A round up of our bird ringing activities (all birds ringed under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology with schedule one authority where appropriate), birding trips and other wildlife sorties within the UK and whenever we get chance, elsewhere.
We were joined by MRB and Margaret for a few hours on site with just 5 nets open. We arrived to the sound of Redwing calls sounding throughout the site. Of course, we had come with the Lithuanian tape, however all birds had dispersed by the time the first net, suitable for catching Redwing, was up. Although we lost our chance today, we have made a mental note that attempts to net when birds are arriving or leaving the roost could be worthwhile.
The session proved good for Goldcrest in particular.
Male and female juvenile Goldcrests
There were also seven wintering Chiffchaff.
In total we processed a very respectable 29 new birds with seven retraps.
This was to have been the day when AC joined us for another
try for pipits at Evretou Dam, as the wind was forecast to be very low, but he
was sadly unable to make it. We still went over to the dam, finding the breeze
was slight as expected, and changed the position of our nets so that the ground
was a little (although not much) easier under foot. We had some outside
disturbance on this morning as a hunter was exercising his pack of several
hounds from his vehicle. The dogs ranged far and wide, each wearing a bell so
that we seemed surrounded by bonging beagle like gun dogs at times. Thankfully they had
been trained to return to the sound of the car’s horn, and were fairly obedient
as they were called back when they began, as a group, to take an interest in
our pipit nets that had already begun to catch. We were also joined by a farmer
on his tractor, ploughing up the patch next to where we were working. He posed
no problems but the birds did seem to rather prefer his freshly overturned soil
to the area that we’d staked out.
We got 12 pipits, four of which were Water Pipit. Birds seen
during the day were a Bonelli’s Eagle, 7 Woodlark and a Bluethroat.
Meadow Pipit – 8
Water Pipit – 4
Stonechat – 2
The afternoon was spent exploring the
tracks at the back of Avakas Gorge. We hoped to get close enough to check for
Wallcreeper and Rock Sparrow on the cliff faces, but found neither.We were also unable to find a clear route to
walk into the gorge from the Arodes end. The only bird seen of note was a male
Blue Rock Thrush.
After a promising first visit to the
Acheleia soakaways, we returned for another go.A total of 55 birds were processed including Water Rail, Kingfisher and
much to our delight three Penduline Tits.
Penduline Tit adult female
Penduline Tit adult male
Penduline Tit juvenile male
Male Bluethroat - red-spotted form
Spanish Sparrow male
Most birds were trapped in the
morning although we did go back to see how birds behaved during the evening, getting
just 7 to add to the main session and showing that this is a site best worked
in the morning.
Total: 52 (3)
Water Rail – 1
Kingfisher – 2
Robin – 3
Bluethroat – 1
Cetti’s Warbler – 1
Blackcap – 14
Chiff-chaff – 19 (3)
Penduline Tit – 3
Spanish Sparrow – 4
Chaffinch – 2
Reed Bunting – 2
Stonechat – 1
Chris made a solo attempt on Wallcreeper
at Avakas Gorge that afternoon, since thundery showers expected over the
nextcouple of days may make conditions
in the gorge more difficult for a few days. His enthusiasm was met with
successwhere the gorge opens out, but
the Rock Sparrows seen previously were abscent, which was surprising since them
seemed fairly settled and at home in the gorge. Meanwhile Denise took
photographs along the river.
Autumn takes hold in the gorge
Water snails and their grazing trails on the sandy river bed
Black Redstart visits for a drink
We again returned to Acheleia soakaways. It had been
forecast for showers after 11, but the thunderstorms from the night before
still lingered. We were supposed to be joined by AC, but as the weather in Polis
was rather wet he did not venture out, and although we had a couple of brief
heavy showers that required the nets to be furled, it was a successful morning with 36 birds processed , all similar species to the two previous days.
As the early afternoon weather was looking likely to be more wet than the
morning we just had a run around one or two places, before getting back to the
house early, with the only things seen of any note being a Long-legged Buzzard
and female/immature Hen Harrier at Minthis Hills.
Being a Sunday and a hunting day we headed to Paphos Forest where there is no
We went via Kannaviou Dam where there were lots of feeding
finches at the start of the day. Once we got onto the track circumnavigating
the dam, we didn’t see too many birds but on stopping there were plenty of
birds to be heard once we entered the forest.
We set a couple of nets at Agia
picnic site where we could hear Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper and Coal Tit.
We only caught two birds, a Robin and a Goldcrest.
Another try at a different location proved
fruitless and there was no obvious site suitable for ringing at the forest
station. By about 2pm we had completed the Paphos forest circuit and
were disappointed to find that the finches had disappeared from their earlier
foraging spot at the dam.
