The Army Ornithological Society Tour of Cyprus 22 – 30 March 2014
This Week’s Birding Highlights will take the form of the Trip Report of the Army Ornithological Society’s tour of Cyprus from 22 – 30 March.
The report will adhere to the following format:
• Daily Itineraries with Birding Highlights
• Consolidated Species Trip List
The Group – Akhna Dam 30 Mar 14
(L-R) Roger Dickey, Andrew Bray, Tony Kaduck, Mike Williams, Mark Easterbrook (Leader), Richard Seargent, Dave Pentelow & Andy Harrison
Courtesy of Roger Dickey
It started with an arrival which was reminiscent of the retreat from Moscow and ended with a finale that nobody could have predicted. In between there were great views of birds, some disappointing dips, the highs and lows of birding but most of all great company, a common purpose and a very fulfilling and enjoyable tour. Covering 1048 miles during the tour, which is a lot in Cyprus, all of the main habitats and sites were included with the exception of the Polis and Lachi areas which would have required a 10 day tour to do the areas justice.
• Roger Dickey – For his part in the planning and advice given during the recce of Feb 13.
• Colin Richardson – For his advice/suggestions for birding success, the Cyprus Scops Owl and his company during the tour.
• Debs Easterbrook – OC Rear Party – for dealing with necessary admin to ensure the tour ran smoothly in the group’s absence.
• The “Crew” – For their commitment, stamina and light hearted view of life, despite the lack of coffee.
Daily Itineraries with Birding Highlights
Day 1 – Saturday 22
No birding took place today as the 3 different flights from the UK arrived in the late evening. After a slightly disjointed arrival process the team were formed and on route to Ayios Nikolaos (Ay Nik) for 2 nights and the first phase of the tour. After arriving in the accommodation, bags were dropped and we all ate at the local grill restaurant where much pork, sheftalia and chicken was eaten, all washed down with several KEOs. A good night’s sleep on a full belly and ready for the inaugural trip to Cape Greco in the morning.
Day 2 – Sunday 23
Cape Greco can be a bit hit and miss as with any migrant hotspot, but today it was an outstanding intro to Cypriot birding. Checking the Cape Greco Pines area the first bird that was heard and seen was an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and several Hoopoes flushed from the ground – a good start. As we walked the area it became clear that there’d been a large influx. Wrynecks were seen well with Tree Pipits, Eastern Orphean Warblers and a female Pied Flycatcher as back up. The ploughed fields in at the Cape gave opportunities to get fantastic views of Cretzschmar’s Buntings, Water Pipits, Tawny Pipits, Corn Buntings, Isabelline, Northern and of course the endemic Cyprus Wheatear. We continued to walk under the Army Camp cliffs where 2 late Black Redstarts were joined by a Common Redstart, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and a male Siberian Stonechat. Blue Rock Thrushes, Ruppell’s Warblers and Spectacled Warblers were everywhere and we soon discovered a single female Ortolan Bunting. As the group watched a couple of Eastern Subalpine Warblers another sylvia came into view and showed very well giving everyone perfect views of a male Cyprus Warbler – pressure off, both endemics in the bag on the first morning.
We continued towards the sea caves from the Army Camp and as we rounded a corner I heard what I thought was a Coal Tit. I saw it in the bins and it was darker and longer than the endemic race that do not leave Troodos. I called Richard over and said “What’s this”? He nonchalantly replied “A Coal Tit” – obviously thinking I’d lost it. The group viewed the bird and concurred it was a Coal Tit – Eurasian Coal Tit! The first record for Cyprus. With other birds on their minds, it took me a while to ensure they realised the importance of the find which would require a description – unfortunately the bird was very flighty and as we attempted to get closer for a photo – it did one.
