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Old Tuesday 12th April 2011, 17:37   #1
wolfbirder
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Wolves
Posts: 4,038
Southern Cyprus 4-day Spring-migration bash 6th April -10th April 2011

I travelled to Southern Cyprus for my first ever visit to this island, armed with the updated Gosney book and DVD that provided excellent, detailed information as usual. I take my hat off to Birdguides & David Gosney, they produce exactly what I feel is useful, my birding experience at home & abroad is massively enhanced by his work.

As always, information can sometimes only be as good as it is at the time of writing, as occasionally I found out. Furthermore bird watching conditions vary immensely according to daily changes in water levels, time of day, & weather/wind conditions etc. Bare this in mind! Things can change dramatically. The 3 Southern Cyprus cities of Larnaca, Limmasol and Paphos are nicely interlinked by an excellent dual-carriageway system adjacent to the coast. The A3 runs from Larnaca eastward to Ayia Napa and Protaras with Cape Greco inbetween, and from Larnaca you switch to the A5 that then switches to the A1 which takes you to Limmassol, and then the A6 takes you onto Paphos. But the whole system is virtually continuous, but keep your eyes peeled for signs, & for police holding hand-held speed laser guns. You drive on the left here!

LOGISTICS

Pre-booked Monarch Airlines flights from Brum to Larnaca cost a very reasonable 180 return. A 9am departure on 6th April was prompt, as was the 9.50pm departure from Larnaca four days later on the 10th. I would swear they are packing in more and more people on those planes though! Airport parking pre-booked cost 29, car hire at Larnaca with 'Economy Car Hire' via travelsupermarket.com cost 66 for a perfectly acceptable Ford Focus, and pre-booked accommodation cost 120 total on a B & B basis. I purposely chose two nights near CAPE GRECO / CAVA GREKKO at Protaras where the Crown Resort Elamaris was acceptable for my needs, and then two nights near PAPHOS / PAFOS at Atkeon Village Resort which was a very good standard hotel for the money paid. Both hotels ironically gave me a room with twin beds, kitchenette including kettle and fridge, bathroom and living room with TV and table. If I could find a family-sized room for this price for my family holidays I would be chuffed! Ironic !

THE BIRDING

LARNACA AIRPORT POOLS - I arrived at Larnaca Airport at 3.40pm on 6th April, and after getting my car I whipped around to Larnaca Airport Pools. There was nothing by the Tekke mosque, and just 70 Greater Flamingo's on the opposite pool. These are esily accessed by turning right at the first traffic island as you start to leave the airport. I then drove around to the pools by the coast, initially following signs for 'Kiti'. There was little on the first salt lake, but as usual "Spiro's Pool" produced about a hundred juvenile Ruff and the same number of Little Stints. A single flamingo stood forlornly, but the highlights here during the brief visit were a Whiskered Tern and juvenile Slender-Billed Gull. When I checked this profitable area out again before I flew back home I added 5 Collared Pratincoles, 2 Little Terns, 2 Med Gulls and several Spur-Winged Plovers. I also had 2 Grey Partidges in flight here. The pools and adjoining scrub are full of potential, though the adjoining "Diesel fields" were difficult to check for larks as the grass was too long at the time.

6/4 - 8/4/2011 - CAPE GRECO AREA

This superb area is accessed via the main coastal dual carriageway running from Paphos through Limmasol and Larnaca, to Cape Greco, which is just past Ayia Napa. Cape Greco is signposted so stay on it until you see the obvious signs. The road system to and around the Cape is easy to understand.

Cape Greco (Kava Grekko) is increasingly watched and appreciated, despite it being around two hours away from Paphos, where most birders visit. Previous reports had whetted my appetite. The area is quite large however, and from the elevated cape itself you can view the different birding areas all around, though itself it is not that great, apart for Spectacled Warblers! You can drive virtually all the way to the top.

There are three key birding areas - the area seaward, and then the areas on either side to the west and east.

Looking seaward from the peak towards the fenced-off RAF radar station, you can see an excellent cereal field attractive to harriers, down below that comprises the first birding area. A superb male Marsh Harrier favoured this field for a couple of days. This area is accessed by an obvious road slightly to the east, that winds its way down.

