We knew this already, but the Cyprus Mail reported on Friday that ‘Bird trappers have no real fear of prosecution’:

“In addition with Blackcaps (Ambelopoulia), numerous species of conservation concern, such as Wryneck, Masked Shrike, Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart were found on the limesticks and in the nets,” CABS said.

“Although Cyprus is considered as a ‘biodiversity hotspot area’ and its bird fauna is particularly rich, almost one third of bird species recorded in the island are affected by illegal trapping with limesticks and mistnets to a greater or lesser extent,” added CABS general secretary, Alexander Heyd. “Furthermore, more than half of the bird species that are affected are in decline to a greater or lesser extent, while many of those are already facing the danger of extinction.”

In contrast with previous camps, no immediate physical violence was this time used against the conservationists and environmentalists. “Nonetheless, it is evident that trappers have no real fear of prosecution,” said CABS.

“The almost blanket distribution of the traps, the failure by the majority of trappers to acknowledge the illegality of their acts, as well as their blatant and violent behaviour, demonstrate that the measures taken to date by the authorities to combat bird poaching are a long way from being effective”, said Klitos Papastylianou, biodiversity and environmental rights campaigner for Friends of the Earth Cyprus.

More can be read on the CABS website: Cyprus spring bird protection camp diary 2011.

Meanwhile, BirdLife Cyprus has completed its Spring monitoring program for collecting data on the extent of the trapping. They’re just starting to crunch the numbers, but I’m told by Campaigns Manager Martin Hellicar that it doesn’t look good.

Posted by: Dan | May 10, 2011

In Flight: BirdLife Cyprus April Newsletter

FEATURE ARTICLE:

Thousands of records amassed in 2011 BirdLife Cyprus Bird Race — Close to 10,000 birds, of just over 150 species was the impressive count from BirdLife Cyprus’s annual Bird Race event, held across the island on April 2nd. The winning team managed to chalk up a staggering 119 bird species in 24 hours! Twenty three people took part, raising €133 for conservation work. Some spent many hours from early morning to late evening, with other people joining in for a few hours to find as many species of bird as they could. Each team decided its route and timings…

Posted by: Dan | April 29, 2011

Migrant Warblers in Cyprus

My latest beat writer post for 10,000 Birds is up:
Migrant Warblers in Cyprus

Barred Warbler, ©Jane Stylianou

Barred Warbler
Γιαλλούρα
Sylvia risoria
Credit: Jane Stylianou / Cyprus Birding Tours
Details: Taken 22-April-2011 at Cape Greco, Cyprus
Posted by: Dan | April 22, 2011

Public Lecture Series: History of Life on Earth

My wife forwarded me notice about this public 6-lecture series by Marc Srour from the University of Bonn:

Posted by: Dan | April 15, 2011

Cyprus forests and avian inhabitants

My latest beat writer post is up on 10,000 Birds:
Cyprus forests and avian inhabitants

Crossbill in Troodos, taken November 29, 2010 – ©Jane Stylianou

Posted by: Dan | April 11, 2011

Trip Report: 5 APRIL 2011

TRIP REPORT TUESDAY 5th APRIL 2011

I picked up frequent visitors to Cyprus, Louise and David Rowlands from their Paphos flat and we headed for Cape Drepanum as the first stop on our search for spring migrants. Our intention was to spend the morning at sites in and around Paphos and then head to Troodos. The weather was not expected to be kind to us however and as I had been to Mount Olympus on three days earlier and found low cloud, strong winds and generally unforgiving conditions I had made a contingency plan.

Cape Drepanum is on the west of the island, north of Paphos and on the edge of the Akamas Important Bird Area. It is also known as Agios Georgios after the church there. Opposite lies Yeronissos Island and the first birds we saw were the Yellow-legged Gulls that breed there. Several Western Jackdaws were also seen. Parking in the scrub below the Church we soon picked out Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Northern and Isabelline Wheatear present in the low vegetation in considerable numbers. Corn Buntings and at least two male Sardinian Warblers staked their territorial claims from various bushes as a lone Stone Curlew flew up in front of us only to go down again 200m away. White, Blue-headed and Grey-headed Wagtails flitted all over the area and I could see at least one male of the ‘superciliaris’ sub-race. Several wagtails settled in bushes and as we were watching them we found a Wryneck sitting amongst them. A Common Buzzard soared above us and as we returned to the car to move on a male Marsh Harrier flew over the area.

