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!

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)

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.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

CYPRUS: Day 5 & Day 6

Day 5: 12th May 2011

I woke at 5.30am and made my way into the valley behind the villa. It felt much colder than the previous few days. The first bird recorded was a Bee-eater, and this would be the theme of the day with over 140 birds recorded at all coastal locations visited during the day.

The valley contained far fewer birds this morning (with the exception of 22 Bee-eaters) with only 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 female Blackcap, 2 Turtle Dove and a sprinkling of Hirundines. Two dark-phase Eleonora’s Falcons showed incredibly well as they shot across the cliffs. I managed to connect with the ‘lilith’ Little Owl again and this time got good views down to 20m – a very distinctive bird, very pale.

We decided to have a walk around the Kouris Dam today which turned out to be a bit more difficult than planned due to some rubbish signposting around the reservoir (and some new roads not being on my map). The scenery was quite impressive but the highlight was a single adult male Cretzschmar’s Bunting that was feeding in some weedy growth along the edge of a road to the south of the dam wall. The sound of Cetti’s Warblers rang out all around the area.

We then moved on to Kolossi Castle – again quite a smart building in very good condition for its age, looking like it was built to far higher standards than most current builds in the country! A dozen Bee-eaters were feeding in the fields next to the castle while we had lunch just as a shower started to hit.

After lunch we decided to head back to the villa via the Akrotiri Area along the Lady’s Mile route. We stopped at Zakaki Marsh and along Lady’s Mile and added a whole host of new ‘Cyprus Birds’ due to this being the first suitable habitat for them that we’d come across. Highlights included 70 Bee-eater, 8 Ferruginous Duck – including adults and young, 3 Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, 5 Temminck’s Stint, Squacco Heron and Cattle and Little Egrets. A single pale-phase (immature-looking) Eleonora’s Falcon was sat on the salt-pan, presumably dropped by the heavy shower that moved through. A single Golden Oriole was also seen here.

We called in briefly to check out Curium Beach where we were treated to another good show by a pale-phase Eleonora’s Falcon, and another flock of 30 Bee-eater with 2 more at nearby Avdimou.

Bee-eater (taken later in week by Mike Bowman)

An evening walk behind the villa was still quiet in regards to migrants – a huge thunderstorm passed through, a Calandra Lark flew over and a flock of c. 50 Pallid Swift came screaming into the valley. Four Golden Orioles were feeding in the valley and showed very well to close range with a pair of Sardinian Warbler also showing well. The second last bird of the day was a pair of Eleonora’s Falcons that showed phenomenally well, a single pale-phased and a single dark-phased bird that were unbelievably close before flying towards the cliffs.

The final bird of the day rather fittingly was a group of 5 Bee-eater that were feeding up. A really good day for this species and very enjoyable to witness.

Day 6: 13th May 2011

I woke slightly later today, not getting started till 6.30am. There were very few migrants around with a single female Blackcap, Garden Warbler and a male Spectacled Warbler and 3 Bee-eaters. A fly-through pale-phase Eleonora’s Falcon was smart. A couple of huge Agama Lizards fighting in the undergrowth flushed several Quail out into view which was slightly unexpected but appreciated!

We decided to head up into the Trodos Mountain for the day so set off around 9.30am. We headed north along some minor roads, as we neared the village of Kissousa an adult Great Spotted Cuckoo flew across the road, along with 4 Bee-eaters and a large flock of Alpine Swift.

As we drove through Pano Platres I noticed an adult Masked Shrike sat on the electric wires, unfortunately I couldn’t stop so had to hope for more later!

We started out on the Atalante Trail – after putting a few extra layers on (the temperature was a barmy 4oC). The familiar sound of Chaffinch greeted us in the car park. The song of the endemic sub species of Coal Tit was ringing out and sounded totally different to those in the UK – and when seen looked totally different too. A couple of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler showed well along with a couple of endemic sub-species of Jay. We then found a couple of Masked Shrike, one showed exceptionally well, allowing views down to about 4feet! A familiar sound and a flash of black then brown alerted me to the presence of a pair of Blackbirds. A large flock of about 50 Crossbills showed incredibly well as they fed on dropped pine cones with a couple of flashy male Serins performing well in the treetops.

