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.
Guide: Jane Stylianou
Date: 1 April 2011
Full Species List: 64 species
Black-crowned Night Heron
Ferruginous Duck (seen by leader only)
Western Marsh Harrier
Greater Short-toed Lark
Common House Martin
Tree Pipit (heard by leader only)
Red-throated Pipit (heard by leader only)
Blue Rock Thrush