Cyprus Weekly

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!

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Mark Easterbrook

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