Two male Pallid Harriers were sighted rising high above the Paphos Sewage Works while we tried to locate the Common Nightingale we could hear in the olive trees there.  A Lesser Whitethroat was more co-operative and both a Tree Pipit and one of the many Zitting Cisticola ‘zitting’ over the area sat on the wires above us so we could see them through the ‘scope. We added Black-headed Wagtail to the number of Yellow Wagtail races seen. Two Red-rumped Swallow flew above us with the many Common Swift and Barn Swallows. As usual many Hooded Crow and Wood Pigeon were trying to catch our attention, as did resident finches – Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. Despite efforts the calling Cetti’s Warbler evaded us. Our return route to the main road enabled us to see Sardinian Warbler males again singing from the tops of bushes.

At Mandria we saw Northern and Isabelline Wheatear as well as Greater Short-toed Larks again. Two Shags sat on the offshore rocks. We scanned the ploughed fields while a male Black Francolin called incessantly. We watched a well camouflaged Stone Curlew through the ‘scope as a Bimaculated Lark flew over us. A great change from the numerous Crested Lark also in the area.  Moving on to the Asprokremmos Dam, Alpine Swifts and a Long-legged Buzzard greeted us as we drove up to the car park. The wooded area there contained at least three Hoopoes, two male  and a female Cyprus Wheatear and a male Ortolan Bunting. A male Common Redstart flew into the pines as we moved forward and I could not relocate it to show Louise and David unfortunately. In the scrub above the Dam we saw Black-eared Wheatear. Corn Buntings were again singing but after much searching in the undergrowth we finally located a male Cyprus Warbler. We joined other birders at the Aspro Pools but the reported Little Crake was determined that none of us would see it! A Common Kingfisher however was more obliging sitting at the edge of the water as was a Masked Shrike sitting watching for prey from a low bush.

As the clouds gathered over Troodos in the distance we headed towards Kidasi. After a few kilometres we  stopped to scan the area for birds of prey but the approaching storm seemed to deter them and in fact we only added the ground dwelling Quail and Chukar to our day list. We then made the decision to abandon the idea of going to Troodos and headed for Kensington Cliffs on the edge of the Akrotiri Peninsula.

We avoided the worst of the rain while in the car heading for the Cliffs and on our arrival there the sun was back out. A Nightingale was heard as we got out of the car – confusing me at first but soon becoming obvious. Many hirundines were present – more Alpine Swifts, Common Swift, Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallows for us to marvel at. We walked down to the cliff edge and managed to located one of the islands rarest residents – a Griffon Vulture. We were not lucky enough to see one of these magnificent, threatened birds in flight but watched it on a ledge. A Peregrine Falcon was more obliging and flew above us calling. Several Cyprus Wheatears and Cyprus Warblers were calling. A good place to see both the island’s endemic species together at this time of year.

Our last stop on our rearranged itinerary was Phassouri Reed Beds and gave us the chance to see some waterbirds.  Moorhen, Coot and Little Grebe have returned to the area now that it again holds water after a few years of very low rainfall. Squacco Heron and Cattle and Little Egret were quickly spotted. The only waders present were Wood Sandpiper and Common Snipe but several newly arrived Reed Warblers picked out flitting in the vast area of reeds. Another Common Kingfisher was perched on the remains of the hide close to the water’s edge. A Woodchat Shrike was a lovely bird to finish our trip on as he rested motionless on reeds close to the road.

Thanks to Louise and David for a good day’s birding and for being prepared to adapt their day out once it became clear that a visit to Troodos was not a good idea in a spring becoming noted for its unsettled weather this year.
Read More…

Posted by: Dan | April 10, 2011

Common Snipe

Common Snipe, ©Jane Stylianou

Common Snipe
Πικατσόνι
Gallinago gallinago
Credit: Jane Stylianou / Cyprus Birding Tours
Details: Taken 11-March-2011 at the Oroklini marsh, Cyprus
Posted by: Dan | April 5, 2011

Trip Report: 1 April 2011

Jean Carr had got in touch with us asking for a day out to see as many spring migrants as we could for her and her husband. Derek had been given a terminal diagnosis over a year ago but was still going strong and had expressed a desire to return to Cyprus to see as many of the birds as possible that he had seen on a trip here over four years ago. April 1st also happened to be his birthday so we left their Paphos hotel in high hopes of helping him celebrate. Spring migration this year has stopped and started several times but on checking the BirdLife Cyprus Birdline it reported sightings of most of the usual species for this time of year but no rarities to go after today.

