Cyprus Weekly

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: birder639@yahoo.com

Mark Easterbrook


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