That road itself leads to another road to the left leading through the second key birding area - prime bushy habitat towards the small chapel and 'amenities' area slightly further east, where there is a dead end. The bushes & rocks in this whole area are superb, ideal for warblers, shrikes, warblers, Wrynecks, and Nightingales as well as Chukars. Gosney details this area well. From the dead-end "Amenities area" I took the coastal footpath further east still for around three-quarters of a mile, most of this was elevated but it led down to the coast before reaching the excellent-looking Grecian Park hotel. This would make an excellent birding base for Cape Greco but I expect it is not cheap. I would recommend this lovely walk (that is not detailed by Gosney) to anyone early morning or evening, for it produced many birds including 3 Cyprus Warblers (this path is the best stretch for this species on the Cape), several Cyprus Pied Wheatears, juvenile Pallid Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Whitethroats, and best of all a stunning, elegant male Ruppell's Warbler, a bird I really wanted to see! I located my first Black Francolin here, but distantly. The lower area was especially fruitful at the latter part of the walk. The scenery is just beautiful overlooking this bay (Konnis Bay).

Back at the elevated Cape viewpoint, looking westward down across barren-looking, sweeping land bearing down to the coast comprises the third key birding area, & you can see a 'smoking' dump (when in operation). This whole area looks a bit lacking in potential initially, but it is excellent for Wheatears, Larks, and possibly Cretchzmar's Buntings (though they eluded me here). This area is accessed off the nearby coastal road '306' (going back towards Aya Napa) at a sign for "Sea Caves". You can drive all the way down this half-mile long access track. You can then park up, and I suggest you take a short walk for a couple of hundred metres alongside the raised bank that comprises the seaward end of the dump. The scrub and trees on the bank itself, and also short degraded maquis nearby produced many warblers including a pair of fine Ruppell's Warblers that offered superb views, more Spectacled Warblers, Wryneck, Black-eared and Northen Wheaters, 12 Short-toed Larks, & a few Tawny Pipits. Others have reported Bimaculated Larks. I wish I had checked the many Crested Larks a little more closely & checked out the song before I left home! I did see one that had a dark collar but it flew off, and I presumed it was probably Calandra Lark. But who knows!

I spent a whole day on the Cape on the 7th, and checked it out briefly on the morning of the 8th before I moved on to Paphos. Overall apart from the abundant House Sparrows, Swallows and Crested Larks, I totalled 4 Ruppell's Warblers, 3 Wrynecks, upto 30 Spectacled Warblers, 3 Cyprus Warblers, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 10 Black-eared Wheatear's, at least 10 Cyprus Pied Wheatear's, many Northern Wheatear's, 12 Short-toed Larks, 3-4 Tawny Pipits, 2 Redstarts, single Woodchat Shrike, a dozen or so Chukar's, 3 Black Francolin's, around 20 Lesser Whitethroats, a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Whinchats, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Linnets, Jackdaws, Magpies, Kestrels, Hoopoes.

I met few other birders, but an Irish birder Jo Donaldson provided me with good tips and told me of a rarity nearby that had over- wintered on the Cape but been refound at nearby AYIA NAPA SEWAGE WORKS, just a mile away. Precise directions to a low cliffside overlooking the works held an 'easy' Kurdish Wheatear ! (described to me as Red-Tailed Wheatear). Wow I was off like a bat out of hell. The works are situated off the coastal road back to Ayia Napa close to the 3km marker, by a small sign for a chapel on the inland side of the road. The access track winds up to the works for half a mile, and then a rougher but driveable track diverts off to the left just before the perimeter fence. It follows the fence line on the left, past a small pool and then alongside two larger pools. Park up where you can, by the second large pool and walk less than 100 metres to the cliffside, where the bird favours low rocks by a single "C21" marker post. I found the bird around 100 metres to the right of the post with a Blue Rock Thrush, but it quickly moved back to the post area again. Definitely bird of the trip for me. Thanks Jo !! The terrain you walk through to the cliffside is long grass, but unlevel so be careful when walking, you do not wish to ruin your holiday with a twisted ankle.

PARALIMNI LAKE near Sotiri was a disappointment, being virtually dried out, though routine wildfowl were seen from the Gosney-recommended viewpoint. This area is close to Cape Greco.

On the morning of the 8th I set off westward for Paphos, with the aim of taking in a few good sites on route.

ORAKLINI MARSH was easily accessed off the dual carrriageway just before Larnaca at J58 of the A3 dual carriageway. Parking by a superbly located supermarket car park, the birds showed brilliantly here. A few Spur-winged Plovers were a metre away from the car, and a number of waders comprised mainly of Ruffs and Little Stints again, but also a superb Marsh Sandpiper, as well as a few Wood and Green Sandpipers. A Little Gull was overhead and wildfowl species were routine. But it was a very pleasing brief twenty minute visit.

