Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cyprus 2013 (29 March - 14 April) - Part Two

Day Eight - 5 April

Another early start for a morning ringing at Kouklia.

Net erected amongst Tamarisk and fennel plants.

Conditions grew increasing difficult as the wind freshened and changed direction.We did quite well for Cetti's Warbler, got a further two Great Reed Warblers, another Olivaceous and Subalpine Warbler, three Whitethroats, two Chiffchaffs,  a Woodchat Shrike, Reed Warbler and our only Nightingale of the trip.

Cetti's Warbler




5 Male Woodchat

Woodchat showing retained feathers

There were a few migrants through as we worked the site and Red-rumped Swallow (5), Alpine Swift (2), Bee-eater (2), Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (1), Wryneck (1), Ruppell's Warbler (1), Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper ( 1) were recorded during the morning.

Dogs often wander through, are usually well behaved, and seem to be looking for someone to feed them and be friendly. 

 Ringing Totals: 17 (1)

Nightingale - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Great Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Olivaceous Warbler - 1
Subalpine Warbler - 1
Blackcap -1
Whitethroat -3
Chiffchaff -2
Great Tit -1
Woodchat Shrike - 1

Moving on after the session the Fish Farm pond still held a Black-winged Stilt with single Grey and Purple Herons, Little Egret, male Citrine Wagtail, common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers.

At Xeros Potamas in addition to the usual water birds, Whinchats, a male Collared Flycatcher, a Subalpine Warbler, a Ortolan Bunting, a Hoopoe, a Red-throated Pipit,a Wryneck, a Ruppell's male Warbler and a Turtle Dove were present.

There was more evidence of birds on the move with 3 Collared Pratincole at Mandria in addition to a couple of Turtle Doves and numerous Short-toed Larks.

Collared Pratincole at Lark corner.

We took the road  into the foothills to Adonis Baths  - advertised as 'road good for all cars' although we would disagree having encountered rock and soil slips onto the road, severe water run off and steep gradients. We were hoping to find an alternative ringing site and the fact that many drivers (less confident or competent than Chris) would turn back, coupled with a different habitat and protection from prevailing winds seemed to make this area ideal. While traversing the road we came across circa 15 Ortolans, 2 Woodchat Shrikes and single Whinchat, Whitethroat and Eastern Bonelli's Warbler. This would certainly be worth a go!

Day Nine - 6 April

At this time of year, Cyprus gets Coptic winds that blow from the South.We knew that the forecast indicated sustained strong winds over the next few days so we did Kouklia again while we had the chance. Conditions weren't the best but we managed 17 birds. We were please to get a couple of Wrynecks and second Woodchat Shrike and Fan-tailed Warbler. We noted than numbers of Blackcap were right down on previous years. Lesser Whitethroat also were much more difficult to see.

Two Wrynecks - note variation in brown colouring of wings.

Lesser Fiery Copper at Kouklia

On approaching one of the nets at around 10am, Chris saw the broad body of a Blunt-nosed Viper heading into a clump of vegetation. We know that drying river beds are a favoured habitat for these highly venomous snakes, described as ' the bad boy of the island’s snakes; the only potentially lethal snake in Cyprus. That said, despite an average of twenty attacks on humans each year, no one has died from its bite for nearly fifteen years'. These snakes remain still while waiting for small birds and we are very aware of the risks and strong boots and special care when setting nets and taking in pegs is most important.

 Ringing Totals: 16 (1)

Wryneck - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Great Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler -2
Fan-tailed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap -1
Whitethroat -1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff -1
Woodchat Shrike - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 1

High winds on the Med form foaming waves.

We continued with trips to Xeros Potamas, Anarita Park, Aspro Dam and Kouklia Fish Farm pond.

Xeros Potamas was unremarkable although a Marsh Sandpiper was now present. Little Stints were at circa 15.

Orange groves  along the Xeros Potamas track

Heavily laden Olive tree

Anarita Park was the best we had seen it this year with 8 Lesser Kestrel, circa 25 Ortolan Bunting, a female Sparrowhawk, 7 Whinchat, 2 Whitethroat, 15 Tawny Pipit and singles of Woodchat Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, Cyprus Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, Wheatear, Montagu Harrier (male) and Little Owl.

Little Owl at Anarita Park

We accessed the back of Aspro Dam by driving from Nata ford, down a road ( that had become the course of a stream) then driving along part of the river bed and up onto the road beyond the part that had collapsed. Our reward for the effort - a look at some very promising pools that held absolutely nothing and around the reservoir Grey Heron (5), Little Egret (2), Squacco Heron (1) and Roller (1).

Roller at Aspro Dam

We ended up at the Fish farms where having seen the Spotted Crke, and there being noone else about, we used a two panel net to try our luck. We'd hope for Wagtails and caught two. There was also a House Sparrow and Common Sandpiper.

