Cyprus 2012

April 19th - 26th

This was the first visit to Cyprus for almost ten years and organised for the East Grinstead RSPB Group. It proved to be a very successful trip despite the late spring migration and strong wings on the first two days. The two endemic breeding birds Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler were seen in good numbers with the former preferring the higher elevations of the island. In addition to this several rarities for Cyprus were recorded during the week including Lesser Spotted Eagle, White-tailed Lapwing, Caspian Plover, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Corncrake, Thrush Nightingale and Trumpeter Finch.

The tour was enhanced by Jane Stylianou who led the group with her knowledge of Cyprus and its habitats.

April 19th: Heathrow, Larnaca, Paralimni Lake, Limassol.

Weather: Cloudy with a cool southwest breeze 19 C

The group met up at Heathrow Terminal 3 for the flight to Larnaca in Eastern Cyprus with British Airways. After a delay due to congestion we were on our way passing over The Alps and southeast Europe to land at Larnaca a few minutes behind schedule. Jane our local guide met us by the car rental desks where I picked up our 9-seater Mercedes for the week. Our first birds of the tour were Barn Swallow and Hooded Crows around the airport itself. We headed east towards Paralimni Lake a large complex of grassland and patches of pools surrounded by ever-encroaching housing developments. A short walk onto the marsh produced Kentish Plover, Crested Lark, House Martin and migrant European Bee-eaters. We decided to visit another area which had some pools of water and luck was with us as a White-tailed Lapwing showed well, a rare migrant to Cyprus. Also present were Green and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Common Snipe, Spur-winged Lapwing, Squacco and Purple Herons and a single Ruff. Dead stands of bushes attracted two Whinchats whilst the reeds had singing Cetti’s Warblers. Our final stop was another area near a cement factory where similar birds were present with the addition of Ringed Plover and Zitting Cisticola plus parties of European Goldfinches. Time was ticking away as we travelled to Limassol our base for the week.

April 20th: Phasouri, Akrotiri Gravel Pits and Salt Lake, Agiou Georgiou Church, Lady’s Mile, Zakaki Marsh, Germosogeia Dam.

Weather: Sunny with a cool southwest wind 21 C

Breakfast was taken at 0700 hours overlooking Limassol Bay. In the bay we noted Yellow-legged Gulls and a group of Little Egrets. After breakfast we travelled west along the motorway and turned into a large supermarket to pick up supplies. A bonus bird was a European Hobby picked up by Jon flying fast and towards the north. Phasouri reedbeds were the first major birding stop of the morning. A small pool by the road attracted a pair of Little Crakes, Common Moorhens, Water Rail and European Reed Warblers some giving their distinctive songs. Further along the road a larger water body was very productive. The deeper pools held Little Grebe, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, and Common Coot. On the muddy edges and meadows we found Cattle and Little Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff and Black-headed Wagtail. Flying over the reeds; Purple Heron, Collared Pratincole and Sand Martins. By an old building the first of many Woodchat Shrikes and a beautiful male Black-eared Wheatear. Another stop produced a Black Francolin and brief views of a Corncrake which promptly dropped into cover. On the way towards the beach area a Steppe Buzzard was seen being mobbed by Hooded Crows. At the beach it was quiet for birds so we retraced our steps and promptly found four Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters which were very pleasing for Jane our local guide. Next on the agenda was Akrotiri Salt Lake a huge wetland which held two hundred Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank and Spur-winged Lapwing and a fly-by Eurasian Hoopoe. It was time for lunch by Agiou Georgiou Church a rather old structure surrounded by bushes and trees. This proved to be a productive area for Whinchat, Spotted and Collared Flycatchers, Common Redstart, Common Whitethroat and Northern Wheatear. A short walk towards the sea added Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Cyprus Wheatear and a female Black-eared Wheatear the latter being a tricky bird to identify. On the road to Lady’s Mile we stopped for a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater perched on a telegraph wire which allowed good views. In the scrub a Spectacled Warbler perched on a low bush. The pools by the road allowed the group to study Ruff, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers. Zakaki Marsh held similar waders with the addition of Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and a late White Wagtail. Jane and I decided to end the day at the picturesque Germosogeia Dam which is situated just to the north of Limassol. On the way up to the dam a party of Eurasian Jackdaws flying around the lower rock slope. Parked up and went on a short walk through bushes and scrub. Eventually we found at least two Cyprus Warblers giving their distinctive songs from the tops of dead shrubs – great views obtained of this breeding endemic. Overhead a Long-legged Buzzard before it disappeared over a ridge. Back to base a happy and contented group after a wonderful days birding in Cyprus.

April 21st: Cape Drepanum, Baths of Aphrodites, Smygies, Kannaviou.

