Saturday 30 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 30th September

Garden Warbler 24.6g, wing of 84

Today we returned to Kouklia to be assisted by Graeme for the first time this trip,while working in conjunction with AK and his team so that our captures were sampled for a range of PhD studies.

During the early morning both Red-footed Falcon and Eleanora's Falcon were seen.

We caught 50 birds, more than we expected. There was nothing of particular note although one Garden Warbler had such a long wing, and heavy weight, that the ringing database protested that it fell outside of expected parameters. This often happens with birds in Cyprus, and being aware of the 84 wing and 24.6g the bird was double checked.

Totals: 45 (5)

Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 8 (1)
Garden Warbler - 3
Blackcap - 6
Willow Warbler - 21 (3)
Great Tit - 1
House Sparrow - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 5

Later in the day we had a look around Ayia Varvara where we found that the tanks were completely empty. There were quite a few Bee-eaters and a couple of Long-legged Buzzards flew through.

Friday 29 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 29th September

Day 10

Today we had identified an area at Arodes where we thought we'd try our luck. We arrived at 6:30am, but on going into the area found the dead weedy vegetation to be much too difficult to work over. Any netting caught on the tough spiny plant would be instantly shreaded. Plan B, we went to an area that we've worked before only to find a chain across the track. We walked down and found that the area had been partially cleared of rocks and a rudimentary field attempted. Nothing was planted and there were definite furrows but no irrigation. It looked like an attempt to claim EU funding in an area where cultivation was impossible, something we've seen here before. The area was much too difficult to walk through with the newly piled rock heaps and the ploughed track, so we decided to go birding instead.

There were a lot of Cyprus Wheatears and Chukars. Redstart, Whinchat, Red-backed Shrike and Golden Oriole were also seen. We were particularly pleased to find a juvenile Masked Shrike.

 Juvenile Masked Shrike

While working our way round the site we found a valley that was a little greener than much of the surrounding area. We had already missed the best two hours of the day, but we put up  three nets to see how we would do.

At this time of year the area is very dry with little
to mask nets and plenty of dry vegetation to rip nets
or ringers' unprotected skin.

We caught nine birds, but that included four Cyprus Wheatear and a Red-backed Shrike. We couldn't get the Whinchat  that had first drawn our attention.

Juvenile male Cyprus Wheatear

This is a species that does not appear in our Demongin ringing manual. We have been considering what has been said about Pied Wheatear, as this may provide some useful information for these birds. The partial post juvenile moult that we are seeing appears to often involve just two tertials, a couple of greater covers and other mediam coverts in that immediate area - as for other wheatears. We have been worried that we've been missing adults. However, last dates for this species is often around the third week of October with earliest evidence of breeding towards the end of March. It may just be that all the adults have already left. 

Red-backed Shrike

Last bird of the morning and an unexpected bonus. We may try this site again - in spring there may even be water.

Totals: 9

Cyprus Wheatear - 4
Sardinian Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 2
Willow Warbler - 1
Red-backed Shrike - 1

Thursday 28 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 28th September

Day 9

One of our less often visited sites is Vretsia. An abandonned Turkish village where vineyards, olive and almond groves used to be cultivated. Nowadays many of the vines have succumbed to drought as the irrigation efforts creased many years ago.

We arrived at 6:30am and found three areas to site some double nets. A Goshawk was seen overhead as we set up. It was years ago that we tried this spot and with no birding reports from the area we had no idea what may or may not be in the uplands. While there we saw Masked and Red-backed Shrike although neither were caught. Sardinian Warblers were frequently seen, also at least three Spotted Flycatcher - again none were caught. We didn't do too badly for Sylvia warblers, but no Willow Warblers were netted. We did notice that the Blackcaps were rather light compared to those caught down by the coast. The average weight of birds at Kouklia was 1.1g more than those at Vretsia. In the very dry conditions it seems likely that the birds fatten up as they travel since we are not seeing much evidence of large numbers feeding up in the coastal citrus groves or the dry river valleys.

 Leading species was Cyprus Wheatear with a couple of Redstart, two Lesser Whitethroat and a few Great Tits making up the 24.

