Sunday, 22 April 2012

Cyprus 31 March - 14 April 2012 Week 1

Week 1

Day 1 31 March

We had a leisurely start from The Hilton Hotel, Gatwick and had plenty of time for breakfast before the 8.50am flight. There were no delays and considering that this was the first day of the Easter break, the numerous children on the flight were really quite well behaved. On arrived, our luggage had also made it to the destination (always a bonus) and we had collected the rental car and were off to check out our usual haunts by 4.00pm local time. It was clear that much of the overflow from the reservoirs had reshaped many of our usual watch points and ringing sites. We were met with mud that had engulfed the areas where we had worked in previous years, badly damaged track ways that had been cut short altogether in some cases (might have turned into a poolside holiday if we’d not gone for a 4 wheel drive) and vegetation that had gone completely do-lally. That said, it was looking excellent for birds, we just needed to find them.

But, spring migration as it turned out was pretty slow during our two week visit and many species that often are fairly common were seen in low numbers or absent.

During our run around we saw the only Turtle Dove of the visit at Mandria together with an Isabelline Wheatear and the lower pools on the Xeros Potamos river produced a small mixed bag of Herons and Waders including a Squacco Heron and two Spur-winged Plovers.

Spanish Sparrows

Xeros Potamos river floods by the desalination plant
Day 2 1 April

Today we scouted around locally, partly to work out where to utilise as ringing sites, not really coming up with any good solutions due to the changes along the river beds.

First of all we made a birding visit to Paphos Headland to find with disappointment that much of the cover so relied upon by sculkers and tired migrants around the tip had been grubbed out. There were a few Wheatears and a Cretzschmar’s Bunting about but not too much else so we moved on to Acheleia, now unworkable at the river-mouth. Anarita Park was the next port of call, still quiet be we did notice that Stonechats, usually gone by our April visits were still there and a Blue Rock Thrush, two Long-legged Buzzards and a couple of  Spectacled  and a Ruppell’s Warbler were located.  We also, during our travels, met up with Alan Crabtree and collected our rings.

Paphos Headland

after some rather annoying tree removal leaving the area rather open


Cretzschmar’s Bunting

Day 3 2 April

A trip over to the Akrotiri area is usually a worthwhile idea, and we went mainly as we couldn’t get our heads around the ringing scenario in spite of having rings now, and it turned out to be a good day. There were only a few smaller migrants on the move but in the Akrotiri GP area we come across 3 Demoiselle Cranes (life ticks for both of us) that we believed to have departed some time before, then stumbled across an Isabelline (Turkestan) Shrike near Agios Georgios (at the same time as a local bird watcher). In the area we also had a Great Spotted Cuckoo, five Isabelline Wheatears, three Masked Shrikes, a Woodchat and a Ruppell’s Warbler. Driving along the road that runs from Akrotiri to Ladies Mile we found one of a few European Bitterns that were going through on the day, hunting in the long grass. In the bushes beside the salt lake opposite St Nicholas’ Monastery we had single Subalpine and Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers and a Redstart. On our way back to Paphos we stopped off at lower pools on the Xeros Potamos river where around 30 Glossy Ibis went over and a Water Pipit was present.

 Isabelline (Turkestan) Shrike Akrotiri GP

 Demoiselle Cranes Akrotiri GP
Bishop's Pool

Great Bittern Akrotiri

Cattle Egret Phassouri RB

Day 4 3 April

An early start to get over to Lara, but still no ringing opportunities were to be had, mainly as we could not find an area suitable to set more than one net in, or when we did find somewhere, that did not have herds of goats nearby. The birds just weren’t about in numbers. We did manage to see a Black Francolin and Quail, and after a most uncomfortable detour across the top, during which time we saw a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles at a usual nesting site with one chick in the nest. We later met up with Alan Crabtree to collect the missing B+ rings, and he suggested a trip along the coast to Pomos and recommended a restaurant for lunch. On route, when about 10 minutes away from Pomos we received a call telling us about a Trumpeter Finch at Pomos Point, next to the restaurant, and therefore within a few minutes we were watching the most obliging little bird.
Black Francolin Lara

 Trumpeter Finch Pomos
 Evretou Dam


Day 5 4 April

This was our first am ringing session having settled on two potential main areas, this one being along the River Diarizos at Kouklia between the motorway and the sea. The other was going to be along the River Xero Potamos, again between the motorway and sea, although the river at this location had areas where it was fairly shallow and water spread across the river bed, with wet pools.

