Back on Cyprus staying again in the NW at Droushia (14 - 21 October 2017). Arrived mid-evening at Larnaca Airport out East travelling the couple of hours or so to Droushia in the Northwest. Tuned into Forces Radio covering BBC Radio 5-live footy commentary. Rock FM (Paphos to Polis) was also a good listen.
Sunday 15 October 2017 -
birded the western edge of Cyprus, namely sites in the NW in the morning and then Paphos area into the afternoon and evening.
First stop the Baths of Aphrodite where several bird migrants were present in small numbers amongst the many resident Sardinian Warblers
. Highlights included Redstart
, 2 Lesser Whitethroats
and a juv. Red-backed Shrike
. A 'bins' only view of a large white 'Heron' heading for shore further along the Akamas Peninsula was probably a Great White Egret. Nearby, and a couple of kms inland, a Siskin
on the deck by the spring at Agios Minas was perhaps unusual. Overhead action included 2 presumably local adult Bonelli's Eagles
heading out into their territory, whereas an Osprey
in a fast glide was probably fresh in off the Med. and definitely going places. Several Kestrels
around. Barn Swallows
seen moving in a group of 20 at Droushia and at nearby Kathikas another such group moved along a shallow valley that hosted Spotted Flycatcher
and a pair of Whinchats
. A noisy covey of about 20 Chukar
was flushed here, the chattering call a signature of the sun drenched Cyprus landscape. Last stop in the NW being at Cape Drepanum where migration was slow, very slow, if at all! Singles of Crested Lark
, Sardinian Warbler
and a pair of Stonechats
were noteworthy plus a by default adult ‘desmarestii’ Shag
was on the island.
Bonellis's Eagle, Agios Minas (15 October 2017)
Off to the SW the half hour or so journey to Paphos Headland and ending with the last light of day a few kms back up the coast near Mavrokolympos Dam. At first the Archaeological site at Paphos Headland didn't appear 'birdy'. Mid-afternoon in the high 20s with lots of sun, but it didn't turn out to bad. A thunderstorm developed to the north of Paphos but it spared the headland as it drifted east. On site: 2 Northern Wheatears
, 3 or 4 juv Red-backed Shrikes
and local Kestrels
, Sardinian Warblers
, Hooded Crows
and both House and Spanish Sparrows
. The occasional Yellow-legged Gull
flew over from the Marina and another Shag
headed towards Cape Drepanum, which was visible to the north. On leaving the Archaeological site I took the outer path around the Headland specifically to look for the Greater Sandplovers
that spend several months in the area. 3 were sleeping trying to hide by the rock pools. At the tip of the headland a pale Wheatear was pogged up but due to the extensive foot traffic it wasn't showy. Alas, a couple of record photos revealed it to be another Northern Wheatear
. Ended the day along the road to Mavro. Dam which provided trip ticks in the form of Sparrowhawk
, Grey Heron
and a calling Cyprus Scops Owl
Monday 16 October 2017 -
off to the Akrotiri Peninsula, taking in the Observation Deck at the Environment Education Centre, Phasouri Reedbeds and Zakaki Pools, before heading back west to scan the fields at Mandria to the east of Paphos. Ending the day on the north coast 20km east of Polis at Cape Pomos for a late afternoon seawatch. It's easy to visit the same sites day after day so trying to do different places each day or at different times, although will probably fall back into the repetitive trap.
First visit to the Environment Education Centre overlooking the Salt Lake at Akrotiri which was bone dry. Aiming to connect with raptors, arrived just before 10am spending one hour and connected with Kestrels
. In the distance to the east were several large raptors and Falcons that did not have a Kestrel jizz. Both sets were too distant and the atmosphere hazy. A flock of 10 Common Cranes
almost got away as they came in from the SE circled that corner and then exited back SE. Stopped off at Phassouri Reedbeds (Akrotiri Marsh). No water but the relatively recent restoration of the site evident. The tethered cattle had lots of 'Alba' Wagtails
at their feet with a 'Flava'
cousin. Zakaki Pools more productive hosting a fairly confiding juv. Little Crake
whilst overhead a flock of Barn Swallows
had single House and Sand Martins
for company. A Hobby
watched over the hirundines and Kestrels
were present plus a brief view of a juv. Red-footed Falcon
over the tree line. A couple of rufous juv. Bonelli's Eagles
flew high over the hide and a Cetti's Warbler
scolded from the thickset reedbed, as they like to do!
