Posted by: Dan | September 22, 2006

Twitching in Cyprus

So, where exactly have I been for the past couple of weeks? Cyprus – and I was able to see quite a few birds of Europe that were completely new to me. In particular, I was able to go birdwatching with a contingent of mostly Brits from Birdlife Cyprus, and found out that they refer to “birdwatching” as “twitching.” Who knew?

The day started out near the medievel castle at Kolossi, near Limmosol, and visited the Akrotiri salt-lake area and the Phassouri reedbeds. Starting at 9am September 9th, we were immediately treated to sightings of Honey Buzzards as they migrated from Europe to Africa, in a spectacular show – they passed within sight of the birdwatching pavilion that we stopped at (visibility was greater than 5km, probably more like 8km), in kettles (groups) numbering as many as ~80, one after another. Jane Stylianou reports that over 3000 Honey Buzzards were seen that day.

I was surprised to hear that Honey Buzzards have a strong flight enabling them to cross the Mediterranean Sea – most large raptors prefer to soar, riding thermal updrafts to conserve energy, and thermals do not occur over open water – but they clearly didn’t object to riding thermals as they crossed the barren salt flats spanning the horizon. I so wish that I had my camera with me.

Just about all of the birds were new for me, however, but the most unique had to have been the Hoopoes, my favorite were their brightly-colored Kingfishers, and the ones that I couldn’t quite see but so desperately wanted to were the Bee-eaters.

The list for that day, however:

Little Grebes
Great White Egret
Little Egret
Grey Herons
Glossy Ibis
Ferruginous Duck
Honey Buzzards
Black Kites
Marsh Harriers
Montague Harrier
I missed the Ring-tailed Harrier
Eurasian Kestrels
Elenora’s Falcon
Eurasian Coots
Kentish Plovers
Spur-winged Plover
Little Stints
Whiskered Terns
I missed the flock of Bee-eaters
Red-rumped Swallows
Black-headed Wagtail
Red-Backed Shrikes
Black-billed Magpies
Collared Doves
Hooded Crows
Great Tits


  1. Twitching is I think more specifically the type of birdwatching where you go to a place specifically following a rarity or with the specific hope of seeing a rarity. Regular birdwatching is still birdwatching….. Hoopoes are wonderful, I’ve only ever seen one, when I lived in Malawi, though at one point there were rumours of one living in central Edinburgh (where I live). Excellent list of birds to have seen, shame that you didn’t see the bee-eaters, those are stunning (I’ve never seen one myself).


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