Friday 17 February 2017

Broadwater GP - 17th February 2017

Knowing how few birds we've caught at this site, at similar times of year, we weren't expecting much as we joined MRB and Margaret for a morning at Broadwater.

We put up eight nets and thought we might be lucky to get twelve to fifteen birds. We actually did slightly better than that with 23 birds altogether, including a Jay, some Chiffchaffs and what might be the last Redwing of the winter.

 Redwing aged 5

Jay aged 5

Totals: 12 (11)

Blackbird - 3
Redwing - 1
Wren - 0 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 0 (2)
Chiffchaff - 3
Goldcrest - 1 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (4)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Jay - 1

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Cyprus 3rd to 6th February 2017

3rd February

Another meeting with Graham at the fields adjacent to Paphos Sewage works at Acheleia. On the way down from the main road we had a very large female Peregrine sat in the filed that was possibly of the race calidus.

We had a later start than normal and had a few nets in the hedgerow and in the Olive grove where birds are frequently seen to cut across from the hedgerow and out of the fields. It was clear that the Alfalfa had been cut the day before and this seemed to have an affect on the numbers of birds around. There was less about but we had a good proportion of recaptures, always important for really useful data.

Chiffchaff was the most frequently caught new bird (9), supported by Blackcap, Serin, Sardinian Warbler and Robin. There were also 11 retraps in all, comprised of Sardinian Warbler (6), Robin (3), Cetti's Warbler (1) and Blackcap (1).

A Sparrowhawk and Bluethroat were also seen.

Total: 25 (11)

Robin - 3 (3)
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 4 (6)
Blackcap - 4 (1)
Chiffchaff - 9
Goldfinch - 1
Serin - 4

Towards the end of the day we tried a likely drinking spot at Anarita Park. We were hoping to get a few Corn Bunting. We set a couple of two panel nets and settled down to wait. We could see the Corn Buntings gathering in their favoured trees further up the hill and it was looking very good until the sheep and goat flock drifted over in that direction with a shepherd looking for asparagus close to where the flocks were gathering. It wasn't long before they all departed and we caught nothing more than a few Chiffchaff and a Stonechat. We had a female Blue Rock Thrush on one of the small rocky mounds whilst sat in the car.

Total: 6

Stonechat -1
Chiffchaff - 5

4th February

This was to be the last day designated for a full morning's ringing and we returned to Neo Chorio to a site some distance from Agias Minhas, the area that we've ringed in the past. We managed to get a couple of doubles up with two more single full height nets. The species seen were different to those around the church, lots of Black Redstart being the main difference, with at least 17 seen, and still plenty of Robins, some Sardinian Warblers, and Stonechats, but not a single Chiffchaff to found.

 5F Black Redstart

 5F Stonechat

Recaptured 4F Sardinian Warbler 35372.

This is clearly, from the dark colouration, an old individual. We do not have access to the entire database but current rings are numbered 477** so we wonder exactly how many years ago it was ringed.

Afterwards we had a trip up along the Arodes plateau fields and picked up the resident Bonelli's Eagle, along with Sparrowhawk and Long-legged Buzzard, also decent sized flocks of Sky Lark and Chaffinches on some recently ploughed fields.

5th February.

Our final day in the Paphos area, so we just had a drive around a couple of sites. Mandria was fairly quiet with a single Buzzard, Red-throated Pipit, and a large Sky Lark flock of some 350 or so birds. We then just finished off with a final visit to Anarita Park which again held nothing special though the male Finsch's Wheatear was being particularly showy.

6th February.

We stopped off at a few places on route back to Larnaca airport, A quick stop off at Ladies Mile just on the off chance the Red Knot was still around, but we had no high expectations, and it wasn't. The usual flock of a couple of thousand Black-headed Gull was present, along with four Slender-billed, four Common, and at least 15 Armenian and a few Caspian Gulls. At Larnaca we had a look at Menou and Spiro's Pools which held a few Shelduck and common waders, including a Greenshank and 123 Golden Plover, plus two Spectacled Warblers were seen at Spiro's Pool. Finally a quick visit to Larnaca Sewage works which held briefly all the wintering Geese, with 51 Greylags and the eight White-fronted Geese, plus 33 Ruddy Shelduck, before they all flew off. Gulls were coming in all the time to bathe with at least 43 Caspian Gulls, several Armenian, and a single Heuglin's Gull, with the third winter Pallas' Gull still present. Fifteen Black-necked Grebes were now present, when we had none on our last visit.

