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Old Sunday 29th April 2012, 12:48   #1
Rob Williams
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Cyprus, 1-14 April 2012

Thanks to the Olympics this year's family holiday had to be taken at Easter. We therefore looked to go somewhere we hadn't been before, somewhere that would be too hot for us in the summer months; so we decided to go to Cyprus. We hired a villa in a quiet area, deliberately ignoring 'lively' Coral Bay, in Argaka on Chrysochou Bay.

We had to fly to Larnaca which meant a two-hour drive around the island to the villa. I have to say the drive was quite pleasant and gave us a chance to see a lot of the island. The motorway is quite good and the signs are all in Greek and English; they drive on the correct side of the road although the speed limits seem on the low side.

The exit from the airport was easy and the drive produced quite a few birds. House Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Kestrel, Magpie and Collared Dove were all very quickly seen. Having driven passed Paphos we left the motorway (or rather it ended) and headed north along local roads. In Skoulli I saw my first Barn Swallow of the year.

Then started the hard part - the last couple of miles. We had directions and I saw a sign mentioned in the directions; accordingly we took the second right and couldn't find the villa. It turner out the sign said in small letters, "in 3 km" which I missed. I did see Hoopoe though.

Having got to the villa we unpacked and sat at the pool, listening to Sardinian Warbler. In the orange groves surrounding the villa there were plenty of Linnets.

So, the end of the first day produced 9 birds, 4 of which were year ticks.
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Old Sunday 29th April 2012, 13:22   #2
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The first day of the holiday proper saw me waking up to hear a bird calling that I simply could not recognise. The sun was shining and so I got up early to locate the bird. Spyros, who introduced himself as the gardener but who I suspect owned the villas, was cleaning the pool. He told me the bird I could hear was a crow; not a call I had heard before. He also told me the island had had its wettest winter for 100 years, so all the dams were full, the island was green and lush but the temperatures were a couple of degrees down on what they would expect.

As I do I went for a wander along the tracks to look at the local area and see what birds I could find. A couple of hundred yards from the villa the road did a u-turn as it approached a quite steep drop, overlooking some scrubland that gave way to some fields, the coast road and then the beach. This proved to be a fruitful spot over the forthcoming fortnight.

That first day yielded Greenfinch, Great Tit (everywhere), Crested Lark (equally numerous), Cetti's Warbler (also everywhere) and my first life-tick: Cyprus Wheatear, buzzing away on top of a telegraph pole. In addition Wood Pigeon, House Martin, plenty of Blackcaps in the scrub, a second lifer, Red-rumped Swallows, a male Serin singing his heart out and just one, solitary Yellow-legged Gull flying along the coast.

Oh and the mystery bird was driving me mad. Calling frequently, seemingly very close but completely unseen. My wife issued an ultimatum, 'find and identify that bird'.
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Old Sunday 29th April 2012, 13:37   #3
Rob Williams
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The following day saw me crack the mystery bird. I went to my favourite vantage point and heard the bird calling again. I had by now learned that its call carried a very long way. So, I started scanning the fields about 400 yards or so away. There in a fallow, weed-filled field there was a slight mound behind a dumped tractor tyre. On top of the mound was a partridge-type bird, blackish around the head, rusty-brown below with a white eyebrow. Back at the villa I got out the book and there it was, Black Francolin. Out came the iPod and the call was spot on, another lifer. I also spotted Goldfinch.

That afternoon we went into Latchi to see about booking some scuba diving trips. A gentle stroll along the harbour found a female Kingfisher on a boat's mooring rope and a Common Gull amongst the Yellow-legs. We then to Aphrodite's Pool, which was seriously underwhelming, and then started a stroll into the Akamas peninsula in baking sunshine. We walked for about half an hour, till the wife tripped and fell and we acknowledged we didn't have the correct shoes on, but by then had found Rock Dove and Merlin.

26 birds seen so far, 13 new for the year and 2 lifers.
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Old Sunday 29th April 2012, 13:56   #4
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The following day we headed into different countryside. We had considered going tinto the Troodos, but the distances involved on mountainous roads seemed too great. So we headed up into the hills of the Paphos forest, after going along the coast road to Pomos and finding the Turkish enclave on the headland.

We went to 1200m above sea-level, found a parking spot and went for a short walk in the forest along well-marked trails. This gave me Chaffinch and then numerous Cyprus Coal Tits. The scenery was magnificent with great views. We then headed into Stavros for a bite to eat and drink. The roadside yielded three views of another new bird, Rock Thrush. Gorgeous males in their finery. Then high above us soared an Eleonora's Falcon.

5 April was a quiet day at the villa but the scrub area revealed two great birds. The morning gave me excellent views of my first juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo, continually mobbed by the local magpies. With my elevated viewpoint it flew level with me amongst the trees. The coast road gave a White Wagtail before a return to the scrub gave me a pair of Chukar Partridges being flushed and flying right below me.

The Friday saw us heading off for some scuba diving, so it was up early. This gave me a Long-legged Buzzard just 100 yards away from the villa and my first Swift of the year over St George's Island as we prepared to dive. The dive's highlight was seeing my first ever Octopus in crystal-clear waters.

I was really looking forward to the Saturday though. Ever since deciding to go to Cyprus I had known that Birdlife Cyprus hold their annual Birdrace at the start of April. Saturday 7 April was it. I had collected my sponsor money and my guides were waiting for me in Stroumpi.
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Old Sunday 29th April 2012, 16:08   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Williams View Post
The following day we headed into different countryside. We had considered going tinto the Troodos, but the distances involved on mountainous roads seemed too great. So we headed up into the hills of the Paphos forest, after going along the coast road to Pomos and finding the Turkish enclave on the headland.

We went to 1200m above sea-level, found a parking spot and went for a short walk in the forest along well-marked trails. This gave me Chaffinch and then numerous Cyprus Coal Tits. The scenery was magnificent with great views. We then headed into Stavros for a bite to eat and drink. The roadside yielded three views of another new bird, Rock Thrush. Gorgeous males in their finery. Then high above us soared an Eleonora's Falcon.

5 April was a quiet day at the villa but the scrub area revealed two great birds. The morning gave me excellent views of my first juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo, continually mobbed by the local magpies. With my elevated viewpoint it flew level with me amongst the trees. The coast road gave a White Wagtail before a return to the scrub gave me a pair of Chukar Partridges being flushed and flying right below me.

The Friday saw us heading off for some scuba diving, so it was up early. This gave me a Long-legged Buzzard just 100 yards away from the villa and my first Swift of the year over St George's Island as we prepared to dive. The dive's highlight was seeing my first ever Octopus in crystal-clear waters.

I was really looking forward to the Saturday though. Ever since deciding to go to Cyprus I had known that Birdlife Cyprus hold their annual Birdrace at the start of April. Saturday 7 April was it. I had collected my sponsor money and my guides were waiting for me in Stroumpi.
Well done especially on the Rock Thrush Rob. Those orange and blue males are high prizes in Cyprus, Blue Rock Thrush would be somewhat easier.
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