White Wagtail 

  Black-headed Wagtail

Ringing Totals: 4

Common Sandpiper - 1
White Wagtail - 1
Black-headed Wagtail - 1
House Sparrow - 1

Day Ten - 7 April

On a very windy day we decided to try out the Akrotiri area in the absence of any real numbers of migrants. There were a few additions to the earlier visit. At Phassouri we had Ruff (1), Water Pipit (2) and Snipe (4) but all other species had already been seen the previous time. Akrotiri Gravel Pits held 10 Whinchat and 4 Woodchats. Three Sandwich terns went by on the sea. A Greater Sand Plover was found on the rocks off the beach. Other sightings were limited to an Isabelline Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Wheatear and Buzzard.

Ladies Mile provided opportunities to view good numbers of Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Little-ringed Plover, Ruff and a single Marsh Sandpiper. At Akrotiri Salt Lake Greater Flamingoes were present and 2 Curlew Sandpipers were feeding on Zakaki Marsh outflow. A Spectacled Warbler was picking its way through thelow lying, saline tolerant plants. Moving on to Bishop's Pool, we again dipped on the White-breasted Kingfisher and saw even less than the time before although there were a couple of Garganey and Chris photographed an unusual Skipper.

Vigil for the White-breasted Kingfisher

Millet Skipper 

By 2pm we had exhausted all likely locaties (and taken time out for a drink and snack) so, on receiving a call about a Broad-billed Sandpiper, set off back to Mandria.We saw it, and the 6 Greater Sand Plover that accompanied it, rather taking the shine off our single found earlier in the day. We also had a Woodchat Shrike, Montagu's Harrier female and 2 Wheatears at the locale.

Day Eleven - 8 April

Our last chance to ring for a few days as the wind would become much too strong. We got another 18 at Kouklia and it seemed that there would be no new species for the day. But a flycatcher that caught our eye due to its conspicuousness, being the only bird of that family seen in the river valley since we began ringing, and to our astonishment, it had crossed the river and ended up, head down in the second panel of our 60ft net just 5 minutes later.

5F Collared Flycatcher

Ringing Totals: 17 (1)

Wryneck - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (1)
Great Reed Warbler -3
Olivaceous Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler -1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap -3
Collared Flycatcher - 1
Great Tit - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 2

Once finished, we trawled the lower pools at Xeros Potamas for any new migrant species but found nothing new.

Day Twelve - 9 April

The day began with with a run up towards Adonis Baths Waterfall and a more detailed reccie to identify suitable places to site nets. The foothills seemed to be holding more birds than the coastal areas and Roller (1), Wryneck (1), Whitethroat (1), Masked Shrike (1), Cuckoo (1), Black-eared Wheatear (1), Whinchat (2) and Ortolan Bunting (3) were seen.

Carob Trees

 Two out of three Ortolans present
By late morning we had moved on to Mandria where a Shag was present in addition to the birds feeding in and around the fields. We broke off from birding then to have a meal with some friends, in Cyprus to guide a tour group, then were joined by them for a quick outing to the Xeros Potamas pools. While gaining access by a different route to accommodate their lower clearance, 2WD, hire car Chris hastily brought our vehicle to a halt than began gesturing enthusiastically in the direction of some Orange trees where a splendid, bright yellow, male Golden Oriole could be seen resting quietly at the very top of the tree. At the pools, Little Ringed Plover  were running about the river margins as usual with the other regular river course users and we were pleased to be able to show our friend one remaining Blue-cheeked Bee-eater on the wires, during which time it was noticed that Turtle Dove numbers had risen to 7. Then 8 Spoonbill flew past, along the beach, going from left to right and as if that wasn't enough in our 15 minute frenzy, 3 Night Heron then flew from the coast towards us.After it was time for our friends to go, we stopped off at the road bridge at Achielia on our way to the apartment and saw a Spotted Crake and a spectacular display put on by circa 200 Swallows preparing to come in to roost. 

Grey clouds gather ominously as the day draws to a close.

Day Thirteen - 10 April

Paphos Headland was the destination, and for all the remarks about excessive thinning of vegetation we felt that the areas furthest inland were probably easier to bird now and still offerred sufficient cover. The real problem was the removal of low bushes around the dig site, forcing any migrant to push on more swiftly than they had used to.

Paphos  Headland

The main dig site at Paphos Headland

Never gets a mention but almost always present - Hooded Crow

If there's a medium sized  brownish bird in the road, air 
or on a post its most likely a Crested Lark

There were few birds on land Whinchat (2), Wheatear (3), Tawny Pipit (2), Red-throated Pipit (4) but a flock of circa 30 Garganey went by on the sea as did 9 Scopoli's Shearwater and a Gull-billed Tern.