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.

Cyprus - 31st January 2017

Today we were joined by Graham who used to scribe for Alan Crabtree, the ringing officer for Cyprus. Sadly, Alan died last year and Graham rarely gets out with ringers, there being so few who regularly visit the Polis area.

We arranged to meet up today to cover one of Alan's regular sites, Agios Minas, Neo Chorio. It seemed rather quiet, as might be expect in January, but in ringing you never know what you'll find in the net and today after hearing 5 Crossbill overhead, a big deal since they are usually only reported from the Troodos mountains, the day got even better. These appeared to be cold weather migrants escaping the harsh conditions in mainland Europe. To our amazement we also caught two juvenile birds.

 Juvenile Crossbills

These both still had juvenile plumage, but we could not be sure whether the hatching year was late 2016 or early 2017 so erred on the side of caution and recorded both as 2Js. A first for us - although we have ringed Crossbird in the UK and Cyprus Troodos before. Graham was very pleased to see the Crossbills, if a little saddened that in all his years ringing on Cyprus, Alan had never caught any.

A Dunnock was another surprise, rarely seen and less often caught on Cyprus - Graham had never seen one in the hand before.

Dunnock, aged 5

Totals: 23 (4)

Robin - 11 (3)
Dunnock - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 4 (1)
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Serin - 3
Crossbill - 2

In the afternoon as the weather had become unsettled with rain, a headed over to Ladies Mile at Akrotiri where a Knot, an uncommon bird in Cyprus had been seen, but it was absent pm, and there was the usual larger gathering of Gulls, with a single Slender-billed and Baltic Gull seen amongst the usual Yellow-legged, and Armenian and Caspian Gulls that are present in lower number. A single Sandwich Tern was also seen.

Cyprus - 30th January 2017

We ringed at three separate sites today. We started off in a regular site rarely used due to the area having become so dry. We only had 13 birds but two were Penduline Tits. There were at least another two birds that evaded capture. It was clear that the reeds were used by Chiffchaffs as a roost site but were not used by a lot of birds during the day so we moved on at around 10.30am.

 Penduline Tit - 6F

Penduline Tit - 5F

Totals - 12 (1)

Robin - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 0 (1)
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 4
Penduline Tit - 2
Chaffinch - 2

The next stop was a track next to Paphos Sewage works. We only put three nets up but they worked very well over the two hours that nets were up. 

5M Kestrel

4M House Sparrow

Totals: 51 (2)

Kestrel - 1
Robin - 5
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 7 (1)
Blackcap - 8
Chiffchaff - 25
Great Tit - 1
Goldfinch - 2
House Sparrow - 1

Ended the day at the Xeros Potamos old lower pools site as the wind was low and there were a few places to set nets amongst the vegetation. We started off with two nets but erected a double panel in an area where a Bluethroat was seen. We did alright with a mix of species including Woodlark and Serin as well as the expected Chiffchaff and Blackcap. It turned out that there were actually two Bluethroats.

 5M Bluethroat

6M Bluethroat

These were of the white spotted form, as have been all other Bluethroats seen or captured by us in Cyprus.

Totals: 10

Woodlark - 1
Bluethroat - 2
Blackcap - 4
Chiffchaff - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Serin - 1

Cyprus - 27th to 29th January 2017

27 January

The wind was quite strong today, but we took a walk around the Paphos Headland, which compared to spring was relatively quiet. Two groups of Wood Lark totalling 22 birds were seen, with 110 Starling coming into the bushes on the rough area by the limestone cliffs, with 96 Golden Plover, two Grey Plover and two Greater Sandplovers on the actual headland tip.

 Paphos Castle

Wood Lark

With the recent rain, compared to the very dry brown landscape found everywhere in November, green growth now is found everywhere and plants are either in flower or showing signs of starting.