Our plan was to go to Paphos Sewage Works which they had not visited before and then move on to the Akrotiri Peninsula. We were greeted by the sounds of Zitting Cisticola and Cetti’s Warbler as we got out of the car at our first stop. The first we later saw sitting on the electricity wires while the Cetti’s remained elusive. A Common Buzzard flew over the old airplanes near the sea with two Hooded Crows close attendance. We studied the House Sparrows on the barbed wire fence but no Spanish Sparrow was amongst them. However, Lesser Whitethroat, a Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaffs and a male Sardinian Warbler were all picked out in bushes and undergrowth. A flock of flying herons were too far away to identify while a Spur-winged Lapwing called at us from the newly constructed yet still empty pool and two Squacco Heron flew by. I heard both Red-throated and Tree Pipit fly over us but was unable to show them to Jean and Derek for them to add to their day’s list.

We then decided to deviate a bit from the day’s plan and moved along the coast to Mandria. Although we were attacked by small gnats on getting out of the car we added Greater Short-toed Lark, Isabelline and Northern Wheatears, Linnet and Tawny Pipit all in the short vegetation in front of the beach. A Little Egret sat on an offshore rock but the insects drove us away to the Asprokremmos Dam. There we quickly discovered that the sixteen herons we had seen earlier in the distance were circling above the car park and now could be identified as Black-crowned Night Heron. They came close so we got excellent views and were joined by a Purple Heron. Scanning the bushes near the water added a female Cyprus Warbler, female Blackcap and another Lesser Whitethroat to our total. No water birds could be seen on the Dam itself. A lone Moorhen was on the Pools below the dam wall but Common Swifts and at least six Alpine Swift flew above and as we left the area a male Cyprus Warbler sat on the end of a branch for us and a male Cyprus Wheatear showed off on electricity wires.

We now headed for Kensington Cliffs and as we drove to the ‘Sophie’s view’ area two of the area’s most sought after residents, Griffon Vultures, were soaring ahead of us. We jumped out of the car to see a third join them. There are probably less than ten of these magnificent birds left on the island and they treated us to a beautiful flying display enabling us to get great views of their plumage features. A strong wind had now got up and try as we might we could not locate the singing Cyprus Warblers we could hear but a Red-rumped Swallow was seen in the flocks of Barn Swallows flying over together with Common and Alpine Swifts. A quick stop at the ruins of the Curium Stadium produced Northern and Isabelline Wheatears as a Black Francolin called.

After a comfort stop at a Limassol shopping mall where I narrowly avoided a nasty argument with a jobsworth security officer we negotiated the road works and parked at Zakaki Marsh. Derek was shocked how much the area had changed since he last saw it but this was alleviated somewhat by the female Western Marsh Harrier that flew over the scrub nearby. Coots, Moorhen and Little Grebe were on the pond and a Ferruginous Duck popped out from the reeds for the briefest second which unfortunately meant that Jean and Derek missed it. A Common Kingfisher flew up from the sluice area and White Wagtails were using the nearby puddles there. House Martins and a lone Sand Martin joined the Barn Swallows making the most of the areas insect life, while a very pale Common Buzzard hovered over the reeds and a Grey Heron flew over the marsh behind the pool.

Bishop’s Pool gave us a Common Sandpiper and we were able to see around 300 Greater Flamingos still on the Salt Lake itself before moving onto the area around the Agios Georgios Church. Unfortunately work men meant that the area was not the haven for migrants it so often is at this time of year but we still saw Blue Rock Thrush, Hoopoe, Cyprus, Northern and Isabelline Wheatear and a striking Masked Shrike. Driving across the Gravel Pits to get to Phassouri Reed Beds we found two Kentish Plover, many more Wheatears, another Blue Rock Thrush and, probably the highlight for Derek, SEVEN Hoopoes sitting in one low shrub and flitting around the area. Local birder Marios drove us to where he had seen Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters in the morning but unfortunately they had moved on.

Our final stop was Phassouri Reed Beds returning to their best this spring with large areas of water. Making the best of this area were Little Egrets, Common Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Ruff and a pair of Northern Shoveler. It was now very windy and no warblers could be heard in the reeds although another Western Marsh Harrier quartered the area. It was now time to make the return trip to Paphos. We drove through Episkopi Garrison and another Griffon Vulture could be seen soaring there giving the seal to a good birthday’s birding in excellent company.
Read More…

Posted by: Dan | April 5, 2011

The 2011 Cyprus Bird Race

My latest beat writer post is up at 10,000 Birds, a summary of our outing at the 2nd annual Cyprus Bird Race:
The 2011 Cyprus Bird Race

Posted by: Dan | March 30, 2011

In Flight: BirdLife Cyprus March Newsletter

FEATURE: Our Avian Forest Gems!
Cyprus, although only 16% of its land mass is covered with forest, hosts more than 34 species of forest birds, 15 all-year residents, eight migratory breeders and 11 winter visitors. All our six endemics have exclusive or partial populations living in forest habitats – exclusive being …
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