Monday, 23 April 2018

Wraysbury - 21st April 2018

A second big Wraysbury session covering both of the usual ringing areas. Our team of four put 11 nets up around the edge of the area blitzed to keep the vetch in check. We are beginning to see the return of docks in some places but the most resilliant plant seems to be the vetch.

Clearance work continued across the stream in preparation for the CES. There a Nightingale was glimpsed and Grasshopper Warbler heard, but catching was poor as was the result of our own efforts. Just 18 new and ten retrapped birds of 13 species. We got our first Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat of 2018.

Garden Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat

Total: 18 (10)

Blackbird - 0 (1)
Songthrush - 2
Wren - 0 (1)
Dunnock -0 (3)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 1 (1)
Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 5 (1)
Willow Warbler - 1
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Blue Tit - 2 (2)
Great Tit - 1

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Wraysbury - 19th April 2018

The day started with the alarm failing to ring, so we were 30 minutes behind before we'd even got up. The morning was also very bright, and warm. The warmest day of the year, so far, in fact. We new the target area to be particularly open, with no real options for setting nets in consistent shade so we didn't put many up. There was plenty of bird song. However, we didn't see very much flying around at all and we finished early with only five captures.

A pair of Treecreepers provided an interesting comparison between primary coverts of adult and second year birds.

Patterning of primary covert tips
on Treecreeper adult.

Teardrop markings on primary
coverts of Treecreeper aged 5

Totals: 3 (2)

Sedge Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 0 (1)
Chiffchaff - 0 (1)
Treecreeper - 2

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 15th April 2018

Today we visited Stanwell Moor to check on the water level and put a few nets up. The water was so high that the usually dry run in the reedbed was also wet, leading to us being unable to deploy the net directly next to the lake. We got three other nets up but caught just two Chiffchaffs, from there for our efforts.

By the river it was rather blowier than we would have liked and only five other birds were caught. Sedge Warbler was probably our best bird with a Blackcap, two Long-tailed Tits one being a retrap and a Dunnock.

At least four Cetti's Warblers were singing, and a Yellow Wagtail flew over.

The Elder plants seem to be taking well, with only a few nibbled by Roe Deer.

Total: 5 (2)

Dunnock - 0 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (1)

Friday, 20 April 2018

Wraysbury GP & Staines Moor - 14th April 2018

Extensive coverage of Wraysbury today with two teams out covering both areas. C6 is still extremely barren after the wholesale application of weedkiller to reduce the vetch. The bramble is also affected and little is bouncing back, with the exception of the dreaded vetch in some areas.

We took C6 as it's the chief area for our Whitethroat RAS, although I suspect the radical land management will be a significant factor in our numbers. We put up 9 nets, hoping that birds could be caught moving around the bramble fringes.

We did better than we expected, 33 birds overall, with a decent number of re-trapped migrant warblers. D859624, a female Blackcap had not been recaptured since it was ringed as a 3J in 01/08/2014.

We also caught a single Whitethroat.

A single Little Egret was seen along with an Oystercatcher back on their usual small island on the sailing lake.

Whitethroat 5 female

Totals: 23 (10)

Dunnock - 4 (3)
Wren - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 6 (5)
Chiffchaff - 1
Willow Warbler - 4
Bullfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Great Tit - 2

After ringing we headed over for a walk on Staines Moor. There were quite a few birders around as a couple of Ring Ouzel had been seen, which was in itself not an issue, except some of them, a few had no patience and despite others being around wishing to see as well, went and stood on the 'butts' in the very area they had been seen and went around the back to flush them out of the bushes they were in so they could see them as the flew! Others who had stood in a sensible spot got to see them on the ground and even get some decent photos. We had a male fly over when flushed. The first Lesser Whitethroat of the summer in the UK was heard and four Wheatears, probably 'Greenland' were present also.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Cyprus Spring 28th March - 11th April 2018

Back in Cyprus for the second time this year and we hope to achieve rather more processed birds than in January now that the permits for 2018 have eventually been finalised. The Game Fund now want 48 hours notice of where we will be ringing, allowing much less flexibility and no ability to counter for changes to more suitable sites when weather conditions are difficult. Our first day was earmarked for Kouklia, the second the decommissioned Desalination Plant and the third Kouklia again.

Wednesday 28th - Kouklia

The morning started with little wind and although we could hear plenty of Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, there were few migrants immediately around us. Alpine and Common Swifts flew overhead and groups of Greenfinch and Cretzschmar's Bunting were seen moving through on two ocassions. We captured a decent number of retraps, including some birds colour ringed for a study by the University of Cyprus.

