Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 3 Mar

Black Francolin at Clapsides 26 Feb.

* indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

Monday and the 2nd day out with Roger.  After a good start yesterday with 63 species, we headed off to Troodos.  A Pine Bunting had been reported amongst Yellowhammers – rare enough in their own right.  We left at 0700 and arrived in Troodos at about 0900.  We were immediately greeted by a Crossbill sat atop a dead tree – a good start.  As we walked around the village we picked up some common species along with Coal Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.  Blackbirds, a Hawfinch and a single Mistle Thrush was first heard and then seen.  We moved around the village and connected with a Yellowhammer – this was turning into a cracking day.  As we continued to walk the trails I photographed a thrush on top of a dead tree.  Not having my scope at the time,  I thought it was another Mistle, however, when I returned home and uploaded the photos, my instincts to photograph the bird were well founded as it proved to be a Fieldfare – another difficult to see winter visitor.  With at least 5 Jays seen we were doing well for the endemic races.

Prodromos Dam produced little except for a couple of Siskins and a movement of some 300 Chaffinches.  We returned to Troodos Village and Roger flushed a number of Yellowhammers (at least 8), however, search as we might, we could find no Pine Bunting.  With 1 Cyprus sub-species endemic remaining for a clean sweep, we headed down the eastern slopes of Troodos to Levadia Tou Pasha.  After a little searching, a Wren sang briefly and we saw it retuning to a probable nest hole.  Job done, endemic sub-species in the bag we headed off to the Akrotiri area and Bishops Pool.  As we headed down the mountain we saw and heard some more Serins and photographed a freshly road killed Scops Owl.  We tried desperately to revive it, but it wasn’t possible so no “tick” there then!

Onward and on arrival at Bishop’s Pool we picked out 7 Drake Ferruginous Ducks.  As we worked our way around the pool we stopped at a small reed bed.  A Moustached Warbler was calling and then another.  We eventually secured good views of the bird, which was pleasing considering we’d missed it yesterday.  As we watched the reeds a Little Crake ran across in front of us.  Clear that we weren’t going to connect with the Smyrna Kingfisher today, we headed to Phasouri Reed Beds but not before Roger was treated to a mosquito ridden Orchid Glade.  We saw 7 species including the Cyprus endemic Bee Orchid (Ophrys Kotschiy)*  Yellow Bee, Green Winged, were also present and I could tell Roger enjoyed it.  On arrival at Phasouri everything seemed normal with a couple of Marsh Harriers and some Cattle Egrets.  As I drew to a halt opposite a gap in the reeds, I couldn’t believe it.  After months of failure there was a very light straw coloured Bittern* feeding in the open, I managed a record shot and under the circumstances and the distance it wasn’t too bad.  As I edged closer another flushed – an incredible end to a fantastic day.  The trip list ended the day on 83.
Tuesday and a late start, leaving the house at 0815.  Roger thinks I’m going soft.  So off to Cape Greco in the hunt for migrants and a few lingering wintering species.  At Cape Greco Tip, 2 earlyish Isabelline Wheatears, a male Blue Rock Thrush, a wintering female Finsch’s Wheatear and several Song Thrushes.  As we moved around to the other side of the Cape, a very early singing male Cyprus Wheatear on territory was a bonus and showed well for the camera.  We returned for lunch at the house via Paralimni Lake where we added Grey Herons and 2 Great White Egrets to the growing list.

After lunch we headed over the North, however, many of the wintering birds seemed to have departed but at Clapsides Beach a 1st winter Slender-billed Gull, was seen along with 2 Grey Plovers, 2 Turnstones and another Sandwhich Tern.  We proceeded for a guided trip around Haspolat (Mia Melia) sewage works, a particularly malodorous place which sadly on this occasion held few birds except for Marsh Harriers and Buzzards.  With a trick up my sleeve we finished the day at Koprulu Dam.  Thousands of wildfowl were present as well as 59 Greater Flamingo,, 11 Marsh Harriers, a couple of Buzzards and a single ringtail Hen Harrier.  Of the Ducks we added Pintails, Pochards and Wigeon to the trip list whilst 11 Ferruginous Ducks were also seen.  Water Rail was a heard only for the time being and the spectacle of c130 Cormorants migrating NE in 2 skeins was memorable.  The day finished with the trip list on a tantalising 99.

