Trip Report: Cyprus April 2007
Observers: Owen Foley, Conor Foley and Donal Foley
Text and Photos: Owen Foley
We flew out from Gatwick on the 8th of April, flying into Paphos airport. Using the Paphos area as a base, we hired a car to reach a number of other areas including the Akhamas peninsula, Akrotiri salt lake and Phassouri reed beds, Larnaca salt pools and the Troodos Mountains. Car rental equated to just 30 Euros a day for a 1.3 Litre 4 Wheel Drive Suzuki Swift. Accommodation equated to just 22 Euros per night B+B.
1. Paphos Headland and nearby areas.
Early morning at Paphos produced a wide variety of birds. A fortunate wrong turn brought us first to the harbour, where a stunning Pied Kingfisher was our first tick of the trip, feeding from the mooring lines of the many boats in the harbour
on to the beach, our next tick was an Isabelline Wheatear amongst the many Black eared and Northern
Wheatears feeding on the flat rocky areas. Scopoli’s
Shearwaters moved in small numbers offshore and visible migration was
quite obvious, with many Yellow
wagtails (of several different races) present on the beach and nearby
fields. The calls of both Tree
and Red Throated Pipits were constantly heard over head.
Also calling obviously were the many Black
Francolins present in the scrub, a piercing call, somewhat a mix
between that of a pheasant and a rooster.
In amongst the small groups of Ortolan
Buntings on the headland were one or two Cretzschmars
Moving on to the beach, our next tick was an Isabelline Wheatear amongst the many Black eared and Northern Wheatears feeding on the flat rocky areas. Scopoli’s Shearwaters moved in small numbers offshore and visible migration was quite obvious, with many Yellow wagtails (of several different races) present on the beach and nearby fields. The calls of both Tree and Red Throated Pipits were constantly heard over head. Also calling obviously were the many Black Francolins present in the scrub, a piercing call, somewhat a mix between that of a pheasant and a rooster. In amongst the small groups of Ortolan Buntings on the headland were one or two Cretzschmars Buntings.
Nightingales were obvious in their abundance, both calling plaintively from vegetation and flicking across the pathways. The scrub also held a large fall of Blackcaps and numerous Sardinian Warblers, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and the odd Wryneck and Woodchat Shrike. Also seen here were our first Eastern Black Eared Wheatears, favouring the ruins on the headland. Swallows, both Barn and Red Rumped, flew low around the headland with the many Martins and Swifts, which included Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts.
Warbler (Female), Owen Foley, Paphos.
After a productive morning on the headland we moved on to near by Paphos sewerage plant which produced 8 adult Spur winged Plovers as well as numerous Wood Sandpipers, Ruff and several Little Stints. An adult Masked Shrike flew in front of the car at a nearby dry riverbed, giving good views.
Nearby Asprokremnos Dam produced the endemic Cyprus Wheatear, and Cyprus Warbler, as well as Little Owl, a Juvenile Night Heron, Purple Heron, Marsh Harrier and a few Chukars, their throaty call echoing down the valley. A couple of hunters in the area were, to our relief, not after the birds, but where instead after snakes....namely the quite venomous (and disturbingly large) Blunt Nosed Viper...Okay...so maybe not much better conservation wise...but at least they weren’t flushing birds on us.
2. Akrotiri Salt Lake and adjacent marshes.
45 minutes from Paphos, the Akrotiri peninsula, just a few miles south of Limmasol, is a fantastically rich area for a variety of bird species. However Cyprus has been in quite a drought over the past few years, with many dams in the country being dry as a bone. As a result the nearby marshes were, save for Phassouri reed bed, quite barren of birdlife.
Phassouri, despite being drier than in normal years, held a fantastic array of species, including Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Yellow Wagtail, Black Winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper. Whilst watching a Water Pipit on a nearby reedmass, an adult male Little Crake emerged into the open giving stunning views. Numerous Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards and Common Kestrels hunted over the reed beds.
