Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 31 May 15

Spur-winged Plover and very young chick at Akhna Dam on 28 May.

Cape Greco Pines were very quiet on Bank Holiday Monday. So the hope of some late migrants to add to the year list.  Although no year birds were found a couple of late migrants were interesting. In the pines a Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler were late and remarkably after 2 years I managed a picture of a Eurasian Magpie* - understandably, as they get shot at a lot, they are very wary and don’t sit anywhere for very long. Anyway, for completeness, I grabbed a photo for the gallery. Near the picnic site, a male Black-headed Bunting sang from atop a bush and a male Cyprus Wheatear was expected. At the Sea Caves, an Alpine Swift headed west which was unexpected. The evening at Akhna Dam was fairly predictable with the Great White Egret still being in attendance. It was generally the same although a wader caught my eye which proved to be a Common Redshank. Although unremarkable, it was my first ever May record of the species, so interesting all the same – a Wood Sandpiper and Squaccos were nearby and I flushed a Hoopoe. As I left a family covey of Chukars, including at least 15 chicks ran in front of the car.

On Tuesday afternoon, I decided to check Koprulu Dam in the North to see if the Lesser Flamingo was still present – It wasn’t.  In any event the site is without doubt the best wetland on the island at present thanks to some good negotiating and conservation work by KUSKOR – The Turkish birding group, which has ensured that water is not drained from the site. It’s always heaving with birds here and today was no exception although working through the 1200+ Common Coots can be a little tedious at times.  But it’s worth it! As I looked I saw 3 Whiskered, White-winged Black and a Gull-billed Tern. 2 female Marsh Harriers were very active and Herons were well represented, with Purple, Squacco, Grey (including 2 juvs), Little and Cattle Egrets being present with c100+ Glossy Ibises. I moved to the North end of the marsh, along the raised embankment there was quite a gathering of wildfowl including 50+ Mallards including many ducklings, a female Red-crested Pochard with 5 ducklings, a pair of Ferruginous Ducks and a very lonely looking drake Common Pochard – very unusual for May. I noticed a collection of waders along a raised bit of dry vegetation feeding and sheltering under 3 or 4 bushes. As I scanned I saw 30+ Ruff, 2 Little Stints and 2 Wood Sandpipers with numerous Black-winged Stilts around the site and 2 Spur-winged Plovers. As I continued to watch, I was surprised to see 2 adult Collared Pratincoles. Observing more intently, astonishingly, I saw 2 downy looking juveniles that appeared flightless. Another adult flew in showing the red underwing and drew my attention to another juvenile. The birds must have bred at the site – amazing. Described as opportunistic breeders, the site must have attracted them, with the water – great work KUSKOR! I continued to observe and felt that there were 2 pairs of Pratincoles with 2 chicks each. I reported the discovery to Colin Richardson who confirmed that the only other breeding record was from Jun 14, 1913 (per Flint & Stewart). As I left the site very happy, the usual Little Owl was perched on wires near to the houses in the village.

Wednesday evening at Akhna Dam was predictably dull with the highlights being 6 Rollers, 1 Great White Egret, an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and a pair of Black-winged Stilts, with a few of the usuals including Spur-winged Plovers and Squacco Herons. Thursday evening was similar with the Great White Egret still being present in the same place. Perhaps the highlight was seeing 2 pairs of Spur-winged Plovers, 1 pair with 4 chicks and 1 pair with 2 chicks, newly hatched and hiding, which I managed to photograph – they’re the youngest ones I’ve seen.

On Friday morning, I left the house at first light to photograph the habitat of the Collared Pratincoles at Koprulu and to have another look. 5 adults were present in the same area but no sign of any juvs. From the way the birds were behaving and returning to the same very small piece of vegetation, I suspect the juvs were hiding in the vegetation and I was unable to see any.  As I watched 6 Whiskered Terns were flying with the Pratincoles and 2 Flamingos took off, the size differential being obvious, one a Lesser and one a Greater, when they landed, I confirmed the ID. An adult Night Heron alighted from the reeds as did several Squaccos and c30 Corn Buntings. A Hoopoe flew past me and on the far side of the marsh a drake Shoveler was present. With a pair of Red-crested Pochards and 5 Ferruginous Ducks flying around it was quite a productive hour. A single late Sand Martin was also a surprise.

On Saturday evening, I visited Akhna Dam briefly and the Great White Egret was still present with the usual Herons and 2 Black-winged Stilts but that was about it.  It would appear that migration has come to an end. I was busy and tied up with admin etc on Sunday so was unable to get out but I did hear Stone Curlews calling all night from behind the house.

Highlights of the Week:  Breeding Collared Pratincoles at Koprulu – the first since Jun 14, 1913 was an incredible and much unexpected discovery.

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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