe Donaldson, one of the Irish birders was shouting he’d found a Wheatear with a red tail.  We rushed over and soon enough we’d relocated the bird and watched it and assumed it was a Red-tailed (Kurdish) Wheatear.  Later our mistake became apparent when studying photographs and texts and it became obvious that the bird was in fact a female Hooded Wheatear* – still a great bird though and increased the year list to 231.  The pines were fairly quiet but we did find a male and female Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Redstarts.  At Ayia Napa Sewage Works, the same story, 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Wabler, 4 Ortolan Buntings and a Masked Shrike.  As we headed towards Ayia Napa Football Pitches, a Woodchat Shrike sat proudly on a lookout post and a pair of Eastern Black-eared Wheatears (dark throated form) showed well.  Paralimni Lake held little to write home about and later in the day 5 Black-tailed Godwits were the highlight at Akhna Dam, ending a very good week.

Highlights of the Week:  A good week eventually.  2 Yelkouan Shearwaters and a very posy Common Cuckoo were good moments. However, they were surpassed by a male Caspian Plover at Mandria and a female Hooded Wheatear at Cape Greco.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:  birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 5 Apr 15

Caspian Stonechat at Cape Greco Army Post Cliffs 30 Mar 15.

On Monday afternoon I shot off to Cape Greco after work.  I arrived to see c60 Cormorants flying east offshore and good numbers of Northern and Isabelline Wheatears.  Pete Wragg, a UK birder alerted me to the presence of a male Caspian Stonechat* which I managed to get acceptable photos of.  Whilst doing this I flushed several Cretzschmar’s Buntings and at least 80  Short-toed Larks, I was however unable to find the male Trumpeter Finch that had been seen in the morning.  I moved onto the pines area and immediately located a Black and White Flycatcher which turned out to a lovely male Collared – my first of the year.  Also in the pines was a Cuckoo and a little further on in the open ground 8 Lesser Kestrels hunted.  A few Common Redstarts made a dash for it which drew my attention to a female Semi-collared Flycatcher and shortly afterwards a female Pied Flycatcher.  I returned home via Paralimni Lake where there were numerous commoner waders and I flushed my first Purple Heron of the year.  A good start to the week!

On Tuesday a brief visit to Akhna Dam revealed the presence of a Hoopoe and numerous Wagtails.  Amongst the White and Black-headed Yellow Wagtails was a White-chinned Wagtail*, a several Blue-headed Wagtails* and at least 1 Syke’s Wagtail.  On Wednesday I had to go to Larnaca with Deb so took the opportunity of looking at Oroklini Marsh and surroundings. Akhna Dam on the first was equally uninspiring, however I did manage some Blue-headed Wagtails* and many Black-headed including one Supercilliaris.  A Hoopoe was the only other bird of note.

On Thursday, a brief, first day of the month visit to Oroklini Marsh produced a few good birds, including a Sanderling a calling male Black Francolin and a singing Nightingale was heard.  Akhna Dam’s contribution was a male dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.  Now there is a pitiful tale to tell.  On the 2nd it was my Birthday, so shopping for the first BBQ of the year without rain took place.  Following that, the Birthday BBQ with much merriment and alcohol – for those of you that are regular followers of the BLOG – ENOUGH SAID.  The 3rd was a write off as I had taken drink and was very much under the weather.

On Saturday, I was back on the road albeit feeling a bit fragile, something that the collection of British birders at Cape Greco noticed and commented on – it has to be said, I was not on top form., although still managed to refind the female Desert Wheatear on the cape.  Eastern Orphean Warblers were quite numerous although Ruppel’s are reducing.  A European Beeater passed high overhead calling as it went.  Towards the picnic site a pair of Ortolan Buntings were heard and seen in the company of the reducing, migrating Cretzschmar’s.  Nightingales could be heard in good numbers with a few showing briefly. In the pines, a male Collared Flycatcher was the highlight with Tree Pipits being fairly numerous.  On a cultivated field opposite the pines with man-made perches and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Cyprus and Isabelline Wheatear were joined by a female Siberian (maura) Stonechat and a Cretzschmar’s Bunting.  The regular drive trough Limnara Valley produced a Tawny Pipit as the highlight but this species, in the main appears to have passed through.  On the track to Ayia Napa Sewage Works we stopped to look at a Common Cuckoo and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers once more appeared quite numerous in the bushes opposite to the works fence.  Also in here were 2 Collared Flycatcher males and my first couple of Wood Warblers of the year.  A Common Restart, Woodchat Shrike and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear added to the enjoyment with a singing male Cyprus Warbler and a couple of Eastern Orpheans rounding it off. 

With the 2 Bills along for the ride once more we headed off to Larnaca in an attempt to look for some Red-necked Phalaropes – this failed!  There wasn’t much about to be fair save for a few Wheatears and the regular Flamingos and Spur-winged Plovers.  We continued to the north side of the salt lake passing the north pool where reasonable numbers of Dunlins, Little Stints and Ruffs were feeding.  At the north side of the salt lake 22 Slender-billed Gulls were with c50 Black-headed Gulls but again nothing to get too excited about.  As we passed the canal at the north end of the lake a wagtail drew my attention and on closer inspection turned out to be the Black-headed Wagtail, hybrid – xanthrophys with yellow supercillium which is the rarer form of supercilliaris. I bade farewell to the Bills as they were departing on Sunday.  Many thanks for your company, lunch and some petrol money and I hope to meet you both again.  At Oroklini on the way home, the Avocet was still present as were 2 drake Garganeys and a male Red-crested Pochard.  Akhna Dam held a Woodchat Shrike, Hooopoe, Isabelline Wheatear and Greenshank.

On Sunday, I met Caitlin and Karl Proctor at Cape Greco and we found a Woodchat Shrike which was a good start.  Several Wrynecks were around the cape with depleted numbers of Wheatears and everything to be honest including British birders.  Joe and John, the Irish birders remain but it’s feeling a bit lonely again and with an influx of Swedish, German and Swiss birders the passage of information has reduced.  Several Redstarts were also in the pines with Tree Pipits and whilst the Cyprus and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear remained in the fields opposite, the Siberian Stonechat had moved on.  9 Little Egrets were on the rocks at Kermia Beach and at Ayia Napa Sewage Works at least 3 Wood Warblars (a new bird for Caitlin) and 10+ Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers in what has been an exceptional spring for this species.  More Eastern Orpheans, Lesser Whitethroats and Nightingales were to follow and we departed to a Wryneck sat on a post.

I took Deb for lunch in the north and afterwards decided to give the Red-necked Phalaropes another go in Larnaca that Pete Wragg had found prior to his departure  - a nice farewell gift, although by the time I got to the airport pools in the afternoon they had gone.  However, all was not lost, a 1st winter Little Gull was amongst the Slender-billed Gulls and a Curlew gave its migration call last it flew above me.  A Sand Martin was with Swallows at the sewage works with a good count of Greenshanks (25) being on Spiro’s Pool.  A Tawny Pipit with a few Wheatears ended the excursion.  On the way home I stopped at JUMBO drain and finally 4 Temminck’s Stints were present.  Oroklini held the same as the previous day so we headed home at the end of a bird and alcohol filled exhausting week.

Now that readers are openly complaining and commenting on my tardiness with getting the BLOG published, my apologies, I’ll try harder and attempt to keep up.  But if I’m not out seeing stuff, I’ll have nothing to write about!

Highlights of the Week:  A female Siberian Stonechat was a good bird, found by the Joe and John and Wood Warblers are always a pleasure to see.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:  birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook