The unsound approach

Spring in the Eastern Med, every birder should go every so often, even if you’ve seen everything, its great to go and see migration at its best. Si loves a bit of migration but stuck saving the birds of Asia from his office in Hanoi he realised that it was going to be tough getting his fill of wheatears and Sylvia warblers. He hatched a cunning plan to get married, ostensibly as cover for a week long birding trip, and as altruistic as he is, he invited everyone along with him to get in the mix. At least it probably happened something like that.

Fieldskills, and poses (DB)

So, mid March 2009 saw us all descend in a staggered fashion on Cyprus, some stayed a week or whilst others only managed three days. We haven’t produced a conventional trip report, because, well we can’t remember who went where and when, we perpetually seemed to have about 19 hire cars on the go simultaneously and we were only ever in the same place for the wedding and the stag. Highlights were many and varied but for those that were the there the colossal fall on the 23rd was ultra spectacular, Dan tells the tale...


The final day had come. The Punk hardcore had departed taking the fine weather with them. This left only Jezmund, Dawes, Busta, Hannah and myself to work some magic over the Island. At dawn on the 23rd March the curtains parted to reveal a deluge of biblical proportions. The curtains closed again and we went back to bed. An hour later we repeated the procedure, although actually managing to get up this time. As we drove out and north along the coast we realised a fall, nay an avalanche of birds was in progress. The rain was easing and as the spray billowed up from behind the car (Dawes was driving) flocks of Black-headed and White Wags escorted us north in our slip-stream. Finally we approached our first destination, the flat coastal lands just north of the gorge on the north-eastern coast. The last mile had seen our faces pressed hard against the window at the sight of carpets of birds along the roadside.

Sliding into what had been a car park the previous day, now more resembled a mud bath, we piled out and commenced being amazed. Forming a line across the short turf we slowly started wading our way through the hordes of exhausted and bedraggled Short-toed Larks, Black-headed and White Wags. Hundreds adorned the turf whilst over-head flocks passed north in endless waves. No matter where you looked birds were moving. Out to sea small flocks of larks paralleled the coast, whilst high above flocks tumbled down on to the turf right in front of us.

Whats your flava? (DB)

In amongst the commoner stuff, Water, Tree and Tawny Pipits fed, whilst LRPs and even a Spur-winged Plover probed along the muddy puddle edges. Eastern Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears added a flash of action, if not colour. Although not particularly diverse we estimated that some 3000 Short-toed Larks, 1500 Black-headed Wagtails and 1000 White Wagtails were either feeding or passed over during this initial couple of hours birding.

calandrella (DB)

Retracing our steps we headed back to an area of scattered scrub, short turf and the odd ploughed field. The recognisable silhouette of Busta appeared amongst the scrub, drawn away from his Mediterranean fling by the lure of a fall. We set about scanning fields full of wagtails and larks. Amongst the common stuff a handful of dombrowskii and superciliaris were apparent, however nothing more exciting appeared, so we turned our attention to the scrub which was Sylvia-tastic. Sardinians, Subalps, Ruppell’s, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats jostled for position. Trying to follow any one bird proved almost impossible but thoroughly exciting none-the-less. Right on the cliff edge a Savi’s chortled its sub-song and soon responded to a tape, close by, a second bird also showed itself briefly. In an unconventional move Dawes scanned the sea only to find the sole seahorse of the trip, as well as a single Kingfisher, a forerunner of things to come.

Sylvanian family (DB)

Back at the hotel we packed our stuff up ready for check-out and in the process couldn’t help but notice the 17 warblers adorning the bush outside our window. Most were Chiffs with a Lesser Whitethroat or two thrown in for good measure. Waving the lads goodbye it was now down to Hannah and I to dig out the rare in the last few hours. A quick bite to eat in Paphos and we headed out for an afternoon on Paphos headland.

not badass shrike (DB)