Mandria was particularly good for raptors that day. We saw the reported Red-footed Falcon (male) althought it was flushed of soon after by an insensitive, over enthusiastic idiot with a camera. Also Pallid Harrier (female), Montagu's Harrier (female), Marsh Harrier and Lesser Kestrel (1). More Garganey went by ( circa 30 again- travelling in the same direction as the first group) and a group of 7 Gull-billed Terns than cut away from the beach inland and evaded most of the binocular users.

Lesser Kestrel


A visit to the XP pools caused concern as the muddy pool where we hoped to ring should conditions improve, was being staked out by some rather reckless photographers who'd taked their vehicle down a rather steep slope. There were some newly in birds includingCattle Egret (1), Squacco Heron (1) and Gull-billed Tern (3) but we left the photographers to it and went instead to the Fish Farm pond to view the Spotted Crake and watch Swallows and Wagtails. A mixed group of Spoonbill (c25) and Little Egret (c10) were seen distantly out to sea.

Sunset from the Fish Farm

Day Fourteen - 11 April

The day dawned and was calm enough for ringing so, for a change - and because the site was less exposed, we set out for Adonis Bath Waterfalls. The road was rather rough so it took a while to get there, even though it was a shorter distance than that to the usual ringing site. The nets went in quite well, without any need for pruning and we waited to see what we'd get. A couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos were around for most of the morning - but somehow neither managed to find the nets.We caught Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Ortolan and Goldfinch. Tree Pipit made up one third of the catch and the first and last birds out of the nets were Wryneck.

First Wryneck

Male Ortolan Bunting

Lesser Whitethroat - just didn't want to leave

Goldfinch - 6M

One of five Tree Pipits of the day

The last bird of the session

Other birds seen were a Roller, Pied Flycatcher and the two Great Spotted Cuckoos.

Ringing Totals: 15

Wryneck - 2
Tree Pipit - 5
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Whitethroat -2
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 2

Once finished we made for Timi Forest, known to be good for flycatchers and found two Pied Flycatchers and a male Collared Flycatcher. We also glimpsed a Nightingale and there were two Purple Heron overhead.

At the Xeros Potamas pools, the male Little Crake was seen under the mimosa trees . Threre was still a good range of waders and with better weather conditions, three nets were set on the muddy pool.
We got 12 birds that evening although three (Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Wryneck) were incidental to the waders. It was great to see Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper in the hand again and to get experience of  Little Stint. for the first time. The best bird was a Marsh Sandpiper and the date  being our wedding anniversary, I (Denise) insisted that Chris process it. Happy Anniversery Chris! It'll be years before I catch up on that one, if ever.

Little Stint

Little Ringed Plover

Common Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Ringing Totals: 12

Little Ringed Plover - 3  
Little Stint - 3
Marsh Sandpiper - 1
Common Sandpiper - 2
Wryneck - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler -1

Day Fifteen - 12 April

Our final try at Kouklia brought no new species but did at least indicate that a few more Blackcaps were on the move. For the first time since we'd been there, Alpine Swifts (15) were passing through overhead and there seemed to be more activity in general, We  recaught a Gret Reed warbler that had laid down an extra 2.6g of fat in just four days.

Ortolan Bunting

Great Reed Warbler


Throughout our time at Kouklia we have spent time trying to keep the low set nets clear of debris. This plant is known a Fleabane because, apparently it discourages fleas and lice. I wouldn't know about that but its tough and prickly and ringers definitely don't like it!

Ringing Totals:16 (2)

Cetti's Warbler -1
Great Reed Warbler - 0(1)
Sedge Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler -2 (1)
Blackcap - 5
Olivaceous Warbler - 1
Great Tit -1
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 1

We had a last whizz around as our flight on Saturday was in the morning leaving no time for birding on the way to the airport. It was nice to see Hoopoe, Roller, Lesser Kestrel (4) and Red-rumped Swallow (2) again at Anarita and there was a new influx of Wheatear (12) at Mandria. No short-toed Larks today butwe did get a Tawny Pipit, Hoopoe (3), and a Marsh Harrier. We again caught up with the Red-footed Falcon that had become increasingly mobile since we'd first seen it not long after it first came in.

Oleander blooms

Xeros Potomas was positively buzzing with activity. A Pallid Harrier female went through, disturbing the waders which included a highly coloured Curlew Sandpiper. We recorded Great Snipe, Willow Warbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (2), Turtle Dove (4), Little Crake (female) and Quail.

Great Snipe

Our final visit was to the Fish Farm pool at Kouklia. We saw Wood Sandpiper (3), Common Sandpiper (3), Black-winged Stilt (1), Ruff (1) and Great Reed Warbler. We had the place to ourselves so erected a net, just on the off chance. We didn't get any Swallows but did get a couple of Common Sandpipers including the one from earlier.

Ringing Totals: 1(1)

Common Sandpiper - 1 (1)

Day Sixteen - 13 April

We had to be at Larnaca Airport by 9.15am so left just after 7am. While standing in the checking in line a call came through - White-breasted Kingfisher at Efzouza on wires. Bugger!