Saturday, 23 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 23rd September

Back to Kouklia again today and a good session with a few more surprises. The best bird was probably a Marsh Warbler, and two Northern Wheatear were unexpected as they have always been so difficult to capture in the spring.

Marsh Warbler age 3 

Emargination to mid primaries, notch equals 9

Northern Wheatears, both aged 3

There was a trickle of Sedge Warblers, many adults, passing through and the Willow Warblers continue to be the most abundant species on site and captured. It's good to see a lot of birds with fat scores of 5 and 6.

Sedge Warbler adult

Willow Warbler age 3

A Wryneck was the first that we've seen since we arrived here and one of the Red-backed Shrike (not too many seen in our ringing area) managed to find its way into the net.

Juvenile Wryneck

3M Red-backed Shrike

An adult Garden Warbler was the first of this species that we've caught in Cyprus.

Garden Warbler, aged 4

Totals:105 (1)

Wryneck - 1
Crested Lark - 4
Northern Wheatear - 2
Cetti's Warbler -1
Sedge Warbler - 9
Marsh Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler - 5 (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 7
Willow Warbler - 61
Red-backed Shrike - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 10

After ringing we took a look around Mandria and Acheleia areas without too much success with only a Ringed Plover on the beach and a Lesser Grey Shrike of some interest at Mandria and nothing too unusual at Acheleia.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - First ringing sortie 21st September

Day 2
We reached Kouklia just as it was light enough to see well. Always a good idea when the snakes that hunt in this dry riverbed are so venomous. We sited 3 nets on our side of the river bed with another two on the other side. It was going to be very hot again.

We took a good catch of Willow Warblers early on, then had five or six birds each round. Got some Spanish Sparrows, Blackcaps and resident Sardinian Warblers. Least expected catch was of an Icterine Warbler. A Ruppell's was also good, since they are much less common in the autumn, than on spring migration.

Icterine Warbler - listed as a scarce passage migrant on Cyprus. 
Our 2013 copy of the bird report had only three records, all in spring.

Ruppell's Warbler - a rare autumn passage migrant

Spanish Sparrow male

Adult Willow Warbler - Kouklia

We began to draw in at 10am and were off site by 11am. Bird movements had dropped off quite abruptly as the temperature rose. We didn't get any of the Bee-eaters or Whinchat in the area. 

Total - 45

Crested Lark - 2
Cetti’s Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Icterine Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 12
Ruppell's Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 7
Willow Warbler - 13
Great Tit - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 6

The afternoon was spent checking out Ayia Varvara and Acheleia soakaways where another fire has swept through. This area is used as a dump and a fire could easily start among the tinder dry grasses and broken glass.

Yellow Wagtail - Acheleia fields

One of three Collared Pratincole - Mandria

Red-backed Shrike - Ayia Varvara

Bee-eater at Ayia Varvara

Day 3
A wet start as we awoke to find that the washing machine had malfunctioned. The front loading door was open and water was pumping out. From the inch or so of water throughout the downstairs level this had been happening since shortly after we went to bed.  So, no Neo Chorio for us, just sweeping the water out and drying as much as we could. We were clearing up for about 4 hours, then kept the house open to get as much damp out as possible.

It was 14:45 by the time we went out to Anarita for a looksee. It was very quiet, just a Whinchat and some Red-back Shrikes. Moving on to the Anarita radio mast we located the Lesser Grey Shrike reported there yesterday and found a second. Wheatears are few and far between, but one Black-eared Wheater was close to the mast.

Lesser Grey Shrike

Black-eared Wheatear

We then gave Ayia Vavara a go, very few passerines, good numbers of Bee-eater, a Spotted Flycatcher and more Red-backed Shrikes.

Red-backed Shrikes, wide spread at present.

We would have tried for Bee-eaters in the evening as we have a few suitable places, but the wind remained strong and we  decided to wait for more favourable weather - hoping they're still about by then.

