Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cyprus day 11 - the last rights

We had a few hours this morning before the flight to get in some last minute birding but there was a problem, it was blowing a hoolie!

It was suggested that we try the sheltered picnic area around the Asprokremmos Dam. Even here was windy and we only managed a female pied fly and a cuckoo.

We'd heard that there had been some crakes at Agia Varvara so decided to give it a try. The stream by the ford was dry but a lucky meeting with some birders informed us of some water storage tanks further up the valley.
There were other birders there when we arrived and there were already a bunch of herons in flight; 8 greys and 2 smart adult purples.
Moving to the 2nd tank I instantly saw a pale bird creeping around the waters edge in the corner. A dash to unpack the scope was required but worth it to add our final species to the trip list, a lovely female little crake.

Sadly it was time to head for the airport with the last minute little crake taking the trip list to 111.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Cyprus day 10 - last full day

A quick walk around the block first thing produced a pair of nest scraping stone curlew but little else.

We headed for the Akamas today with the hope of adding a few more species to the list.  A couple of stops in the hills failed to add long legged buzzard for dad's list but the views out over towards Paphos were impressive.

The first stop was the caravan park just beyond the Baths of Aphrodite, a slightly random place of old caravans under the olive trees. It was however, great for birds. As soon as we got out of the car there were blackcaps everywhere. I would say that there were at least 50 birds throughout the area.  Every olive seemed to have several feeding. Mixed in with them were a few other things.
The wood warblers, probably 3 of then, look absolutely stunning in the bright sunshine, the yelow and green so bright contrasting with the white underparts. A nice showy nightingale performed well, male collared fly, 3 female pied fly were present and at least 2 whinchat.
Surprise of the morning was the 'long legged buzzard' I spotted from the car as we headed back. Thankfully the bird was still about by the time managed to stop. The bird didn't 'look right' and getting the scope on it I realised it was a Bonellis eagle. Well happy with that ( we didn't get the buzzard for dad in the end)

We headed up towards Smiyies picnic site for a walk around. Good numbers of serin were present today and we had nice views of ortolan, female masked shrike and a smart male marsh harrier overhead.

Final stop of the trip was Evretou Dam. The drive down was rather interesting and not recommended if it has been wet or you have a low car but our hire car made it fine.
The muddy margins around the end of the lake had several squacco heron and 3 species of wader. 4 common and a marsh sand had already been added to the list but a summer plumage greenshank was new.

The sun was particularly hot so we retired to the pool and shade around the villa for the last few rays

Friday, 21 April 2017

Cyprus day 9 - Ringing pt2

We were lucky enough to be able to join Richard and Mike again for another ringing session.

This time we headed for their river site to the south of Polis. On the journey over we finally managed to catch up with long legged buzzard for the trip. We also had a harrier and falcon sp over the car that remained unidentified. Just before we reached the ringing site a cracking roller was sat on the roadside wires. Apparently they breed in the farm close by.

Richard and Mike had already been on a net round so there were bags of goodies waiting for us. Being in a river valley the species composition was very different. In the olive grove last week it was mainly blackcap, this week it was reed warbler (30).

The main highlight of the morning was an adult spotted crake, only the 6th to be ringed in Cyprus and a new bird for Richard. You forget how small they are and have a wing length the same as a blackbird (122mm).
The best of the rest, and they were all good birds,  we're 3 olivaceous warbler, 3 great reed warbler, spotted flycatcher, female ortolan bunting, tree pipit and turtle dove.

We had another impromptu ringing demo with another birding group visiting. They arrived just at the right time to see great reed, ortolan and the turtle dove in the hand. Another great opportunity to tell the stories about ringing

There were also some good birds around the site with long legged buzzard, 2 redstart, wood warbler, 2 female black&white flycatchers and a spotted fly.

We have been incredibly lucky with the hospitality shown by Mike and Richard allowing us to join them and ring many of the birds that were caught. Over the two session we've spent with them we've caught nearly 200 birds, handled some nice species, made some good contacts for the future and most importantly learnt loads.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cyprus day 8 - didn't go far

Rest day today so we didn't go far. Headed just up the coast to Cape Deprenon. The area looked great with some nice fields and nice well vegetated gardens. Pretty quiet for birds apart from a nightingale and a female black & white flycatcher in the 'nice garden'. The walk around the coast was 'interesting' requiring a combination of climbing, scrambling and paddling!!
Clearly an area of wealth with one villa having 3 porsche parked outside!

The gorge at Arakas was a really impressive walk. Several singing olivaceous warblers at the bottom of the valley but it was the narrow steep sided gorge that was the highlight. Tight and narrow which must be an incredible sight with a big flow going through it.

