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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