Cyprus autumn 2017 - a first look around 20th September

We had a midday flight out - but that was delayed by an hour so we knew we would arrive in darkness. Pick up of the rental car went smoothly. However, we had been given a white car (never idea when birding) and worse, there were only 6km on the clock, so there would be extra clearance to be done on some of the less well used tracks if scratches were to be avoided. Note to self - Europcar charge you for a tank of petrol 102.34 Euros. Repaid if brought back full - shall definitely do that, cost is about 60 Euros to fill it up.  Arrived in Emba late and with unpacking it was midnight by the time we retired. It was so, so hot in the house - clearly temperatures were still high.

Day 1 - 20/09
It is usual to have a run round all the local sites to see what's been happening while we've been away, but for a change we decided to go to Limassol birding, then check a couple of sites on the way back.
The ringing gear fitted in to the Focus alright and we were on the road before 7:30am.
Coffee Pause had been refitted. I extended the usual morning greeting 'Kalimera' to the owner and just for a change, I and not Chris was mistaken for a local - but the conversation soon returned to English. Coffee and pastries are as good as ever.

We went to Zakaki Marsh first. Here the reeds had completely filled the viewing gap. We could hear a lot of noise from the open area, now obscured and a large number of Grey Heron and Night Heron went up when disturbed by something.

Juvenile Nightheron

European Kingfisher

We also had a glimpse of a Pied Kingfisher, three European Kingfishers, a Water Rail and a crake (not seen well enough to say what species). Next, to have a look round the back.

Red-backed Shrike (juvenile)

We saw some Rollers on wires and a few Red-backed Shrikes on the larger bushes, then found that the outflow from the marsh was almost non-existent. Out on the sands we had a couple of Eleonora's Falcons overhead.

Ladies' Mile held only a few waders but we also saw a Black Kite passing through close to the radio masts.

Kentish Plover

While taking a look at Bishop's Pool it was clear that the algaeal bloom was becoming toxic with a couple of carcasses floating on the water. It was difficult to be sure exactly what they had been, but Little Grebe seemed most likely. There were a lot on the lake, also a couple of Little Egrets and a single Glossy Ibis on the bank. Bee-eaters could be heard overhead and at various times through the day. The salt lake looked completely devoid of life and parched.

There were more Red-backed Shrikes and Whinchats at the gravel pits. At a pool we found a Greenshank with two Redshank resting.  Looking across to the marsh a juvenile Montagu's Harrier was hunting.

The work undertaken at Akrotiri Marsh was very disappointing. It looked as though most money was spent on the fence, many animals were still teathered - questionable whether a fence is necessary. No open areas of water were visible and the high hide was up one end of the marsh rather than central. It will be interesting to see what the site produces next spring.

Bee-eaters feeding near bee hives at Phassouri.

At Kouklia we cut a lot of the vegetation back from the track. For the most part Chris drove and  I used the shears. He took over briefly, disturbed some bees and got stung twice for his trouble. On reaching our  usual spot it was clearly very dry, no water at all, and the agricultural clearance had come so far across so as to take out two areas that we used to put nets in. Further up the track it had been ploughed up - perhaps we no longer need to worry about vehicles coming through and there are still places where we can net. We noticed a lot of Willow Warblers here. Also, no dead dogs - always a bonus!

The desalination plant, another of our places, has now been decommissioned. There had clearly been recent burning- it was still smouldering in places. It was probably deliberate - all the reedbed gone and signs that bulldozers have already been in. This might have been a fire caused accidently, but fly-tipping isn't so bad here so less glass to start a fire in the heat of summer. We expect it to be cultivated in the next year or two. The same happened in Polis reedbed last year. Every year human use encroaches on the wildlife.

Burnt out reedbed by the desalination plant

Juvenile Whinchat in burnt out reedbed.

The loss of this site was a blow, but at least Kouklia is still viable. We called it a day, as the 34 degree temperature was draining, and determined to go to Kouklia the next day.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Wraysbury GP - 17th September 2017

Today was our last chance to get out this month. Wraysbury had been worked by seven people split into two groups yesterday and the net result was 208 birds. We knew  the species range was likely to be narrow, expecting mostly Chiffchaff and Blackcap. The first round produced around a third of the total catch and by the end of the session we exceeded 100 birds.