We drove to Ayia Napa Football Pitches on a speculative search and as we drove up I pointed out a target bird on the fence – a stonking male Masked Shrike which was admired by all. Continuing to the famous Ayia Napa Sewage Works we walked around and Tony spotted a black and grey Shrike which proved to be a very early Lesser Grey Shrike. We eventually tracked down and secured great views of a male dark throated Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, with more of the same migrants we’d seen earlier. A Common Sandpiper was on the lagoons and as we left I broke hard to allow the group to see and photograph a male Siberian Stonechat*. We ate our packed lunch at Ayia Thekla but sadly no wintering Greater Sand Plovers remained.
Siberian Stonechat – Ayia Napa Sewage Works
After lunch we continued to Paralimni Lake and Sotira Pond where a Yellow Wagtail fest ensued. As we grilled them we saw Black-headed (feldegg - the majority), Blue-headed (flava), a single Grey-headed (thunbergi) and many hybrid supercilliaris forms. Suddenly, the birds took flight and as we watched a ringtail Pallid Harrier complete with neck collar was the cause. The Wagtails settled and Dave Pentelow called a superb male Citrine Wagtail – it just kept getting better! Eventually, Tony Kaduck found a supercilliaris with a yellow supercillium making it a xanthrophis hybrid – a rare form but sadly it was only seen by one other. Spanish Sparrows and Corn Buntings were numerous and the Spur-winged Plovers gained the usual attention afforded to them when they’re first seen. It was time to move onto Akhna Dam to finish off the day. Although there wasn’t much here we added Bluethroats, Ruffs and a lone late wintering sinensis Cormorant. Sadly, here a Starling was suppressed and the culprit shall be berated for ever more – it was the only one of the tour and would have added to the group total. I stopped in the local village for the final bird of the day - a Little Owl.
Day 3 – Monday 24
The Larnaca area beckoned and with 83 species in the bag on day one it was going to be a tough act to follow. We paused at Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini Coast initially and our luck was in with 5 Sandwich Terns and 2 Baltic Gulls being on the rocks amongst the reducing Black-headed Gulls – the list was moving. It’s all about the list you know? We drove the short distance to Oroklini Marsh and the new hide and started to find new birds immediately with 4 Black-tailed Godwits, numerous Black-winged Stilts some over wintering wildfowl including Pintails, Shovelers, Teals with the stars being breeding Red-crested Pochards that were viewed by all. 12 Greater Flamingo remained and a Snipe crept from the undergrowth. No time to waste, to the Larnaca Sewage Works and Airport Fields area. As is the norm, many Black Francolins could be heard and we flushed 5 as the mini-bus passed but views were not good enough for such a target bird. At the sewage works the only Armenian Gull of the trip – an adult, along with 1st winter Caspians, a single Slender-billed and a surprise 1st winter Little Gull. 3 drake Ferruginous Ducks were a bonus here and eventually we located a calling Black Francolin which was seen well by all – “tick” another target in the bag.
We stopped at Pervolia on the way to Petounta Point for what was described as a “drive-by” Calandra Lark. I had previously located a cereal field where 2 birds had been displaying. As we drove up, sure enough I could here them. We stopped the crew alighted and I pointed out the large Larks with dark underwings, white trailing edges and a bubbling liquid song flight to the assembled audience. All took in the relevant features and were content – how is that “drive-by”, I call it a judicious use of valuable time and good planning!
At Petounta, although relatively quiet, in the marsh we saw our first Wood Sandpipers, heard a Water Rail, Great Reed Warbler and Lapwing and secured more great views of a fine Citrine Wagtail*. On the upper rocky areas we grilled Isabelline, Northern and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears in the hope of a Desert Wheatear – but no joy. Back at the marsh, more Yellow Wagtails but nothing new and close views of a flock of Greater Short-toed Larks and a couple of Red-throated Pipits. Transiting back through Larnaca to the next site we stopped at Larnaca Airport Pools North where we saw 4 Greenshanks, 149 Greater Flamingos (yes, sadly I counted them), and circa 20 Slender-billed Gulls with a few more on the Salt Lake and our first Great Tit next to the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque. I offered a visit, but the uncultured “A” Team were more interested in birds – can you believe that?