Male Sardinian Warbler  O/R, R/M

Female Sardinian Warbler LG/R, R/M

Female Cretzschmar's Bunting

The best capture of the day was a female Cretzschmar's Bunting.

The wind strengthened considerably as the morning progressed and nets were closed well before midday.

Among the retraps was a Blackcap ringed in Spring 2015 and several Sardinian Warblers, dating back in one case to 2013.

Totals: 22 (10)

Cetti'sWarbler - 2 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 4
Sardinian Warbler - 1 (8)
Blackcap - 13 (1)
Cretzschmar's Bunting - 1

A drive around Mandria, in the blustery conditions, failed to produce much, and the wheatears at Timi Beach were a mixture of Northern and Isabelline but the Desert Wheatears were no longer in evidence.

Isabelline Wheatear

The weather looks rather windy over the next couple of days with rain tomorrow so we expect to have to cancel ringing tomorrow and have advised a change to P2 for Friday.

Thursday 29th - Paphos Headland

The next day it was windy with rain featuring heavily in the forecast so the planned ringing had to be abandoned. At 6am it was still raining so we had an hours lie in, then went to the headland for shortly after opening time.

Within the first few minutes we had seen a large flock of Wagtails and a Palid Harrier. We then worked our way to the point furthest from the car park so that we'd be nearer to the car in the event of torrential rain later. There were a number of warblers in the shrubby bushes, but checking the rocky outcrops failed to produce a Rock Thrush. However, there was one on the agora excavations. 

Rock Thrush

There were rather fewer wheatears around than we expected.

Northern Wheatear male

Paphos lighthouse

The wildflowers were an explosion of yellow, with most of the field poppies yet to bloom. Clouded Yellows were difficult to track in the wind, but some of the blues were less frenetic.

Common Blue on Crown Daisy

By 10:30am or so we could see squally showers advancing on the island from the south west. A Wryneck was found just a short time before the heavy shower made landfall.


On leaving the headland a group of four Cattle Egrets and a Little Egret were flying past the fort. 
We spent the first really heavy shower in a coffee shop, then drove to an area of long grass and scrubby bushes by the coast. Here a second squall came through just as we were about to leave the car and we again escaped the deluge, this time accompanied with hail stones. It remained dry while we walked around, to find more wagtails, a Hoopoe and a Whinchat. Again, we narrowly avoided another heavy shower and set off towards the dam with lightning out to sea and thunder.

Walking the dam road proved one walk too far as we were caught, not once but twice as heavy rain and hail tracked in off the sea and towards the uplands. Birds seen on our rather wet walk included Cyprus Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Cyprus Warbler, Tawny Pipit, Common Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt.

A phone call to Graham who often joins us and scribes not only confirmed that he was unable to come out with us on Saturday, but also advised us that another ringer has been holiday ringing in the Polis area - and had advised the game fund that he would be at the site where we intended to go. So much for the new system, we didn't even know he has been here. Still, we do know there won't be rides for his and our nets so that's our plans for Friday dashed since it's too late for the 48 hour notification to change them.

Friday 30th -Limassol

We'd left the house by 7am and travelled over to Zakaki, only to find that the road was closed due to a gas leak, so we to make a detour and started from the other end, not knowing whether we'd be able to reach the hide. We started at Akrotiri Marsh, then worked the gravel pit, Bishop's Pool, Ladies Mile and then Zakaki Marsh where the road was no longer closed.

Gargany at Akrotiri Marsh

Squacco Heron

We looked for the Eastern White Wagtail but moved on to the Gravel Pits when it failed to show up.

Woodchat Shrike

Eastern Orphean Warbler female

After a quick dash back to Akrotiri Marsh when the Wagtail was reported, and we had the briefest of glimpses while parking the car before it again flew off we finished our first check through the gravel pits and on to Bishop's Pool where the usual Ferruginous Duck were also with Little and a Black-necked Grebe.

Bishop's Pool

The Clouded Yellow butterflies proved easier to photograph than
 the ones at Paphos headland.

A rare 'wings open' shot

Ladies Mile held a single Black-winged Stilt and a few gulls, but Zakaki was disappointing with very little clear water to view and more fly tipping around the perifory.

We tracked back through the gravel pits and on to Akrotiri Marsh for the end of the afternoon.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis and Ruff were busily feeding up in the shallow water and we finally caught up with the Eastern Wagtail.

Eastern White Wagtail (Motacilla alba ocularis)

Saturday 31st - Kouklia, Anarita & Ayia Varvara

On arriving at Kouklia the sound of Nightingale song could be heard at several points along the track down and arcoss the river bed. One of the first captures provided evidence of their presence in our records.