We then moved on to the nearby Kensington cliffs, a breeding site for both Eleonoras Falcon and Griffon Vulture. Both of these species, were yet to be present in numbers and none were seen whilst we were there, however a fantastic adult Black Vulture rose off the Cliffs and afforded good views. Numerous Alpine Swifts were also present here, screaming past just inches from our heads.
We also saw our first Roller of the trip, typically, on overhead wires by the roadside, a truly stunning bird.
3. The Akhamas Peninsula.
We began the day at the famous Baths of Aphrodite, a noted migration watch point where birds feed up before making the crossing to Turkey. A Wood Warbler showed well at the entrance to the caravan park, with the almost acrocephalus sounding song of Masked Shrike echoing around the groves.
It was here we encountered our first Eastern Bonellis Warbler of the trip. Further up the hill at Symies track, the buzzing song of the Cyprus Wheatear resounded around the hills, with the water troughs in this area, the only source of water for birds to drink, producing both male Collared and Semi-Collared Flycatchers (along with Pied Flycatcher) and yet more Eastern Bonellis Warblers.
then moved back south to Cape Drepanum, (seeing an Adult Long
Legged Buzzard along the way) where we saw numerous Greater
Short Toed Larks, Yellow Wagtails, with more Black
Eared Wheatears and an Isabelline
We then moved back south to Cape Drepanum, (seeing an Adult Long Legged Buzzard along the way) where we saw numerous Greater Short Toed Larks, Yellow Wagtails, with more Black Eared Wheatears and an Isabelline Wheatear.
4. Larnaca salt marshes.
Two hours from Paphos, beside Larnaca airport, are a number of very productive salt pools. A few hours driving around these produced Spectacled Warbler, Marsh Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Greater Flamingo, Slender Billed Gull, Little Gull and Greater Sandplover.
A nearby marsh at Oirilinki, not described in any of the texts, produced several more Marsh Sandpipers with other waders such as Ruff, Little Stint, Wood and Green Sandpipers, numerous Black Winged Stilts and Glossy Ibis and a surprise 1st year Common Crane. Passerines here included Yellow Wagtails, Spectacled Warbler, Great spotted Cuckoo and Hoopoe.
5. Paphos, Mandria and
Phassouri Reed Beds.
The early morning at Paphos produced yet more new trip birds such as a migrant Blue Rock Thrush at the ruins of Dionysus. Flocks of herons migrating included 25 Night Herons and several Squacco Herons. Several Woodchat Shrikes (of the races Senator and Niloticus) afforded good views, whilst Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers were in strong numbers in the scrub of the headland with a few Wrynecks mixed in for good measure.
Mandria Beach produced yet more Greater Short Toed Larks and Red Throated Pipits, with good numbers of Eastern Black Eared Wheatears and a pair of Isabelline Wheatears.
The evening was spent at Phassouri Reed Beds, were numerous waders fed in close proximity, including Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover. Reed, Great Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted around the reed stems and many Little Crakes emerged to feed. Heron species included Purple Heron, Night Heron, Grey Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret and Cattle Egret. Yellow Wagtails arrived to roost in the evening, with Citrine Wagtail being heard at this site also.
Blue Rock Thrush
The Troodos Mountains occupy a large portion of the centre of the island of Cyprus, and provide the best opportunity for seeing Bonelli’s Eagle and the scarce Imperial Eagle, as well as the endemic races of Jay, Coal Tit, Wren and Short Toed Tree Creeper. The woodlands around the village of Troodos (some two thousand meters above sea level and still emerging from the winter snow) provided these endemics easily with all but wren being easily seen. The Coal Tit in particular was remarkably different from our own. Several stake outs for Raptors failed to produce either eagle and we returned to the lower sections of the island.
Asprokremnos dam held Osprey and Gull Billed Tern as well as a migrating Steppe Buzzard. Several Rollers were seen on telegraph wires along the way.