Endemic sub-species of Jay (photo Mike Bowman from visit later in the week)

Serin(photo Mike Bowman from visit later in the week)

After lunch we headed onto the Caledonian Falls Nature Trail which was full of the endemic sub-species of Wren which eventually showed well after a while. A couple of Nightingale were heard singing and a couple of the endemic sub-species of Short-toed Treecreeper were heard but unfortunately were not seen. More Coal Tit and Jays were also seen.

The Trodos was an incredible area full of endemic plants. The trails were good and leaflets provided showed the different plants as we walked around which proved a useful identification tool. We will be going back next week so will hopefully try and connect with the Short-toed Treecreeper on that visit.

Driving back to the villa we took the B616 road through the Trodos Foothills and on through the Diarizas Valley – this was a very smart valley scenically and contained some great birds including a cracking adult male Masked Shrike, several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Nightingale and Cetti’s Warblers. A very showy pair of Cretzschmar’s Buntings showed very well down to 15 feet – my best ever views of the species to date. I also added Corn Bunting to the country list and had a pair of Roller sat on wires at close range.

Back in Pissouri and a flock of about 30 Bee-eater were moving north around the villa but soon departed.

In the valley in the evening a single Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler were new in, as was (in all likelihood) 3 Spotted Flycatcher, a Garden Warbler, single Bee-eater and 4 Golden Oriole. A male Sparrowhawk was causing a fair bit of commotion amongst the Cyprus Warblers and Cyprus Wheatears.

Friday, 27 May 2011

CYPRUS Day 3 & Day 4

Day 3: 10th May 2011

I woke early at 5.15am in order to be birding in the local area by first light. I started off at 5.30, it was light but it wasn’t till 6am until the sun came up, at which time the bird activity started to kick off. The numerous migrants present yesterday had gone, save a couple of Spotted Flycatcher. There were however at least 8 Golden Orioles which kept me interested!

Moving along the valley behind the villa Cyprus Warblers were numerous and showed really well at times. Several families with fully fledged young were noted. Suddenly the sky was full of Common and Alpine Swift, some sweeping only feet overhead (see below I managed on my mobile - just!)

Chukar calls were ringing out through the valley. At the trail head an old goat pen seemed busy with Goldfinch and Greenfinch feeding in the weedy growth. A male Blackcap appeared behind me and started calling and then singing, sounding slightly different vocally to those singing at home – possibly a different race? A cracking male Spectacled Warbler showed briefly in some scrub but my eyes were drawn to a pair of Kestrel that were calling in alarm, a quick scan and I was looking at a rather impressive ‘lilith’ Little Owl sat out in the open.

Whilst waiting to see if the owl would come a bit closer my eye was drawn to a bird that flew in and landed in a dead tree in front of me, a male Ortolan Bunting. Unfortunately as soon as the bunting clocked me it dropped down and out of view and was gone. While I waited to see if it would come back into view – which it didn’t, a smart dark-phase Eleonora’s Falcon flew low along the valley edge showing very well.
Time was getting on so I started to head back to the villa for breakfast. Nearing the complex the final 50 yards held a single female Serin, male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, a very frustratingly brief view of a male Black-headed Bunting, not helped by the presence of a female Sparrowhawk cruising overhead.

After breakfast we drove along the old B6 road to Paphos Headland just randomly stopping for a photo opportunity. This stop produced a large colony of Jackdaw a single Crested Lark, Kestrel and a few more Eleonora’s Falcons.

