Cyprus Weekly

Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 24 Mar

Male Ruppel's Warbler at Cape Greco 19 Mar  - I'll try harder next time to get the tail in.  * indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.

A day’s leave on Monday so a full day out in search of some lingering migrants from the fall on Saturday which I missed due to attendance at the tulip festival.  Cape Greco was the obvious choice but it was Green Monday -  a Cypriot bank holiday.  With hundreds of people usually heading for the National Park it was essential to start early.  Why it is called Green Monday I have no idea as judging by the amount of rubbish, drinks cans and other debris left lying around it has little to do with any conservation, ecological or environmental credentials (if they exist) that the Cypriots may hold.  Whilst at the Konnos Bay area, I saw a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, an Isabelline Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, several Cyprus Warblers, a Ruppel's Warbler and the star of the show a male Masked Shrike.  At the Cape’s tip, more Isabellines and 3 Greater Short-toed Larks were present.  As I transited from this area to the rubbish tip and sea caves I saw a Woodchat Shrike* and another Ruppels Warbler. 

The highlight of the day was seeing 5 species of Wheatear in the area including 3 Deserts* (1 male), 4 Isabelline, a female Finsch’s, 3 Cyprus and a single male Northern with the 6th of the day, a cracking male Eastern Black-eared* being added at Ayia Napa Sewage Works later.  Also present were 3 Tawny Pipits, a couple of Ruppel's Warblers and at least 3 Lesser Whitethroats.  As I was leaving the area 3 Alpine Swifts stopped briefly to feed at the sea caves.

I returned home for lunch and some admin before driving to the Larnaca area for the afternoon’s migrant hunt.  At the sewage works and surrounding areas good numbers of Slender-billed Gulls, Black-winged Stilts and Spur-winged Plovers with a couple of Green Sandpiper.  The highlights were however 2 Gulls, a migrating adult Baltic Gull* and a 1st winter Caspian which is hanging on its wintering quarters.  At the north side of the Salt Lake, Greater Flamingo, Shelduck and other wildfowl numbers are decreasing rapidly but good numbers of migrant waders were present including, c40 Snipes, 2 wintering Jack Snipes, c50 Redshanks, 2 Greenshank, 3 Marsh Sandpiers, 4 Green Sandpipers, a couple of Ringed Plovers and at least 9 Little Ringed Plovers.  A Water Rail was heard along with a few Cetti’s Warblers and a Reed Warbler and the first Sedge Warbler of the year revealed itself.  A ringtail Hen Harrier, male Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard harassed the waders and I left to the sounds of singing Blackcaps and a flushed Song Thrush.

On Tuesday afternoon I headed off to Cape Greco, visiting Ayia Napa Sewage Works on the way.  On the approach road to the sewage works I flushed a Tawny Pipit and whilst walking around saw a few Lesser Whitethroats and a Blue Rock Thrush.  3 Green Sandpipers were on the lagoons but that was about it apart from an influx of hirundines one of which was a Red-rumped Swallow.  I also freed a female Vagrant Emperor that had become stuck on a plant.  Numbers of these are now much reduced and in their tens – mostly females as opposed to the hundreds that were present after the sand storm.

I proceeded to the Cape Greco rubbish tip and sea caves area.  Immediately seeing a couple of Isabelline Wheatears and at least 9 Lesser Whitethroats.  As I walked my usual route, a few lingering Meadow Pipits flew away calling and I then came across 4 Tawny Pipits, obviously a movement of this species is taking place.  As I continued, 2 female Desert Wheatears* remained with a single male Northern and Cyprus.  I then managed to photograph a Ruppel's Warbler* albeit not managing to get its tail in shot – note to self – must try harder!  We returned home via Carrefour and Lidl and then got lost in some mental road works where the diversion signs had run out – brilliant and a great end to the day.

Wednesday had arrived and with limited time to get out due to the fact that I had spent most of the day attempting to avert my own banking crisis by moving money to the UK and changing allotments etc, I still managed to get out.  For those of you concerned about my fiscal well being, please save yourself the worry, I will not be eating Lidl Baked Beans and Smash for the next month!  I got as far as Paralimni Lake but this was productive enough.  On Sotira Pond, 11 Garganeys including 7 drakes – a much awaited year tick.  As I watched the main lake and spotted a Black-tailed Godwit, several Black-winged Stilts with Green and Wood Sandpipers, numerous Snipes and Ruffs also rose from the vegetation.  In the nearby vegetation, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat.  I saw good numbers of Yellow Wagtails in the distance so had to drive around to the north-west corner of the lake.  Here I also discovered a flock of c40 Greater Short-toed Larks.  Amongst the throng of c50 Black-headed (feldegg) Yellow Wagtails, at least 5 Blue-headed (flavas) and 3 supercilliaris (believed to be a Black-headed / Blue-headed hybrid) but a very striking bird nonetheless.