Another good species out of the nets was a Ruppell's Warbler female.

Ruppell's Warbler

Great Reed Warbler - the first heard or seen of our trip.

There were two Whitethroats, believed to be of the Eastern race, also an Olivaceous Warbler and Crested Lark.


Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Crested Lark

Female Blackcap with pollen and nectar deposits on upper mandible.

 Total:   15 (7)

Crested Lark - 1
Nightingale - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2 (1)
Reed Warbler - 2
Great Reed Warbler - 1
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - 1
Ruppell's Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 0 (5)
Whitethroat - 2
Blackcap - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 1

We took a drive around Anarita, watching the birds and butterflies. There were a few wheatears around and some Lesser Kestrels.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Paphos Blues

At Ayia Varvara the river was flowing and one of the tanks was filled and a pair of Gargany were seen. Two other interesting observations were a Black Francolin and a Black Whip Snake.

April 1st - Sunday

We had notified the Game Fund that we would be at the Desalination Plant at the end of the Xeros Potamas valley, where a fire burnt out much of the reeds last year,  so arrived just after 6:30am, knowing that we'd have to look for places to site nets.

We'd just put up an 18/12m combination when we began to hear the jangling sound of hunting dogs' bells. So, those nets were set unusually high, just in case, and just as well since we soon had up to five, very friendly dogs running back and forth. They also disturbed a couple of hares that sped off under the nets. We chanced a further two singles, but having spoken to one of the three Cypriots exercising their dogs and providing directions as to where his missing dog had been heading, it was rather late by the time the location settled down to quiet.

5M Goldfinch

The most interesting thing this morning was watching a flock of Swifts that came in off the sea and fed hungrily above and around the netting area, although, of course, none were caught. Nets were down by 11am with 18 captures. There were no retraps, probably indicating that any of the resident birds ringed there in previous years moved away during the fire, unless they failed to escape. At any rate there was no evidence of original resident Sardinian or Cetti's Warblers returning as the vegetation begins to take hold again.

Totals: 18

Crested Lark - 2
Nightingale - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler - 4
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Spanish Sparrow - 4

Cattle Egret

Northern Wheatear

We had a drive around the fields near the sewage works (Cattle Egret 3, Spur-winged Plover 2) before taking a mid-day break.

Resuming at Mavrokolompos Dam we had a brief walk and that didn't turn up a great deal other than three Hoopoes, a Little Egret and a few Wheatears.

Centaura Raphanina

Bath White

We then drove to Cape Dreparnum where there were a few more wheatears, a Great Spotted Cuckoo and a Hoopoe. 

April 2nd - Koukli & Paphos Headland

Today we ringed at our regular site with the assistance of Graham as our scribe. We processed 30 birds with over a quarter being Lesser Whitethroats, recently in on their way North. Some birds were carrying fat scores of codes 3 & 4, so they clearly have a distance to travel yet.

A rather dusky 5M Sardinan Warbler

Age 5 (as were all seven caught today) Lesser Whitethroat

Totals: 23 (7)

Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Reed Warbler - 3
Sardinian Warbler - 1 (4)
Lesser Whitethroat - 7
Blackcap - 10 (2)
Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 1


In the late afternoon we walked the headland at Paphos. To start with birds were rather thin on the ground as we recorded Tawny Pipit, Yellow Wagtails, Hoopoe (3) and Woodchat Shrike. Then later on we saw a Ring-necked Parakeet and birds also began to drop in, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroats and a female Collared Flycatcher.

Female Collared Flycatcher

April 3rd - Limassol area

Today had been planned as a ringing sortie to Vretsia. We then realised that, due to the conditions of the roads there, and the lack of clearance of our hire car, booked a Ford Focus (that would have been fine) got and 'equivalent' Kia Rio - only the equivalent according to Europcar, but not equivalent even according to the manufacturers. So, we couldn't go and neither could we ring elsewhere due to the 48 hours rules of notification. We decided to go birding around Limassol.

We had a look at Akrotiri Marsh, the gravel pits, Lady's Mile, Zakaki Marsh and round the back of the salt lake. It was a day of finding a few bits and pieces, some waders here and there, more Lesser Whitethroats going through and our best find a very tired, approachable Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Kentish Plover - Akrotiri Gravel Pits

Lack of view from Zakaki Marsh hide

While at the Salt Lake, I (Denise) found a freshly dead Reed Warbler on a sandy track. The bird carried a ring issued by the NHMuseum Belgrade BB 407878, only the second foreign ring seen by us in all our years ringing over here.