Robin – 1
Goldcrest - 1
An attempt to ring at Anarita Park failed as the goats and
sheep were too close to the area that we use so we checked out Ayia Vavara
where we found a Lapwing, Snipe and Green Sandpiper on the pools, eight
Woodlark and quite a few passerines that seemed convinced that the several
hunters who were about, were out to get them. At any rate, they wasted no time
in diving into cover. Part of this area looked suitable for further
investigation in the spring, if the river is flowing.
An early start at Acheliea soakaways where AC had agreed to
join us. During setting up we saw the juvenile Night Heron as it departed its
night time roost and a couple of Peregrines overhead. Later the Great White
Egret and Garganey dropped in. The morning was quite productive with 50 birds
captured, mainly Chiffchaff but also good numbers of Blackcap. While ringing,
we were treated to views of Grey Wagtail and a juvenile Common Rosefinch
dropped into a bush about 15 feet from us, then sitting on top of nearby reeds
giving good views, before disappearing southwards.
Common Rosefinch juvenile (record shot)
Reed Warbler juvenile
The Reed Warbler showed strong growth bars across primaries,
secondaries, tertials, greater and median coverts.
Later in the morning a Black Kite was seen
overhead, as was a stunning male Hen Harrier.
After an extended coffee break with AC we later dropped in
again at Anartia Park and set up just a couple of nets, one by the pool in the
quarry and the other in the stream bed. Although near a juvenileRed-backed Shrike that seemed to resemble
the one seen a few days earlier at the Acheleia Soakaways, it managed to elude us.
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike
We managed a single
Robin at the pool and three other birds at the other net, one of which was a
Wood Lark, one of nine in the area.
At least one male Finsch’s Wheatear was
still present in the quarry area.
Total: 3 (1)
Wood Lark -1
Robin – 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler – 2
Our last chance to visit the Troodos. We left early and
arrived before 8am. This was our first visit on a non-hunting day and it made
such a difference. We drove along long stretches of road without seeing another
vehicle. The sound of silence was very intense, only broken by the occasional
sound from a Chaffinch or Blackbird in the vegetationnearby.We started off at the Almirolivado picnic site but had hardly made any progress along
the path towards the Giant Juniper when five birds, clearly buntings, flew up in the direction of where the
car was parked. It was quite difficult to locate them, but one Pine Bunting
male remained in a treetop long enough for a record shot, in addition to another seen in a Pine tree.
We relocated to the
Livadi tou Pashia picnic site further up the hill and found a flock of some 15 birds, the bulk of
which, somehow remained tantalisingly just out of sight. Whilst here, we got on
to two definite Yellowhammers, and at another area one female Pine Bunting, and one bird that appeared to be a Yellowhammer/Pine Bunting hybrid.
Having obtained the necessary
permission, and since we had the place to ourselves, we then put up
two nets close to one of the recentlyformed pools in the area that had formed with the recent rain, and settled down to wait. There were only three birds
after about five hours but they were all worth the wait. I did my first Hawfinch,
Chris processed a Coal Tit and I then had a Short-toed Treecreeper.
Treecreeper and Coal Tit are Cypriot endemic subspecies, bringing the grand ringing
total to 252 birds on the last of our ringing days.
The plan for this day was to travel East from Paphos to Larnaca, visiting some key sites on the way. The first place visited was Bishop's Pool. We have heard a few horror stories about the state of the water in the pool since more water is to be used to irrigate surrounding fields. We noticed that some of the pumping equipment has been renewed but the water level wasn't bad. This may have been due to recent rain, but the Little Grebes and a small group of mixed hirundines seemed happy enough.
Gecko on pool wall
We also took a walk around the surrounding fields and wild areas, finding Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare.
Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare
After a look around the new environmental centre we drove on across the sand, via Lady's Mile to Zakaki Marsh where the Striated Heron was still present. The main marsh hosted a Temminck's Stint, Little Egrets, Water Pipits, Grey Heron and Marsh Harrier.
Many gulls were congregating at the eastern end of Lady's Mile. Armenian gulls were present among the melee, along with a single Sandwich Tern.
There was time for a look at Germasogia dam. The water level was very low, together with the number of birds, apart from 20 Cormorants.
We had stayed in Larnaca overnight and started the last day of the visit at the salt lake. Flamingo numbers had risen significantly since we had been there on the 5th of the month. Shelduck had increased to 15, three Temminck's Stints were at the viaduct end of the lake, 11 Spur-winged Plovers were on the drier land next to the viaduct, and passerines seen were three Water Pipits, a Red-backed Shrike and four Reed Buntings.
