Cyprus Weekly

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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Mark Easterbrook

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