Picked up dead - Reed Warbler BB40787 ringed in Serbia

Wednesday - 4th April

Another morning in the dry riverbed and still no sign of bird numbers moving through increasing. It's difficult to say whether the numbers are actually reducing in terms of populations, or because of the local environment - river now diverted away up stream, encroachment of farmland to the East and West and the loss of a stand of tall trees along the beach since we first ringed this area in 2009. However you look at it, it's a poor return for more than five hours out in the field monitoring migratory and breeding birds.

Reed Warbler

Total:18 (4) 
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (2)
Reed Warbler - 6
Sedge Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 1 (2)
Lesser Whitethroat - 4
Blackcap - 6

In the mid-afternoon we visited Lempa Park. It's a few years since we visited and it's a bit tidier now, with plenty of running water - rather a scarcity in this part of the coast. It was beautifully green and shady providing an inviting habitat for birds and insects. The air thrummed with the sound of insects buzzing and there was plenty of birdsong although most were rather difficult to see.

Millet Skipper

Speckled Wood

Red-veined Dropwing - female

Mallow Skipper

Common Blue on Crown Daisy

Hottentot Fig

View across Lemba Park to the sea

A visit to Mavrokolympos Dam provided some good views of Cyprus Warbler, although other species were thin on the ground.

Cyprus Warbler

5th April - Paramali, Avdimou Bay, Mandria & Ayia Vavara

A truly beautiful day with temperatures climbing into high mid 20s by the afternoon. This did nothing to help the slow migration and produced another rather dire day for migratory species.

After the first two locations we had only seen one Isabelline Wheatear and a Peregrine with more good views os Cyprus Wheatear.

Cyprus Warbler

Painted Lady

Small White

Wild Gladioli

At Mandria we failed to find the reported Citrine Wagtail but a Laughing Dove was most obliging.

Laughing Dove

Trying Ayia Vavara at the end we didn't  see the Spotted Crake very well and the Baillon's not at all! There were a number of Ruff on one of the flooded tanks with some rather flighty Green Sandpipers on the main river. We didn't ring in the evening as intended due to passerines seeming to be rather low in numbers.

April 6th - Kouklia, Torzena, & Ayia Vavara

We met up with Graham and managed a total of 22 birds for 5 and a half hours work in a hot, stony dry river bed with no shade. Best bird was an Ortolan Bunting.

6M Ortolan Bunting

Spanish Sparrow

Another colour-ringed Sardinian Warbler
black/orange, black over metal

Totals:19 (3)

Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Olivaceous Warbler - 1 (1)
Sardinian Warbler - 0 (1)
Blackcap - 8
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Spanish Sparrow -1
Ortolan Bunting - 1

We spent some time trying for some different butterfly species in the uplands, then after lunch gave Ayia Vavara another try.

Orange Tip

A rather worn Eastern Festoon

At Ayia Varvara we managed to track down both reported crakes with seven Gargany on a flooded tank.

Spotted Crake

Baillon's Crake

We rounded off the day with 13 Purple Herons overhead, looking for somewhere to roost.

7th April - Neo Chorio, Polis & Evritou dam

We planned to ring and were there early, but the track was too much for the stupid little hire car (not the model we'd booked) and having negotiated a U turn without any damage and seeing that there were no Redstarts, small migratory warblers (other than Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps) we abandoned ringing attempts as we were too close to the road. A walk around turned up three Masked Shrikes and not so much else.

Wild Gladioli

View from Baths of Aphrodite

Aphrodite's Baths were hopeless. Not a bird in sight, lots of tents and caravans, even the wild flowers were a pale shadow of their former selves - and the beach buggy safaris made far too much noise.

The river at Polis

Pygmy Skipper

Black-tailed Godwit

Citrine Wagtail

Red-veined Dropwing

Keeled Skimmer - male

Southern Darter

We did spend some time at what remains of the river at Polis. We found a Citrine Wagtail,  Black-tailed Godwit, two Little Stints, Snipe, European Kingfisher, Little Crake and Spotted Crake along the watercourse.

Evretou Dam was the fullest we've seen it in years - impossible to drive around so it was time for a meal and back to the apartment.

8th April - Limassol area & Koukli

Reed Warbler

We started the day birding around Limassol, Zakaki Marsh first (Reed Warblers, Glossy Ibis, Little Egrets), then on to the outflow. Here there were a few waders including Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel and Little Ringed Plover. The salt lake was similar to the previous visit.

Akrotiri Salt Lake

Denise looked for Baton Blues along one of the sandy ridges but was not successful, seeing just Crested Larks, Sardinian Warblers and a Ruppell's Warbler, probably freshly in. As whenever the birds are thin and few between there were chances to photograph a few insects.