Citrine Wagtail – Petounta Point 24 Mar 14
We arrived at the north side of the Salt Lake and as we walked, flushed a Green Sandpiper. We walked across the now dry salt lake to view a remaining puddle which held some waders. Advancing further to reduce the considerable heat haze, we scoped the waders where Dunlins and Ringed Plovers – the only ones of the trip where in the majority. As we scoped, Ruffs and Little Stints became apparent. Then Tony “chipped in again”, as he found 2 Sanderlings which were most unexpected for the trip but a great addition to “The List”.
We then drove to one of my favourite self-found sites which always turns up something – Larnaca JUMBO drain. Sure enough and running true to form a Temminck’s Stint and a few Little Ringed Plovers with several Common Snipes. A sharp “shrrreeeep” call alerted me to another male Citrine Wagtail – I’ve never seen so many in a spring. Then Richard found one of the birds of the tour – a female Little Crake bathing and feeding in the open next to the smallest of reed beds – I LOVE JUMBO DRAIN!!!!
Little Crake – Larnaca JUMBO Drain 24 Mar 14 Courtesy of Roger Dickey
We continued to Oroklini Marsh but this time the southern end, as its great Wader habitat and I had a bird in mind. In a MR Ben (for those that remember him) type way, as if by magic the shopkeeper appeared – no sorry the Marsh Sandpiper appeared with 5 Ruff and another was seen later – RESULT and the only ones of the trip. After many hints about coffee related colours and birds etc, I relented and stopped at the Dolphin Rocks café for an afternoon coffee break – I never thought it would come to this, but such was the relentless moaning and winging (mainly from our colonial and chairborne contingent, who were suffering withdrawal symptoms) that I relented. After a short stop we moved to the last site of the day Akhna Dam. We immediately scored with a migrating flock of Night Herons about to roost for the night. Another Greenshank, several Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper nearly finished the day but around the corner in a small pond, some Little Stints and another male Citrine Wagtail – amazing numbers. With the totals now in excess on 100 after 2 days, things could not have gone better. A curry and chilli night around my house, coordinated by OC Rear Party went well and was naturally all washed down with several KEOs – there’s a pattern forming.
Day 4 – Tuesday 25
Phase 2 of the plan commenced with a road trip to Troodos for an overnight stay stopping at Akrotiri, Episkopi and the Dhiarizos River Valley on the way. The best laid plans were interrupted by an enforced early start and late departure due to the news of a Caspian Plover at Paralimini Lake. So we attempted to twitch it. A very early bird (usually seen in April), it would have been a great addition and lifer for most on the trip. Unfortunately despite extensive searching and gnashing of teeth the bird had departed. We did add the first Purple Heron of the trip though and heard a couple of Quails. We had an uneventful journey to Limassol and arrived at the Port Canal in an attempt to see the White-breasted Kingfisher which was unsuccessful and indeed this bird along with Bimaculated Lark consumed valuable time on the tour and became our nemesis. We did however see Common Kingfisher, Sedge Warbler and the Laughing Dove that I’d seen a couple of weeks previously remained faithful to its telegraph wire. On the way to the new Zakaki Marsh hide 4 Common Buzzards (the first for the trip) circled above us and at Zakaki were joined by a Marsh Harrier. Zakaki was fairly quiet but a Little Egret, Kingfisher and amazingly another Citrine Wagtail broke the boredom.