We arrived at Kato (Old) Paphos/Paphos Headland mid-morning, c10.30am. By this time the temperature was soaring and the number of ‘tourists’ was high. We walked around the harbour, a bit around the headland and then into the Archaeological site. The latter was very impressive and well worth a visit. Whilst walking around looking at the sights I managed a few Yellow-legged gulls, numerous Crested Lark and Fan-tailed Warblers, a single male Red-footed Falcon, a very showy Kestrel – allowing views down to about 2feet!, a couple of Spotted Flycatcher and rather surprisingly a male Northern Wheatear.

We will go back later in the week and try and get there a bit earlier in the day. The mosaics were all very impressive and the site is well worth a visit in its own right.

Late afternoon around the Pissouri Village Area resulted in 4 more Spotted Flycatcher, another male Blackcap, 4 Golden Oriole and a distant Roller, likely to be the same bird seen yesterday.

An evening walk in the valley behind the villa looked good but light was not on my side. A quick bash through some bushes resulted in more families of Cyprus Warblers, a couple of Cyprus Wheatear, several Turtle Dove but best of all 2 Great Reed Warblers – moving through some thorn scrub.

Back at the villa a flock of 18 Bee-eaters noisily flew through heading north. The final bird of the day went to a Golden Oriole that flew into the window of the neighbouring villa. It sat rather dazed on their pergola for at least 5 minutes before it eventually flew off into some olive trees.

Day 4: 11th May 2011

I woke at 5.45 so decided to spend the first hour or so of light in the valley behind the villa again. It started off fairly quietly with several Spotted Flycatchers noted. A female, then a bit later on, a male Whinchat moved up through. A large warbler shot across the trail, Garden Warbler. The lack of swifts was noticeable but the number of Cyprus Warbler seemed much higher – with lots of fledglings about. A couple of Bee-eater were heard in the distance but not seen. A male Sardinian Warbler sang at close range, followed by another Garden Warbler. A ‘singing’ male Chukar showed well as it stood on top of a hillside.

The walk back to the villa produced a singing Hoopoe, after a while the song stopped and the bird suddenly appeared right in front of me as it flew into a nearby bush briefly before continuing on up through the valley. A couple of Golden Oriole moved north through along with getting on for a dozen Turtle Dove.

A fast warble and a bit of movement caught my attention and turned out to be a pair of Spectacled Warbler, the male showed off spectacularly. While watching these a familiar sound was heard, this time it was close – a single Bee-eater, which showed well before flying towards the village.

We decided to visit Lady’s Mile Beach for some sunbathing. En-route we had a cracking Roller and a very showy Chukar. Lady’s Mile was baking hot. As Jenny sunbathed I checked out a patch of dune scrub which was surprisingly busy, predominantly made up of Crested Lark. Two Greater Short-toed Lark were smart. The dune vegetation contained a few Spotted Flycatcher but pride of place went to the Icterine Warbler that showed very well at very close range. As I continued through the dunes a white rump flash caught my attention, when it landed it was clear I was looking at a cracking Isabelline Wheatear. There was also several Linnet, Goldfinch and Greenfinch present.

By mid-morning we moved across to the archaeological site at Kourion, another fine example of a site. A Fan-tailed Warbler showed well here, as too did several pairs of Cyprus Wheatears, including a bird provisioning a nest underneath a walkway and another with fully fledged young. Lots of interesting butterflies and lizards here too and the views from the top of the site were spectacular.

Back at the villa we decided to have an hour back in the valley beyond Pissouri to see if any new migrants had dropped in.

Three Sardinian Warblers were making a noise at the entrance to the valley and several Alpine Swift were circling overhead. A couple of Spotted Flycatcher were noted but no sign of any other chats or warblers. The main star of the show was a group of 10 Bee-eaters that showed incredibly well, down to about 20feet. It was great to watch birds feed as they gradually moved north. The only thing that got me looking away was the 3 dark-phased Eleonora’s Falcons that shot low overhead giving incredible views.

