Saturday 13 April 2019

Cyprus Birding Trip Summary Mar/Apr 2019

An excellent 10 days or so birding at the end of March / beginning of April 2019.

Decent weather throughout comfortable for birding and productive for migration with about 120 species seen. A full day by day trip report to be posted soon plus a birding video compilation, but please find the following summary showing some key sightings per area.

The North West - Cape Drepanum, Baths of Aphrodite and Neo Chorio

Cape Drepanum, the short headland below Agios Georgios lies 20 km or so north of Paphos, the next stop the Akamas peninsula. It offers scrub and short grassy/sandy ground bordered by a rocky shore. On the interior it backs in part into a craggy cliff. The location and habitat good for witnessing both overhead and on the deck migration, but the site is popular and mornings are best when the wildlife is less disturbed. A good selection of Warblers throughout the period with Ruppell's and Eastern Orphean seen on most visits with lots of Lesser Whitethroats and Sardinian as well. A Short-eared Owl rested here one morning whilst Wryneck, Cretzschmar's and Ortolan Buntings noted on separate visits. Herons migrated overhead on a couple of dates including a mixed flock of ~40 Purple, 4 Grey and 3 Night Herons. Strong hirundine movements namely one date had a morning passage of Red-rumped Swallows (150) with Barn Swallows (200) on the move another evening. That same evening saw an impressive movement of "Yellow" Wagtails a minimum of 650 of which 450 flew north before sunset. Most very wary and from brief looks comprised 'flava', 'feldegg' and intergrade types.

The Baths of Aphrodite has always been hit or miss for me for bird migration, on this trip it wasn't too bad. Masked Shrikes, Ruppell's Warblers, Eastern Bonelli's and Wood Warblers, with Alpine Swifts noted and a couple of Pallid Swifts over the coast. Sadly, nearby, the track between Agios Minas to Smiyies Picnic Site near Neo Chorio was quiet for both resident and migrant birds.

Paphos Area - The Headland, Timi Beach, Mandria, Asprokremmos Dam and Anarita Park

Both the outer and inner parts of the headland at Paphos were productive throughout. One visit to the inner (Archaeological site) produced a nice movement of passerines north along the western edge with Eastern Orphean, Ruppell's, Savi's, Sedge and a Great Reed Warbler noted, the latter dwarfed a Whinchat sat next to it. A fairly long staying male 'Caspian' Stonechat looked bright, frequently tail-flicked to show its characteristic white outer tail feathers. Wheatears included several smart Black-eared, Northern and Isabelline varieties throughout with a long staying rarity/scarcity in the form of a female Hooded Wheatear covering the shoreline along the western side of the outer headland. Masked and Woodchat Shrikes noted and Hoopoes commonplace. At the point a summer-plumaged Greater Sandplover roosted one evening with 2 even smarter male Kentish Plovers and a Dunlin alongside. Kingfisher was regular by the rock pools. Red-throated Pipits in varying degrees of summer attire were reliable as were seeing the swarm of "Yellow" Wagtails of varying types. Local Kestrels hovered over the grassland throughout and male Pallid Harriers were very showy on several dates. A Black Kite flew in off one morning as did a Short-eared Owl on another date. Herons noted circling the point on occasion included groups of Purple Herons and a handful of Night Herons.

Timi Beach offered a temporary wetland, the flooded picnic area, that was an oasis to passage waders and herons. Little Egrets and Glossy Ibises were regular, a Squacco proved more elusive, and waders included dwindling sightings of Marsh Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks. Ruff sightings were consistent throughout and Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers noted along with a couple of Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers. One blustery day produced a flock of 9 blogging Gull-billed Terns offshore with 4 Slender-billed Gulls east. A male Collared Flycatcher was worth trudging through the muddy picnic site on the same date.

'The Bowl' by the beach at Mandria produced Wheatears, Larks and Pipits and Marsh Harrier sightings, and in general offered the same passerines feeding on the short grassy/sandy terrain as found at nearby Timi Beach and Paphos Headland. Laughing Dove by the greenhouses at the turn off down towards Lark Corner.

Asprokremmos Dam held Eastern Bonelli's Warblers (2 dates), and Wood Warbler with Semi-collared Flycatchers in trees nearby on one date. A male Pallid Harrier flew north one afternoon and on another a pair of Bonelli's Eagles patrolled the uplands.

Anarita Park, the rough grazing area rising into the hills north of Paphos Plain, gave a nice variety of birds. Great Spotted Cuckoos, many Hoopoes, Cretzschmar's and Ortolan Buntings, many Black-eared Wheatears to mention but a few species. Passage raptors included Pallid, Montagu's and Marsh Harriers and a lone adult Peregrine. Quail called on a couple of occasions from fields at the southern edge of the 'Park'.

Akrotiri - The peninsula SW of Limassol a key birding area

The focus was Akrotiri Marsh which provided a decent diversity of sightings. Selected highlights included water birds - Cattle Egrets, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Ruff, and Marsh Sandpiper. An 'ocularis' White Wagtail was perhaps a returning bird and was interesting to see. Zakaki Pools were overgrown but the nearby shingle beach gave sightings of half a dozen or so Armenian Gulls. Too early for Eleonora's Falcons but a Griffon Vulture circled near Kensington Cliffs.

Larnaca and Cape Greco

Larnaca area - twitched Kiti Dam seeing my first Semi-collared Flycatchers, giving a nice comparison with a male Pied Flycatcher also on site. A quick look at Oroklini Marsh before flying back to the UK produced Little Crake, Cattle Egrets and several ducks including Garganey.

Cape Greco - the rocky headland at the SE corner of the island gave trip ticks on the final day - Spectacled Warblers and Rock Thrush (f), a swing around and you could see a Blue Rock Thrush (f) for comparison. Alpine Swifts flew in off and the typical Wheatears, Larks and Pipits could be seen on the hillside near the Sea Caves, the same could be said for other 'Sylvia' Warblers not mentioned. Ayia Napa, may not be immediately noted for its sewage works lying directly inland of the Cape, but this place was home to passage Eastern Bonelli's, Wood and Willow Warblers alongside Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and a male Redstart. A Bee-eater species flew in off and quickly over the hill before its identity could be confirmed.