Even in November, plants around the salt lake were coming into flower.
Moving on to Oriklini Marsh there were good numbers of Spur-winged Plover, with 58 present along with, 17 Lapwings, and single Marsh Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank, plus a Water Pipit.
At Meneou Pools we had 127 Golden Plover and we ended the day at Larnaca sewage works where there were eight White-fronted Geese, a Black-necked Grebe and three Mediterreanean Gulls to be seen before returning the hire car and getting the flight home.
Larnaca sewage works
We thank the Game Fund for their support through the issuing of the approrpiate licence to ring birds, and assistance provided by their local officers, and to Birdlife Cyprus for providing the necessary rings and the assistance of AC.
We arrived on the 4th and stayed at Larnaca
overnight so we could do some birding in the area before heading over towards
Paphos. It is light just before 6am and very dark by 5.30pm, so early starts
are the order of the day. First port of call was Larnaca Salt Lake which had a small
group of Greater Flamingos present, plus a single late White Stork, a single
Willow Warbler and winter visitors in the form of Water Pipits, numerous
invisible Robins, Bluethroat, Stonechats, Moustached Warbler and Reed Bunting.
We then dropped into the Sewage Works lagoons which held four Black-necked
Grebes, and single Shelduck and Pochard. We headed over to Limassol next,Zakaki Marsh where we saw the main reason for
dropping by, the Green-backed (Straited) Heron, plus Spotted Crake, Water
Pipits, Blue-headed Wagtail, and a single Penduline Tit.
Then a brief visit to Phassouri Reed-bred,
which produced seven Water Pipits, and two of, Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler,
and Reed Bunting, as well as a single Lesser Whitethroat. Our final port of
call as we headed west was Kensington Cliffs where at dusk coming into roost we
saw eight Griffon Vultures, and also present were five Eleonora’s Falcon s, a
Peregrine, more invisible Robins, everywhere and a single Blue Rock Thrush.
Griffon Vultures at Kensington Cliffs
We had to head over to Polis to collect the rings and on the
way dropped into the Evretou Dam where we found, at the shallow end, a mixed
flock of Pipits consisting of Meadow, Red-throated and Water, plus a
Long-legged Buzzard, a Black-headed Wagtail, and a male Finsche's Wheatear.
After collecting the rings we went over to Paphos Headland were we saw four
Greater Sand-plovers, seven Woodlark , two Blue-headed Wagtails and two Tawny
Pipits, sixteen Black Redstarts, three
Lesser Whitethroat , and a single Whitethroat.
Greater Sandplover at Paphos Headland
7 November 2014
We headed back to Evretou Dam to give the collection of
pipits some attention and were pleasantly surprised to find that the wind was
very light indeed. Unfortunately, the soil beneath the thick carpet of green
vegetation, that attracted the pipits and wagtails, was ratherdifficult to work with, being sticky and
cracked into deep fissures due to heat from above while kept moist from the
stream that flowed to the dam underground. As expected, we didn’t get a lot of
birds but of the six pipits, three were Meadow and three Water Pipit. We didn’t
manage to get any of the Red-throated Pipits present. While there we had a
small group of Wood Lark pass through, two Long-legged Buzzards spiralling
above the ridge and a Bonelli’s Eagle that drew a strong reaction from the many
Jackdaws in the vicinity.
After a midday coffee with AC, a walk up the Avakas Gorge failed to produce any
Wallcreeper, but a single Blue Rock Thrush, eleven Rock Sparrow and a solitary
Goldcrest were seen by CL who persevered to the farthest point, with again
numerous mainly invisible Robins present.
Our second ringing visit was to the reeds at the bottom of the Xeros Potomas
river by the desalination plant. We were not anticipating a big catch, but we
only managed to equal yesterday’s 8, though we did catch one of our expected
species, a Moustached Warbler, although the Great Reed Warbler was unexpected.
Great Reed Warbler
Sardinian Warbler female
Total : 8
Robin – 1
Moustached Warbler – 1
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler – 2
Chiff-chaff - 2
We then made a visit of one or two local sites to see what
was looking good, or not. Cyprus in early winter has a Western European feel,
with many winter visitors we expect in the UK, though the exception really is
the Wallcreeper and Finsche's Wheatear, with the odd winter vagrant from Turkey
such as Rock Sparrow, Red-fronted Serin and Rock Bunting. And, though whilst in
winter Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Ring Ouzel, Mistle
Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Brambling,and Siskin, are present, quite a few can be
difficult to see or need a visit to the Troodos, and an available drinking
pool! During our local site visits we had around 80 Sky Lark a Mandaria, a
Wheatear at Kouklia, Asprkremnos Dam apart from a very low water level and few
birds, did have a single Great Crested Grebe, and our final visit to Anarita
Park enticed us to put up the nets again. We managed nine birds this time,
though the session did produce Denise’s first Serin and Corn Bunting! Also a
Quail flew in and landed 5 feet from the net and immediately disappear into a
bramble clump, and it was not even a shooting day!
