This tour to Cyprus was arranged for members of the Inverness branch of the Scottish Ornithologists Club. Our base in Limassol gave us quick and easy access to the main birding sites in Cyprus. With the help of Jane Stylianou my local guide we succeeded in locating most of the key species Cyprus has to offer including the breeding endemics Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler. A few birds have colonised Cyprus in recent years including the scarce Ferruginous Duck and Red-crested Pochard both of which have established small breeding populations. The migration in the Eastern Mediterranean during the spring of 2018 has been fairly patchy and this was the case this time. Notable sightings including a very obliging Baillon's Crake, a small influx of Ortolan Buntings, huge numbers of Glossy Ibis, all four species of harriers, several Bonelli's Eagles and a good range of the commoner warblers. In the Troodos the group observed several of the endemic subspecies.
Thankfully things are starting to improve slowly in Cyprus against bird trapping and hunting. Various new hides and improved facilities for birders help both visitors and the residents of the island. My thanks go out to Jane for her excellent guiding skills and where to find birds in her adopted country. Our next visit is planned for mid-April 2019.
April 12th: Heathrow, Larnaca, Oroklini, Limassol Weather: Mostly sunny with a SW wind 25C.
The group assembled at Heathrow T5 for the flight to Larnaca which is located at the south eastern end of Cyprus. The flight went well and arrived on time at Larnaca airport. Met up with Jane our local guide and arranged a van for the week after a few problems with the original reservation. Oroklini was the major birding area for the afternoon a compact wetland with two hides overlooking a seasonal lake with reeds and islands. On arrival the car park had a pair of s a species which has colonised Cyprus in the last few years. The water levels were high for this time of the year which resulted in lingering ducks including Garganey, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and breeding species notably Red-crested Pochard, Mallard and Ferruginous Duck. On the edges we were fortunate to find a male Little Crake among the numerous Common Moorhens and Common Coots. The islands held large numbers of Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage whilst the reeds resounded to the songs of Cetti's and European Reed Warblers. A large Peregrine Falcon flew low over the reeds disturbing several Ruff in the process. A few Yellow-legged Gulls dropped into the area and we had fly-by's of Great Tit and Black-headed Wagtail. The long travel day was starting to catch up with us as we headed to Limassol our base for the week.
April 13th: Limassol, Germasogeia, Akrotiri Marsh, St George's Church, Lady's Mile. Weather: Sunny with SW winds 27C.
Outside the hotel Laughing, Collared and Rock Doves were observed in the garden and adjacent buildings. I picked up supplies for the day at a supermarket in the suburbs and then proceeded to Germasogeia and are with farms and rocky outcrops. En route a Steppe Buzzard was seen perching on a rock no doubt to rest up after the migration from Africa. A walk around the area produced several Sardinian Warblers and at least two Cyprus Warblers the latter being much darker on the throat and delivering a totally different song. Also present were calling Chukar, Cetti's and European Reed Warblers and a migrant Purple Heron. Next on the agenda was Akrotiri Marsh a revamped reserve with two hides set among farmland and the largest wetland on Cyprus. On arrival a tamarisk tree near the car park attracted Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Great Tit and ever-present Woodpigeons. A walk towards the hide had little in the number of birds apart from a showy Black Francolin calling from a raised mound. Lunch taken with a visit to the second hide. A walk along the road added good numbers of Ruff, White Wagtail, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis and singing European Serins. On the track towards the hide we could watch Black-headed and Western Yellow Wagtails and Red-throated Pipits. from the hide itself Squacco Heron, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Common Coot and Common Moorhen. Time was getting on as the group arrived at St Georges Church which can be a migration hot-spot. Today was not a disappointment as the church gardens quickly produced a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Common Redstart, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. Along the entrance road a Common Nightingale showed well pumping its tail whilst feeding on the grass. A short walk towards the sea revealed a fall of Ortolan Buntings, Woodchat Shrike and Tawny Pipit. In the distance a male Hen Harrier was being mobbed by Hooded Crows. The day ended with a drive along Lady's Mile with its extensive lagoons and scrub. On the pools a few Ruff, Little Stint and Kentish Plover. At least two Common Cuckoos flew inland. Finished along another dirt track which added Northern, Cyprus and Isabelline Wheatears for the day.
April 14th: Limassol, Agia Varvara, Anarita Park, Mandria, Nata Ford, Asprokemmos Dam. Weather: Sunny with SW winds 29C.
This morning I headed westwards towards the coastal town of Paphos. Our first birding area was at Agia Varvara an area of agricultural land which has seasonal streams in spring. On arrival we were greeted by the calls of Black Francolin and the common birds of Cyprus. Our main interest was the small areas of water with numerous tadpoles and adjacent stands of reeds. To our surprise a male Baillon's Crake showed well down to a few feet and entertained us for almost an hour. Further along the stream at least three Little Crakes and a particularly flighty Spotted Crake put in an appearance. Also present in the valley were a Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel and a few Eurasian Jackdaws. I then headed towards Anarita Park an area of farmland dotted with bushes and rock outcrops. The telegraph wires attracted European Rollers, Lesser Kestrel and Corn Buntings singing from the tops of bushes. A stop near a goat farm offered us views of the surrounding habitat where the group located Little Owl, Chukar, Red-rumped Swallow, Tree Pipit and a pair of Bonelli's Eagle hunting the adjacent hillside. It was time for lunch on the beach at Mandria. On the approach road a party of recently arrived Tawny Pipits, and on the beach itself Northern and Isabelline Wheatears. The picnic site trees had a few Lesser Whitethroats. After lunch a short drive along farm tracks added a single Eurasian Thick-knee and two Glossy Ibis coming in off the sea. It was time to head inland to Nata Ford with its seasonal river running under the road bridge. This was a productive and enjoyable place to watch and study birds with sightings of Grey Heron, Wood, Green and Marsh Sandpipers and at least three Little Ringed Plovers of which one was sitting on a nest. The day ended at Asprokremmos Dam with great views of an adult Bonelli's Eagle en route. The dam is poor for birds although Yellow-legged and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull were observed.
