Wednesday 5 April 2023

Birding Cyprus 18 - 25 March 2023 - Summary

Generally good weather throughout, with showers at first and winds more favourable for bird migration as the week progressed. Temperatures generally low 20Cs.

The North West – Cape Drepanum was a must visit, especially as being based fairly close by, and it turned up some good birding. Sightings included passage Ruppell’s Warblers throughout, the only Eastern Subalpine Warbler of the trip at the beginning and Cretzschmar’s Buntings at the end. Stone Curlews moved north on one visit as did Herons with flocks of Grey Herons carrying Purple Herons and Night Herons respectively one late afternoon, a day when a string of 120 Cormorants moved through on a similar line, reminiscent of movements of Double-crested Cormorants in New Jersey. Pulses of Swifts and hirundines seen moving north towards the Akamas Peninsula, where on one visit Red-rumped Swallows and Barn Swallows were migrating in equal numbers. Alpine Swifts going through always a fine sight, and fantastic views of a couple of Pallid Swifts moving through ahead of Common Swifts on my last day of the trip. A Wryneck fed alongside feldegg Yellow Wagtails by the side of a rough track late on in the trip where nearby fields and hedges held a roaming flock of at least 300 Spanish Sparrows throughout, from where a Black Francolin ‘chuckled’. An unexpected sighting at this coastal location was of a winter/subadult pale morph Arctic Skua flying in off the sea early one evening picking out a Yellow-legged Gull over the small harbour to have a go at, before returning to sit on the water. The only shrikes of the trip seen here, namely Woodchat Shrike and Masked Shrike. Nearby a passage Osprey on the last day of the trip moved north along the ridge above Peyia and west of Kathikas. Further north at Droushia Laughing Doves were noted, extending their reach on the island.

Grey and Purple Herons

Masked Shrike


The South West – Paphos Headland was disappointing for migration on one visit only, so I didn’t give it much of a chance to prove otherwise. Together with the lack of access to the ‘outer’ headland made this corner of the island less inviting this visit. However, a few miles east at Agia Varvara, Mandria and Asprokremmos Dam, these noted birding sites didn’t disappoint. Be it of scolding mischievous Great Spotted Cuckoos, 2 Spotted Crakes at a pool of the former where a Jack Snipe tried to hide from all, or in the farmlands at Mandria where a scarcity in the form of a Black-bellied Sandgrouse looked dazzling in flight. It was good birding all round in this area including up to Anarita Park. A study of continuing Eastern Bonelli’s Warblers at ‘Aspro’ Dam was second to none and on the theme, Bonelli’s Eagles in the region didn’t want to be left out and demonstrated their prowess on several occasions. An initially reluctant to fly Collared Pratincole by the coast at Mandria did take to the skies wowing onlookers with its aerial skills.

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

Bonelli's Eagle

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Collared Pratincole

South Central, i.e. Akrotiri – didn’t venture south of an imaginary line from Akrotiri Marsh to Zakaki Marsh on several visits, lots of good birding happening at the northern end. The former held many feldegg Yellow Wagtails, with a thunbergi picked out, plus trip tick Sand Martin and Marsh Sandpipers (3) and Ruff (20) shared pools with Black-tailed Godwits and Glossy Ibis. Many other species seen boosting the trip list. The latter site held scurrying Little Crakes, and by comparison a gigantic Water Rail. Griffon Vultures were airborne over the north west cliffs on driving back west.

(Grey-headed) Yellow Wagtail

The East  - twitch of the  year/decade/century, well the rarity value of Didric Cuckoo, or should that be Diederik Cuckoo, hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Didn’t hear its call/song in too much detail to comment on the spelling or the validity of the name, but was very glad after skipping the wonderful hotel breakfast to drive east into the sunrise across the bottom of the island to receive the email that it was still there on its second day. Not sure what to expect, a kind of Downy Woodpecker meets Wryneck in the shape of a diminutive Cuckoo. The bronze and emeralds glowed in the morning light, better in shadow, set against a red eye and black and white barring/spots. Green and Wood Sandpipers shared the rough ground around the residential areas by Lake Paralimini as did a male Bluethroat. Laughing Doves, literally, looked down on the twitch which amounted to half a dozen or so birders/photographers between 08:00 and 09:30 on the second day. Perhaps a different approach to twitching in Cyprus compared with GB. Nearby, the bird migration hotspot of Cape Greco was a bit of an afterthought on this occasion and would have provided a birding choice should the Cuckoo have done an overnight bunk. The Cape was slow for migration on the visit, but a northerly component to the wind and late morning visit didn’t help. But, still nice to go birding in this wonderful landscape by the Mediterranean. Before flying back to the UK a look at Larnaca Sewage Works and surrounding area produced a few more trip ticks including Slender-billed Gulls with Black-headed Gulls on the western pool.

Diederik Cuckoo

Laughing Dove

Slender-billed and Black-headed Gulls

A full trip report to follow plus video compilation. A quick look at the facts and figures and about 110 species or so seen/heard in the penultimate week of March 2023.

Many thanks to all who helped me in the field and online, especially AW, I&KB, A&LC, GE, JM and PB, and with apologies for any omissions.