Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Stanwell Moor GP & Staines Moor - 29th November 2016

Stanwell Moor

By far the coldest day yet, this winter, with a very light wind and a heavy frost that lingered all morning. We set five nets, three in the reed-bed and another two across the track from the stream. There didn't seem to be much about and catching progressed slowly. In just over three hours we captured 10 new and 6 retrapped birds.

We caught four Chiffchaffs, all with fat scores of zero, a Cetti's Warbler along with a few Wrens and Long-tailed Tits, and three Robins which were all local re-traps.


 Robin, age 3

Cetti's Warbler, age 3

Total: 10 (6)

Wren - 2 (1)
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Robin - 0 (3)
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 4
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (1)

Staines Moor
This is a wintering site for Water Pipit, a species that visits the UK in relatively low numbers each winter. The annual number ringed in this country is usually low, 10 in 2015, 12 in 2014, 1 in 2013, 9 in 2012. One of these was a bird ringed in our adjacent site, Stanwell Moor, in November 2012 with another in November 2010. We managed to get permission to target Water Pipits over on Staines Moor and thought that a colour ringing project would be worthwhile, if catching was possible. This is a very open site with a lot of dog walkers, often with dogs running off the lead.

Today, at midday, we arranged to meet the Countryside and Commons officer responsible for the area for an initial try at capturing Water Pipits. We put up two, two panel 12m nets alongside the river, tried audio-lures (appropriate licence endorsements held) and waited. There were a few birds around, although more Wagtails than Pipits and we had no captures for quite a while. The first bird was flushed into the net by a birder walking by the river's edge.

 Water Pipit, 2513265, age 3

Water Pipit 2513266, age 3

As the temperature began to drop we also caught a second bird. Both were fitted with metal rings - and the order for colour rings will be put in very shortly as this first try leaves us hopeful that a reasonable proportion of birds present may be captured. This is being done to aid monitoring the birds using the Moor without the need for recapture, and hopefully will give an indication of whether they winter at the site for the whole winter period, how faithful they are to the site each year, longevity and hopefully with luck (if they are reported, from other locations, during the summer months) where they breed.

Total: 2

Water Pipit - 2

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Chobham Common - 26th November 2016

Our first ringing outing, now we're back in the UK, was to Chobham Common with LON and WA. The common was quite different to the last time we were there, partly due to the way all the deciduous trees had dropped their leaves - potentially likely to affect our effectiveness at netting Redwing, and also down to the complete absence of Lesser Redpoll that had been so evident back in October. Most of those birds had been passing through - now there would be far fewer on the common and we saw and heard none of them.

We did manage to catch some Redwing, although the Fieldfare passing overhead from the golf course were less inclined to come down to their gathering calls than Redwing.

We were quite surprised to capture three Dartford Warbler with only one of them being attracted by audio-lure, and a single Stonechat. We also saw two Jack Snipe.

 Dartford Warbler Z958020, 3M

 Dartford Warbler Z958031, 3F

Dartford Warbler Z958033, 3M

There was also a rather smart male Stonechat, and a Great Tit with aberrant plumage colouration.

 3M Stonechat

Great Tit with pale colouration in left wing and bronze sheen to mantle and cap.

To round off the morning there was a tit flock, captured just before packing up time.

Total: 37  (2)

Meadow Pipit - 1
Wren - 2 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1
Stonechat - 1
Redwing - 7
Dartford Warbler - 3
Goldcrest - 5
Long-tailed Tit - 7
Blue Tit - 7
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Goldfinch - 1

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cyprus - Eastwards then home - 19th November 2016 (and 20th unexpectedly)

We had an early evening flight from Larnaka and packed and finished up at the house before taking a drive eastwards for some final birding. There was a new bird for us both at Akahna dam so we headed there first. The route near to the dam took us close to the abandoned town of Akahna, observation towers and the border with Northern Turkey. One year we really will have to explore the north.

At the dam there was plenty of water and several people fishing, this being a Saturday. We spotted the target bird, a young Great White Pelican, at the far end of the dam.