Weather: Sunny with southwest winds 24 C

Today we headed towards Paphos in the western part of the island and then turned north to Cape Drepanum. On arrival we went for a walk around the cape which is a mixture of fields, rocky slopes and coast. Offshore an island held breeding Yellow-legged Gulls and a single European Shag. The bushes of the cape revealed many singing Sardinian Warblers whilst the field edge attracted Black Francolins which showed well at times. By the cliff face a pair of Pallid Swifts fluttering around and catching insects. Next on the agenda were the Baths of Aphrodites and the adjacent caravan park. The cliffs here attracted Red-rumped Swallows and a European Hobby. A walk around the caravan park was surprisingly quiet until the last sector where we found an approachable Thrush Nightingale perched on a boulder in the open, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Cetti’s Warbler and singing Eastern Olivaceous Warblers. Lunch was taken at Smygies a beautiful area of pine woods, open fields with dotted bushes and shrubs. At the campsite a handsome male Cyprus Wheatear, European Serin, Pied Flycatcher, European Goldfinch and European Greenfinch. After an enjoyable lunch we went back down the road a little way and stopped near a pool of water. This attracted the commoner species, Spanish Sparrow and a female Common Redstart. Overhead hundreds of European Bee-eaters were noted on their northward migration. We parked up and started to walk along tracks searching for birds in bushes and trees. This was very productive for Common Cuckoo, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Corn Bunting. A bonus here was a circling Lesser Spotted Eagle a scarce migrant in Cyprus. Our final stop was the pine woods at Kannaviou where we heard the distinctive song of Cretzchmar’s Bunting and caught up with the endemic subspecies of Coal Tit.

April 22nd: Cape Greco, Oroklini Marsh.

Weather: Sunny with a warm south wind 24 C

After breakfast we headed east towards Larnaca and turned north to the Cape Greco area. Our first birding stop was in an area of long grasses interspersed with wooded tracts and limestone slopes. Telegraph wires running through the area attracted a singing Woodchat Shrike, Zitting Cisticola, Isabelline and Cyprus Wheatears. Off the coast we observed a party of migrant Black-crowned Night Herons and Little Egrets. Next on the agenda was an area of pines near the army camp. A short walk here provided us with Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a Common Cuckoo. Lunch was taken on Cape Greco with wonderful views over the bay. A highlight here was a male Spectacled Warbler which showed well in a bush and in display flight (this species is abundant around the cape). From our picnic spot we walked along the road recording Common Nightingale and two Ortolan Buntings. Jane decided to visit a hotspot on the cape which is literally one of the first landfall areas for migrants. This was a wise decision as it produced some memorable birding. On the exposed limestone a Eurasian Wryneck showed itself plus a female Black-eared Wheatear. The group started a short walk towards the sloping ground of the cape. The first stop added Black-headed, Grey-headed and western Yellow Wagtails, Northern Wheatear, Tawny Pipit and Whinchat. A bonus came in the form of three Trumpeter Finches which perched on the rocky outcrops. The last destination was Oroklini Marsh situated to the north of Larnaca. On the southern sector we stopped to observe Red-crested Pochards (a recent colonist to Cyprus), Common Coot and Common Moorhen. The northern sector held more birds including Little Grebe, Garganey, Mallard, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper. In the reed edges a migrant Sedge Warbler, European Reed Warbler and White Wagtail. At 1800 hours we joined the motorway network and headed back to base.

April 23rd: Petra Tou Romiou, Paphos Sewage Works, Esouzas River, Anarita Park, Mandria, Asprokemmos Dam.

Weather: Sunny with light southerly winds 25 C

Today we headed west towards the town of Paphos with the first birding stop at Petra Tou Romiou. The latter is on the old coast road affording wonderful views over the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent coastline. On the telegraph wires a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater whilst the scrub attracted several Chukars. Next on the agenda were the fields around Paphos Sewage Lagoons. A walk along the road and down towards the sea was fairly productive for birds. A stand of reeds attracted a singing Great Reed Warbler. The track down towards the sea was probably the best as we flushed a Common Quail and found Tree Pipit, Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher. The river at Esouzas attracted Common Moorhen and Squacco Heron. We then journeyed inland to Anarita Park a large area of grassland, gently sloping slopes and patches of scrub and bushes. This was a remarkable place for the sheer number of Eurasian Kestrels and also sightings of Red-footed Falcon. The highlight however was a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos searching for a nest of Eurasian Magpies (this is the main host for this species) and a Common Cuckoo perched low in a tree. An isolated bush attracted a male Cyprus Warbler which gave tremendous views whilst delivering his song. Lunch was taken in a valley with excellent all round views. A pair of Bonelli’s Eagles cruised by giving good views and Red-rumped Swallows hawked for insects on the hillside. After lunch Nick located a Eurasian Wryneck clinging onto a vertical twig and a pair of Eurasian Linnets in vegetation. Mandria on the coast was our next birding stop. It was initially quiet here until we reached a recently harvested potato field. This attracted Calandra and Greater Short-toed Larks, Tawny and Red-throated Pipits, Black-headed and Western Yellow Wagtails, Northern Wheatear and three Collared Pratincoles flying in from the sea. Asprokemmos Dam was the last birding stop with the upper area having a pair of Cyprus Wheatears, Pied Flycatcher and European Greenfinches. Below the dam the water overflow had created a small wetland habitat. Our interest was in the cliffs as Patrick located a pair of Little Owls. By the river a female Collared Flycatcher perched in a tamarisk tree. On the valley pylons a female Peregrine Falcon was playing and flying about with a Eurasian Kestrel a great aerial display by both birds. On the way back to Limassol several Alpine Swifts were noted. An early dinner followed by a visit to a village in the foothills where we heard the distinctive calls of Scops Owl.