I then rejoined the A3 which became the A5 and then the A1, & exited the dual carriageway at J21 and very quickly parked up by the ancient AMATHEUS HILL archeological site on the outskirts of Limmasol. A Hooded Wheatear had been seen here a week previously (but I was later to learn this was a one-day bird). I took the path up the hill to the left after parking by the entrance site to the remains at ground level, a lovely walk of up to fifteen minutes long, though you need to be reasonably able-bodied. Northern Wheatears, Hoopoes, Short-toed Larks, & Corn Buntings were seen as well as a couple of pairs of very showy Cyprus Warblers. At the top, by ancient fallen pillars and relics, I noted 4 buntings and was pleased to see a single 'olive-headed' Ortolan Bunting and for contrast 2 'grey-headed' Cretzschmars's Buntings. The latter were a lifer for me, and another of this species was astride bushes nearby, and a fourth bird back down by the car. It was time to move on from this delightful site, which has an adjacent valley which clearly also has potential.

Next port of call was AKROTIRI SALT LAKE AND PENINSULA, a huge area that is not signposted well. Off the dual carriageway, follow signs for "Kollossi Castle" and once near there follow signs for Akrotiri. Infact I did not really enjoy the area, though it clearly requires a full day at least to appreciate its delights. "Bishop's Pool" held waterfowl and a dozen Night Herons, whilst "Lady's Mile" running by and then across the dried salt lake was barely examined. A Woodchat Shrike was by "Sylvano's Restaurant" overlooking the huge, empty salt marsh. Best of all was "Phassouri Reedbed", the single, grassed parking area off the narrow country lane overlooked the small marsh and adjacent reedbed that contained 3 juvenile Squacco Heron's, 16 Green Sandpipers, 2 Wood Sandpipers, Snipe, Cattle & Little Egret, 10 Black-winged Stlilts, and 2 drake Ferruginous Ducks, as well as routine waterfowl species. From here I drove around to the left at the first opportunity, and across the extensive plains that took you past huge radar masts but past very few birds!

Leaving the peninsula, I drove on along the coastal road westward past British Army camps at Episkopi, and eventually found KENSINGTON CLIFFS. As wth all the sites mentioned, Gosney provides specific detail. I did not wait long enough to see a soaring Griffon Vulture, but Osprey and a pair of Peregrine's overhead were sufficient consolation for me.

PAPHOS AREA 8/4 - 10/4/2011

I was keen to get to PAPHOS / PAFOS HEADLAND as soon as possible.
I arrived at 3pm on the 8th, finding negotiating Paphos surprisingly easy, all the way to the port and signposted archeological area where the headland is situated. It costs 3 euros to entrance the site, but if you are a birder you can ask them to stamp the ticket and they also sign it on the back, you can then use this each day to access the site without paying again. The main entrance site is well signposted from the large, adjacent free car park. But the site only opens at 8am each day (or is it 8.30am?). Either way you can (if you wish) currently access the site through a large hole in the fence by one of the turnstiles on the inland side. The other turnstiles are padlocked including the one along the seaward side featured by Gosney on his DVD. This fence hole is at the end of a cul-de-sac off the main 'Tafon Ton Vasileon' road that runs around to the left after exiting the pre-mentioned, large car park. There is a sign for an 'ancient library' on this road, and it is here you see the cul-de-sac in question. There is also parking for about five cars at the end. Ideal ! I was initially unsure if this was acceptable o enter before opening time, but other birders were also entering here at 7am to check out the key birding areas. They assured me that it was not a problem, as long as you retained the stamped ticket showing that you had paid once.

Paphos headland is indeed a legendary birding site, well documented again by Gosney. It can really deliver - one birder (and only one!) had seen a Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater for just ten seconds the day before my arrival, and during my time spent here late afternoon on the 8th, the morning of the 9th and 10th, I really relaxed and enjoyed my self, bumping into several UK and German birders as I ambled around the headland. A large flock of Blue-headed & Black-headed Wagtails were eye-catching most days, offering stunning views. A Wryneck was usually nearby, and common hirundines were increasing in number. Corn Buntings could usually be found as well as ubiquitous Crested Larks. Quail arrived overnight on my last day, with 3 being heard. The first migrating flycatchers also arrived on the 10th, with 2 handsome male Collared Flycatchers and also a 3rd bird that may have been a Semi-Collared Flycatcher, showing in the avenue of trees. A sub-adult Great Spotted Cuckoo was present during my stay, and with some difficulty I located an Eastern Subalpine Warbler, but not a particularly stunning individual. Others had had Cinereous Bunting & Orphean Warbler before my arrival, which illustrates the variety and potential of the site. The longed-for male Pallid Harrier never materialised for me, though others had seen a bird passing through on the morning before I arrived. For me the best bird here was my first-ever Masked Shrike, a stunning male that was showy and most welcome. A few Spanish Sparrows were seen amongst the Northern and Black-eared Wheatears, as well as a couple of Tawny Pipits, Whinchats & Sardinian Warblers. I could not locate any Greater Sand Plovers on the rocky adjacent outcrop. I think they depart by the end of March though one or two lingerers were still being reported sporadically at nearby Mandria. 5 Sandwich Terns were overhead. Kestrel yet again was the only raptor here for me. But anything can and does turn up, I just wish I had been able to stay for a week or so, as others had done.

