Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 23 Feb 14
Steppe Grey Shrike (palidiostrostis) at Pervolia on 18 Feb.
On Monday, I drove to the north after work and at Fresh Water Lake South, 2 Great White Egrets, nesting Cattle Egrets (c400) and a Common Sandpiper were the highlights. The Cormorant roost had increased to 52, the best count so far. Then something strange happened, Deb and I were invited into the stables next to where I stand by the Turkish owners. In the back there is a BAR. We were wined and dined and the owner offered a BBQ and some beers when the AOS visit if I contact him – an option for sure. Even if we just have a beer. I will be talking to him and sorting out some sort of arrangement. As I had a beer and tried to decline another, I mentioned that I had to drive, he replied “Don’t worry, I’m a policeman, just give me a call” – I thought Oh no – what could possibly go wrong?
On Tuesday, I had to take Deb to the polyclinic in Limasol and stopping at Agia Trias once more, I was unsuccessful with the Margansers. I did however stop in the Larnaca area on route and at the sewage works, 5 Black Francolins strutted their stuff (3 males) and I saw my first Slender-billed Gulls of the year (5). I scanned the water’s edge finding 8 Ruff and 3 Black-winged Stilts and on the water 5 Black-necked Grebes (greatly reduced), a pair of Gadwalls (still hanging on), a female Marsh Harrier and over 150 Little Grebes. The nearby airport fields held a Red-throated Pipit and a Meadow Pipit. I met the recorder Jane Stylianou and purchased a couple of 2012 bird reports as I was “Mentioned In Despatches” a couple of times. She also said she’d show me where the Steppe Grey Shrike* was. I drove to the area, got out of the car and there it was sat atop a bush. Not as tame as the one I saw in Lincolnshire several years ago that many will attest to but it did allow a fairly close approach for some relatively good images. The third I’ve seen in Cyprus and it’s probably been over-wintering in an area that isn’t watched very much – in the middle of a housing estate – very bizarre but perfect habitat for it. I dove to Limasol stopping at Finikaria where a Grey Wagtail was in the stream, a Common Sandpiper was on a muddy island and a cracking adult Bonelli’s Eagle drifted over the nearby hills. As I returned to Ay Nik at break-neck speed an adult Long-legged Buzzard was over the motorway at Zygi.
I had driven as fast as I could because I’d been informed that the Margansers were usually present from 1530 – 1630, which would explain why I hadn’t connected with them previously. I eventually got to Agia Trias at about 1615 and after seeing 5 Grey Plovers, a Greater Sand Plover and a Yellow-legged Gull on the rocks, I eventually found 4 female Red-breasted Mergansers floating on the sea a distance away. I drove to another bay, only to see the birds flying to the area where I’d previously been scanning them. Flushed by a fishing boat, I returned to scope them and attempted to move closer, when a fisherman flushed the birds giving me flight views. I drove along the coast and the birds alighted once more heading toward Cape Greco and were lost to sight. I returned to the car muttering about being given the run-around and chasing what are common British birds. However, they were a Cyprus “tick” for me and after Debs commented “STOP Winging”, I thought she did have a point.
In the morning as I walked out of the house a Blackcap was singing as was a Chiffchaff – the first I’ve heard singing this year. In work at least 1 pair of House Martins have returned to last year’s nest. I walked around Cape Greco in the afternoon but sadly there were no early migrants. 2 female Finsch’s Wheatears* were present along with a male Blue Rock Thrush. Several Black Redstarts and 3 Linnets were to be found and Stonechats numbered 8. A couple of Meadow Pipits hung around and a lone Swallow passed through. I checked Agia Trias once more but only the 5 Grey Plovers, 1 Greater Sand Plover, coming into breeding plumage and 1 Yellow-legged Gull was present with no sign of the Mergansers.
