Sunday 29 October 2023

2023 - Late September Cyprus Raptors

Cyprus birding late September with a heavy focus on studying raptor migration, but made time for a few visits as well to the marshes and pools at Akrotiri and Larnaca.

There's a very amiable birding community of locals and regularly returning visitors and it was good to catch up with all, many thanks for your help both online and in the field.

Please find a summary of repeat visits throughout to Akrotiri for raptor migration and one watch from Cape Greco. A full trip report being worked upon with many Honey Buzzard photos plus birding video compilations coming soon.

Sometimes raptor watching (migration) can be seeing a sky full of raptors, perhaps at distance when it can be like studying a deep field image of galaxies from the Hubble or James Webb telescopes. Whilst this can be good, it can also be confusing or overwhelming at first. I've seen this at Cape May, New Jersey, USA in autumn when the winds are pushing the raptors towards the point, but they remain to thermal to the north rather than passing overhead. Watching raptors on the move will always be exciting, and the experience at Akrotiri was seeing the raptors either lift off locally or move into the area from a northern component, some of which were off heading out over the Mediterranean Sea. Others coming into the area in the afternoons to roost before continuing their journey either the following day or soon after. Raptor watching at the three locations mentioned below had a nice anticipation in waiting to see what was coming through next. For the bigger raptors it was more often than not another Honey Buzzard. But not always so, what friends were tagging along?

Akrotiri Water Tower - essentially the high point to the west of Akrotiri village with a view overlooking the gravel pits and salt lake to the north. Excellent viewing to watch raptors leave Akrotiri from their morning roost as they continue south, and others heading into the area from further west. A light wind from the south or south east allowed to study raptors on the move overhead or out to sea off the west coast of Akrotiri. A westerly component ok when light, but when strong they were distant moving off south out to the east over Lady's Mile. 

Personal totals over the week shown below in which Honey
dominated but a nice variety of raptors seen. This included a wandering Bonelli's Eagle, shown opposite, that had 'issues' with the HBs, and Black Kites plus Marsh and Montagu's Harriers through. A good variety of falcons included local Eleanora's Falcons, passage Red-footed Falcons and Falco friends. 'Steppe' Buzzard new for me as was a male Levant Sparrowhawk on a day with several 'Sprawks' clearly on the move. But, not just about the raptors. Bee-eater and hirundine passage was spectacular, always something to see.

Akrotiri Beehives - peaceful roadside birding in the afternoons east of Akrotiri Marsh overlooking Phassouri Forest, good for continuing raptor migration and spotting those coming into roost. Again Honey Buzzards the welcome default raptor followed by Marsh Harriers and then the Falcons. But, lots of different raptors as shown in the following table. As with the earlier site non raptors delighted, such as the constant acrobatics of Bee-eaters and many Barn and Red-rumped Swallows plus Pallid Swifts overhead with Alpine Swifts noted towards the end of the trip. Little Swifts, one shown here, were seen throughout, where do they come from? 



Cape Greco - one visit on my last day of the trip to the south eastern tip of the island, more usually noted for passerine migration especially in spring, but ok for raptors in autumn. A few raptors through early on then a noticeable push of them south along the coast from midday - a precession of Marsh Harriers through (18) and a few Honey Buzzards (11) with Red-footed Falcons (4) moving in, then out. A smart juvenile Montagu's Harrier flew past the point. Barn Swallows and Bee-eaters got going mid-morning with totals of 595 and 127 respectively as well.