A visit to Cyprus in the spring timed to coincide with as many migrants as possible and to locate and get good views of the island’s endemic Cyprus Warbler, Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Scops Owl as well as the endemic sub-species – Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Jay. Other notable species seen include Red-crested Pochard, Black Francolin, Chukar, Ferruginous Duck, Greater Flamingo, Little and Eurasian Bittern, Squacco Heron, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Bonelli’s Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Baillon’s Crake, Spur-winged Lapwing, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Caspian Plover, Collared Pratincole, Great Snipe, Slender-billed Gull, Armenian Gull, Whiskered Tern, Laughing Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Wryneck, Masked Shrike, Calandra Lark, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Citrine Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit and Cretzschmar’s and Ortolan Bunting. The heavy winter rain meant that the wetlands all had good water levels.
April 10th: Travel day.
A late afternoon arrival meant that once the pick up and transfer to the hotel was completed there was no time for birding. This year we were based in Larnaca.
April 11th: Germasogeia Dam, Akrotiri Marsh (Phasouri Reed-beds), Akrotiri Gravel Pits, Lady’s Mile, Zakaki, Larnaca Salt Lake.
Daily: 79. New: 79. Running 79.
Weather: Changeable, some showers. Strong wind W. Temperature 20°C
Heading to Limassol our first stop was Germasogeia Dam with the intention of finding both Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear at our first stop. Unfortunately we were not lucky with the Cyprus Warbler but we found at least two pairs of Cyprus Wheatear and could hear the insect-like song of the male ringing out over the area. The wet winter meant unprecedented high levels of water at the Dam and we reaped the rewards of this by watching a couple of Little Crake in the waterside vegetation and being surprised by a Eurasian Bittern close by. We also had a Purple Heron, a singing Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler and a calling Eurasian Hoopoe. The area was full of hirundines including two Sand Martin. Two Black-headed Wagtail were feeding on the mud. As we were leaving the area a Long-legged Buzzard flew over the car. We moved onto the Akrotiri peninsula with our first stop at Akrotiri Marsh (previously known as Phasouri Reed-beds). We spent a couple of hours in the area finding many different species of migrant passerines and water birds on the main marsh area and at some seasonal pools closer to the sea. We found another Little Crake near one of the hides. A flock of around 70 Glossy Ibis were on the marsh as were a couple of Squacco Heron, some Cattle and Little Egret and a Purple Heron. A flock of around 40 Purple Heron and six Grey Heron flew over heading north. A good variety of waders included Spur-winged Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Kentish Plover and a Collared Pratincole. On the ground were many feeding Western Yellow Wagtail of various races, Black-headed Wagtail and White Wagtail. Some persistent searching enabled us to find the ocularis race of White Wagtail that was in the area for the second spring running. We also found a couple of Eurasian Hoopoe, Whinchat, Red-throated Pipit and a Woodchat Shrike. Two large flocks of migrating Spanish Sparrow were moving around the area as we moved onto to check the small area of greenery around nearby Agios Georgios church. We ate our lunch here in the company of a couple of male Common Redstart, a male European Pied Flycatcher, another Woodchat Shrike, a Northern Wheatear, Common Whitethroat, Whinchat and several Sardinian Warblers. After lunch we drove to Lady’s Mile where three Curlew Sandpiper were in with the feeding Kentish Plover and Little Stint. An immature Caspian Gull and two Armenian Gull were roosting there with six Little Ringed Plovers close by. Smaller migrants seen included Black-eared and Northern Wheatear and a Tawny Pipit. A quick stop at Zakaki Marsh added a Green Sandpiper and Black Francolin to the day’s list. Returning to the hotel we found a group of around forty Slender-billed Gulls and four Common Tern feeding on Larnaca Salt Lake.
April 12th: Petra tou Romiou, Arodes, Androlikou, Agios Minas, Neo Horio.