Driving along Lady’s Mile was fairly dull so we parked about a mile from Akrotiri Salt Lake, as I didn’t want to suffer the indignity of getting bogged in and walked to the waters edge. Circa 30 Shelducks were present with about 250 Greater Flamingos and careful scanning revealed the only Great White Egrets of the week amongst 129 Grey Herons – Yes I counted them. I scanned the many Kentish Plovers and alerted the team to an interesting bird; we needed to move closer. Finally in position I directed the group onto a pair of Greater Sand Plovers in breeding plumage, complete with orange breast band. Interestingly, their bills were large and noticeable even at distance making them the migratory species crassirostris and not the regularly wintering sub-species columbinus. As all the wintering birds had departed, this was the only chance of the species so it was a real bonus bird on the list. I had earned my fee again – Ah forgot, there isn’t one but at least I wasn’t getting grief about coffee stops – thank heavens for small mercies. We proceeded to Bishop’s Pool and climbing over a fence got access. A good count of 13 Ferruginous Ducks were present and a Purple Heron perched in the open and was joined by another as they alighted. An Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler was seen when leaving the site and we had lunch in the Akrotiri Orchid Glade – well some of the more rounded members of the group enjoyed it but we did add our first Sardinian Warbler of the week.
We drove around Akrotiri Gravel Pits seeing a Wryneck in the Church gardens and a Marsh Harrier nearby. Phassouri Reed Beds was quite disappointing with only 5 Cattle Egrets being present so we proceeded to Episkopi and Kensington Cliffs. The wind had got up but we did have extremely good views of our first Long-legged Buzzards and only Alpine Swifts of the tour. However, the resident Griffon Vultures were conspicuous by their absence so another visit would have to be vectored in when returning from Paphos. At Kouklia Soakaways another Long-legged Buzzard was seen and as we drove to Troodos via the Dhiarizos River Valley another couple were seen. As we drove up the valley floor a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos were seen – it’s a good year for them and was appreciated by all, much better than dipping in Pembrokeshire. Despite checking the known wintering sites for Finsch’s Wheatear sadly for the crew they had all departed about a week prior to their arrival. Moving up the valley there was a lot of raptor activity on the hillside above Kadares with a male Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and a Kestrel. Tony alerted me to anther bird which mysteriously morphed into a Kestrel but his persistence paid off and with a large puff-ball looking white rump and accipiter wing shape, it was the most difficult of all the resident raptors to see – a Goshawk. The decision I’d taken to drive the long way to Troodos as opposed to up the normal Limassol route had very luckily paid dividends. We arrived at Troodos Environmental Centre at about 1730 and with the sun still up, although much cooler than the lowlands I speculated that we should give some of the island’s sub-species endemics a whirl. Within 20 minutes we had secured good views of Jay, Coal Tit, Short-toed (Dorothy’s) Treecreeper and Blackbird with Pallid Swifts above us. Four of the 6 sub-species had been seen. We had dinner in the Troodos Hotel Restaurant which was enjoyable and went to bed listening to calling Cyprus Scops Owls and Andrew secured a view of one.
Day 5 – Wednesday 26
All hands to the pump for the remaining sub-species. We visited Giant Juniper Picnic Site and had walked about 500m gaining more views of the birds we had seen last night and adding Chaffinch to the list, when I heard some Crossbills above us. Eventually, the group got views of a male and 2 females feeding on the Black Pine cones. One of the more difficult birds to see, I was very pleased. Job done, we continued and came across a brilliant male Masked Shrike that was early on its breeding grounds and I feel sure the fast growing “David Bailey” contingent got some good images – may I remind you, THIS IS NOT A PHOTGRAPHIC TOUR, DO NOT FLUSH THAT BIRD! We continued, a short distance to Levadi Tou Pasha Picnic Site. All quiet, a Eurasian Wren tape was played which incited the resident to wake up and start singing moving from tree to tree. Great views of the last endemic sub-species and my pre-tour promise had been fulfilled – Both endemics and all the sub-species endemics.