April 24th: Troodos, Kensington Cliffs, Phasouri, Akrotiri Salt Lake, Agiou Georgiou Church.

Weather: Sunny with a westerly wind, 24 C

Today started with a visit to the Troodos Mountains. On arrival at the car park we started an exploration of the area which is a habitat of Black Pine and stunted shrubs. In a short time we had brief views of Eurasian Wren, Common Chaffinch, Masked Shrike, Common and Pallid Swifts and the distinctive song of Eurasian Blackbird. Walking slowly along the well-marked paths provided the group with views of Eurasian Jay, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal and Great Tits. Lunch was taken at one of the camp grounds where we had good views of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and Cyprus Wheatears the latter being particularly common at higher elevations on the island. After lunch we went south towards the coast to visit the huge complex of cliffs at Kensington Cliffs. This proved to be a memorable experience as Eleanora’s Falcons showed at close range and gave an aerial display of their power and speed in flight. Also present were Eurasian Kestrels, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Jackdaw and Rock Pigeon. Jane and I decided to revisit Akrotiri and its various habitats. At Phasouri similar birds to a few days ago with the addition of a male Little Bittern located by Mervyn. The salt lakes held lower numbers of Greater Flamingo and the addition of Slender-billed Gulls and Gull-billed Tern. Another bonus came in the form of Ortolan Buntings perched on a wire before dropping down into scrub. The day ended with a short visit to Agiou Georgiou Church where the grounds held some wonderful Collared Flycatchers perched on the perimeter fence.

April 25th: Paralimni Lake, Oroklini Marsh, Larnaca.

Weather: Warm and sunny with a south wind 26 C

Jane and I decided to change the itinerary by going east instead of west towards Paphos. Our first stop was Paralimni Lake which we visited on the first day. It was obvious that a mass clear out of birds had happened in the last few days although Mervyn located two male Little Bitterns and a female Little Crake showed well in a grassy area. In another area of the marsh a Willow Warbler was singing on its northbound migration and a female Red-backed Shrike was seen by Jon, Lesley, Mervyn and Christine. A short stop at Oroklini Marsh produced similar birds to our last visit with the addition of a male Northern Shoveler. The remainder of the day was spent around the Larnaca Sewage Lagoons complex which is close to the international airport. On the walk towards the hide (the only one in Cyprus) we recorded a European Roller coming in off the sea. Also present were Spectacled Warbler and from the hide Eurasian Teal, Little Tern, Yellow-legged Gull, Common and Wood Sandpipers and a White Wagtail. On the return walk brief views of a Barred Warbler skulking around in dead bushes. Further up the road we reached a habitat of flooded bushes and seasonal pools next to the sea. This was an excellent area for Glossy Ibis, Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls, Little Tern, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Common Redshank and a roost of three Purple Herons. As I turned around the corner a female Caspian Plover showed well standing rather upright in an area of stones and tamarisk. At the end of the road the group located Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap and a singing Thrush Nightingale. On the return journey Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears capped a fine birding day.

April 26th: Kivisili, Kiti Dam, Larnaca.

Weather: Warm and sunny with a light southwest wind 28 C.

Final species total: 143.

Our last day in Cyprus with visits to birding sites in and around Larnaca. After checking out of the hotel the first area to be visited was Kivisili a large expanse of farmland used for cereal production. Careful scanning of the area rewarded the group with sightings of Eurasian and Lesser Kestrels, Montagu’s Harrier, Little Owl, Woodchat Shrike and the commoner farmland birds of Cyprus. Kiti Dam is nearby which this year has had a good supply of water thus attracting birds. On the margins Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Eurasian Thick-knee and a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos which parasises the local magpie and crow populations. The trees around the car park held Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Collared and Spotted Flycatchers and a calling Eurasian Golden Oriole. Time was getting on as we made a final visit to the lagoons near the airport. Our final bird was White-winged Tern with two of these beautiful birds hawking insects from the surface. Filled up the van with fuel and dropped it off at the airport. We said goodbye to Jane our local guide and Mervyn and Christine who are stayed on for a few more days.

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