Daily: 48. New: 15. Running: 94
Weather: Sunny intervals. Wind W. Temperature 20°C
Today was spent in the north west of the island above Paphos. We made a brief stop at Petra tou Romiou between Limassol and Paphos but the landslides there after the winter rains meant I couldn’t get to the area I wanted. We did see a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls and a group of migrating Little Egret however. In the valley behind the village of Arodes, north of Paphos, we heard a couple of calling Common Quail and saw overflying Long-legged Buzzard and Bonelli’s Eagle. Plenty of Corn Bunting were singing and several Cyprus Wheatear pairs were on territory. We came across several Chukar before driving on to the abandoned village of Androlikou. On the way we saw a migrating female Pallid Harrier. We spent several hours in the Androlikou area where another adult Bonelli’s Eagle flew over us and we heard at least two Cyprus Scops Owl calling. We found a large tree in which at least one Wood Warbler, several Lesser Whitethroat and Eurasian Blackcap and two Common Nightingale were feeding. Nearby an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler called and gave us good views as it flew from tree to tree feeding, a male Collared Flycatcher which was also present was harder to pin down though. Past the quarry we stopped to watch a couple of Ortolan Bunting only to discover a female Eurasian Pied Flycatcher, two Common Whitethroat, a group of Tree Pipit, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Eurasian Wryneck were also in the area. The rest of the afternoon was spent near AgiasMinas church outside Neo Horio. There we watched a flock of more than 100 Red-rumped Swallow migrating NW above our heads. We also had singing Eurasian Serin and Corn Bunting as well as single Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Common Whitethroat.
Cyprus Scops Owl, Paphos
April 13th: Cape Greco, Paralimni Lake, Akhna Dam, Oroklini Marsh.
Daily: 63. New: 13. Running: 107
Weather: Sunny. Wind: Strong breeze ENE. Temperature: 24°C
Today we headed east towards the migration hot spot of Cape Greco. Unfortunately, the area was relatively quiet – not helped by a gusty ENE wind. We found at least two singing male Cyprus Warbler now on territory and there were several pairs of Cyprus Wheatear in the area. A male Pallid Harrier was briefly in view and we heard several singing Common Nightingale. A Eurasian Wryneck sat out in the open also saw Nothern, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatear. Three Alpine Swift were new for the trip. We decided to visit two of the wetlands on the east of the island that had good amounts of water this spring and were not disappointed. Our first stop was Paralimni Lake where we saw Greater Flamingo, Little and Cattle Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Glossy Ibis, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover and Common Greenshank. Two female Western Marsh Harrier quartered the area. We then headed to Akhna Dam where the water levels prevented us from walking around but we were very pleased to watch and listen to at least three Olivaceous Warblers as well as two male Little Crake and an unseasonal Great Crested Grebe. A flock of 17 Common Greenshank flew over the area looking for somewhere to land and a group of Glossy Ibis continued their migration north. A Eurasian Thick-knee flew over the motorway as we approached Oroklini Marsh. We spent some time in both hides there and saw two more Little Crake, two male Garganey and added Red-crested Pochard, Northern Shoveler and Common Teal to our trip total. At least 30 Cattle Egret were present and several Black-winged Stilt and Spur-winged Lapwing appeared to be breeding.
April 14th: Agia Varvara, Anarita Park, Mandria (Paphos), Timi Beach, Episkopi (Paphos).