Overall this is simply a superb place to birdwatch, but I guess like anywhere it can be very frustrating and disappointing at quiet times.

If you fancy a change, and if you have a hire car, you can visit a number of nearby locations.

PAPHOS SEWAGE WORKS is twenty minutes away, but not that easy to find. The Gosney guide and a good map are quite important requirements. This site is situated very close to Paphos Airport, accessed from the old B6 road from Paphos eastward towards Mandria. Just by the entrance sign to the village of Achelia (and just after obvious metal roadside railings), take a turn towards the coast. After a while turn left and meander around these lanes. The old sewage works are on the airport side of the lane, but it is the newer cream-coloured larger works opposite that held the birds. Drive down a track adjacent to the boundary fence, to reach the rear of the works, and here large amounts of sludge / slurry had been pushed by a bulldozer, leaving a nice space for birders cars to park in the middle. In effect, you drop yourself right in the shit! A nice place to have a sandwich break (not!). Although the smell is not overwhelming, it is wise not to open windows for too long as the insects here bite! Hundreds of wagtails dine out here,and with patience (well around fifteen minutes) I eventually located a superb Red-throated Pipit that emerged from the ruts and crevices. I never thought of pipit species as being exciting, but the orange facial and throat tones were noteworthy. Additionally, an excellent range of waders were present on small pools - Spur-winged Plovers, Ruff, Little Stints, and a few Little-ringed and kentish Plovers. Also single Wood, Common and Marsh Sandpipers. This was a very productive site. I found nearby spots relatively unproductive.

MANDRIA FIELDS being one of those, with Stone Curlew being missed by me, and lark species absent or very hard to find.

ASPRO POOLS and ASPROKREMMOS DAM on the other hand were better during two brief visits. It had been a poor crake season to date, so I was pleased to see the female Little Crake here. A starving dog here upset me, so if you are visiting and he is still around take him some food. Ok I know there are worst things in life, but if I had had my sandwiches with me he could have had them all.
The approach road to the dam itself may be profitable, and when you reach the dam, turn left through some pines and park at the end. Then walk the last hundred metres along the footpath to a small weather station. This last bit can be very fruitful in the right conditions - I had Wryneck, a quite superb male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, and 2 more male Collared Flycatchers as well as a female on the 10th, all flitting amongst the trees.

BATHS OF APHRODITE AND AMENITIES AREA - AKAMAS PENINSULA is about 30 kms north-westward away from Paphos. A walk through the deserted caravan park can be good, with falls of flycatchers reported with luck. I had a single Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, 3 very confiding Wood Warblers, a few Cyprus Pied Wheatears, a few Sardinian Warblers, & a few Hoopoes. POLIS REEDBED nearby was a rubbish strewn disappointment though perhaps it does still hold birds.

MAVROKOLYMPUS DAM was visited as it was recommened by Gosney for Scop's Owl. On the night I visited none were calling up to 8.30pm (had been dark for over an hour), though Little Owl and Barn Owl were glimpsed here.

TROODOS was visited on my final day, it took me nearly two hours to reach from Paphos, though descending down to Limmasol afterwards took a mere forty-five minutes. I did take a winding route upward though, via 'Nata Ford' where a female Black Francolin strutted across the road. Kestrels were seen on route as well as Jackdaws that possessed white collars like their northern cousins. I again followed David Gosney's advice on arrival, but you need to take into account weather conditions. I undertook the short walk up to water tanks from the toilets in the village, but I found this point exposed and windy and devoid of birds. I also located the small drinking hole he recommended by the empty house at the opposite end of the small village, but this had dried up and no birds were visiting. Eventually I found a fruitful, sheltered area opposite & across the road from the toilet blocks.This area, that overlooks a green plastic sports pitch contained a few local-race Coal Tits, a small flock of local Crossbills, as well as a single Jay and a single local- race "Dorothy's" Short-toed Treecreeper. Maybe I just got lucky! But after forty-five minutes of searching at the recommended spots I found all these in just ten minutes, and also had Serin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and best of all Eastern Bonelli's Warbler there. Once again the House Sparrow was everywhere.