Days like this are the closest thing possible, in this part of the world, to the busy autumn days we've experienced at observatories in Northern Europe. Two years ago Chris and I managed 4 times as many birds between us in one day, then mostly Goldcrest, although having a designated building certainly helps. Our biggest day was 800+ with four others helping. We've spent most of September at our own local sites this year, for the first time since 2014. We found that we missed autumn in the UK, but equally are missing autumn observatory days, especailly as we are based near Heathrow, and it hardly ever produces the coastal migration feel.

3M Goldcrest

We ringed or extracted for the bulk of the morning, except for the time taken out by Chris, to let a couple of the Thames Valley constabulary in to see the cannibis plants that had been planted on the SSSI. This is the third time we've made such a find although the other two ocassions were at Stanwell site.

The SSSI already has a problem with Goats' Rue 
but we've not seen cannabis grown here before. 

Two ponies remain on C6 having negotiated the pedestrian access and during the morning we saw both Roe Deer and Muntjac in the adjacent area that we ringed, with a hole in a 18m suggesting that one or other passed through one of the net rides. Additional bird sightings were a Buzzard and 5 Little Egrets leaving their roost on the island. Most unexpected observation was of a Panda - never seen one on site before!

Total:93 (9)

Wren - 1
Robin - 1 (1)
Songthrush - 1
Blackcap - 26 (1)
Chiffchaff - 56 (7)
Goldcrest - 6
Long-tailed Tit - 2

Stanwell Moor GP - 16th September 2017

Had there been a choice we would have been at Wraysbury today, but having worked C6 since June, the site was claimed by another group member, no longer tied to CES. The site doesn't support a great number of nets so there was no point in running a large group session. We headed instead to Stanwell and tried for Meadow Pipits. We could not work our usual area due to landscaping work, and lorry movements into a nearby property that were fairly constant. It was therefore a late start, made later by the fact the track up to the capped area was blocked by a digger bucket, and we had to get it moved, so we were even slightly later setting up. We put up a triangle with back stop and a separate dog-leg.

We caught 24 Meadow Pipits in all and sighted Kestrel and a female/immature Merlin in the area. A Hobby also came to the audio-lure but evaded the nets.

We returned in the evening for one last try at  Swallows, but a late afternoon shower came through and the evening grew dark, very early. We saw no Swallows and caught a Chiffchaff and retrap Wren.

Age 3 Meadow Pipit

Total: 25 (1)

Meadow Pipit - 24
Wren - 0 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1

Staines Reservoir and Truss Island - 15th September 2017

The morning was spent at Truss Island ringing and fitting darvics to the local Mute Swan population together with MR and MEH, a Spanish ringer currently working in the UK. Fifteen new birds were ringed and given darvics, along with 7 re-traps that were also fitted with darvics.

Totals: 15 (7)

Mute Swan - 15 (7)

Afterwards another visit to Staines Reservoir where the Grey Phalarope was on the north basin, and on the drained southside were four Knot, three Black-tailed Godwit, six Curlew Sandpiper, eight Ruff, two Greenshank, two Common Sandpiper, 77 Ringed Plover, and 46 Dunlin.

Grey Phalarope

Hirundines over the causeway

Drained south basin

Tyttenhanger GP & Staines Reservoir - 12th September 2017

We dropped in at Broadwater GP where MRB & BCP were ringing and did a check of the lake for wind blown vagrants without any success, though picked up one of MRs darviced Swans.

Whilst we were there a White-winged Black Tern had appeared at the nearby Tyttenhanger GP so dropped over to have a look at it as it was a moulting adult. It was a fairly easy to pick up as it flew and fed actively over the pit by the Willow Farms activity area, along with a few Black-headed Gulls. I have not been to the site for some time, and there had been a considerable change to the area that has current excavation work ongoing, with the track that ran between two sand pits having been repositioned. On main sand pit there were a number of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, single Herring Gull, and Lapwings, along with a single juvenile Caspian Gull.

We then headed over to Staines Reservoir for another check of the waders present, which produced the usual mix of 74 Ringed Plover, 43 Dunlin, seven Ruff, one Greenshank, five Black-tailed Godwit, two Knot, four Curlew Sandpiper, one Common Sandpiper, and a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope, plus a single Little Egret.