Daily: 63. New: 9. Running: 116
Weather: Sunny. Wind: Breezy WSW. Temperature: 24°C
We decided to spend the day at several birding locations to the east of Paphos today and it was a good decision. We started in the Agia Varvara valley where the Ezousas river was running and the ‘soakaway’ pools were in the right condition for crakes and heron species. As we approached the north of the area we noted Woodchat Shrike, Whinchat, Eurasian Blackcap and Common Whitethroat as well as a female Common Redstart. Then suddenly in front of us were a pair of courting Great Spotted Cuckoo. We watched them for a while, as they were unaware of our proximity. Moving on to the ‘soakaways’ we quickly located a female Little Bittern on the edge of one of them. At least two Little Crake and a Sedge Warbler were also feeding nearby but then to our excitement a Baillon’s Crake appeared out in the open. As we watched, we received news that a female Caspian Plover had been seen briefly at nearby Mandria. As it appeared to have moved on, we decided to check that area a bit later and go inland to Anarita Park first. Here we found a total of five more Great Spotted Cuckoo, three Ortolan Bunting, three Whinchat and a Little Owl who only had one eye. A male Cyprus Warbler was watched singing on territory until we couldn’t wait any longer and decided to try our luck with the Caspian Plover. There was no sign of it when we arrived at Mandria and we found several local birders also looking for it. It was very windy but we had good views of Western Yellow Wagtails feeding in the fields together with at least three Red-throated and two Tawny Pipit. A flock of European Bee-eater flew in off the sea and headed north as we scanned the area and three Black-crowned Night Heron flew along the coast struggling against the wind. Finally, the female Caspian Plover was relocated and we dashed to see it before it disappeared again. She was very obliging and fed in the same field in which we had earlier watched the wagtails. Happy with our timing we decided to move on to nearby Timi Beach where a temporary wetland had been created after the winter rain which added to the variety of species that were being reported at that area. We found feeding Cattle and Little Egret as well as Glossy Ibis and Little Ringed Plover. We then searched through the feeding Western Yellow Wagtail hoping to find a Citrine Wagtail. We were in luck and found two males and a female. Our last stop of the day was inland in the Paphos foothills where two Cyprus Scops Owls were still at their roost and we were able to get great views of them. Nearby a colony of Eurasian Jackdaw were defending their nests against a pair of Peregrine Falcon. A great spectacle on which to end the day.
April 15th: Kensington Cliffs, Omodos – Mandria (Platres) road, Troodos, Mandria (Platres), Kensington Cliffs, Akrotiri Gravel Pits.
Daily: 56. New: 13. Running: 129
Weather: Cold and cloudy in Troodos, warmer and sunny at lower levels. Wind: SW. Temperature: 5°C Troodos, 19°C at coast.
Throughout the week we had seen the clouds shrouding the top of the Troodos mountains so I was not confident of warm weather or ideal birding conditions on our visit to that area. We started at Kensington Cliffs by the coast where we had distant views of two Eurasian Griffon Vulture heading inland as well as a large flock of around twenty Alpine Swift as well as two nearly arrived Eleonora’s Falcons. We then drove into the Troodos foothills via Omodos and Agios Nikolaos. The vineyards at Omodos had been replanted and were not as productive as in previous years so we continued on the road from Agios Nikolaos to Platres. Here we saw our first Masked Shrike and Cretzschmar’s Buntings of the week as well as hearing our first Northern Wren. At least one Eurasian Hoopoe was heard and seen. Cyprus Wheatear were everywhere. The temperature dropped as we reached Troodos and we decided to target the endemic sub-species and then leave for warmer areas. Luckily, the cloud cover was not too low and we quickly picked up at least four Eurasian Jays and an obliging Short-toed Treecreeper. We could hear plenty of Coal Tits but were unable to see any well to check the differences from the mainland Europe race. We headed to the Amiantos Botanical Garden and there found a pair busy entering their nest hole and obviously feeding young. With the Cyprus endemic sub-species under our belts, we left cold Troodos and headed back to a wooded area outside Mandria (Platres) that we had passed on our way up. While having our packed lunch here we were treated to fly-bys from a pair of Common Cuckoo and, even more exciting, from at least six male Eurasian Golden Oriole who were chasing each other from tree to tree in front of us. That certainly warmed us up and we decided to go back to Kensington Cliffs to see if we could get better views of Eleonora’s Falcon. Unfortunately, we didn’t but we had much better views of Eurasian Griffon Vulture as five returned there to roost as the afternoon went on. We decided to finish the day at the seasonal pools to the west of Akrotiri Marsh. We were not disappointed as we managed to pick out a Great Snipe among the more common waders still feeding there.
Great Spotted Cuckoo Anarita
April 16th: Mandria, Timi Beach, Paphos Sewage Plant, Anarita Park, Kouklia, Lady’s Mile, Zakaki Marsh.