We set up in an area that we had used on a previous occasion but due to the high water levels we were restricted to one side of the river and this prevented us from going down  towards the sea as about 60% of the way down, the track had been washed away. The area consisted mainly of bushes and scrub, mostly below 2/3 metres in height. We set up 2 x 60 metre 4 panel nets, 2 x 40 metre 3 panel nets and 1 x 40 metre 2 panel net.

As often is the case in Cyprus the catch was dominated by Blackcaps, but in total we caught 10 species with the highlights being a Wryneck and female Ruppell’s Warbler, with 30 birds caught in total. We also saw a second Wryneck in the field.

Totals (30):

Wryneck 1
Song Thrush 1
Cetti’s Warbler 4
Sedge Warbler 1
Reed Warbler 1
Sardinian Warbler 5
Ruppell’s Warbler 1
Lesser Whitethroat 3
Whitethroat 1
Blackcap 12

Sardinian Warbler - female

Sardinian Warbler - male 


 Ruppell's warbler - female

 Flood damage to track Kouklia river bed

Aferwards we birded a few local areas, first of all dropping in at Mandria. Whilst driving along a track next to a freshly cropped potatoes field Denise noticed what she first thought was an odd Wheatear. As we drove closed, a Wheatear sized bird that was on the ground flew up and as it did a bird with a longish red tail flew onto the ground, up and off to a nearby bush, which looked like a red tailed Shrike and when scoped turned out to be another Isabelline (Turkestan) Shrike. The Wheatear sized bird was relocated on top of a water sprinkler ands turned out to be a male Siberian Stonechat. Later we managed to pick up two Bimaculated Larks in the same field. An evening walk around Paphos headland produced a Wryneck, Richards Pipit, Subalpine and Ruppell’s Warblers.

Day 6 5 April

Our second am ringing session was at the other river site along the River Xeros Potamos near Asprokremnos Dam, again between the motorway and the sea. The area was an open area alongside the river with a series of flooded pools, with virtually no covering vegetation. The main target was Pipits/Wagtails and waders using the pools. We set up 2 x 60 metre 4 panel nets, 2 x 40 metre 3 panel nets and 2 x 40 metre 2 panel nets. Unfortunately the fact we were present in the area tended to keep most of the birds away, especially the waders as the feeding in this area was marginal and once disturbed they stayed in the better sheltered feeding areas just a few metres up river. The catch for the session consisted of one bird, a Crested Lark.

Present were a female Hen Harrier, three Red-throated Pipits, a Black-eared Wheatear and two Ruppell’s Warblers

Total (1):

Crested Lark 1

Crested lark

 Common Sandpiper

In the afternoon we shot over to the Akrotiri area to find that in the afternoon, the mosquitoes were even more intolerable. Phasssouri RB produced a male and female Little Crake. Akrotiri GP area held two Wrynecks, three Isabilline Wheatears and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Cattle Egret Phassouri RB

 Phassouri RB, temporary hide built when little water

Garganey Phassouri RB

 Wryneck Akrotiri GP

Day 7 6 April

Our third session was back at the Kouklia site this time using 3 x 60 metre 4 panel nets, 1 x 40 metre 3 panel net and 1 x 40 metre 2 panel net.

Again Blackcaps dominated, with 7 species caught, with the highlights being two Nightingales, with 26 birds caught in total. We also saw an Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Totals (22 new and 4 re-traps) were:

Nightingale 2
Cetti’s Warbler 0 (2)
Sardinian Warbler 2 (2)
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Whitethroat 1
Blackcap 13
Great Tit 3


A visit to Anarita produced two Isabelline Wheatears, eight Black-eared Wheatears and a Masked Shrike while Mandria had a female Hen Harrier, single Bimaculated Lark, four Isabelline Wheatear and a couple of Ruppell’s Warblers.