On Thursday afternoon I visited Oroklini Marsh, stopping on the way at Dhekelia Power Station where 2 Shags were sat on the mooring buoys, at Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini Coast, 2 Sandwhich Terns were amongst the Black-headed Gulls with 1 adult Common Gull, an adult Armenian Gull and 3 Caspian Gulls. At the manmade JUMBO Drainage Channel, 3 Temminck’s Stints were still there with 6 Spur-winged Plovers and 6 Little Ringed Plovers. At Oroklini Marsh, finally, a year tick with 2 male Penduline Tits, first heard calling ant then seen in the reeds. On the water were 4 Red-crested Pochards (1 drake), 3 drake Pintails, 9 Greater Flamingos and 3 Black-winged Stilts. At the south end of the marsh, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Redshanks, 11 Shelduck and a displaying Fan-tailed Warbler. I returned home via Akhna Dam, where a Great White Egret perched in the tamarisks and a Black Francolin male called from a raised mound of earth. 2 Redshanks were vocal and there had obviously been a small movement of Green Sandpipers as 5 were present.
On Friday morning, the Blackcap in the garden continued to sing its little face off amongst the morning fog. If only there is fog like this in a month’s time when the AOS tour is on – there will surely be a big fall to work through, I live in hope. On Friday afternoon at Akhna Dam, the 2 Great Crested Grebes had returned, Bluethroats were seen singing as were Blackcaps and with Fan-tailed Warblers in display flight, Spring had certainly arrived. 3 Great White Egrets were present and a Marsh Harrier passed overhead. As I returned home 5 Common Swifts, my first of the year passed over the house.
On Saturday I attended a KUSKOR field meeting, taking in a few new sites, but there wasn’t much doing although at Konyeli on the beach, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls were with 3 Caspians and a 2ND winter Audouin’s, with 6 Swifts over the house. I did see my first Cleopatra butterflies of the year and a Red Admiral at Merchinlik Dam. Silver Beach on the way home held 48 Greater Flamingos and at Gulserin a Common Gull was a surprise but 2 Slender-billeds less so amongst the Black-heads. 2 Little Stints and a Dunlin fed actively, whilst 8 Ringed Plovers were amongst the Spur-winged Plovers. On Sunday, I had arranged to meet a friend to conduct the first Orchid hunt of the season. A little later than last year, I need to get my skates on to catch a few early ones I missed previously. On route to the Orchid Glade at Akrotiri, I stopped in the Larnaca area, where 8 Ruff and 4 Black-winged Stilts were on the sewage works lagoons with a Marsh Harrier. At least 3 Black Francolins were heard calling and a Red-throated Pipit flew over calling. At the airport fields, my first Isabelline Wheatear of the year put in an appearance. I moved onto Petounta Point – this looks like an excellent migrant spot for the AOS trip! To prove the point, my 2nd Isabelline Wheatear of the year showed well.
At Phasouri Reed Beds, 2 Penduline Tit were in the open and a rather more skulky Bluethroat sang from the reeds. Marsh Harriers were above the reeds and Song Thrushes flushed from them. A female Blackcap put on a show and a Common Buzzard flew from its perch. Along the road 15 Shelducks were on Akrotiri Salt Lake. I met Lynne at the orchid glade and the hunt began, quickly adding Orchis funerea* which I’d missed last year. As we walked around we saw at least 6 species and as we returned to the car, my first Great Spotted Cuckoo* flushed and then unusually sat in the open for the camera – a great moment as I’ve wanted to photograph one since being here, a truly spectacular species. That over we drove to Anoigya in the hills above Episkopi where we passed 3 Griffon Vultures and a Black Redstart. In the Anoigya and Agia Thomas area orchids were everywhere and I soon caught up with Orchis quadripuctata (Four-spotted Orchid)*, a delicate species and another I’d missed last year. We continued the searching and racked up a few more species eventually finding Ophrys sintenisii* and Ophrys transhyrcana* (2 types of Spider Orchid), which I’d also failed with last year. By the end of the day, we’d seen 17 species of orchid – not a bad count and 4 new species. On the way home over the motorway at Zygi a Long-legged Buzzard drifted effortlessly. Stopping at Oroklini Marsh briefly revealed 2 Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a 1st Winter and at the coast at Dolphin Rocks, 10 were present including 8 adults (2 in complete breeding plumage), a 2nd winter and a 1st winter – the biggest count this year, with a single Sandwich Tern also being present.
Highlights of the Week: A Cyprus “tick” with 4 female Red-breasted Mergansers and a Steppe Grey Shrike – my 3rd for the island, with news of migrants moving, Isabelline Wheatears and a chance encounter with a cracking Great Spotted Cuckoo.
Look Forward: Migrant hunting and preps for the AOS Tour.
If you are planning a visit or require more info please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org