Little Crake, Zakaki Pools (16 October 2017)
The agricultural area south of Mandria was good around 'Lark Corner' with lots of 'Alba' Wagtails
and amongst them a Red-throated Pipit
retaining a bit of a red throat. 6 Whinchats
on marker posts noteworthy as was the 'cream crown' Marsh Harrier
in the area.
En route back to the NW a Long-legged Buzzard
circled the hills near Stroumpi. Arrived at Cape Pomos not long after 4pm spending the last light seawatching. A loose feeding flock of around 150 Scopoli's Shearwaters
spent most of the time on the horizon, although some came closer as dusk approached. On occasion Yelkouan Shearwaters
(up to 5 or so) could be picked up flying alongside its larger cousin, again close to the horizon. Not much features on the smaller Shearwater at this range, looked black and white, but a couple of the closer ones presented a structure bulkier than the 'Manx' of back home, and on prolonged views they did look excessive in the tail. Cannot say 'long-tailed', they just had a somewhat, and I know it's subjective, of a 'this is not a Manxy' feel to them. No elevation at this site meant that both Shearwater species were easily lost in the troughs.
Tuesday 17 October 2017 -
started back at Akrotiri, leaving the peninsula via Kensington Cliffs spending the afternoon at Mandria with sunset birding at nearby Asprokremmos Pools.
At Akrotiri visited Bishop's Pool after a stop at Zakaki Pools. Bishop's Pool was more birdy and included possibly the same juv. Bonelli's Eagle
circling overhead that was perched up at distance earlier at Zakaki Pools. At Bishop's Pool, where it drew the ire of a couple of patrolling Eleonora's Falcons
the pool held Teal
, Little Grebe
, Little Egret
, the last two species also seen earlier at Zakaki Pools which had in addition a Marsh Harrier
and from which ~40 Common Cranes
circled well to the west of the salt lake. On leaving Zakaki Pools a trip tick in the form of an elegant Spur-winged Plover
landed just south of the pull in and then headed for the Lady's Mile area of the peninsula which itself hosted many Kentish Plovers.
Just before midday a smart juv. Pallid Harrier
circled Bishop's Pool and then headed high SW, not before showing off it's pale-lined upperwing, underwing and a face pattern characterised by a strong boa. Also, as noted on high flying adult makes a couple of years or so ago when soaring, this bird also held its wings forward creating a distinctive shape with a flat trailing edge. Kensington Cliffs held nearly double figures of Eleonora's Falcons
performing their acrobatics along the cliff face. Not enough adjectives to describe these beauties. A Griffon Vulture
came in from the north and Jackdaws
and Feral Pigeons
performed their very lesser league aerials. A small covey of Chukar
flew around right at the cliff edge, madness!
Eleonora's Falcon, 17 October 2017
Mandria held a dozen Red-footed Falcons
in a ploughed field late afternoon a few hundred yards NW of the 'beach' church, comfortable sçope views. Most juvs, and at least one each of adult male and female. Getting late in the season for them. A Long-legged Buzzard
took to the skies but was soon back down as it was spotted by a pair of grumpy Hooded Crows
. 'Lark Corner' only produced a couple of Northern Wheatears
. A few miles inland Aspro. Dam was the final stop of the day. A group of small Falcons were actively hunting the valley just before the bend towards the Dam. Walked back from the Dam car park and was treated to a hawking lesson by 4 Red-footed Falcons
that were joined by a Hobby
and even a Kestrel
got into the feeding on the wing mood! A Peregrine
must have been jealous, a small male flew through the merry bunch exiting quickly over the hill to the west. Difficult to walk away from this spectacle especially as it was instructive to compare the hunting flights and silhouette of the 'Red-foots' with that of the juv. Hobby, which could have been easily overlooked. At the Dam a group of 30 Yellow-legged Gulls
took off to the coast soon followed by 6 Cormorants
. The scrub held Red-throated Pipits
only viewable in flight and identified by the distinctive 'spee' call. As the sun set Hooded Crows
grumbled their way to roost and out of nowhere 6 more Red-footed Falcons
flew in low from the north along the Dam side, again most juvs. with a beautiful adult female, her blue upperparts glowing in the early evening sunlight.
