Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 3 May 15

Little Bittern – Akhna Dam on 3 May

On 27th April we were picked up at our hotel in Istanbul and headed off to the Gallipoli peninsular.  With an early morning start not much birding was done from the coach as I snored my way south.  On arrival at Ecearbat we had lunch, booked in and headed off to ANZAC Cove in the early afternoon.  Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were once more the common species with many singing Nightingales.  Yellow-legged Gulls were offshore and Red-rumped Swallows were above us as we took in the sombre scene.  A Long-legged Buzzard hovered above the Sphinx and we were soon photographing a Green Hairstreak.  At the final site of the day Chanuk Bair (The NZ memorial) an Eastern Subalpine Warbler was in song flight along with a Tree Pipit and another couple of Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were also present.

On Tuesday we had booked a private excursion to the Helles Battlefields and in particular Lancashire Landing.  From the Helles Memorial I could hear a Quail and a Corn Bunting and the ubiquitous Nightingales sang as the thousands of names looked on.  Moving onto the Mehmetcic Turkish Memorial which is a very impressive 41.7 metres and can be seen from everywhere, I looked into the Dardanelles Straits and was astonished to see hundreds of Yelkouan Shearwaters. At “V” Beach – the Irish landings, more of the same and a few Red-rumped Swallows above us.  We drove the track to “W” Beach – The Lancashire Fusiliers landing and passed a male Black-headed Bunting and a few more Wheatears.  On the track to the beach 2 Nightingales flushed and on the beach a Ortolan Buntings were paired up.  More Yelkouan Shearwaters were offshore as I walked the beach and tried to imagine the scene and destruction that must have gone on here a hundred years ago- very sobering and sad.  We passed Twelve Tree Copse cemetery and a Syrian Woodpecker flew from one on the pines.

In the afternoon we visited Troy on the Asian side of the straits.  As we crossed “The Narrows”, it allowed for great close views of Hundreds of Yelkouan Shearwarters* (I’ve never seen so many) and a few ropey photos – the birds were too fast moving for the capabilities of my camera.  At Troy, an interesting and well preserved place for its 3000 year age, all things considered, we saw a Little Owl* perched on the Temple of Athena – very apt and a male Common Redstart caught flies from a nearby tree.  Visit complete we began the 5 hour ride back to Istanbul.  This time more alert, from the bus on the way back in the Gallipoli area I saw a pair of White Storks, a couple of Woodchat Shrikes, 1 Masked Shrike, a Common Cuckoo and several Starlings with some other commoner species.  Arriving at our hotel at 2330 it was time for a shower and bed.  We rose early the next day and at least 30 Alpine Swifts were above the hotel once more with several Ring-necked Parakeets.  We left the hotel at about 1330 and arrived at the airport in plenty of time to catch our delayed flight back to Cyprus getting home at about 2200.  A very eventful week.

The next evening I visited Akhna Dam where a Great Snipe was with a Common Snipe and c30 Wood Sandpipers with a few Ruff scattered around.  A Purple Heron and Black-tailed Godwit were also present and 3 Turtle Doves came in for a drink. As I was leaving, I spotted a male Little Bittern* desperately trying to hide as I manoeuvred the car for a photo and in the nearby stubble fields a pair of Stone Curlews* were present.

Now a sad tail – an outbreak of Mugabbe’s Revenge, had me bedded down until Sunday afternoon in between running to the toilet every 15 minutes or so – Enough said and I’ll spare you all the graphic details.  Going a bit stir crazy, I ventured across to Koprulu in the north and eventually got a year tick with 3 Whiskered Terns being present.  A host of other birds were also there including 7 Spoonbills, c130 Greater Flamingos and 2 Great White Egrets.   2 Calandra Larks sang from the fields and c130 Glossy Ibises rose from the reeds as one of the many Marsh Harriers flew over.  A Common Cuckoo was a surprise and I eventually saw a male Ferruginous Duck.  On the way home at Fresh Water Lake South, the breeding colony is now well on its way with about c120 Cattle Egret nests all with an average of 3 chicks.  3 pairs of Glossy Ibises looked to be sitting and a pair of Squacco Herons also had a nest.  A lone drake Gadwall was an unexpected sighting and as I watched and approached a Little Bittern flushed from the reeds.  As I left I could hear a Water Rail calling.

Highlights of the Week:  A couple of year ticks with a Little Bittern and Whiskered Tern kept the year list ticking along.  Great Snipes are always good to find.

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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