Sunday, 29 May 2011

CYPRUS: Day 9, Day 10 and Day 11

Day 9: 16th May 2011

Got up slightly later this morning after a late night trip to the airport to pick up Jenny’s parents after their flight was delayed by two hours.

I started down the valley behind the villa, first up was an adult female Marsh Harrier that flew straight through, presumably this must have arrived yesterday? It flew strongly north. Shortly after a Spotted Flycatcher showed. A bit of movement from the valley bottom caught my attention and I decided to bushwhack down to see what was going on. Sardinian and Cyprus Warblers showed well, then a bush with 3 female Blackcap with more movement in the next bush with 3 male and a female Blackcap, with 2 Garden Warbler and another male Blackcap in a further bush. There may well have been more Blackcap present but it was quite tricky to keep track of them once they started moving about. At the same time an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler started singing then showed incredibly well down to 12ft. Probably my best views of this species. Suddenly a whoosh made me look up as something shot right over my head into the nearby bush. A quick bit of manoeuvring and I was looking at a very smart Lesser Grey Shrike. After watching it for a while it suddenly dropped out of view. Very happy with my haul I decided to try and climb out of the valley, easier said than done! As I climbed up several Turtle Dove were purring away and Cyprus Warbler were busily feeding their young.

'The Valley' looking up

As I neared the track all of the swifts started coming in, Alpine and Common in large numbers with a few obvious Pallids in the mix too. Just as spectacular views as yesterday. I almost didn’t really give them much time as I’d seen them so well yesterday but I’m glad I did because a smaller bird in amongst them caught my attention, it was flying with a totally different jizz and was much smaller – as it then turned to show a white rump – I was looking at a LITTLE SWIFT! I watched the bird for a good 5 minutes as it fed up about 25m up before the flock of swifts it was with moved off over the ridge and out of sight. According to Stagg and Hearl (and the Birdlife information) this is a pretty decent record and will involve a description when I get home!

I was really happy with the mornings birding. Especially with the Shrike and Swift. While we had breakfast an Eleonora’s Falcon shot over the back garden!

We decided to visit the Kourion archaeological site as a gentle introduction to the country for Jan and Mike. It was increasingly hot today with not a huge amount seen the site with the exception of Chukar, Cyprus and Sardinian Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear – still tending to their nests under the walkway. Lots of interesting butterflies and lizards too.

Agama (Mike Bowman)

We positioned ourselves on the cliffs and scanned the long, huge cliffs. An Eleonora’s Falcon flew through but the clear highlight was 2 Griffon Vulture, picked up flying across the cliffs. The Griffon Vulture has been in drastic decline in Cyprus over recent years, a survey this April resulted in only 8 birds being found in the country!

A walk back in the valley in the late afternoon was very quiet unfortunately with the only highlight being 4 Eleonora’s Falcons distantly over Pissouri Bay (you can’t really complain at that though!).

No Golden Oriole seen today, or Bee-eater (though several Bee-eater were heard at Pissouri and Kourion).

Day 10: 17th May 2011

An early start this morning saw me back in the valley behind the villa. The sunrise was fairly spectacular (below). A single Bee-eater filled me with confidence that some new birds were in, however this was short lived as the actual valley was very quiet with just the usual suspects. A pair of pretty ‘good’ looking Rock Dove flew onto the cliffs. I decided to cut across the top and explore the next valley within the valley complex in the hope of something good.


The Sun!

A flock of warblers moved through a set of trees, 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and 1 Reed Warbler with a single Spotted Flycatcher also on the move with them. As I cut through some scrub I noticed a bird fly up into a nearby bush, I was then looking at a very smart adult male Red-backed Shrike, my first of the trip. It attracted a lot of attention from the above species with the addition of Cyprus and Spectacled Warbler and a male Blackcap all coming in for a look and scold. After the shrike vanished over the brow of a hill another flock of Bee-eaters, about 25 flew through. Then a singing male Cretzschmar’s Bunting grabbed my attention, after I crept some 50m through the undergrowth it then showed really well on the ground as it fed. Whilst walking back to the villa I had another adult male Red-backed Shrike, at first I assumed this was the same bird but a quick scan from a raised area revealed there was actually 3 males present within 100m2, very impressive! Swift numbers were down on yesterday with no sign of the Little Swift, however 4 very showy Eleonora’s Falcons made up for that!