We headed off to Prodromos Dam in search of a Grey Wagtail. This was unsuccessful as it would appear that the wintering population had departed. We did however get the last target bird of Troodos in the form of several singing Serin, 2 of which were in display flight. Once more, the crew’s thoughts turned to Coffee and the relentless pressure caused me to keel in and stop at my favourite café in Troodos, the Ben Nevis. Here we enjoyed great coffee, Apple Pie and Chocolate Cake. I know – what sort of an outfit am I running. It was like a dudes’ day out at Titchwell. Stopping at the much frequented nut stall before departing Troodos, many varieties of nuts were purchased amidst the usual stall holder’s banter about Viagra, eroticism and generally inappropriate sales pitches in the promotion of nuts. On the way down we paused at the Caledonian Falls in the hope of a Grey Wagtail but were unsuccessful but did see another Wren.
We travelled down the Dhiarizos River Valley in the reverse of the ascent. We paused at Kadares once more and right on queue, a superb adult Long-legged Buzzard showed all of the necessary ID features in beautiful sunshine. A little further down opposite a cliff face, I stopped as Roger and I had seen a Peregrine nearby in the recce of Feb 13. Extraordinarily, we first heard a Peregrine and then witnessed the “shift-changeover” at the nest site, the bird stooping and displaying twice, what a fantastic moment for the group. Time in recce is never wasted! Then, another stroke of luck as 3 Griffon Vultures passed over the cliff saving me a regain on the return trip, which would allow us another crack at the White-throated Kingfisher and a visit to another site. We stopped at the Extreme View Café for lunch and the breeding Red-rumped Swallows performed well for the group.
We departed after lunch for Mandria in the hope of finding the Bimaculated Larks that had been there for a few days – another dip, this was becoming an uncomfortable habit, we did see 15 migrating Black-winged Stilts offshore and the only Shag of the trip sat on the rocks. The fields contained the by now familiar Wheatears and Pipits. With morale ebbing, we drove to Anarita Park as Colin Richardson had joined us at Mandria and suggested it might be productive. What a great decision. As we drove in a couple of Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were seen and as we stopped and exited the vehicle a Stone Curlew flew and then posed for the assembled scopes. A Little Owl perched in the open on a rock, Great Spotted Cuckoos flew by and a Hoopoe put in an appearance. A male Blue Rock Thrush was higher up the valley on a rocky scree slope and then “2IC Bagging Birds” Richard found a cracking male Rock Thrush or Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush if you prefer. We decided to move further up the valley and secured fantastic views of this scarce and difficult to catch up with migrant as it went about its business. Birds were moving everywhere and we saw Cretzschmar’s and Ortolan Buntings and discovered the “Bush Of Love”, so named as it seemed to attract every bird in the area. A small leafless dead bush attracted the Buntings, Blackcaps, a lone female Chaffinch, Lesser Whitethroats and Eastern Subalpine Warblers – what a great site and enjoyable hour and a half. As we left another male Rock Thrush sat on telegraph wires – like number 10 busses.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush – Anarita Park 26 Mar 14
We finished at the Paphos Lighthouse, where some Yellow-legged Gulls loafed and the Black-winged Stilts had made their way around from Mandria. With a nutter walking on the headland contemplating the meaning of life and flushing everything we checked into the hotel. A near mess up with the booking (not my fault, before you start), had me visibly agitated, I think the phrase is - as an LE Officer, I don’t do poor admin. Anyway, all resolved we booked in without difficulty and left the hotel for Colin Richardson’s house and the chance of a Cyprus Scops Owl. As we arrived we could hear the Owls in his garden but they then flew and stopped calling – Sods Law. We travelled down the hill slightly to the village of Armou where at least 6 were heard calling with their double noted, different to the nominate Eurasian Scops Owl’s call. Eventually, we got one calling in the torch light and very good views were achieved of this most enigmatic of owls, that will surely be split. We returned to the hotel, did the call-over and went to Tramps Bar, where we had a few beers and supper and thanked Colin for his help as we bought him dinner. We will not mention the leader waking up confused and having a nightmare whilst screaming at Dave Pentelow who started screaming back until the initiator woke up – or will we? Very comical, but we’re all friends here.