Great White Pelican

We had really good views of the bird and noticed an unusual pipit, with the Meadow Pipits, Water Pipits and White Wagtails along the shoreline. It was identified as a Buff-bellied Pipit but was distant and difficult to photograph. We were glad to hear later that Alan and Lyn Crane were able to find the bird the following day.

Asian Buff-bellied Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Jack Snipe and Snipe

We had good views of Jack Snipe and Snipe as we left the dam before having a look around the wet and marshy areas of Oroklini, then looking at the pools along the coast behind the Sewage works and the actual sewage pools at Larnaca. There were some Curlew in the field, a new species for the visit.

As the light failed we thought this to be the end of our Cyprus trip as we stopped off to eat then headed to the find that our flight was delayed until the following day. We were transported to the Palm Beach hotel where they arranged a free evening meal and breakfast as well as a room until our departure, for the airport, at 7am.

Now, under normal circumstances I wouldn't go in to detail about the transfer to the airport, but there were too many passengers to fit on one bus and while we waited for the second coach we both heard the call of a Yellow-browed Warbler from the trees along the access route to the hotel. We followed the call, pinned it down and got brief views - just as coach number two turned up, so no chance to photograph the bird and we're hoping that someone else manages to relocate the bird, last seen by the church next to the tennis courts.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Cyprus - Kouklia, 18th November 2016

We returned to Kouklia for our final ringing day, in Cyprus, of 2016 and had another good day. There was another wave of Chiffchaffs, more Wood Lark and a couple of  extra goodies in the form of Kestrel, Spanish Sparrow and Crested Lark.

Kestrel male aged 6

 Crested Lark

Spanish Sparrow
Totals: 92 (2)

Kestrel - 1
Crested Lark - 1
Wood Lark - 6
Fan-tailed Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 4 (1)
Blackcap - 9
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 64
Great Tit - 2
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Chaffinch - 3

An afternoon walk to the back of  Secret Valley golf course provided an excellent view of a Bonelli's Eagle, Jackdaw, Stonechat, Goldfinch and Serin as well as spectacular geology.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Cyprus - Evretou Dam - 17th November 2016

The problem with getting into a routine, is that the internal alarm often works even if the one set for 5am is switched off. We were back rather late last night and didn't intend to go ringing this morning - but at 4.45am we were both fully awake - so got up and went out for the morning as the wind was so low.

Last time we worked this site we found most of the pipits and wagtails absent, but got good numbers of Chiffchaff in the weedy areas. Today, the Chiffchaff had by and large been and gone. There seemed to be fewer Stonechat about, but that may have simply been due to less activity without so many migrating birds moving through.

3M Bluethroat 

Wood Lark (aged 2)

Meadow Pipit aged 3

This time we got a few more Serin, only a couple of Meadow Pipit, some Sardinian Warblers, an unexpected Wood Lark and another Bluethroat.

Yet another example of random ploughing, this time at Evretou.

Three Quail were flushed in the direction of the net, but they went to ground and evaded capture.


Wood Lark - 1
Meadow Pipit -2
White Wagtail - 1
Bluethroat - 1
Stonechat - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2
Fan-tailed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 4
Chiffchaff - 1
Serin - 5

In the afternoon. after failing to see the Dusky Warbler at Gouda for a second time in spite of hearing it, we took a walk up Avakas Gorge. There were  still Robins around, alough there seemed to be less than on the last visit, a lot of Black Redstart on the upper slopes, a Peregrine and a couple of Wallcreepers.

Rather distant record shot - Wallcreeper

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Cyprus - Neo Chorio - 16th November 2016

A rather windy forecast had us travelling further than usual to Agias Mhinas, Neo Chorio, a site some distance from the coast where we hoped to have more sheltered rides. The site looked very different from when we last visited, major renovations to the church, a concrete road, an outside toilet and the terrain had been tidied with much less vegetation between trees.  We have been noticing new fields, many looking thoroughly unpromising, either due to stoniness or steep gradient, for crop production. The fields seem to have been ploughed and left - a friend from Cyprus puts this down to EU regulations that pay grants for ploughed agricultural land. Taking a cynical view, many of these 'fields' are little more than one or two tractor widths and will probably never be sown. In the meantime, there is no ground cover, with many wild plants lost, for small animals, birds and insects - even worse than that, the areas are now most vulnerable to soil erosion.