As we walked across the car park a Nightingale shot out from between the cars and a Kingfisher came whizzing in off only to land in the avenue of trees behind the cars. Not a bad way to start. Forty-five minutes later and we had only managed to get up the first seven steps from the main gate. The bushes around us were dripping with birds. To say all my Christmas’s had come at once would be a suitable expression as every tree was so-adorned. Woodchats claimed the  top-most perch like fairies (albeit ever so slightly butch and violent) faires. Subalps, Ruppell’s, Sardies and Lesser Whitethroats appeared like baubles all around the trees whilst the usual selection of Phylloscs provided the tinsel. (ED, we'll let Dan get away with this tenuous analogy considering the lack of adequate ways to describe such a monumental fall - the biggest in c15 years (C. Richardson pers com))

big game at the waterhole (DB)

We eventually made it to the avenue, a distance of 75 m from the entrance to the headland! A first glance caused a double take. A couple of Hoopoe’s fed between Robins and the odd Nightingale; Black-eared Wheatears flicked between trees, Wrynecks skulked away along the thicker branches, and Kingfishers dotted the trees…yep, six were roosting up along the avenue! As we meandered down the avenue the undergrowth appeared alive as Lesser Whitethroats and Phylloscs foraged away, interspersed with Ruppell’s and Subalps, Nightingales and Robins.

(DB)

Leaving the avenue behind us we emerged onto the grasslands and ruins of the headland, where once again the usual suspects were much in evidence. Quail were calling all over whilst Woodchats perched up next to yet more roosting Kingfishers. By now the weather had begun to clear but flocks of Short-toed Larks, White and Black-headed Wagtails were still moving north. A line of Kestrels filed over coming in-off whilst Heuglin’s and Baltic Gulls cut the corner over the headland. A Short-eared Owl looked confused as it circled around the lighthouse before finally coming down into cover.

Izzy whizzy. (DB)

We progressed away from cover and out towards open grassland in search of larks. A scan across the projecting thistles and hogweeds revealed in excess of 120 Stonechats, all seemingly Common. A tight flock of wagtails on the deck allowed some scrutiny and revealed the usual majority of feldeggs as well as a couple of dombrowskii/superciliaris type hybrid mingers. Short-toed Larks continued overhead and a small flock of Skylarks erupted from in front of us. Virtually at the end we finally found a single Calandra feeding by itself and even when flushed it still failed to join the Skylarks, but alas no Bimac.

smart (DB)

Cretz (DB)

We meandered our way back past ruins peppered with Issy and Black-eared Wheatears. A cat was incessantly mobbed by singles of Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Subalp, Stonechat and an Issy Wheatear, whilst a Eurasian Cuckoo flushed from cover. The final new migrant of the day came in the form of an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, a species which is surprisingly scarce on the headland given their abundance on Akamas. We finally tore ourselves away from the peninsula and made our way exhausted but exhilarated to the airport. A phenomenal day had produced thousands of migrants yet no rarities, the biggie comes after the fall?


Final fall totals:

Cuckoo  1,  Short-eared Owl  1,  Hoopoe  8,  Kingfisher 12,  Wryneck 5,  Skylark  24, Short-toed Lark  c. 5000,  Calandra Lark  1,  Tawny Pipit  15,  Tree Pipit  12,  Water Pipit  8,  White Wagtail  1700,  Black-headed Wagtail  c. 2500, Nightingale  6, Nightingale  sp 2,  Northern Wheatear  11,  Isabelline Wheatear   35,  Eastern Black-eared Wheatear 28,  Common Stonechat  135,  Savi’s Warbler   2, Blackcap  150,  Lesser Whitethroat  300, Sardinian Warbler  50,  Ruppell’s Warbler  125,  Whitethroat  25,  Subalpine Warbler   60,  Willow Warbler  40, Chiffchaff  500,  Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler  1,  Woodchat Shrike   15


Some more images.....

Finschear, universally loved (DB)

CinSerious Bunting, found by Rob and relocated by James next day, it stayed in view for Dan, Rich and Alex for all of 12 seconds. Much to the chargrin of the rest of the team...  Barely annual on Cyprus but one found by James and Alex at the Baths of Aphrodite almost exactly 10 years before suggests its overlooked...