Day 6 – Thursday 27
Refreshed we rose early and the Kings Hotel had kindly provided a full Greek style early breakfast. We headed for Mandria for another bash at the Bimaculated Larks which was unsuccessful. As we walked the area an extroverted Wryneck gave crippling views for everyone as it fed actively on the ground. A Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and Red-throated Pipits gave excellent prolonged views and the ever present Black Francolin called nearby. We drove to Asprokremnos Dam, where Colin Richardson joined us and walked the pines where an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and male Pied Flycatcher were seen. Many Tree Pipits were present and 13 roosting Night Herons flushed as we walked the area. The day had been set aside to achieve views of Bonelli’s Eagle and perched views of Great Spotted Cuckoos which all were keen to achieve. We stood at a good vantage point above the dam. As we watched we noted Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Red-rumped Swallows, an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, the only Montague’s Harrier of the trip and a single Pallid Swift. Then, the shout went up and eventually everyone was securing good views of a sub-adult Bonelli’s Eagle. That one in the bag we drove up the Dhiarizos River Valley to Kidasi once more. Soon we were viewing perched Great Spotted Cuckoos and once more at Kidasi a Peregrine was visible on the nest and a Blue Rock Thrush was close by. Bonelli’s Eagles were seen again and as we ate lunch at the Extreme View Café more Bonell’s Eagle views and the sight of 11 Griffon Vultures spiralling over the hillside (probably the whole of the wild Cyprus population). The afternoon became very hot and we moved from site to site without really producing anything of much interest. As enthusiasm was dwindling and people were wilting in the heat, I turned to the tour guides best friend – coffee, beer and a rest. Two in a day, I hear you say and so did they – I must be getting soft? From Mandria we drove to the coast at Paphos in a speculative bid to “make something happen”. As we arrived and started to walk, a Whimbrel flew by – a rare bird in Cyprus and it was extremely fortunate timing that we added this to the trip list – although I put it down to good decision making and planning! Then, missing Garganey from the list Richard found a drake flying up the coast which everyone managed to get onto. The trip list continued to grow unabated.
Day 7 – Friday 28
After sleeping off a Meze and some more protein (Cyprus doesn’t suit the vegetarian option) an early departure from Paphos had us grilling the area at Mandria once more for a Bimaculated Lark – without success once again. Red-throated Pipits were evident as was a Tawny Pipit and a Black Francolin called in the distance. Alas, it was time to go and the Bimaculated Lark had lived to fight another day, however we did see a cracking Ruppell’s Warbler as we left the area. We continued to the Limassol Port Canal in the hope of seeing the White-breasted Kingfisher that had been previously reported and eluded us. Again without success and I don’t like dipping twice in a day, we moved on through Lady’s Mile to Akrotiri Gravel Pits. Save for a Masked Shrike, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and a ringtail Pallid Harrier, there wasn’t that much to get excited about, especially for the by now seasoned Cyprus birders desperate to increase the trip list. After lunch we made another effort for the Kingfisher and dipped again but did see the Laughing Dove once more before we departed. Stopping at Finikaria, a village on the north side of Germasogeia Dam it looked pretty boring and was until out of the bag – the first Squacco Heron of the year and only one of the tour – result! We drove straight to Oroklini where we added another 2 trip birds with a pair of Glossy Ibises and a Spotted Redshank amongst the many Black-winged Stilts. An impromptu stop at Akhna Dam before returning home for a BBQ was rewarded with a Cuckoo and a breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwit and as we left a pair of close Great Spotted Cuckoos. The day hadn’t turned out too badly after all! I say that because, at the BBQ having quaffed beer like it was going out of fashion, I thought people might like a “wee snifter”. Had I realised that the group were actually a bunch of Jura “Superstition” consuming drunks, I may not have followed this course of action. Not content with that they also demolished my other bottle of Glengoyne “Burnfoot” Malt. I went to bed feeling violated – but it was a good night and once again thanks to my wife for making it happen without a hitch.