A change in wind direction was noted in the late afternoon with a thunderstorm breaking out. Hoping for a fall tomorrow...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

CYPRUS Day 1 & Day 2

Day 1: 8th May 2011

We arrived at Paphos at about 9pm, quickly got through passport control, had a long wait to sort out the pre-booked hire car at Avis – this was a nervous wait as I’d forgotten my paper section of my driving licence. Luckily this was not required and we were given a fairly new Opel Zafira. A huge thing like a minibus! We set off in the dark to Pissouri, managing to find the villa with no major issues – by this time it was 11pm. We went to bed full of anticipation as to what the area would look like in daylight!

Day 2: 9th May 2011

We awoke fairly late – at around 7.30am. I went for a brief stroll behind the villa along a scrubby valley. First birds of the trip were House Sparrow and Magpie, quickly followed by Spotted and Collared Flycatcher. Spotted Flycatcher were very obvious – on the top of most bushes. A family of Great Tit and Goldfinch moved through and a couple of Whinchat appeared on top of some bushes and were sat out in view.

Swifts started to appear along the valley, 150+ Alpine’s the main species though Common and Pallid were also present in good numbers. In amongst these were Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martin. A bit further along the valley and a scratchy, scolding call suggested a Sylvia warbler, suddenly a male Cyprus Warbler was on top of the bush in full song. Very good views of this endemic. After enjoying this I headed back to the villa, pausing only for a couple of Turtle Dove. Just on the edge of the villa complex I heard a Hooded Crow alarm calling. I turned to see it mobbing a large dark falcon. A dark-phase Eleonora’s Falcon! This flew nice and low overhead and gave great views. Not bad for a 30 minute walk.

Needless to say I was chuffed whilst having breakfast on the porch. Whilst enjoying my eggs another scratchy call caught my attention, a warbler was mobbing a Magpie. Some careful manoeuvring got me onto some great looks at a male Sardinian Warbler. Back at my eggs two small birds popped out of the crop behind the villa – Fan-tailed Warbler! They chased each other around for a bit before vanishing out of view. As if this wasn’t enough I picked out a Kestrel followed by two very high-up falcons, these in turn dropped low over the villa and were two pale-phase Eleonora’s Falcons.
After breakfast we decided to drive to Lemesos (Limassol). We needed to do a weekly shop to stock the villa. We went via Pissouri Bay (Beach). I’d told Jenny to shout out if she saw any big birds – she said she would let me know if she saw ‘Big Bird’ – or any colourful birds on the wires. No sooner had I said this than we were looking at a stunning Roller sat along the electric wires! It has been a while since I’ve seen European Roller so always nice to get reacquainted. The beach was beautiful and very hot already. The drive to the supermarket was uneventful with just a few Kestrel and Hooded Crows seen.

As we were parked up outside the villa talking to the neighbour a Cyprus Wheatear – an adult male – landed on his roof briefly before dropping out of sight. After lunch we went in search of it with another walk along the valley. Birds were definitely on the move with the Spotted Flycatchers down dramatically and no sign of the two Whinchat, there was however two Wood Warbler, a couple of elusive Golden Oriole – heard but not seen, some Spanish Sparrows, a covey of 8 Chuckar but best of all a flock of 16 European Bee-eater. These showed very well before flying north up the valley and out of sight. A bit further down below the villa a flash of yellow-green alerted me to the presence of Golden Oriole. Four of them flew into a tree and showed well – for orioles at least.

Back at the villa I almost spilt my tea as another Golden Oriole and then a dozen Bee-eater flew low over and then showed well right in front of us. The Bee-eaters being round for a good hour or so.

A late evening walk back along the valley resulted in me finding a good looking area to explore tomorrow along with a family group of Cyprus Warbler, more Spotted Flycatcher, two Golden Oriole showing to 10 feet and two Sardinian Warblers. One right outside the villa at dusk. Not forgetting the two pairs of Cyprus Wheatear too.
All in all a good first day on Cyprus with 32 species recorded.