The road trip on Thursday began at 0700 and a brief stop at Akhna Dam.  Sadly the site is now too flooded to attract many birds and did not produce the expected Reed Bunting of Penduline Tit – not a good way to start the day by dipping.  Another 10 Cormorants passed overhead but little else.  We travelled to the Limassol area and Lady’s Mile.  The wintering gulls appear to have done a  mass exodus and a Marsh Harrier was not much consolation, it did however flush a Green Sandpiper.  We fared little better at Akrotiri Salt Lake, although at least 200 Grey Herons was impressive with 5 Great White Egrets also being seen.  We did add a trip bird with 10 Redshanks being flushed along with another ringtail Hen Harrier.

 Two Buzzards soared above us as we transited to Phasouri Reed Beds however we had dipped on the Pied Kingfisher so another visit would have to be vectored in.  On arrival at Phasouri, a speculative walk revealed 2 Penduline Tits calling and we soon got on to them, one being a fine male which gave exceptionally prolonged views – another recovery and one in the bag.  On to Bishop’s Pool in an attempt to find the Smyrna Kingfisher.  Not much doing and with a tourist wandering around aimlessly (as they do), I didn’t give much for our chances of success.  In the meantime we added Blackcap and Cetti’s Warbler and then Roger called Kingfisher.  The Smyrna fished from its hidden perch and returned, giving us a good flight view – about all most people get of this shy bird, if they see it at all.  Very pleased, as we were leaving the first Grey Wagtail of the trip was seen – a cracking male.  Moving to the Paphos area via Episkopi revealed no Griffon Vultures but lunch at another Orchid spot in Akrotiri Chapel had Roger photographing a Giant, Rainbow and Cyprus Bee Orchid.

We stopped at a few sites prior to reaching Paphos where we added Woodlarks and a Robin at Anarita Park.  We arrived at Ayia Varvara and were immediately greeted by a female Finsch’s Wheatear*.  As we moved down the slope we found the wintering male Finsch’s Wheatear, a bird I was desperate for Roger to see – so pressure off!
We finished at Paphos Headland adding another Isabelline Wheatear, 11 Golden Plovers and 2 Greater Sand Plovers, one of which was beginning to show signs of breeding plumage.  We had a Cyprus Coffee (similar to sand) before checking in at the King’s Hotel.  We met Colin Richardson in his local village yet despite hearing at least 5 (Cyprus) Scops Owls and being replete with torches, we couldn’t see one.  The day ended with some excellent (very large) Fish, Chips, Mushy Peas with Bread and Butter before a satisfying night’s sleep.

0700 already and a Cypriot style breakfast, but I did note Roger cutting into the Marmalade.  We departed for Mandria on the coast, a well-known migrant hotspot.  We were met by Colin and started to grill a freshly ploughed field.  Amongst the many Skylarks and Linnets, a single Corn Bunting, 3 Calandra Larks and an excellent find giving superb views a Lesser Short-toed Lark.  It was extremely light grey so must have been an eastern race ssp.  As we drove through the field towards the Xeros Potomas Lower Pools, 2 Hoopoes flushed – the first of the year and another addition to Roger’s wants, a list which is growing by the day.  Boyd on by our success a Green Sandpiper at Xeros Potomas and a low flying Alpine Swift – found by Colin as was a Little Ringed Plover but enjoyed by all.  Two more additions to the trip list and a couple for the year for me.
We now drove up the Diarizos River Valley towards Troodos.  Stopping  at a café for a Cyprus Coffee and a piece of cake was timely.  Had we not have stopped we’d have missed the male Peregrine that we saw a few miles on at Kaderes, we would have also missed the male Long-legged Buzzard that gave excellent scope views.  Now a strange thing happened.  I had been tipped off about a difficult to find Orchid at Kalavos Bridge which is 6km off the main road to Troodos.  I asked Roger if he wanted to go and he “jumped” at the opportunity.  We declined to the bridge in the base of the valley and overshot the spot.  As I was turning Roger pointed out a yellow Orchid, like a seasoned and manic Orchid “ticker” – he was quickly approaching the Rubicon.  We photographed the Roman Orchid (romana)* and happily I went on my way after discovering and photographing several Giant Orchids (barlia robertiana), which were impressive.  As we climbed to Troodos near the village of Mandria a large raptor flew across in front of us and banked over the hillside – a female Goshawk, a very difficult species to see in Cyprus – result!  We arrived in Troodos to freezing weather, a howling wind and low cloud – birding was impossible, just getting Roger used to the idea of going back home.  We managed a Crossbill and Coal Tit before buying a map and some smoked Almonds and Pistachios to have with a few beers that night.