Today was a run up to Troodos to look for some of those less
than easy to see winter visitors, unfortunately being a Sunday it was also a
hunting day (the other being a Wednesday). Around Troodos village we found a
single Mistle Thrush, plus Short-toed Treecreeper and the endemic species of
Jay and Coal Tit. We then paid a visit to the Troodos Botanical Gardens which
is located at the site of an old Asbestos mine, we had a Water Pipit, which was
slightly odd considering the location, more a summer location than winter, and
four Hawfinch coming into drink at the pools by the small lake. On the way back
we visited a couple of the picnic sites, and one, Livadi tou Pashia had a
medium size wet area at the start of the entrance track that was bring birds
down to drink and after a while sat there we saw fourteen Blackbirds, a single
Ring Ouzel, six Song Thrush, three Mistle Thrush, three Fieldfare, a single
Redwing, five Hawfinch and four endemic race Common Crossbills. At the Kampos
tou Livadiou Picnic site we had a flock of around 60 Fieldfare.
Asbestos quarry disused buildings
We returned to Anarita Park and did an am session, that also
turned into a return pm as we found a small area of water in the old quarry.
Sixteen birds were processed in the morning and a further six in the late
afternoon.In addition to the birds
processed we also saw four Wood Lark, two male Fincsches Wheatears and a male
Blue Rock Thrush.
Black Redstart juvenile male
Total : 20 (2)
Robin - 2
Black Redstart – 1
Common Stonechat – 4 (1)
Sardinian Warbler – 3 (1)
Great Tit – 1
Serin - 1
Goldfinch – 7
Greenfinch – 1
We were going to ring at the Achelia reeds by the sea, but when we got there it
was not really suitable and stopping at the nearby soakways the area seemed
about the best we had found so far, so we set up, slightly later than wished
for, but we processed 39 birds, making it worthwhile and an area to visit again
for sure. In addition to the processed birds we also saw a couple of
Bluethroats, Great Reed Warbler, Penduline Tit, Red-backed Shrike (which seemed
to have a deformed bill, not hooked and looked slightly elongated) and Reed
Before going back late pm to Anarita Park to give the quarry
pools another try, with a different set up, we dropped by Mandria, which was
quiet with around 120 Sky Lark and a single Wheatear, though two juvenile
Bonelli’s Eagles on the outskirts of the village was good.
Anarita Park quarry puddles proved to be another non-event, and
on that basis we will leave them to the birds, slightly topped up from our two
visits. One of the male Finsche’s Wheatears was feeding within the quarry
whilst we sat there for a couple of hours.
We decided to make a return visit to the puddle at Livadi tou Pashia picnic
site in the Troodos as the day after our last visit, as well as a few
Yellowhammers, it also had a Pine Bunting coming down to drink or bathe. When
we arrived three local photographers were there, with the front nearside wheel
of their 4x4 almost in the puddle. I commented they will not get anything
coming down if they are that close, so they moved back by about 2 metres, and
partly blocked our view of the puddle area near the juniper which was the
birds’ main route down to the pool. So we had to drive through and park up on
the other side, further away than the photographers, but still closer than we
would have been. For some reason two of the photographers spent some time
walking around, and get in and out of the vehicle, and even when in the vehicle
were not overly quite, so though a few birds came down, very few did and aby
late morning we had a period of over an hour and a half with nothing coming
down at all. At 1pm they gave up and left and we moved back further up the
track, and it was not long before the number of birds coming to the puddle
resumed and though it never got as busy as Sunday , the number of birds
visiting did improve, with in the end one Water Pipit, Song and Mistle Thrush, two
Blackbirds, Crossbill, and a male Siskin and up to nine Hawfinch, plus the
local Coal Tits and Chaffinches. In a way a bit of a disappointing day through
the lack of birds using the pool and so much time spent sat in the car, and a
missed chance to at least have potentially have got to see Yellowhammer in Cyprus,
although the Pine Bunting was really too much to expect to have seen.
Still too close, even after moving back at our request.
The view from our vehicle after they left, and we re-positioneed to a
position further back and the birds started to return back to the pool