So, we arrived and tried to find some of the long standing rides used by another ringer who visits Cyprus. We were setting up with the sound of shotguns from all around and the jingling of bells on the hunting dogs' collars from quite close by. We left it at just four nets - in spite of this being a designated reserve for wildlife, the hunting still goes on here. We had hoped that the presence of the church may promote some respect for the local area - but sadly not.

We did rather well! It is difficult to say very much of meaning while not knowing the usual species or numbers at any given time of year, but there appeared to be a movement of Robins - over 40 new with a few recaptures too.
Robin, aged 3
We also got some Black Redstarts.

3M Black Redstart

4M Serin

Greenfinch 4M

4F Blackbird

4M Black Redstart

A collection of cartridge cases collected in the local area.

Totals: 64 (8)

Robin - 41 (8)
Black Redstart - 4
Stonechat - 1
Blackbird - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 6
Chiffchaff - 2
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch -1
Serin - 2

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cyprus - Troodos, 15th November 2016

A day spent in the Troodos area and surrounding picnic sites looking for species that are not found in the usual areas where we bird. We tried all the usual places turning up a very good list that included a flock of c20 Buntings, which were not easy to see as they feed in the grass mostly and flushed easily, but we had at least 5 Yellowhammers and 2 Pine Bunting, numerous Mistle Thrush, 3 Fieldfare, several Hawfinch, two Brambling, six Siskin, and a single Goldcrest.

We even found an out of the way pool and were able to put a net up for a while, which alas did not prove as productive as hoped for,but we did catch a few Coal Tits and a Crossbill.

3M Crossbill

Coal Tit - a Cypriot subspecies

Total: 6

Coal Tit - 5
Crossbill - 1

Monday, 14 November 2016

Cyprus - 14th November 2016

We decided to start the day with another try to see the Dusky Warbler near Pafos sewage works. We were there just after seven and had no trouble identifying the bird when it flew in from some adjacent conifers, at 7.27am, calling loudly. The bird spent some time in the olive trees, twice dropped down into some dried weedy vegetation to visit pooling water and also went into the margins of a crop field across the road. It returned to the conifers, from which it came once and a second bird was also clearly heard, corroborating reports that there were in fact two birds in the area.

Having spent quite a while there, we thought we'd change our usual routine and do some ringing in the afternoon. We bumped into Colin Richardson at Agia Varvara where we all birded the water tanks area, seeing Bluethroat, Jack Snipe, Corn Bunting, Black Redstart and Red-throated Pipit amongst other birds. A little later we returned to the Pafos fields and eventually tracked down a juvenile Crane reported the previous day, passed the news on to Colin and Alan Crane then returned home for lunch.

Juvenile Crane. 
The chances are not so good for this young individual, having observed family groups interacting at Getterons, where parents remain close to offspring at all times. 

We returned to Agia Varvara to ring birds in the water tanks, but having got just one of the planned four nets up, we were joined by a photographer who had been cultivating the Bluethroat and intended to use the same tank as us. He said we'd be fine over in the other tank, but one net won't produce enough to justify the session, so we packed up and left taking our Game Fund authorisation with us. It was too late to do much else - so no ringing today.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Cyprus Kouklia - 13th November 2016

We returned to Kouklia with the added luxury of a scribe in the shape of our son James. We Got five singles up and hoped for good numbers, as on our previous visit.

We didn't do as well but managed a respectable 53 new birds, most were Chiffchaff with only one Sardinian Warbler and one recaptured Cetti's Warbler. There were a few sizable flocks of Woodlark in the area and seven were caught.