Cyprus 9th – 22nd May 2011: Introduction

We’d (Jenny and I) booked a late spring break over on the Greek side of Cyprus staying on the south coast in a relatively quiet hillside town called Pissouri for two weeks (with her parents joining us for the second week). At the time of booking the villa we had no real idea about the location other than it was fairly central to some of the areas we’d like to visit such as the Paphos and Kourion Archaeological Sites with fairly easy access to the Trodos areas and several beaches.

This was not a birding trip, more a relaxing in the sun and seeing some sights etc and due to the date I wasn’t really holding out too much hope of much but was hopeful I’d get a couple of lifers such as Black Francolin, Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler and connect with most, if not all of the endemic sub-species present.
Due to being really busy at work in the weeks prior to the trip I’d not really done my usual amount of research but did manage to get hold of Stagg and Hearl ‘A Birdwatching Guide to Cyprus’ which had some useful information but seemed a little out of date and I did get a couple of fairly recent trip reports off the internet, one of the most useful being one from May 2010 by P.M. Callagher which provided some useful more up-to-date information.

We flew from Leeds-Bradford to Paphos with Jet2. We hired a car from Avis, an Opel Zafira, which had plenty of room with not a great deal of go! Although we’d pre-booked and pre-paid our car we still had to wait in a queue for well over an hour on arrival which wasn’t the most pleasing. It appeared however to be much cheaper doing it this way with people booking cars on arrival paying between double and triple what we’d paid.

I managed to get to a few of the decent ‘well-known’ birding sites but generally these were visited not at the best times of day for birding so as a result I probably missed birds at these sites. I also know I missed stuff as I was driving round as I wasn’t really able to stop for everything I saw.

A bonus was that the villa randomly selected turned out to be on Cape Aspro, a really good migrant spot along the south coast half way between Paphos Headland and the Akrotiri Peninsula. Although late in the season there appeared to be birds moving through throughout the two weeks, more so in the first and included some good and a couple of scarce/rare ones too I believe.

I ended on 112 species with an interesting range of reptiles, plants and butterflies being recorded too.

Over the next few days I’ll stick on some daily accounts followed by a species list. I’ll include a few photos along the way, some from my phone (generally phone-binned) or from Jenny’s dad’s camera from the second week. We had a really good time and I’m already planning a proper birding trip back there for next year!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cyprus May 2011

Just back from my first ever visit to Cyprus - an amazing place! Will add details over the coming days of what was a very enjoyable trip...

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Another busy day today, the highlight came early in the form of a Turtle Dove on a dog walk. The evening ended in masses of Swift and House Martin (and a few Swallow) all congregating over the house. The/Another Cuckoo was singing behind the house briefly too this evening.

There seemed to be an increase in Chiffchaff singing today, everywhere I went I heard them today whereas only yesterday i was thinking how I'd not heard any since the initial arrivals several weeks back.

Looking forward to a few interesting birds over the coming days...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Quick Catch Up

Its been a while since my last post. I've been flat out with work and also had a wedding down in Norfolk last weekend so my birding time has been limited to say the least.

I managed a couple of good birds on the way between home and Norfolk and whilst down in Norfolk last weekend, including Common Crane, Hobby, Rough-legged Buzzard, Greenland Wheatear and my first 2 Swift of the year. There was Hoopoe and Wryneck in the vicinity of where we were staying but time was too limited to check them out.

The wedding was great fun and the weather was fabulous too which was good.

Back home on Sunday (after seeing my first swifts of the year in Norfollk that same morning) I had 2 Swift over the garden at dusk (tick), these 2 birds are still present today though are ranging widely across the local area.

Half an hour this evening at Wheldrake produced lots of warblers with Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat all about the place, with a few hirundines and a few more Swift. Apparently there were 2 Wood Sand and 3 Greenshank on the Ings too this evening.