Keeled Skimmer - female

Bee species

Working the scrubby bushes between the salt lake and Lady's Mile, we happened across a small area where at least six Baton Blues were seen. There were also some Short-toed Larks and three Tawny Pipits.

Eastern Baton Blues

There was nothing along Lady's Mile but we saw a Bonelli's Warbler in the roadside bushes just after the crossing. The area around the church at Akrotiri was really quiet and the only additional migrant from the gravel pits was a male Redstart. A pair of Kentish Plover had 4 small chicks.

The Swifts were impressive, wheeling over Akrotiri Marsh and there were some Glossy Ibis, Ruff and Squacco Heron.

Glossy Ibis

We finished the day with four nets up at Kouklia. Still not much around and only five birds caught, although one was a freshly in Woodchat Shrike.

5M Woodchat Shrike

Total: 4 (1)

Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 1 (1)
Woodchat Shrike - 1
Goldfinch - 1

9th April - Avdimou, Anarita Park and Ayia Vavara

We tried a new ringing site today. When it was reccied there was not a sole about. Today there were cars parked down at the front and tents on the beach! Still, we weren't going that far down so we put up seven nets (just two or three panels high) and hoped to catch scrub warblers and any migrants that might drop in later in the morning.

We had looked at the area on our last birding visit and had noticed a few gaps between bushes that were regularly used by birds and nets at these locations were soon catching.

5M Cyprus Warbler

Arrested moult

We saw a lot more Cyprus Warblers than we caught. Only two females were seen, probably as the birds are sitting on eggs at present. 

At around 10am, a Spotted Flycatcher was seen to drop in. A Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap also were seen but not caught. A Quail was also flushed from long grass but we were unsure how long it had been there.

6M Cyprus Warbler

It was a beautiful coastal spot, but spoiled with all manner of fly tipped waste. It's our convention to name net rides but here the choices might be something like broken bucket, rotting sofa or large plastic bottles.

There were a couple of interesting butterflies at the site including a species of grayling.

Cyprus Grayling

Cyprus Meadow Brown

 This area used to be an expanse of long grass, mostly now arable land.

Harvested field

Totals: 10

Cyprus Warbler - 5
Sardinian Warbler - 4
Greenfinch - 1

We moved on to Anarita where we had a very promising start with 45 Tawny Pipits. After that we only saw the Lesser Kestrels and not much else - so started photographing butterfles again.

Large Wall Brown

Cyprus Grayling

Female Clouded Yellow

We noticed that the Sardinian Warblers had fledged young.

Juvenile Sardinian Warbler

Two of the Lesser Kestrels

Then on to Ayia Varvara where we went for a better look at the Baillon's Crake if possible, and we got excellent views.

Baillon's Crake

10th April - Kouklia

So, we'd reached our last ringing day, joined by Graham, and it loked as though the weather might help bring some migrants in. To start, there was only resident birds so nothing much could have come in the previous evening or over night. For the first time we caught some birds hatched this year.

Juvenile Sardinian Warbler

The catching was slow, slow, slow but with a passage of swifts, including a good number of Alpine Swifts overhead.

Processing birds  at Kouklia

Zitting Cisticola

Later in the morning we began to see some migrants and even managed to catch a couple.

Ortolan Bunting

Northern Wheatear male

Male Kingfisher

Arrested primary moult

There was also another colour ringed Sardinian Warbler among the 13 birds.

Blue/Blue & Black/Metal

Totals: 11 (2)

Kingfisher - 1
Northern Wheatear - 1
Zitting Cisticola - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 3 (2)
Blackcap - 2
Great Tit - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 1

We took one last tour around Anarita, seeing some Corn Buntings and finally seeing a couple of European Rollers, the only ones of our visit. There were no wheatears and still we weren't seeing many migrants.

Corn Bunting

European Roller

So, by the end of our fortnight we still had not seen or heard a Savi's, Willow or Wood Warbler. There were just two Common Redstarts, only one collared Flycatcher, one Spotted Flycatcher and one Bonelli's Warbler. The captured Great Reed Warbler was the only one seen although a second was heard. A poor spring migration by any measure.

11th April - Larnaca

The next day we drove to Larnaca for the flight home, stopping off to look at the waders on the pool by the airport. Here we saw Ruff, a Greater Sandplover in summer plumage and a good sized group of Little Stints, but were interupted by the Airport Police who objected to our presence and took our identification details again. This has now happened at least three times over the years, and we even recognised the officers. The seagw works held little of special interest, 4 Black-necked Grebes were still present.