Woodlark (male according to tail measurement)


Spanish Sparrow


Total: 53 (1)

Woodlark - 7
Robin - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 2
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 37
Chaffinch - 2
Spanish Sparrow - 1

Birding in Cyprus - 10th to 12th November 2016

We're taking a few days off from ringing and will concentrate on birding for the next three days.
We failed to see the Dusky Warbler yesterday, that was reported close to the sewage treatment works in Pafos, and were very surprised to be asked whether there was any possibility of trapping and ringing the bird to confirm the identification. First instincts screamed 'No!', but this species is a first living record for the island, hence the keenness to achieve positive identification. As it happened, we were there a couple of days after most birders on the island had seen it, and in all likelihood, finding it absent, so, the decision was taken for us, the bird was gone and that was that. But, a few days later, it seems it might still be there!

We set off to the Troodos to try for some of the species not often seen anywhere else on the island and eventually managed views of many Coal Tits, several Hawfinch, Siskin, Blackbird, Short-toed Treecreeper, Brambling and Wood Lark, and heard but failed to see Goldcrest. We decided to seek out the picnic site where Jane S had photographed a Yellow-browed Warbler a few days before. The bird was not seen by anyone else - but by some fluke we wandered away from the stream where Jane had seen it and heard it calling from a tree by the children's play area. It gave very close views - if only my camera was better at capturing images of small birds, not in the hand.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Platania picnic site

We didn't find any large finch flocks to check through so headed back early as the Chevrolet had developed a nasty scraping from the offside rear wheel. Having taken it back to the rental company, we found that the brake pad was absent and we had to say goodbye to the 4x4, being given instead a Galaxy people mover. Hmmm, this could cramp our style somewhat! Perhaps we should start doing airport taxi runs instead.

On the 11th we drove to Larnaca via Limassol. We didn't do Akrotiri marsh or gravel pits, going instead straight to Zakaki Marsh. It was clear that there had been no maintenance for some long while (not generally factored into so many projects in Cyprus), only recently receiving attention from a band of volunteers. It was clearly very hard work, and truth be told, there was still much more that needed to be done. While there we enjoyed views of several Water Rail, Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit, Bluethroat, Reed Bunting and Jack Snipe.

 Moustached Warbler

 Jack Snipe

 Water Rail


After a catch-up with Bill who we have been bumping in to quite regularly in Cyprus for years, we moved on to look for the Steppe Grey Shrike.

Steppe Grey Shrike

Later in the day we checked out the pools at Larnaca and the sewage works. We found yet more areas ploughed and unplanted. We have been noticing many, previously wild areas put to the plough and a local attributes this to EU subsidies for ploughing land (although crops need not be grown).

 Ploughed, but sterile looking field.

One basin of the sewage works was drained. The osprey was still present on the bank of the other, but the works held fewer species than we might have hoped for, no interesting grebes, gulls or terns,


We drove to Oroklini and looked across the lake as the day drew to a close. Sightings included Spur-winged Plover, Temminck's Stints, Water Pipits,  Cattle Egret, Greater Flamingoes and a Great White Egret.

Flamingoes feeding at Oroklini

The 12th also started with a look at Oroklini's marshy areas, providing more views of a lot of the previous day's species, with the addition of at least six Bluethroat, Little Bittern and Jack Snipe.

At Larnaca Salt Lake the birds were all a long way off and we encountered tourists over keen on trying to get close photographs.

 Mud paddling tourists

 When most of the birds walk off.....

it's time to stop walking towards them. Increasingly a problem in Cyprus.


We saw ten Shelduck, single Hen Harrier, plus Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin and Redshank, six Stone Curlew, two Water Pipit, Bluethroat and a couple of Spectacled Warblers.

We finished up at Larnaca Sewage works again to find an eagle perched next to the runway.

Two Red-throated Pipits on the sterile field didn't stay long.

There was little else to be seen though the Osprey turned up again, and a Hen Harrier went over, possibly the bird we had seen earlier.