Daily: 66. New: 8. Running: 137
Weather: Showers then sunny spells. Wind SW. Temperature: 16°C
Today we returned to a few of the sites we had visited earlier, mainly around Paphos, to see if there were any new species around that we had missed on previous visits. On our way we stopped at Larnaca Salt Lake and found a small group of feeding Greater Flamingo, three Slender-billed Gull and several species of waders including Common Redshank which were new for the week. We then headed to Mandria (Paphos) where we found a flock of Greater Short-toed Lark and a single Eurasian Skylark in the fields. A small flock of Western Yellow Wagtail were still present and we also found three Tree Pipit, a Whinchat and couple of Northern Wheatear and a Eurasian Turtle Dove. We then returned to Timi Beach where a sub-adult Armenian Gull was sitting on an off shore rock and four Common Sandpiper and two Common Greenshank were on the beach. Cattle and Little Egret were still present but we spent most of our time checking the eucalyptus trees where we found three male Collared Flycatcher, two Wood Warbler and an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler. White Wagtail and Western Yellow Wagtail were feeding on the mud. A quick visit to Paphos Sewage Plant was disappointing with only three Spur-winged Lapwing and a flock of Spanish Sparrow of note. We tried Anarita Park to see if any Lesser Kestrel had showed up but only found Common Kestrel. We quickly visited the village of Kouklia where we found a couple of the Laughing Dove thatare now colonising the country. On our way back to Larnaca we decided to have another look at Lady’s Mile and were entertained by three feeding Eurasian Spoonbill there as well as the more than thirty Little Egret, four Spotted Flycatcher, two Whinchat and two Northern Wheatear. A quick visit at Zakaki Marsh was profitable with great views of both a Great Reed Warbler and a male Little Bittern to finish the day on.
April 17th: Kivisili, Kiti Dam, Pervolia, Larnaca Salt Lake area.
Daily: 65. New: 9. Total for week: 146
Weather: Sunny then heavy rain showers. Wind SW. Temperature 18°C
After checking out of our Larnaca base we spent the day around sites local to that town. Our first stop were the fields outside the village of Kivisili. We still hadn’t managed to find any Lesser Kestrel and this location usually had a few migrants feeding. At first it seemed we would be unlucky although we did find Woodchat Shrike, Chukar and another Whinchat as well as a singing Corn Bunting and two Eurasian Turtle Dove. We checked another area of fields and finally had a group of around ten Lesser Kestrel. It seems as if the wet winter could have delayed the hatching of their preferred food and that most had passed over without stopping. Moving on the Kiti Dam we concentrated on the trees at the base of the dam wall and enjoyed watching a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoo chasing, a Common Cuckoo, two Eurasian Golden Oriole, lots of Eurasian Blackcap, some Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler and even three late Common Chiffchaff. A Great Reed Warbler was singing and two Black-crowned Night Heron flew up from the overflow stream. With dark clouds forming we headed towards the fields outside the village of Pervolia where Calandra Lark breed. We quickly located at least five flying around the area and singing loudly. As one landed we were surprised to see a male and female Eurasian Dotterel resting in the field. A scarce passage migrant for Cyprus and a great find. While we watched them and the larks a Eurasian Curlew flew over the fields calling – another new bird for the trip from this location. Four Whinchat and three Red-throated Pipit were also picked out in the fields. We then moved on to the area of the Salt Lake to the south of the airport although some of our time here was spent in the car keeping out of the rain. A flock of at least 300 Greater Flamingo were seen along with some Slender-billed Gull and a Whiskered and two Common Tern. Two Little Tern were fishing offshore. Waders in the area included Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint and Marsh and Wood Sandpiper. Eight Great White Egret flew west over the area and two Common Kingfisher were a surprise find. We finished the day with a Curlew Sandpiper and only our second Collared Pratincole of the week on the beach. Some good birds to finish the trip with and we headed to the airport for a late afternoon flight back to the UK.