Cyp Warbler, well, its better than Sard (AL)

Mungus (DB)

Not actually sure this is exciting, but at least its atmospheric (DB)

Masked Strike (RMa)

monster (DB)

Stubb Mill (DB)

Lets get busy (DB)

Proper bird (AL), one day wonder at Asprokremnos, not available for pre-wedding twitchers the next day... video

Cypear (DB)

feels like the Plantation on BP..... (DB)

painful one for Alex.... (DB)

one for the S.H.I.T. maybe.... (DB)

nice Robin. (DB)

compare with JG's Egypt (DB)

how good is this..... (DB)

6 warblers, three species.... (DB)

punters pre stag (DB)

punters post stag... (AL)

Wild bunch (HW)

bride n groom (DB)

Just to prove we don't just look at birds.................beauty and the beast (DB)

......some moth-ish thing (DB).....

.....the rediscovery of Cyprus Leopard; watch out for the press release (AL).....

......and a sea horse. (DB)


What we saw....

Abbreviations used (lower case used when scarce or irregular) RB/rb Resident Breeder; MB/mb Migrant breeder; OB Occasional Breeder; FB Former Breeder; PM/pm Passage Migrant; WV/wv Winter Visitor; AV Accidental/Occasional Visitor (up to 10 records/decade)
Extracted from here.

CORMORANTS     Phalacrocoracidae  

 

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo  WV,PM

European Shag Leucocarbo aristotelis  RB

 

PELICANS            Pelecanidae                              

 

Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus PM

 

  

HERONS              Ardeidae        

  

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax  PM,OB

Little Egret Egretta garzetta PM,WV,OB

Great Egret Ardea alba  pm,wv

Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea PM,WV,OB?

  

FLAMINGOS            Phoenicopteridae 

  

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus WV,PM (failed breeding attempts)

  

SWANS, DUCKS, GEESE   Anatidae  

  

Garganey  Anas querquedula  PM,FB

Common Pochard Aythya ferina WV,PM

  

BUZZARDS, EAGLES, VULTURES, KITES, HARRIERS & HAWKS    Accipititridae   

  

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus  PM,WV

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus  PM

Eurasian Sparrowhawk  Accipiter nisus  PM,WV

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo buteo  PM,WV

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus  rb,pm,wv

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus pm

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus rd,pm

  

OSPREY     Pandionidae     

  

Osprey Pandion haliaetus  PM

  

FALCONS    Falconidae   

  

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus   RB,PM,WV

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus  RB,PM,WV

 

PATRIDGE, FRANCOLIN, QUAIL     Phasianidae   

 

Chukar Alectoris chukar  RB

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus  RB

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix  PM,wv,mb

 

RAILS, CRAKES, GALLINULES, COOTS     Rallidae   

 

Little Crake Porzana parva PM,wv

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus  PM,WV,rb

 

CRANES      Gruidae    

 

Common Crane Grus grus PM,wv

  

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS          Charadriidae       

  

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius  PM,OB,wv

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus MB,RB,PM,WV

Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus  PM,MB

  

WOODCOCK, SNIPE, SANDPIPERS, CURLEWS, STINTS          Scolapacidae         

  

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea PM

Dunlin Calidris alpina  PM,WV

Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus  pm,wv

Snipe Gallinago gallinago PM,WV

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa  PM,wv

Common Redshank Tringa totanus WV,PM

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia PM,wv

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus  PM,wv

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola  PM

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos  PM,Wv

 

GULLS           Laridae          

 

Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus  pm,wv

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus  pm,wv

Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus WV,PM

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei  PM,wv

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii  rb

Baltic Gull Larus fuscus fuscus  PM,wv

Heuglin's (Siberian) Gull Larus heuglini  PM,wv

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis  RB,WV,PM

 

TERNS       Sternidae      

 

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis wv,pm

 

PIGEONS & DOVES       Columbidae     

 

Rock Pigeon Columba livia  RB

Common Wood-pigeon Columba palumbus RB,WV

Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto  RB

 

CUCKOOS       Cuculidae     

 

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius PM,MB

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus  PM,OB?