Red-footed Falcon, Asprokremmos Dam (17 October 2017)
Wednesday 18 October 2017 -
slow paced birding. The weather remained the same, but despite the high temperatures the pm breezes made birding fairly pleasant. Stayed 'west' and visited Evretou Dam, Aspro. Dam and Paphos Headland.
Evretou Dam up in the NW was peaceful. A Long-legged Buzzard
circled as did Kestrel
. A (partially Blue) Blue Rock Thrush
was a nice surprise here as it flushed from the Dam wall to the cliff face opposite the shelter, in turn flushed by 2 helicopters passing along the length of the Dam. Sardinian Warblers
rattled away. Off to another Dam, Aspro. Dam which held 5 Eleonora's Falcons
lounging about along the eastern shore, one of which was a full dark adult. A group of Teal, single Coot
, several Cormorant
, Little Egret
and Grey Heron
present as were Chukar
. No repeat of yesterday evening's Falcon shenanigans either, but visiting early afternoon instead. Can't grumble at connecting with 5 Falcon species in this area within 24hrs. Late afternoon at Paphos Headland where a Greater Sandplover
fed on the rocks, and a 180° turn saw a few Stonechats
present through the wire at the Archaeological site. A juv. Red-backed Shrike
took stock of the surroundings from the scattered bushes therein.
Long-legged Buzzard, Evretou Dam (18 October 2017)
Thursday 19 October 2017 -
visited that oasis at Akrotiri, the Zakaki Pools, followed by a walk around the area by Agios Georgios nr Akrotiri village and back west to several sites east of Paphos. Before ending the day with another Cape Pomos seawatch had a few minutes at base camp - Droushia. Weather put simply as #whenwillitrain.
Zakaki Pools was good, several new birds for the trip including a Bluethroat
that showed half hidden along the water's edge. Kingfisher
flew over and a Penduline Tit
called from somewhere in the reeds along with a couple of vocal Cetti's Warblers
and a perched up Stonechat.
A couple of Moorhens
ventured out and a Water Rail
squeaked from its hiding place. 5 Common Cranes
circled over the Salt Lake for a long time, looked like they didn't have a clue as to where to drop anchor! Also up high were a pair of Common Buzzards
, 3 Marsh Harriers
and singles of Kestrel
. The highlight being a 'ring tail' Hen Harrier
that came in from the north and made its way south dropping down somewhere over the Salt Lake. There's something daft about watching a Hen Harrier circling in 30°C heat! At the SW corner of the Peninsula visited the barren yet beautiful landscape around Agios Georgios. The scrub was virtually bird free apart from a juv. Red-backed Shrike
just behind the church, and of course a Sardinian Warbler
Headed west and tried the nature trail leading behind the car park at Aphrodite's Rock (east of Paphos). Sardinian Warblers
present, but it doesn't half look a good migration trap when migration is in full swing. Nearby at Kouklia a Laughing Dove
was present by the Archaeological site, on the same TV aerial as seen a few years ago. Mandria was dead!
Laughing Dove, Koukila (19 October 2017)
Back at Droushia mid afternoon and a Long-legged Buzzard
circled to the NW and just about to leave for Cape Pomos when a male Cyprus Wheatear
perched up on a tree across the road. Good views for a minute and then it was off, no doubt to join its friends that have already left for the winter. Cape Pomos seawatch was ok, only Scopoli's Shearwaters
on view in the last 90 mins of daylight and most were distant, including a loose flock of 30 on and beyond the horizon. Nice to study the different flight patterns such as the typical gull like flight interspersed with glides, and the powerful direct flight.