 Two of the Cyprus Wheatear captures

 Two Redstarts

The buildings of Vretsia are falling into disrepair

Parched groves afford some respite for migrants

From the number of shells and other evidence, this is a place where
hunting is common practice. 

Totals: 24

Redstart - 2
Cyprus Wheatear - 6
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 10
Great Tit - 3

We spent the rest of the day driving around and failing to see much in the way of birdlife. There was a Montagu's Harrier, just as we left the village, nothing at Kannaviou Dam and then we found that the tanks were filling at Agia Varvara, but still only a few birds, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Bee-eaters and a Great Reed Warbler. We also photographed some butterflies.

African Grass Jewel

African Ringlet

Lesser Fiery Copper

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 27th September

Day 8

A return to Kouklia, with Willow Warblers still about but not a great deal else. We finished on a reasonable total, considering how few birds seemed to be working through the bushes.
We recaptured one of our Sardinian Warblers from 2016, since colour ringed by AK's team.

Female Sardinian Warbler 46260

It warmer up very quickly today and we were quite ready to start taking nets down just after 10am.

Juvenile Whinchat male

Adult Garden Warbler

                                     One of two White Storks seen over Koukli (record shot)

The best birds of the morning were probably two White Storks that were seen passing some distance overhead to the East.

Totals: 37 (5)

Whinchat - 1
Cetti’s Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 6 (3)
Garden Warbler - 3
Blackcap - 2
Willow Warbler - 20 (2)
Great Tit - 1
House Sparrow - 2

We had a few errands to run and didn't get out until the early evening when we went to Mavrokolymbos Dam. It was very quiet with just a few Cyprus Wheatears, a Red-backed Shrike, a Whinchat and a Greenshank to report.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 26th September

Day 7

Neo Chorio this morning. Not near the church but another place we've used before. There was a ruptured irrigation pipe that looked like a good opportunity so two nets were placed nearby, in the hope of netting birds as they arrived or departed. Then a double in some olive trees and a further double in the only vegetaion that provided cover from both side of the net.

We were a little worried that birds may not be moving around the site so freely as the grass and weedy vegetation was all dried out and provided very sparse cover. We didn't get a great deal of birds  but the habitat, different to Kouklia, gave us our first Cyprus Wheatear, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Greenfinch.

Juvenile female Cyprus Wheater

Juvenile male Cyprus Wheatear

Juvenile Whinchat

Spotted Flycatcher



Whinchat - 1
Cyprus Wheatear - 2
Sardinian Warbler - 6
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Whitethroat -2
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 14
Willow Warbler - 4
Spotted Flycatcher - 2
Great Tit - 2
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Greenfinch - 3

After the session we checked out the Polis reedbed that had been burnt out last year. Only patchy clumps of reeds remained with some areas already ploughed up. We watched a large band of Bee-eaters for a while, but despite the presence of bee hives, their feeding forays were mostly confined to a quick dash off of then back to the overhead wires. They were also disturbed when we got out of the car so would most probably have left if we'd tried putting a net up.

After eating in Kathikas, we had a look around Arodes. 

We watched while a field was prepared for planting - removing 
the larger pieces of rock,  leaving soil most resembling dust on the surface.

The whole area looked really dry.

We found a large group of Cyprus Wheatears, 18 birds, in their first year. We tried with a two panel net and only one was caught as they could see and easily avoid the net.

 Dark underwing and Cyprus Wheater - 3rd of the day.

Total: 1

Cyprus Wheatear

There were plenty of other Cyprus Wheaters around and all appeared to be youngsters 25 in total. There were also a few Whinchat, a couple of Red-backed Shrikes and a single Masked Shrike.

 Cyprus Wheatear

Red-backed Shrike

Monday 25 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 25th September

Day 6

Having found a good set up of where to place nets we returned to Kouklia. A Honey Buzzard was seen overhead as the last of the nets went up. There was no big rush first thing but captures were steady through the day. We tried for Bee-eaters that were drifting up and down the valley, but again had no luck. Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipits passed over head but we didn't catch any. Willow Warblers dominated the figures again with very limited diversity provided by a second Red-backed Shrike for the trip,  a Great Tit, a Reed Warbler and the retrap of the Wryneck from two days ago.