 

BARN OWL      Tytonidae               

 

Barn Owl Tyto alba  RB

  

LITTLE OWL, SCOPS & LONG-EARED OWL        Strigidae          

  

Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops RB,mb?pm

Little Owl Athene noctua  RB

 

SWIFTS         Apodidae           

 

Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba  MB,PM

Common Swift Apus apus  PM,MB

Palllid Swift Apus pallidus mb,PM

 

KINGFISHERS         Alcedinidae      

 

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis   PM,WV

 

ROLLER           Coraciidae      

 

European Roller Coracias garrulus PM,MB

 

HOOPOE        Upupidae     

 

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops   PM,MB

 

WOODPECKERS        Picidae          

 

Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla   PM,wv

 

LARKS        Alaudidae       

 

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra  RB,PM,wv

Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla da PM

Crested Lark Galerida cristata  RB,PM,?WV

Woodlark Lullula arborea  RB,WV,?PM

Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis  WV,PM

 

SWALLOWS, MARTINS        Hirundinidae    

 

Sand Martin Riparia riparia PM

Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris  RB,pm

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica  MB,PM

Red-rumped Swallow Cecropsis daurica  MB,PM

Northern House-Martin Delichon urbicum  MB,PM

 

WAGTAILS, PIPITS    Motacillidae     

 

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris  PM

Tree Pipit Anthus triviallis  PM

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis  WV,PM

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus  PM,wv

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta  PM,WV

Blue-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava flava  PM

Grey-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava thunbergi  PM

"Sykes's Wagtail' Motacilla flava beema pm

Yellow-headed Wagtail'* Motacilla flava lutea AV"

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg PM,mb

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea  WV,PM,?OB

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba   WV,PM,OB

 

WREN      Troglodytidae 

 

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes cypriotes  RB,?wv

 

DUNNOCK       Prunellidae       

 

Hedge Accentor Prunella modularis WV,?PM

 

THRUSHES, CHATS          Turdidae       

 

European Robin Erithacus rubecula WV,PM

Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos  MB,PM

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros  PM

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus  PM

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata  WV,PM

Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabelina PM

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe  PM

Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca  MB

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica  PM

Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii WV,pm

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius   WV,PM,rb

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula WV,PM,rb

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos WV,PM

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus  wv,pm

 

WARBLERS      Sylviidae      

 

Cettis Warbler Cettia cetti  RB

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis  RB

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides  pm

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus  PM

Common Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus  MB,PM

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata RB

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans PM

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala  RB,WV,?PM

Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax  RB,MB

Ruppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli PM

Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis crassirostris PM

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca  PM

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis PM

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin  PM

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla  PM,WV,?OB

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis PM

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita PM,WV

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus  PM

Goldcrest Regulus regulus  wv

 

TITS         Paridae     

 

Coal Tit Parus ater cypriotes  RB

Great Tit Parus major aphrodite RB

 

TREECREEPER       Certhiidae     

 

Short-toed Tree-creeper Certhia brachydactyla dorotheae RB

 

SHRIKES       Laniidae     

 

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator PM,mb

Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus MB,PM 

 

CROWS        Corvidae      

 

Eurasian Jay  Garrulus glandarius glaszneri  RB 

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica   RB,?wv 

Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula  RB,?wv 

Hooded Crow Corvus corone   RB 

Common Raven Corvus corax  rb 

 

STARLINGS          Sturnidae         

 

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris   WV,PM 

 

SPARROWS             Passeridae     

 

House Sparrow Passer domesticus   RB,PM,?wv

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis  RB,PM,WV

 

FINCHES         Fringillidae     

 

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs RB,WV,PM

European Serin Serinus serinus  RB,WV,PM

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris   RB,WV,PM

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis  RB,WV,PM

Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina  RB,WV,PM

Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra RB,?wv

 

BUNTINGS             Emberizidae    

 

Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea pm 13 records since 1994

Cretzschmar's Bunting Emberza caesia  MB,PM

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra RB,PM,WV