Cyprus 16th to 30th March 2016
I have to confess that before embarking on this year's trip I doubted whether I would be constructing a report afterwards as it could be too similar to previous years and not of interest. However I could not have been more wrong! I was lucky enough to be the finder of a very rare (in Cyprus) Asian Desert Warbler and also made contact (after some effort!) with a Namaqua Dove (found by others) which is similarly rare. In addition to this were three further lifers and two new Cyprus birds for me.
Our trip was booked through Thomsons as a half board package and our hotel was the Pioneer Beach where the food can be classed as a five star buffet! Cost was around £900 each and this year we hired a car from the Elephant Car Hire Company who dropped off and picked it up from the hotel for 162 euros, about thirteen pounds a day.
For brevity I have not included location instructions that have appeared in previous reports on the Real Birder website. One important factor affecting birdwatching was that there had been no discernible rainfall over the past twelve months so reservoirs were very low and rivers completely dried up. In fact the river at Geriskipou Beach had no water and now has trees and shrubs growing in the riverbed. Other areas such as the Anarita Dung Heaps and Mast areas have been somewhat degraded by mineral workings and the Phassouri Reedbeds were completely burnt out during our visit. The net result of the above was that the remaining reliable birding sites had many more birders than normal, which was not a major problem as most were considerate and helpful with sharing information.
Pioneer Beach Headland
This site has been further degraded since last year by the dumping of green waste from hotels over large parts of the headland and an archaeological dig where the spoil is spread over the small amount of natural scrub remaining. Plenty of birds were seen however including:- twenty Yellow Wagtail (feldegg), several Isabelline Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, House Sparrow, Swallow, Swift, House Martin, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, White Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Crested Lark, Kingfisher, four migrating Glossy Ibis, one hundred migrating Pintail, twelve migrating Cormorant, Common Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Spur-winged Lapwing, Sardinian Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Kestrel, & Yellow-legged Gull.
For directions see March 2014 report. This site appears to be good for raptors as this year we found a Peregrine and Goshawk (lifer) flying at high level over the dam end, where in previous years we have had Bonelli’s Eagle. Also seen here was a Kestrel (mobbing the Peregrine) one Woodchat Shrike, one Greater Spotted Cuckoo, a pair of Rüppell’s Warbler, one Cyprus Wheatear and two Magpie.
Aspro Dam – Dam End
The water level here was massively down on previous years so there were no weedy shallows for Herons etc but we did manage to find two Cyprus Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler and Corn Bunting. For information the area on the side of the road from the opposite side of the dam to the car park up the hill to the track on the left seems reliable for Cyprus Warbler.
This area which had been very fruitful in the past is now heavily degraded due to mineral workings, unfortunately (as usual!) the spoil from this is being heaped on the surrounding pristine scrub so the Spectacled Warbler pictured here will probably not be around next year.
This area was heavily populated with birders this year with occasionally up to eight cars parked in a 200m stretch. This area was so well populated with good birds that it was not an issue. For directions to the most productive area follow the instructions in the 2015 report and at the massive rocks crossroad turn left and the immediate shrubby area to the right for 200m and a further 200m after turning right at the next junction comprised truly fantastic birding. I was very fortunate here to be the finder of a very rare (14 previous Cyprus records, last seen 2011) Asian Desert Warbler (lifer) one evening which unfortunately only one other birder made contact with a few days later. Another lifer that I was lucky to see was a Rock Thrush, I had stupidly forgotten my binoculars but a very kind lady lent me hers whilst she held my camera, unfortunately the bird was gone by the time the camera was operational! Other birds seen in this shrubby area were:- Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler (lifer), Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Rüppell’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spectacled Warbler, Song Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Redstart, Cyprus Wheatear, Eastern Race Black-eared Wheatear, Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Little Owl, Wryneck and Chukar. Other birders did make contact with Finch’s and Desert Wheatear here but alas not me! One bird I did connect with however which was quite interesting was the “Black” Warbler pictured below, possibly a melanistic Sardinian; apologies for the poor pictures but it never came out of the bushes! To my knowledge no one else made contact with this bird during my trip. One point of note here – all birds were seen whilst viewing from within the car, allowing close views without spooking the birds.
Agios Georgious – Coral Bay
For directions see 2015 report. Twenty Night Heron were seen migrating and a group of ten Yellow Wagtail bathed in a rare puddle whilst we sat perhaps 5m away, also seen on this walk were many Chiffchaff and a Black Francolin.
For directions see 2015 Report. From the hide a Squacco Heron was seen in flight, a Little Egret hunted below the hide and on the scrape were a Flamingo, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen and a Little Grebe.
Continue along the road from the hide and you come to Ladies Mile, a long stretch of sandy beach with some scrub behind. We only found Little-ringed Plover here but others have connected with terns, gulls, warblers etc.
For directions see 2015 report but for better walk just retrace your steps after a nice coffee/cake at the Herbs Garden Café. Seen on this superb walk were: Bonelli’s Eagle, two Long-legged Buzzard, three Greater Spotted Cuckoo, one Serin, fifty Jackdaw, two Kestrel and many feral pigeons in the gorge below.
There seemed to be more warblers on the walk this year including Ruppell’s and Sardinian plus many Chukar. Also seen here was a raptor that I have spent time deliberating on, and now think it may be a Honey Buzzard. Be careful here with bins and cameras as there is a British Garrison on this walk.
In the week before we left the UK a very rare Namaqua Dove (four previous Cyprus records) was found on farmland here, fortunately it was still there when we arrived and after several attempts (and hours!) we made contact with it. Interestingly the small patch of felled fig trees and twigs it favoured held a surprising number of other species including Nightingale (I did consider Thrush Nightingale for this skulking bird but not enough info for good id), Spanish Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap and Black Francolin. Down on the beach and Larks Corner were a Steppe Buzzard, Fan-tailed Warbler, Pallid Harrier, Marsh Harrier and two Greater Sand Plover almost invisible on the beach.
Paphos Headland Archaeological Site
We visited this site twice and many birders spend a whole day here as it is a good place for stopover migrants. This year we saw seven Hoopoe, several Fan-tailed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, many Northern Wheatear, one Red-throated Pipit, two Tawny Pipit, one Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipit, one Blue Rock Thrush and many Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.
Paphos Sewage Works
On my one short visit here were two Spur-winged Plover and a Green Sandpiper flushed from a puddle outside the works.
This was a first time we have visited the salt lakes here and I have included a location map below. These maps are available from tourist offices and hotels. We only had a couple of hours here but a whole day would be well rewarded. The smaller lake adjacent to the runway was quite rewarding and contained Flamingo, Black Headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Black-winged Stilt, two Ringed Plover, two Little Stint and a Mallard. On the far bank were many more waders of unknown identification, unfortunately we did not have time to explore. We had a walk on the banks of the large salt lake but any birds were a very long way off.
The lake to the right of the “B4” sign on the map was our most productive, but this lake and the big salt lake were the only ones visited on our trip. For info the “A5” road on the map is the motorway from Paphos about 90 minutes away.
Birds in Cyprus face many constant threats, some of which I have noted above, Birdlife Cyprus is an organisation that is constantly fighting for the wildlife of the island against a background of illegal hunting, trapping, development and ignorance. For the visiting birder it can be an invaluable resource being a member as well as helping them in their battles, I can thoroughly recommend joining to get the most out of a visit.
A holiday dedicated to birdwatching would see more birds than us, but as ours is primarily a walking holiday as my wife is a non birder; the only dedicated birdwatching by me is a couple of hours before dinner so we were well pleased to see such a wide variety of birds - 96 species in total.
Trip report PDF version with all original photos
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