Friday 20 October 2017 -
birding saw me visit Paphos headland, Aspro. Dam and Cape Drepanum.
Firstly a last look at the Archaeological site at Paphos Headland where many Stonechat
'chacked', a Red-backed Shrike
sunned itself and a flyover Red-throated Pipit
called. Little breeze it was getting warm, so may sound a bit daft but headed inland to Aspro Dam. This was not a bad tactic as it turned into a raptor fest between 12 and 2pm! First up a couple of Kestrels
that would be on show on and off. Enter from the left an adult female Red-footed Falcon
who circled up into the deep blue sky (thought they had all gone through?) A ‘wingy’ Falcon tormented a Yellow-legged Gull
on the far shore, a dark morph Eleonora's Falcon
, a pale morph patrolled the Dam heading north about an hour later. In the meantime 1+ Hobby
took its/their anger out on the airborne insects. Enter from the north a juv. female Peregrine
demonstrating her powerful flight and flashing her white tail band as she gained height disappearing to the east. Long-legged Buzzard
circled to the east. I'm saving the best to last. 2 Ospreys
spent time circling the Dam, one of which had a fish take away, it's pal was jealous!
Back towards Droushia and a few kms north of Paphos a pair of Long-legged Buzzards
were gliding over a valley, their long-winged and bulky structure (cf. Common Buzzard) noticeable to the naked eye. Another flew over Droushia where a cc Marsh Harrier
was over the hillside sloping down towards the Med. to the north. Early evening at Cape Drepanum where a (Brown) Blue Rock Thrush
looked down from the crags leading towards Agios Georgios. Stonechat
, Northern Wheatear
, Crested Lark
and Sardinian Warbler
added to the birding variety.
Blue Rock Thrush, Cape Drepanum (20 October 2017)
Saturday 21 October 2017 -
off east to Cape Greco and Larnaca Sewage Works Pools before flying back to the UK from Larnaca in the evening.
About 2 hrs 45 mins drive from Droushia across the bottom of the island to Cape Greco. Very craggy landscape at Cape Greco with rough land and scattered bushes. The bushes at the base of a crag a few hundred yards west of the Aerial farm produced the most activity. I'm sure a Red-backed Shrike
was close to taking one of the many Stonechats
, a Spectacled Warbler
chatted in anger and quickly disappeared into the scrub. The mound to the east had a Whinchat
and Northern Wheatear
whereas the telegraph wires/poles played host to a male Cyprus Wheatear
. Just before leaving a (partially blue) Blue Rock Thrush
was on the crag overlooking the picnic site in the north side, where 2 Barn Swallows
flew south and a local Yellow-legged Gull
drifted by. On leaving a couple more Northern Wheatears
were present by the roadside near the visitors centre.
Cyprus Wheatear, Cape Greco (21 October 2017)
Larnaca Sewage Works certainly boosted the trip list. Lots of duck dominated by Shoveler
. Also picked out were Pintail
and a couple of Ferruginous Ducks
. Little Grebe
present and a Black-necked Grebe
was close to the hide. Other stars included 70+ Greater Flamingos
, double figures of Yellow-legged Gulls
, several Black-headed Gulls
and 2 fast moving Whiskered Terns
. The list continues with Redshank
. Lots of Spur-winged Plovers
(20+) on the Pool side and in nearby fields. They were spooked by a cc Marsh Harrier
that made an unsuccessful swoop at the Teal
. On leaving the hide Stonechat, Spectacled Warbler
and Northern Wheatear
were present along the track/bushes with a juv. Red-backed Shrike
near the road.
A fantastic trip, good value and good variety. The Falcons were the stars. Many thanks to those who helped me in the field and online (many thanks for the twitter likes/retweets).
A detailed trip report to come once I've sorted out the photos and videos, hope this is a good taster of what mid-October birding in Cyprus can offer.