Driving back down towards Limmasol, a large raptor may have been Bonelli's Eagle (a juvenile) but was more likely Long-legged Buzzard. A definite Long-legged Buzzard was then seen driving near Limmasol, back towards Larnaca.

In summary, I would like to have spent longer sampling the delights of spring migration here. It had occurred in spits and starts, but had never been manic. However, plenty of good birds were still occurring, just not in large numbers as with some previous springs. To cover all the sites I had to rush at times, but I saw many of my target species and reached a total of 109 species. Cyprus has good road networks in the main, though it is becoming over-developed. Driving on the left certainly makes things easier for us Brits.

Birdlist (apologies for random listing), and a few photos to follow (hopefully)!

TOTAL 111 species

Kurdish Wheatear (x1)
Great Spotted Cuckoo (x1)
Cretzschmar's Bunting (x4)
Ruppell's Warbler (x4)
Masked Shrike (x1)
Pallid Harrier (x1)
Collared Flycatcher (x5)
Pied Flycatcher (x2)
Little Crake (x1)
Subalpine Warbler (x2)
Woodchat Shrike (x2)
Wryneck (x6)
Ortolan Bunting (x1)
Spanish Sparrow (x4)
Cyprus Warbler (x10)
Cyprus Pied Wheatear (x25)
Red-throated Pipit (x1)
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler (x2)
Wood Warbler (x3)
Spectacled Warbler (x40)
Sardinian Warbler (x12)
Collared Pratincole (x5)
Ferruginous Duck (x2)
Greater Flamingo (x300)
Black-eared Wheatear (x10)
Black Francolin (x5)
Chukar (x15)
Cuckoo (x1)
Blue Rock Thrush (x2)
Slender-billed Gull (x1)
Squacco Heron (x3)
Black-crowned Night Heron (x12)
Long-legged Buzzard (x2)
Marsh Harrier (x2)
Osprey (x1)
Peregrine Falcon (x2)
Marsh Sandpiper (x2)
Alpine Swift (x3)
Pallid Swift (x1)
Whiskered Tern (x1)
Little Tern (x2)
Sandwich Tern (x5)
Northern Wheatear (x50)
Lesser Whitethroat (x15)
Cetti's Warbler (x1)
Blackcap (x8)
Whitethroat (x2)
Fan-Tailed Warbler (x4)
Hoopoe (x20)
Short-toed Lark (x20)
Crested Lark (x200)
Tawny Pipit (x10)
Crossbill (x5)
Jay (x1)
Short-toed Treecreeper (x1)
Coal Tit (x4)
Tree Pipit (x2)
Meadow Pipit (x2)
Chaffinch (x2)
Grey Partridge (x2)
Mediterranean Gull (x2)
Shag (x2)
Glossy Ibis (x20)
Barn Owl (x1)
Little Owl (x1)
Kingfisher (x2)
Black-Headed Wagtail (x200)
Blue-headed Wagtail (x100)
White Wagtail (x20)
Nightingale (x15)
Quail (x3) *heard only
Great Tit (x25)
Corn Bunting (x15)
Kestrel (x50)
Common Sandpiper (x1)
Green Sandpiper (x16)
Wood Sandpiper (x4)
Snipe (x1)
Kentish Plover (x5)
Ringed Plover (x4)
Little Ringed Plover (x5)
Ruff (x200)
Little Stint (x200)
Black-winged Stilt (x70)
Little Egret (x4)
Cattle Egret (x1)
Shoveler (x8)
Mallard (x10)
Teal (x5)
Moorhen (x15)
Little Grebe (x20)
Coot (x100)
Collared Dove (x100)
Wood Pigeon (x15)
Swallow (x1000)
House Martin (x50)
Swift (x20)
Little Gull (x1)
Yellow-legged Gull (x200)
Chiffchaff (x5)
Whinchat (x5)
Redstart (x2)
Serin (x2)
Linnet (x10)
Magpie (x25)
Hooded Crow (x300)
Jackdaw (x40)
Grey Heron (x40)
Rock Doves (x20)
Greenfinch (x20)
Goldfinch(x20)
House Sparrow (x2000)
__________________
Nick Moss.
Fav Birds - Hen, Pallid & Monty Harrier, Gyrfalcon, Great Grey Owl, Saker, Hobby, Golden Eagle, Merlin, Monty, SE Owl, Pom Skua, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Redstart, Shrikes, Roller, Bee-eater's, Nightjar, Smew, GN & BT Diver, Spotted Redshank, Warblers (especially yank ones)!

Last edited by wolfbirder : Wednesday 13th April 2011 at 17:07.
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