We retrapped male adult Sardinian Warbler 29370, ringed by DL in April 2010 and not retrapped since.

It was extremely hot as the day drew on with the car thermometer reading 38 degrees as we left a little before midday.

Red-backed Shrike juvenile

Sardinian Warbler juvenile male, with a slightly unusual head pattern

Reed Warbler

Totals: 74 (3)

Wryneck - 0 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Sardinian Warbler -   19 (1)
Blackcap - 1
Willow Warbler - 50 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Red-backed Shrike - 1

It was too hot for birding really and we didn't expect a great deal. We looked at what the Bee-eaters were doing but none of the small groups looked like a viable chance for captures. We have caught Bee-eater on Cyprus before without mishap, but know of others who ended up with bee stings (the feeding forays are often very close to bee hives) so there's plenty to take into consideration before putting up nets.

Bee-eater with hornet
We noticed a couple of Rollers on wires in the Lower Xeros Potamos and three Lesser Grey Shrikes. At one stage the Bee-eaters were dispearsed off the wires as a Hobby went through and started to pursue something at speed.


Lesser Grey Shrike

At Anarita we found a couple of Northern Wheatears and a Eastern Black-eared Wheater, plus a juvenile Lesser Grey Shrike - so a few going through with the Red-backed Shrikes now, with two seen here as well. A Long-legged Buzzard and Peregrine were also seen overhead.

Juvenile Lesser Grey Shrike

Another Bonelli's Eagle was seen as we approached Nata, a juvenile.

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 24th September

Day 5

We were at Neo Chorio today, working with AK and his students, who study a range of diseases in birds. We had four nets up, one doing particularly badly and even one close to water wasn't that spectacular. We ran two data sets with our own efforts finishing on 48 birds.

Willow Warblers were not so numerous at this site, Bee-eaters and Golden Orioles were in the immediate area, but none were caught. Today we got our first Redstarts, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroat and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Eastern Orphean Warbler


Lesser Whitethroat

3M Redstart

3F Redstart

Totals: 48

Redstart - 2
Cetti's Warbler -1
Sardinian Warbler - 4
Eastern Orphean Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 6
Whitethroat - 2
Blackcap - 20
Willow Warbler - 9
Great Tit - 3

We left the ringing location quite late and apart from checking out a couple of other ringing sites nearby we only dropped into Evretou Dam, which like all the reservoirs in Cyprus had seriously low water levels. The onlybirds of interest was a single juvenile Purple Heron amongst 36 Grey Herons on an exposed shingle bar, a single Cyprus Wheatear and a Sparrowhawk over. On the way into Kathikas a Bonelli's Eagle was seen, and an after dinner visit to Mavrokolmpos Dam held a single Greenshank, four more Cyprus Wheatears and a couple of Red-backed Shrikes.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Cyprus autumn 2017 - 23rd September

Day 4

Back to Kouklia again today and a good session with a few more surprises. The best bird was probably a Marsh Warbler, and two Northern Wheatear were unexpected as they have always been so difficult to capture in the spring.

Marsh Warbler age 3 

Emargination to mid primaries, notch equals 9

Northern Wheatears, both aged 3

There was a trickle of Sedge Warblers, many adults, passing through and the Willow Warblers continue to be the most abundant species on site and captured. It's good to see a lot of birds with fat scores of 5 and 6.

Sedge Warbler adult

Willow Warbler age 3

A Wryneck was the first that we've seen since we arrived here and one of the Red-backed Shrike (not too many seen in our ringing area) managed to find its way into the net.

Juvenile Wryneck

3M Red-backed Shrike

An adult Garden Warbler was the first of this species that we've caught in Cyprus.

Garden Warbler, aged 4

Totals:105 (1)

Wryneck - 1
Crested Lark - 4
Northern Wheatear - 2
Cetti's Warbler -1
Sedge Warbler - 9
Marsh Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler - 5 (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 7
Willow Warbler - 61
Red-backed Shrike - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 10

After ringing we took a look around Mandria and Acheleia areas without too much success with only a Ringed Plover on the beach and a Lesser Grey Shrike of some interest at Mandria and nothing too unusual at Acheleia.