Friday, the penultimate day had arrived and some ringing with Thomas once more outside the Troodos Environmental Centre.  We arrived at about 0715 and the valley was alive with thrushes.  The previous night had snowed with a sudden onset of low cloud and strong winds which must have “downed” many thrushes – possibly migrants.  In any event 40-50 Fieldfares, at least 9 Mistle Thrushes and numerous Blackbirds were noted.  Then a Ring Ouzel was seen followed by another.  I shouted to Roger to start looking at the thrushes as Ring Ouzel although a winter visitor is rarely seen in Cyprus.  Shortly after he confirmed that he’d seen one flying from where I was, which was in all probability the bird I’d been trying to photograph.   At least 4 Hawfinches and good numbers of Siskins and about 800+ Chaffinches – migration was taking place.  Ringing over and Roger had ringed his target birds – Short-toed Treecreeper*, Coal Tit*, and a Blackbird*.  We dipped the Griffons at Episkopi and the Pied Kingfisher on the way home but an Armenian and Slender-billed Gull were seen at Lady’s Mile.

We returned home via Larnaca and at the sewage works added a drake Gadwall to the list whilst at Spiro’s Beach we added Ringed Plover.  We headed to the North side of Larnaca Salt Lake and scoped some waders.  Amongst the numerous Redshanks an early or wintering Marsh Sandpiper was seen and above us 9 Common Swifts.  The trip list was still growing!  Birds we had seen before were encountered but a Bluethroat, Water Pipit and Little Stints were good finds.  We returned home for a good steak at the local restaurant, a couple of beers and a good night’s sleep.  Saturday and the Famagusta wetlands and the much awaited trip to the Turkish barbers. With Roger’s eyes smarting after the cheek and forehead threading experience, it left me grinning.  The trip list ended on 128, 126 plus 2 heard records (Scops Owl & Water Rail) with 1768 kms being driven.  Greenshank was added at Silver Beach, with Curlew and 3 Audouin’s Gulls being added at Clapsides Beach, with a Sandwich Tern putting in an appearance.  A good week with more species on offer had we not dipped on a couple of residents – Thanks to Roger for his company.

After dropping Roger at the airport – a shame to miss an opportunity, I headed to the sewage works and Spiro’s Beach.  At Larnaca Airport Pools South 1 adult Med Gull, 23 Slender-billed Gulls and c200 Greater Flamingos were in residence.  At Spiro’s Beach 3 Kentish Plovers* and 2 migrant Greater Sand Plovers*, whilst at the sewage works 4 adult Armenian Gulls, 7 Caspian Gulls, 2 Med Gulls (1 1ST winter) and 4 Gadwalls.
Sunday, with some grim weather looming, Cape Greco delivered 2 Song Thrushes, a male Cyprus Wheatear, a couple of Spectacled Warblers and a Black Redstart.  2 Swifts have arrived at Ay Nik.

Highlight of the Week: Amongst some very good sightings, without doubt the highlight was the sightings of 3+ Ring Ouzels (the first records since 2005).

Other Interesting FindsCyprus Bee Orchid*, Roman Orchid*, and Woodcock Orchid* were all seen and Roger took some time photographing a pair of Starred Agamas at Bishop’s Pool.

Look Forward:  A new month and lots of migration beckons.

If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at:

Mark Easterbrook

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