April 15th: Limassol, Arodes, Androlikou, Neoh Horio, Baths of Aphrodite. Weather: Sunny with a W wind 30C.
This morning I headed west towards the popular tourist town of Paphos. After picking up supplies we headed towards the village of Arodes which has a habitat of farmland, rocky outcrops and cliffs. The wires held several pairs of European Rollers and Corn Buntings and in the fields calling Common Quail. A short walk produced close views of a second year male Pallid Harrier and Cyprus Wheatears singing from bush tops. A drive towards the village of Androlikou produced a Great Spotted Cuckoo and surprisingly on a small farm pond single Wood Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint. It was tough going today with few migrants mainly due to clear skies and light winds. At Neoh Horio a pond attracted birds down to drink including European Serin. In the trees calling European Turtle Doves. Our final stop was at the Baths of Aphrodite where an offshore island added Yellow-legged Gull and European Shag for the day list.
April 16th: Limassol, Oroklini, Achna, Cape Greco. Weather: Sunny with a NE wind 28C.
Today the group headed east towards Larnaca for a return visit to the wetland habitats of Oroklini. Similar birds to our previous visit on the first day with the addition of a female Marsh Harrier and a group of Black-crowned Night Herons. Also roosting on the lake were a party of Green Sandpipers. Further east a visit to the wetland at Achna which is rarely visited by birders. An interesting place with the first area attracting Garganey and several Common Snipe. Further along the track a shallow area of mud attracted several species including a Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Common Greenshank, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, White Wagtail and a few Red-throated Pipits. On the open waters a summer plumaged Whiskered Tern, Squacco, Grey and Purple Herons. The return towards the van produced a European Turtle Dove and fleeting views of Masked Shrike. The remainder of the day was spent at Cape Greco a peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. Notable sightings included flocks of migrating Spanish Sparrows and in the harvested wheat fields Short-toed Larks and Tawny Pipits. A bonus came in the form of a female Montagu's Harrier hunting along the cliff edge. An area of pines was visited with a few migrants observed - Eastern Orphean Warbler, Blackcap, Willow and Sardinian Warblers. Our final spot was an area of scrub where a male Cyprus Warbler sang from a stunted pine a fitting end to the day.
April 17th: Limassol, Kensington Cliffs, Omodos, Troodos, St George's Church. Weather: Sunny with SW winds 28C (20C at Troodos).
Our first birding stop was at Kensington Cliffs which has a scenic view along the coast and the adjacent Mediterranean Sea. Careful scanning along the cliff face revealed a single Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Rock Pigeon and Eurasian Jackdaws. Luck was with us as a Peregrine Falcon and a male Eleonora's Falcon were observed cruising along the cliff face. I headed inland towards the village of Omodos and a diversion along roads with vines and scattered bushes. This habitat produced the very localised Cretzschmar's Bunting singing from bushes and roadside trees. It was time to visit Troodos which is at high elevations for Cyprus and frequently has snow until early April. Parked up and observed Masked Shrike, Eurasian Blackbird, Great and Coal Tits, Common Chaffinch and singing Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. After lunch another walk added Eurasian Wren, female Common Crossbill and a party of endemic Eurasian Jays. In another car park we heard singing Short-toed Treecreepers and overhead a range of hirundines including Eurasian Crag Martin. It was time to revisit the church at St Georges. This proved to be a good move as the gardens held Northern Wheatear, Common Redstart, Ortolan Bunting, Tawny Pipit, Eurasian Hoopoe and a female Pied Flycatcher. The finale was a Eurasian Hobby flying over which gave us fantastic views.
April 18th: Lady's Mile, Mandria, Anarita Park, St George's Church, Akrotiri Marsh. Weather: Sunny with a light S wind 26C.
Our last full day in Cyprus started with a visit to Lady's Mile. The shallow lagoons attracted a wide range of shorebirds including Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper and Black-necked Stilts. A bonus came in the form of two Little Terns searching for fish. A group of Little Egrets had arrived overnight and were resting on the opposite side of the lagoon. A return visit to Mandria was planned so I joined the motorway towards Paphos. A slow drive around the fields produced little of interest. Along the shore a Eurasian Curlew was noted on a rocky outcrop and Ringed Plover on the beach. A small number of Grey and Purple Herons flew in off the sea and a party of Greater Short-toed Larks fed in a grassy field. A brief visit to Paphos water treatment works was made with sightings of Western Yellow Wagtail and Red-throated Pipit plus an unidentified eagle flying along the coast. A return trip to Anarita Park produced similar birds to a few days ago plus a female Montagu's Harrier hunting for prey. I decided to head towards St Georges Church again which had a few migrants notably Lesser Whitethroat, Woodchat Shrike and Northern Wheatear. We ended the day at Akrotiri Marsh with familiar birds of the lowland marsh habitats of Cyprus. Before leaving a group of twenty-five plus Purple Herons flew overhead searching for a safe place to roost.
April 19th: Limassol, Kivilisi, Larnaca Sewage Lagoons. Weather: Sunny with SW winds 28C.
Our last day in Cyprus started with a visit to Kivilisi an area of farmland near Larnaca. Not too much around so a visit to more fields along the coast added several Calandra Larks. The last birding spot was the hide at Larnaca where careful scanning added a summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe and a Common Sandpiper. It was time to head back towards the airport with Jane and Mike observing a pair of Spectacled Warblers. The end to an excellent week on Cyprus.