Sunday, 29 May 2011

CYPRUS: Day 7 & Day 8

Day 7: 14th May 2011

I got an extra early start today leaving the villa at 5am in order to get to Asprokremnos Pool and Dam area for first light. En-route just outside Pissouri I found a Little Owl on a phone line. On arrival at ‘Aspro Pools’ 2 Chukar were wandering along the track and the sound of Bee-eaters rang out. I parked the car up allowing me to get views over the majority of the pool and soon I was watching a Squacco Heron and juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. A Peregrine flew over which got a pair of Kestrel off their nest. After a while a Moorhen swam through, followed shortly after by a pair of Little Bittern that showed incredibly well at very close range. The sound of Cetti’s Warblers rang out, along with a couple of Sedge Warblers and a single Great Reed Warbler. The most impressive sight however was at least 245 Bee-eater that irrupted out of the vegetation around the pools in the first hour of light, all eventually heading northwest. Non-avian highlight was a Fox that was getting a hammering from the local Cyprus Wheatear, Hooded Crows and the pair of Kestrel.

Moving on from Aspro I headed to the Paphos Sewage Works – a much more modern set up that I was hoping for, however at least 9 Spur-winged Plover were recorded, several birds sat on nests. Also recorded here was Black Francolin – a very vocal male was coaxed out and showed well, Reed Warbler, Eleonora’s Falcon and Yellow Wagtail. Unfortunately the wagtail was in flight only going away from me so I couldn’t get to sub-species. There was a huge number of Pallid and Common Swift and Swallows flying around the agricultural fields – incredible views as they flew within several feet!

On the way back into Pissouri I had a pair of Roller to the west of the village, then had another pair about 2km to the east too.

We decided to go back to the beach at Lady’s Mile so I took the opportunity to have a look at Lady’s Mile Beach, Zakaki Pools and Phassouri Reedbeds. The heat haze made it very difficult on Lady’s Mile but I managed 15+ of both Little Egret and Kentish Plover, 10+ Squacco Heron, along with a few more Bee-eater and 3 Eleonora’s Falcons. The nearby dune scrub held a displaying male Spectacled Warbler, a single Spotted Flycatcher and several Crested Lark.

At Zakaki Pools I saw pretty much the same as my last visit.

Next stop was Phassouri Reedbeds. After eventually finding the correct road into the area I was watching another flock of 50 Bee-eater. I got to the first marsh area to find a 4x4 traversing around the place trying to get photographs of the birds, this resulted in very few birds being visible to me, the highlight was a single Glossy Ibis with about 10 Cattle Egrets. There was not a lot else on show, a couple of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were in the agricultural fields around the reedbed and a male Little Bitter flew through.

By this time it was mid-afternoon so I picked Jenny up from the beach and we headed back to the villa. After tea I decided to take a walk in the valley behind the villa again to see if anthing had dropped in. A shower passed through with a huge rainbow in the valley to the east. Pretty much the first bird I saw was a Tree Pipit, which flew off the deck into a tree briefly before dropping down into the valley. A single Sand Martin cruised around with the breeding pairs of Swallows. As I continued to the bottom of the valley it was relatively quiet, save the usual Cyprus Warblers and Wheatears. On the way back up the valley it was however a different story. Over 25 Bee-eater flew about feeding up. 2 Golden Oriole shot in, a pair of Spectacled Warbler gave tantalizing views and a couple of Sardinian Warblers sang out. A bit closer to the villa and a flycatcher shot out, Spotted Flycatcher, then another movement, this time it was a Ficedula, then a second Spotted Flycatcher. I got back on the unidentified bird, it was a Pied Flycatcher. After enjoying good views of this, along with a couple of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers I started back to the villa. A chunky warbler caught my eye, it was a Garden Warbler out in the open in a Pine Tree. Another movement caught my eye – it was bright yellow! It also had a peaked head and pale wing panel, a stunning Icterine Warbler. It fed out in the open for a good minute or two before moving off into some scrub above me. A great end to the day. I’m really enjoying this little valet right behind the villa!

Rainbow over the valley behind the villa

Day 8: 15th May 2011

After the relative excitement of the valley behind the villa last night I got in there again early this morning. All yesterdays birds were still present. The Icterine Warbler was typically much more elusive but the Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher showed well. There appeared to be an extra Garden Warbler in with at least 3 seen – including a singing male. The area was heaving with Golden Oriole with 10 seen during the day. A single Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was singing and showed briefly with the usual Cyprus and Sardinian Warblers also in evidence. There was no sign of the flock of Bee-eaters that were present last night. Also ‘new in’ was a pair of Serin and 2 Turtle Dove that flew straight through, but ‘highlight’ was a Sedge Warbler – which took me a bit by surprise in the middle of some scrub. This species was ‘new’ fort my valley list. It will be interesting to tot up my total for the valley next week. After a few days with very few swift they were back in abundance today with over 250 Alpine, 10 Pallid and over 150 Common Swift all seen – and seen well to phenomenally close range. It was amazing being stood all on my own in total silence just listening to the swifts as the screamed overhead. As the Alpien Swift shot past you could feel the air and hear a whoosh, they seemed to be using their tail as an air brake! All lesst than 4feet overhead!

We decided to stay local today and hit the beach at Pissouri Bay – a beautiful secluded beach. The temperature was shooting up so it seemed like a good idea. Just before we left the villa two raptors grabbed my attention, and that of the local Hooded Crow. Two Honey Buzzards drifted slowly west. Hopefully there will be more of these in the next few days. I wonder if they were downed by yesterday afternoons storms? On the way to the beach we had a Roller.

There was not too much around the beach, lots of House Martin breeding and building nests, and Swallows with fledged young. The way back was a little better with 3 Eleonora’s Falcons showing wekk between the beach and the village.

Around noon a huge thunderstorm built up which dropped a load more swift (of all three local species). Once the storm had passed we decided to go for a walk in the countryside near a village 5km to the north of Pissouri, called Alekhtora. This walk, within the ‘Cyprus Car Tours & Walks’ book gives incredible views of the rather impressive Kapatami Gorge (and adjacent huge windfarm), the hike up to the viewpoint went through typical Cypriot mixed farmland. The associated ditches held a variety of warblers including Cetti’s and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. The huge goat farm had a lot of flies (and the most impressive goats I’ve ever seen – see below), and subsequently supported a lot of Spotted Flycatcher. As we reached the top for spectacular views of the gorge an alarm calling Peregrine could be heard. She was not happy. I looked up to see the Peregrine diving away to our left, straight towards two large birds of prey. Eagles! Two Bonelli’s Eagles! They flew right overhead, the Eagles displaying and the Peregrine going crazy! An awesome sight! After taking a look at the area we headed back to the villa and made a mental not to come back with Jennys parents during the week.

When the guide book said look out for the long-eared goats we laughed and were like don't all goats have long ears? But then on seeing them we thought they were pretty cool!

A quiet evening walk in the valley by the villa resulted in not 1, but now 2 tree Pipits. Good views of Golden Oriole and Chukar too.

Jenny’s parents are arriving later tonight which will be good.

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