Tuesday, 31 May 2011

CYPRUS: Day 12-16

Day 12: 19th May 2011

A brief walk around the valley behind the villa produced very little though a Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler were notable. A single male Blackcap moved quickly through the scrub with 2 Roller, 10 Bee-eater and 2 Little Owl also noted. We wound our way up to the top of the Akamas Peninsula this morning, quickly finding the Baths of Aphrodite car park area, connecting with a pair of Roller, Red-rumped Swallow and male Woodchat Shrike en-route (and dodging a few potential head-on collisions along the way!). We headed through the Bath’s of Aphrodite camp site connecting with several Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, 2 Little Owl, several Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear and a couple of Cetti’s Warbler along the way.

This was a fantastic area full of potential and must be amazing during the peak of the migrations.

Bee-eater (Mike Bowman)

We continued north and walked for about 3km along the coastal path which was full of birds moving north. Highlights included the visible migration of 4 Honey Buzzard, 1 adult male Red-footed Falcon, 132 Bee-eater and hundreds of Swallows, all giving great views. Passerines moving north along the coastline included a single Wood Warbler, 4 Blackcap, 1 male Serin and 3 Red-backed Shrike (2 male and 1 female). With 3 or 4 more Eastern Olivaceous Warbler singing and dozens of Sardinian Warbler also seen.

Honey Buzzard (Mike Bowman)

Jenny’s parents gripped me off here as they went down a little trail to find a suitable picnic site and ended up photographing the only Tawny Pipit of the trip! I was gutted as it cleared off and flew north before I got there! There was a decent number of Yelllow-legged Gulls offshore, though little else and a small islet was swarming with over 300 Common Swift. Back in the local valley in the evening several new birds were in, including a single Chiffchaff, female Whinchat and a single Spotted Flycatcher but best of all a female Black-headed Bunting which was sat in some weedy growth less than 50m from the villa! Several fledgling Cyprus Wheatear were noted this evening too.

Day 13: 20th May 2011

An early start in the valley but it was again very quiet with only one new migrant in, but it was a decent one – a female (presumably Eastern?) Subalpine Warbler moving north through the scrub along the ridge. There was however very little about and it was fairly hard going.

We went up to the Trodos again and walked the Persephone Trail, en-route in the foothills a brief view (whilst driving) of 2 buzzard-like/sized raptors was frustrating as there was nowhere to pull over to stop and have a look. It was a good 10oC hotter than the previous visit last week which was a good start! There appeared to be fewer birds present than we had seen on the Atalante Trail although there was a great deal of the endemic sub-species of Short-toed Treecreeper activity along the trail with about 10 birds seen well. Chaffinch, Crossbill, Coal Tit and Jay were all plentiful and seen well, a couple of Masked Shrikes gave fleeting views and a Wren was heard. Several singing male Serin showed well to close range and a male Blackbird was found feeding a fledgling – Stagg & Hearl state “Presence in mountains in summer suggests possible breeding” – I guess that breeding has been confirmed since this was published?

Masked Shrike (Mike Bowman)

Short-toed Treecreeper (Mike Bowman)

Highlight here though was the adult male Masked Shrike that we found singing and displaying at very close range. I’d never seen/heard this behaviour before which was fascinating to observe. Mike managed to get a short video clip (will try and uplaod this later) which gives a little bit of an idea of what it was like.

The drive down the Diarizas valley was enjoyable. Scenically this valley is very cool with large vistas over a range of habitats. We found a pullover where we’d stopped on our last visit and had a quick scan and took some landscape shots. The air was full of the sound of a pair of Cretzschmar’s Buntings, a single Red-rumped Swallow cruised up and down past the viewpoint, several Cetti’s Warblers, Blackcaps and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were singing. A Hoopoe bounded across the valley giving great views before it dropped out of view. Another pair of Masked Shrike appeared in a bush really close by giving more good views of this special species. But then attention focused on a small raptor that appeared over the ridge in front of us, male Lesser Kestrel, fantastic. Unfortunately no concrete views of Long-legged Buzzard though.

Day 14: 21st May 2011

I didn’t get up early this morning as I was tired after previous long day and due to planned late excursion this evening.

We headed over to Lara Beach getting rather lost en-route due to various roads being closed and a distinct lack of signposts to the north of Paphos. Eventually we arrived and parked up north of the Avgas Gorge, about 2km south of Lara Beach Restaurant. We set off walking through the scrubby growth and along the beach. The scenery was fantastic with lots of interesting reptiles and butterflies being seen. Birds were pretty thin on the ground, the highlights included a Great Spotted Cuckoo, lots of Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, male Cretzschmar’s Bunting and 5 Black Francolin. Crested Lark showed well feeding their young.

Swallowtail (Mike Bowman)

Crested Lark (Mike Bowman)

After a nice lunch which included possibly the best (local style) chips I’ve ever had we continued our walk back through the area. Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Mike Bowman)

In the late afternoon Mike and I went over to the Akrotiri Peninsula to have a look at a variety of sites including Phassouri Reedbeds, Akrotiri Gravel Pits, Bishop’s Pool, Lady’s Mile and Zakaki Marsh area. An interesting variety of birds were seen in the last couple of hours before dark and included very good views of 12 Bee-eater, 1 male and 2 female Red-backed Shrike, 200 Greater Flamingo, 9 Eleonora’s Falcon, 7 Reed Warbler, 12 Ferruginous Duck, 1 male Little Bittern a pair of Eurasian Teal, 15 Kentish Plover, 2 Glossy Ibis and plenty of Squacco Heron and Little Egret.

Bee-eater (Mike Bowman)

Red-backed Shrike (Mike Bowman)

Eleonora's Falcon (Mike Bowman)

Eleonora's Falcon (Mike Bowman)

Day 15: 22nd May 2011

The final day of the holiday saw us relaxing in the vicinity of the villa and nearby beaches of Avdimou and Pissouri. I got up early to have a walk around the valley but it was fairly quiet with 1 Spotted Flycatcher and 2 male Cretzschmar’s Buntings seen and a couple more groups of Bee-eater heard flying through. Highlight this morning however was Lesser Kestrel, or 5 Lesser Kestrel to be precise. They all flew up the valley and kept going, except for 1 adult male that turned and flew back straight towards me at eye level before dropping in the valley below me, giving great views along the way. A single Roller remained on the top and a single Yellow Wagtail flew in-off calling but not stopping.

After a lazy breakfast we had a drive around some of the local villages to enjoy the views for the final time. We then headed down to Avdimou beach where a cliff-top walk produced my first and surprisingly, only Grey Heron of the trip as it flew onto the rocky shore below me. A small flock of 6 Red-rumped Swallow were showing signs of breeding in a drainage pipe under a minor road. A late afternoon trip to the valley didn’t result in much, it was very hot and the wind was increasing again. A single Little Owl was seen and lots of fledgling Great Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear were noted too.

As the afternoon turned to evening we headed towards the airport getting the hire car back on fumes! I was not nervous at all. Honest!

We had a great trip and really enjoyed everything this country had to offer. I’ll put together a summary shortly and provide full species list details in due course. I enjoyed this trip so much that I’m already planning a birding trip back over there for spring next year!

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