Male Red-backed Shrike (phone-binned)

We went back for a walk around the Alekhtora area as we did a few days back. The lower levels in the agricultural land contained 2 adult male Red-backed Shrikes and 1 Lesser Grey Shrike, 1 male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and the top of the plateau contained 4 Kestrel, 4 Eleonora’s Falcons, 1 female Peregrine, 2 Bonelli’s Eagles and 4 Rollers. It was baking hot today, reaching 32.50C. We had a hot but really enjoyable walk enjoying great views of the Eagles as they ranged about the place, and of course the goats got a bit of interest, as too did a couple of snakes. Jan also found a Rollers nest as we were driving down off the hill!

An evening walk back behind the villa was again successful with 5 Red-backed Shrike (3 males and 2 females) seen, along with 57 Bee-eater, 2 Roller, 3 Little Owl, 4 Corn Bunting, a pair of Cretzschmar’s Bunting and a couple of Spotted Flycatcher. Not a bad haul for an hour!

A very enjoyable day which ended on an even better note when a calling Nightjar went past the villa just after dusk.

Day 11: 18th May 2011

After a very windy night with the odd shower and a bit of a dust storm going through I was hoping for some good birds in the valley but it was fairly disappointing with only 1 Red-backed Shrike, an adult male, present, all of the others had gone. I think this is likely to be a ‘new’ bird in as it was in a different area to the ones seen yesterday (and given the overall clearout of birds noted). A huge thunderstorm was starting to kick off about 10km offshore, and it was heading my way! A Little Owl and a Roller were sat out in the open, a couple of Spotted Flycatcher, a single Garden Warbler and a (very frustrating) fly-through unidentified Phylloscopus Warbler were all seen. A male Cretzschmar’s Bunting was sat in a bush singing away. The sound of Bee-eaters filled the air as a flock of 10 flew in-off, the thunderstorm was now getting closer, 5km. The lack of birds, in combination with the rapidly encroaching fork lightning made me decided to head back to the villa for some breakfast. En-route I picked up Corn Bunting and then suddenly a female Common Redstart appeared out of the sky and moved quickly north through the bushes. I quickly got back to the villa just as the thunder and lightning raged directly overhead! For the next hour a huge thunderstorm raged right over the villa before moving off to the northeast.

The Storm!

After the weather started to improve we headed over to Kato Paphos to have another look at the archaeological site – and for me to do some birding around Paphos Headland. It was still fairly cool with the odd shower going through. The headland was covered in shrikes, with at least 12 Red-backed (10 male and 2 female) and a stunning adult male Masked Shrike all seen, and seen well. There was probably more Red-backed about but as the number of tourists increased the shrikes were getting flushed all over the place. Very enjoyable to see all of the shrikes. The Masked Shrike showed very well and was an incredibly smart individual. The rain also dropped 25 Bee-eater that showed down to several feet! Larks were also briskly moving about – both Crested, and Greater Short-toed Lark.

Masked Shrike (phone-binned)

Bee-eater (phone-binned)

As lunch approached we moved into the harbour area to get some refreshments. Whilst here we had a Stone Curlew flew along the shoreline and two White Wagtails flew in-off. A brief walk around the headland path resulted in 4 Cattle Egret and 2 Little Egret flying round the coastline. A flock of 25 Bee-eater flew in-off right overhead, along with several Common Swift. A family of Swallows and their fledglings sat along the security fences and showed well.

Swallows (Mike Bowman)

Back at the villa during the late afternoon and in Pissouri Bay (where we ate tea at a really nice restaurant) Bee-eaters and Eleonora’s Falcons were the main feature with 116 Bee-eater seen coming in-off in several flocks, along with 10 Eleonora’s Falcons hunting them, and the various Hirundines present. In addition, a few Yellow-legged Gulls and a female Peregrine flew through and a Roller showed well at a nest location near the bay. In addition, a Little Owl showed well in the trees behind the back yard of the villa.

Little Owl (Mike Bowman)

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