Day 8 – Saturday 29
With time running out and wishing to catch some more migrants we headed to Cape Greco. Whilst more exceptional views of birds such as Ruppell’s Warbler and Masked Shrike were achieved there was nothing new for the trip, although noting the plumage differences of 2 female Siberian Stonechats was an interesting moment. 12 migrating Little Egrets and 2 Kingfishers were at Kermia Beach and at Ayia Napa Sewage Works more Masked Shrikes and a cracking Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. Paralimini Lake was disappointing so we moved to Akhna Dam where nothing much had changed from the day before although a White-Spotted (cyanecula) Bluethroat was seen. After an admin period we departed for the north at 1445. At Gulserin Pond a few Little Stints were on offer and at Clapsides Beach, good views of very pink Slender-billed Gulls were enjoyed. On route to Fresh Water Lake South, the alert driver pulled off the road and pointed out the first Woodchat Shrike of the trip, thus avoiding a blank day. The rest of the team were obviously already on the aircraft on the way home and so needed to receive the “Lets focus” speech – we still have birds to see. We proceeded to Fresh Water Lake South to view the 400 or so strong Cattle Egret colony – a spectacle in itself where 4 Night Herons and 2 Little Egrets were also present. On Saturday evening we enjoyed a farewell Meze at a local restaurant which was great value for money and enjoyed by all. Deb and I thank you for our dinner.
Day 9 – Sunday 30
With a real “hooley” of a wind blowing all night from the east, Cape Greco had much to promise. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Migrants were keeping low in the wind, so offshore a Sandwich Tern flew by with a Baltic Gull and several Yellow-legged Gulls. In a lull in the wind, the regular singing male Cyprus Warbler performed well for the crowd which was a bonus. As the wind dropped a little, a Cuckoo came in off the sea and I suggested that we looked under the Army Camp cliffs for birds that may be attempting to shelter from the wind. We had walked about 600m and the team were alerted to a movement that turned out to be a White-spotted (cyanecula) Bluethroat. Several mentioned a Cyprus Wheatear but were distracted by the Bluethroat. On closer inspection it proved to be a pristine male Hooded Wheatear. A Cyprus mega (the 21st record), and a lifer for most members of the trip and a Cyprus “tick” for me. It fly-caught and sallied, in typical Hooded Wheatear style, within 5m of us and allowed for some excellent observation of the key features and photographs. Another Cuckoo was seen and a male Cretzschmar’s Bunting before we headed off to Ayia Napa Sewage Works via Cape Greco Pines where an Eastern Bonell’s Warbler and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear were present. The sewage works didn’t have much to offer so we went for a typical Greek lunch at Ayia Thekla. After lunch we visited the final site of the trip – Akhna Dam. A couple of Common Sandpipers, the ubiquitous Zitting Cisticolas and Cetti’s Warblers were on offer but little else. We headed to the airport seeing Greater Flamingos at Oroklini Marsh before the team were eventually dropped off, thus ending a fantastic tour.
Hooded Wheatear – Cape Greco Cliffs 30 Mar 14 – 21st Record
An outstanding effort from the team! For this time of year the total it is unlikely to be surpassed. A combination of good planning, luck and commitment ensured that a total was seen that exceeded expectations by far. Furthermore, most of the group saw all of the birds, however as is the norm, inevitably some did not see all. That said, all the key species were seen and extremely good full frame views were enjoyed by all. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who attended for their contribution and making a tour of like-minded individuals so easy to lead. I would also like to thank the group for remembering my wife (OC Rear Party) for her considerable contribution in ensuring all ran smoothly and to the group for replacing my Whiskey which they enjoyed quaffing. Remember, looking for birds in the wind “Is as much use as a “Handbrake on a Submarine” – most of the time.
Highlights of the Week: Amongst a host of great birds, the first Eurasian Coal Tit for Cyprus, good views of Siberian Stonechats but the 21st record of a stunning male Hooded Wheatear (a lifer for all but Dave Pentelow and me) stood out and was a fitting finale to an excellent week.
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