7. Phassouri Reed beds and Akrotiri.
An early morning trip to Phassouri Reed Beds produced a stunning Baillons Crake and over 20 Little Crakes. Several Eastern Black Eared Wheatears and an Isabelline Wheatear were at the nearby gravel pits, with Spectacled Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and other common migrants also in this area. A ring tail Pallid Harrier was at nearby Lady’s mile.
Upon returning to Phassouri, 2 Blue Cheeked Bee eaters began feeding over the marsh, truly stunning birds and easily the bird of the trip for me. These birds gave stunning views for over half an hour.
towards Paphos, Mandria Beach played host to four migrating Red
Footed Falcons (3 adult males and an adult female), with a flock of 14
Eurasian Spoonbills moving offshore.
Returning towards Paphos, Mandria Beach played host to four migrating Red Footed Falcons (3 adult males and an adult female), with a flock of 14 Eurasian Spoonbills moving offshore.
Red Footed Falcon (Male)
8. Akhamas Peninsula.
An early morning trip to the Akhamas peninsula began at Symies track, producing an extremely obliging Eastern Olivaceous Warbler drinking from the troughs and allowing excellent views from the car. Ortolan Buntings were again in strong numbers with several parties sitting in trees around the area. A pair of Goshawk afforded good views moving up the valley with a Hobby moving through the area also.
The Polis area nearby produced yet more Rollers, with a pair affording excellent views just overhead on wires in breeding habitat.
Evretou Dam produced more Chukar
and Great Spotted Cuckoo, with
a Calidus race Perigrine Falcon
hunting the area, eventually harassing an adult Bonellis
Eagle, a long awaited tick for me. The lower end of the dam produced
another Ringtail Pallid Harrier
and an adult male Red Footed Falcon,
along with more Corn Bunting, Black Headed Wagtail and Flava
Wagtails and our only Little
Bittern of the trip, a stunning male.
The Evretou Dam produced more Chukar and Great Spotted Cuckoo, with a Calidus race Perigrine Falcon hunting the area, eventually harassing an adult Bonellis Eagle, a long awaited tick for me. The lower end of the dam produced another Ringtail Pallid Harrier and an adult male Red Footed Falcon, along with more Corn Bunting, Black Headed Wagtail and Flava Wagtails and our only Little Bittern of the trip, a stunning male.
The return trip to Mandria produced several more Rollers as well as 3 Long Legged Buzzards and a male Red Footed Falcon. Mandria itself had obvious migration underway, with over a dozen Purple Herons roosting in crop fields. A female Marsh Harrier passed close by, with many Eastern Black Eared Wheatears in the fields with Red Throated Pipits. A pair of Stone Curlews was also present in the area with large flock of Greater Short Toed Larks. Many migrants were also grounded on the beach, with Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Sub Alpine Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Collared Flycatcher all feeding in the scrub.
9. Final Day. Paphos Headland.
Rain just before dawn produced our only fall of migrants of the trip, with a massive deluge of migrants landing in the Paphos area. The headland itself was heaving with Yellow Wagtails of several races, Tree Pipits, Red Throated Pipits, Tawny Pipits, Whinchats, and Wheatears.
Many Woodchat Shrikes were also present, with a migrant Masked Shrike also. 2 Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers were amongst the many Lesser Whitethroats, Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps. Pied Flycatchers, were in good numbers with both Collared and Semi-Collared Flycatchers also present. Numerous Wrynecks flicked across the paths, feeding with the abundant Nightingales. 2 Eastern Olivaceous Warblers fed in the scrub near the Ruins of Dionysus with similar scrub producing our only Ruppell's Warbler of the Trip.
Several Flocks of Herons moved over head with Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron and Great White Egret all being seen. Birds were also moving in off the sea with several Hoopoes moving through, as well as Common Nightjar and Common Quail. Another Calidus race Peregrine hunted over the headland and an Eleonora’s Falcon also came off the sea.
Cape Drepanum had a large flock of Greater Short Toed Larks and Yellow Wagtails. With numerous Black Eared Wheatears, Red throated Pipits and Tawny Pipits. Several Quail moved in off the sea here and 6 Great White Egrets roosted on the island off shore.
Total species: 164