Thursday’s visit to Cape Greco in search of the reported Desert Lesser Whitethroat was a failure.  I did however see good numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, a Sandwich Tern and a male Black-eared Wheatear with a couple of commoner Isabelline Wheatears.  As I passed the lagoons at Ayia Napa Sewage Works 4 Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were present.  On the bluff above the works, a male Blue Rock Thrush continued and many Lesser Whitethroats were evident.  Perhaps the highlight was a female Subalpine Warbler, sometimes a difficult species to catch up with and really only possible in the spring as they appear to take a different return migration route in the autumn.

On Friday and Saturday one of the annual Coptic Storms ensured the wind was howling and with heavy rain showers, it was pointless going out as I couldn’t hold the scope still and in any event couldn’t see anything fot the rain.  On Saturday morning we headed off to Paphos to stay with friends via the Limassol and Episkopi sites.  Although it had stopped raining, the wind was still strong so birds were in short supply.  At Lady’s Mile, 23 Ruff, 5 Marsh Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover was about it, whilst at Bishop’s Pool, a drake Garganey, and 4 drake Ferruginous Ducks was the highlight.  At the orchid glade, I added 2 new specimens.  The first a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera – the same one as you get in the UK) and the second a Bug Orchid (Ochris fragrans).  We stopped briefly at Akrotiri Gravel Pits for a female Masked Shrike, a few Isabelline Wheatears and Greater Short-toed Larks were present but little else.  No Griffons were present at Episkopi however I stopped half way down the road to Happy Valley and eventually found my 3rd new orchid of the day – 6 Eastern Marsh Helliborines (Epipactis veritriflouria) , a large sprawling and impressive plant.

Onwards to Paphos and the Ayia Varvara and Anarita Park areas.  At Anatrita Park several wheatears and Corn Buntings were present and at Ayia Varvara, incredibly the male Finsch’s Wheatear was still in residence.  Good news for the AOS trip next year which has raised the expectation of this species from a *** to a ** star – more of that in the message board later next month.  At Mandria beach, more Greater Short-toed Larks and at least 200 Yellow Wagtails, mostly Black-headed* (feldegg), many Blue-headed* (flava) and several hybrid (supercilliaris*), a Syke's Wagtail (beema) alwo posed for the camera.  With the wind still howling we made for our friends house and an enjoyable curry at a local restaurant.

Sunday was butterfly day and a visit to one of the dams above Paphos.  Prior to this we drove to a hilly area above Paphos and photographed several Paphos Blues* - a new species for me and an endemic to boot.  We arrived at Kannaviou Village and walked around a nearby meadow where at least 15 Eastern Festoons* were and some posed for the camera – a fantastic butterfly.  2 Sardinian Warblers vied for my attention and they were clearly nesting in the area with the male carrying food.  The area and the dam itself held more Eastern Festoons, Orange Tips, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellows and a few Speckled Woods*.  Vagrant Emperors, Common Darters and a single Lesser Emperor were also present before we stopped for coffee and lunch.  After lunch we headed for Everetou Dam and the area near Skarfor Bridge.  Here we found the target an Odilisque* (Epillage fatime) (Deb's photo) -  a peculiar Damselfly that holds its wings like a Dragonfly and Spreadwing.  A Long-legged Buzzard soared above and at least 4 Hawfinches were in the trees behind us.  At the dam the muddy fringes had attracted 4 Black-winged Stilts, a Common and a Wood Sandpiper with good numbers of Linnets and a few Meadow Pipits.  The day drawing to a close, we returned to Paphos and then Ay Nik via a restaurant for a well earned steak.

For pictures of birds with a * please click on the following Flickr links:

Highlight of the Week:  Seeing 6 species of Wheatear in a day was pretty impressive.

Other Interesting Finds:  4 new orchids, 2 at Akrotiri,  Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid) Ochris fragrans (Bug Orchid), Epipactis veritrifloria (Eastern Marsh Helliborine) at Episkopi and Ophrys mammosa herae (Spider Orchid) at Everetou Dam.  Eastern Festoon was a cracker and it was good to finally see the endemic Paphos Blue.  Another addition to the creatures list with a Troodos Lizard (Deb's photo) at Kannaviou was also seen.

Look Forward:  3 weeks without any visitors and a few trips planned in the peak of migration should be productive.  With many early migrants now passed through the island the turn of the Nightingales and acrocephalus warblers should be upon us.

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

Mark Easterbrook

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