Cyprus Weekly

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!

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

Mark Easterbrook


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