Sunday, 5 February 2017

Cyprus 1st & 2nd February 2017

1st February.

On the first of the month we worked our usual spot along the dry stream bed at Kouklia, then did the drinking pool for a spell in the early afternoon before moving closer to the coast for a try at finches, thrushes and warblers using the reedbed as a roost. Figures have not been separated out but all Thrushes came from the roost, with 45 Song Thrush being seen to come into the orchard, and most Chiffchaffs were caught in the two panel net when coming down to bathe or drink.

One of many Chiffchaffs on site

4M Spanish Sparrow (SPASP)

Two panel net by the drinking pool

Total: 70 (2)

Song Thrush - 3
Robin - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 6 (2)
Blackcap - 10
Chiffchaff - 46
Spanish Sparrow - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Chaffinch - 1

In between the two sessions at Kouklia, we took a drive around the fields at Mandria, which apart from a large flock of around 350 Sky Lark, we saw the female Hen Harrier again and not too much else.

2nd February.

In the morning we drove up to Arminou dam to a pool and fields that has been good for Chiffchaff and finches. On arrival we found that the elevation and high sided valley had caused the temperature to drop significantly to what we had been experiencing down on the coast. There was a heavy frost, rock solid ground and iced over puddles. It seemed that the area was devoid of all life except a mule and there were no attempts to capture birds as it would be some time before the sun warmed the valley.

Frost on the ground in sunny Cyprus

We explored the surrounding area, finding a quiet bridge at Tzelefos, one of the old Venetian bridges, with Siskins feeding in groups, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Short-toed Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Jay. We set up a net in a spot likely to have birds coming down to drink but had only just got the net set when a minibus arrived with Cypriot tourists. They were a little noisy, but less so than the party of students who then arrived with water sampling equipment. By now Chris had found a place that thirsty birds seemed to favour, although the disturbance seemed to be driving the birds away from the bridge. We took down and were just about to leave when a jeep safari, five vehicles in all, roared through the ford then parked up while the Russian tourists enjoyed the previously tranquil spot. Time to leave.

The bridge while we still had the place to ourselves.


We returned to the diminishing drinking pool for the afternoon, this time placing a two panel net by the pool in the stream bed with a second full height net along the far bank for extra captures. The bulk of the birds were Chiffchaff again, only three recaptures from the previous day with one bird that had been ringed at this site in November. One Goldfinch that was caught could not be ringed as it had one foot affected by growths on the foot. This was at first thought to be papillomavirus. However, mite infestation may be a more likely cause. We were surprised and saddened to find that some Chaffinches that we've caught have been affected by papillomvirus - an affliction that has been much less common here than in the UK. This year we've found that about one in every three Chaffinches caught here is affected although it is usually only seen in one foot or leg with the other seemingly unaffected.

Total: 89 (4)
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 8
Chiffchaff - 63 (4)
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Serin - 3
Goldfinch - 10


The text below is produced by the BTO.

Growths on legs and feet

A number of different agents may cause swellings on the legs and feet of wild birds. Some of these are caused by mites of the genus Knemidocoptes and result in scaly legs. The 'scales' themselves are dry encrustations made up of material produced by the bird in response to the irritation caused by the mites, together with skin debris thrown up by the mites as they burrow into the tissues. As well as forming on the legs, the 'scales' may also form around the beak. These mites are members of a wider family of mites that cause mange in domestic animals and scabies in humans.

Another cause of warty growths is the Fringilla papillomavirus which affects Chaffinches and Bramblings. These growths may vary in size from small nodules to larger warts that engulf the whole leg. The warts develop slowly over a long period and affected individuals may otherwise appear quite healthy. Some individuals may become lame or lose affected digits.