 Cyclamen cyprium

Greater Sandplover

Somewhere out there are 96 Golden Plover, 
and a slightly rough sea

28th January

A slightly less windy day, but still a walking and observing day so we headed over to the Akrotiri area. 

At Zakaki Marsh the Penduline Tits proved to be extremely showy with 18 birds at one stage near to the hide, with a single Bluethroat and two Reed Buntings also seen.

Penduline Tit


As we headed to Bishop's Pool/Farm we drove down Ladies MIle which had a large number of mainly Black-headed Gulls present, but we also saw two Common Gulls, one that had a slightly darker mantle and larger appearance that may well have been of the race heinei.

Black-headed Gulls

Common Gull - possibly race heinei.
Bishops Pool held four Ferrunginous Ducks and a single Black-necked Grebe. A check of some of the surrounding fields produced a couple of Mistle Thrushes and male and female Siberian Stonechats.

Male Siberian Stonechat - restricted orange on breast, large white 
neck collar, large white wing patches and pure white rump.

Anemone Coronaria, Bishop's pool

A final drive around Akrotiri Gravel pits was particularly fruitless, seemingly fairly birdless.

On the way back to Paphos we stopped off at Lower Xeros Potamos River down to the reed bed by the desalination plant and set up to see what may have been utilising the reed bed as a roost, particularly if the local wintering Song Thrushes might be using it, which as it turned out they did not, though a small number of Chiffchaffs did. We had one re-trap Cetti's warbler which was useful.

Total: 19 (1)

Song Thrush - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 13
Chaffinch - 1

29th January

After a few days of windy weather we are forecast a few days of little or light windy, but with it has come overnight frost.

We decided to give one of our usual ringing areas a go and set up at Kouklia. It was a moderate session, with a single Crested Lark and a couple of Spanish Sparrows, out of a total of only 28 new birds, with a re-trap Blackcap from our November visit last year.

Female Blackcap

Male Spanish Sparrow

Cetti's Warblers, male top and female bottom

Totals: 28 (1)

Crested Lark - 1
Robin - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 3
Sardinian Warbler -
Blackcap - 1 (1)
Chiffchaff - 12
Spanish Sparrow - 2
Chaffinch - 2
Serin - 1

We then had a run around Mandria and quickly came across a Merlin harrying the Sky Lark flock and was then found sitting in the field. A flock of about 40 Golden Plover flew in and a couple of Bluethroat were picked up by the orange grove, one taking to a freshly delivered pile of soil and manure.



Cyprus, Larnaca - 26th January 2017

As forecast was for another windy day, we took a run over to the Larnaca area which had a few interesting birds. 

First stop off was Menou Pools which had a small mixed flock of waders and 21 Common Shelduck.

Dunlin, Little Stint and Redshank

We went to Larnaca Sewage Works and found one of the recent Pallas' Gulls present, a 3yr bird which was later joined by a 1st year bird. The usual mix of Duck and Gulls were present along with eight White-fronted Geese that dropped in briefly, along with 36 Ruddy Shelduck.

3rd year Pallas' Gull

White-fronted Geese with Wigeon

Ruddy Shelducks

A quick look at Spiro's Pool and the fields adjacent to the airport produced very little but a Cattle Egret was in Menou village.

We then spent some time exploring around Larnaca Salt Lake which held a lot of Flamingos, somewhere in the region of 436 Common Shelduck, a couple of Ruddy Shelduck, only 13 Black-necked Grebes, single Avocet, Sanderling, Temminck's Stint and Jack Snipe, plus single Slender-billed and Heuglin's Gulls.A couple of Moustached Warblers were seen in the reed bed area along with 28 Song Thrush, and a single Starling.

Flamingos in front of the Tekke

Greylags, eastern race birds

Black-necked Grebes


Little Egret

Final stop off for the day was Oroklini where a Little Ringed Plover was on the beach and in the Marsh area in addition to the usual species we had 8 Pintail, single Shelduck, three Water Pipit, two Bluethroat,  Moustached Warbler, five Starling and five Reed Buntings.