We decided to walk from the bottom of the valley up to Mavrokolympos Dam in the hope of finally getting good views of Cyprus warbler. Sadly not this time but we did have squacco heron and common sand on the res, 3 ortolan and a day-calling scops owl.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cyprus day 7 - Akrotiri

The usual pre-breakfast walk produced a similar range of birds to the last few days although I did get good views of stone curlew and finally good views of a pair of black francolin that have been calling near the villa.

After breakfast we headed east to the Akrotiri peninsula in search of wetland birds.
First stop was Akrotiri Marsh and a meet up with Melpo from Birdlife Cyprus to have a look at the habitat works I had been involved with a couple of years ago. The improvements were looking good, plenty of cattle grazing, new fencing, pools and a nice tower hide. Still lots of work to do but a great start.
The site was pretty quiet for birds though. A few ruff, a couple of squacco heron and a hunting marsh harrier. From the tower hide, 4 fudge ducks were sculking in the reed edge, hopefully the females were on nests...

The gravel pits area was completely dead apart from a yellow wag and a squacco heron and the small chapel was quiet too holding Woodchat, 2 pied and a spotted fly, ortolan and an olivaceous warbler.

Zakaki Marsh did add mallard for the trip but that was all. We did finally find some waders along Lady's Mile but they were all ruff apart from a smart summer plumage marsh sand. Further along was a small group of black winged stilt and 10 close greater flamingos, closer than the pink haze on the main lake.

Final stop of the day was the impressive view over Kensington Cliffs. We had good views of 4 displaying Eleanoras falcons but the Cyprus warblers were really tricky in the strong wind. There were at least 6 calling birds but I only got brief decent views of one.

Overall it was a slightly disappointing day with the lack of waders but good to look round Akrotiri Marsh at the work.

The day did add some new species and pushes us over 100 species to 104.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cyprus day 6 - Upcountry

Was a little surprised to have rain falling for an early walk around the villa patch but it didn't last very long. The first part of the walk seemed to be quiet with fewer migrants than recent days. Just past the taverna we flushed a cuckoo from the coast path and then there appeared to be a movement of hirundines with barn and red rumped swallows, house and sand martin and a few swifts. The highlight was a female pallid harrier over the fields but sadly it didn't hang about.
19 glossy ibis flying west offshore just as we got back.

Today's plan was to visit the Troodos mountains in search of the Cypriot races of jay and coal tit.
On arrival at the visitor centre carpark we were greeted by a female masked shrike and ticked off the Jay straight away. Although we knew it would be cooler at the higher altitude, going from 20 to 8 degrees was a bit of a shock. Fleece and gloves required.

A walk up the path into the forest quickly added the coal tit to the list. A particularly smart looking bird with its extensive black throat extends down onto the upper breast. The white head stripe seemed much reduced too.

Good views were had of short toed treecreeper, Cyprus wheatear and  a male masked shrike. We also added wren, chaffinch and blackbird to the trip list.  An unexpected surprise was a feeding family of crossbill.
Lunch stop didn't produce any birds but we did find some nice orchids. The power of social media identified them as giant orchid.

What I thought was going to be a random stop in the vineyards at a lower level on the way back turned into a bit of a surprise when I recognised the route. It turned out that I had visited the same place when out here with work a couple of years ago. We didn't get black headed bunting this time.

Final addition to the list was a group of beeeaters heading east over the villa late in the afternoon.

Trip list now on 92

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cyprus day 5 - Paphos and inland

Starting to venture a bit further afield with a first proper visit to Paphos Headland.  This time is wasn't quite a rammed as the other day!

The first thing that strikes you as soon as you get inside the complex is the impressive show of wildflowers. The place is completely awash with yellow, red and pink making it a rather pleasant place to spend a few hours.

Although largely quiet for birds there was a nice selection. An eastern olivacuous warbler showed well just inside the main gates followed by the first of 7 hoopoe we saw.
The bushes held 6 nightingale, 3 collared fly,  2 wood warbler, sedge warbler and a nice female masked shrike. 5 ortolan and black eared wheatear were the best of the rest.
A quick look around the ruins before escaping the growing crowds.

The area inland of Mandria and Asprokremmos Dam was largely disappointing. We did get at least 6 lesser kestrel and a nice little owl in the Anarita Park area but little else. Nata Ford added little ringed plover to the trip list and nice views of red rumped swallows collecting nest material from the river bed.

The scrubby picnic area near the dam held a few migrants. Several female 'black & white' flycatchers were difficult to pin down but a male collared was much easier. Good numbers of blackcap were present along with a male golden oriole and our first bonellis warblers. Even bumped into someone who knew me from work!!

Mandria fields were quiet and the irrigating had stopped near Paphos SF so the birds from the other day had moved on.

4 new species added today taking the list to 83