September is a fantastic time to go birding in Cyprus. The temperatures have cooled off a bit from their Summer highs, and birds of prey are pouring through Cyprus en route to wintering grounds in Africa.
My guests were staying in Peyia whereas I live in Nicosia, so to save time we met at the car park by Asprokremnos Dam. Right away we saw a Hoopoe. But we wanted to get to Akrotiri early to see what was about, so we got in my car and headed out fairly quickly.
In Akrotiri, we went to the Eucalyptus plantation first, driving through it to the vantage point on the East side of the salt lake. The plantation held a handful of Honey Buzzards that we were able to get outstanding views of, as they were perched in the trees and moving about a bit. A group of about 20 European Bee-Eaters passed over, and a Spotted Flycatcher gave us good looks too. Then moving out to the salt lake, several more were sitting on the flats awaiting the morning thermals. There were a pair of Isabelline Wheatear, a Whinchat, and a Wren in the scrub as well. And then 2 Black Kites with a few more Honey Buzzards flew out from the Eucalyptuses also. Between all of the Honey Buzzards, we had nice examples of the wide range of color variation in this polymorphic species.
We moved on and visited the Zakaki marsh, where we saw 2 Water Rail and a Cetti’s Warbler out in the open just by the roadside. Little Stints, Kentish Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, a Ruff, Coots, Moorhens, and Yellow Wagtails rounded out the birds in the marsh. Continuing on, we found many Kentish Plovers at Lady’s Mile, with a supporting cast of a couple Ruff, a Common Redshank, and a Whiskered Tern.
From here we crossed to the Western side of the salt lake and visited Bishop’s Pool. Many Coots greeted us, along with Moorhens, Little Grebes, a couple Willow Warblers, and a Grey Heron. Overhead, a dozen more Honey Buzzards passed in a kettle. We then continued on to the Phassouri reedbed, where a pair of photographers tipped us off to 2 Great Reed Warblers that were about. The sky above the reedbed was full of mostly Red-rumped Swallows, and a handful of Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats surrounded us in the field.
By now it was getting to be late morning, so we headed towards Troodos square for some of the high-elevation endemics. At the courts in front of the Dolphin Restaurant, we got great looks at a juvenile Masked Shrike. Coal Tit were in the trees along the footpath, as was a Spotted Flycatcher, and I could hear in the distance what I was sure was Short-toed Treecreeper, but no sightings. So we went back towards the car and were greeted by a beautiful Fall-plumage Cyprus Wheatear.
By now it was after 1pm, so we drove up to the meteorological station to sit and have the lunches that we brought with us. I could still hear the Short-toed Treecreepers, which was frustrating as we hadn’t seen any yet. So after we finished our lunch, we went walking up among the adjacent cabins, following their call notes. First though, we caught a brief look at a Cyprus Jay flying back towards the square, and then continued towards the calls. And sure enough we were treated to views of 2 Short-toed Treecreeper as more called in the immediate area. Moments later… Griffon Vulture! One had just flown past us overheard. And ten seconds later, a second came into view, passing directly above us. Needless to say we were ecstatic.
So with that we headed back to the car, but were first greeted by another Cyprus Wheatear. But time was short, so we drove back down to Asprokremnos. We still had not seen Cyprus Warbler, which was frustrating us. So with what time we had left we walked up to the scrub-filled field North of the Asprokremnos car park in search of warblers. While looking, another Honey Buzzard passed over, as I followed my ear hearing what was certainly either a Cyprus or Sardinian Warbler. Continuing to frustrate us, it remained deep within the bush, skulking. Outside of breeding season, we know that these species are “skulkers,” but that didn’t console us.
And with that, I had to bid my guests goodbye. I felt it was a good day, albeit with a frustrating end.
Guide: Dan Rhoads
Full Species List – 45 species
Little Ringed Plover
Great Reed Warbler