I’m just back from 5 days in Cyprus, a relaxing trip with straightforward birding, good weather and great food. I managed to chalk up a few Western Palearctic ticks amid 79 species, and the general birding was decent – indeed, I was surprised at the densities of birds in a country much maligned for its hunting culture.
Instead of a full-blown trip report for an already well-documented birding country, I’ve summarised my experiences of key sites, generally based on 2-4 visits over the course of the holiday. We were based in the quaint village of Pissouri, so most birding took place in the south and west of the island, and consequently we visited the same sites multiple times.
I’ve gone into detail on sites for Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Scops Owl, two endemic species that are fairly difficult to see, certainly in the winter. Finally, I’ll do a separate post on the gulling I got in, as this was particularly educational and enjoyable. That post will also cover Lady’s Mile and the wetland sites south of Larnaca to some extent.
Paphos sewage farm
We made 3 visits to this site, which had a nice mix of species, though views in the actual sewage plant were restricted. The best bird here was a Black Francolin on the 14th, a male initially flushed from the meadows west of the plant, and then seen briefly in a hedgerow. This bird and another distant one were singing at dawn.
|Spur-winged Lapwing, Paphos Sewage Farm, 17/1/2018|
Passerine action was headlined by Red-throated Pipits – there were 2 on the 14th, and at least one on the 17th. Excellent birds, and after the mystery (or ex-mystery!) Pipit that flew over the patch in October, a lead instigator for this trip and real eureka moment.
Just one visit here on the 14th, in order to connect with the Greater Sandplovers that winter on the rocky shore. 3 birds of the columbinus subspecies were seen at close range, appearing far slighter and more delicate than Collins depicts. 20+ Golden Plovers were with them.
|Red-throated Pipit, Paphos Headland, 14/7/2018|
The reliable Finsch’s Wheatear site, and it delivered on the 14th, despite some rather vague directions in Gosney. After finding the grassy plateau at 34.763630, 32.539137, which can be driven to, it didn’t take long to locate the wintering male on the rocky hillside to the north. Whilst always keeping distant good views could be had. There was no sign of the female.
A really nice stretch of coastal arable farmland between Pissouri and Paphos, which held a large mixed pipit/lark/wagtail flock. There were probably many more than the 24 Skylarks, 17 White Wagtails, 6 Crested Larks and 20 Meadow Pipits that were counted on the 14th, and not just 2 Red-throated Pipits, which were always heard before seen.
On the 14th there was also a ringtail Hen Harrier, and 2 Chukars flew over the road. On the 15th the size of the aforementioned flock was similar, and 4 Yellow-legged Gulls moved offshore.
The habitats surrounding our apartment was really good, with farmland similar to Mandria running down to Maquis scrub and eventually leading to Pissouri Bay. This whole area was very productive for Cyprus Warbler, and I imagine a search of any suitable scrubby habitat would reveal a bird here.
The best site was an area of cliff maquis west of Pissouri Bay. By taking the road south at 34.652637, 32.719449, to the Columbia Beach Resort, the road goes past the hotel and to an apparent overflow car park. At the west end of this car park, the scrub on the cliffs to the north-west held at least 2 pairs of Cyprus Warblers. The area of scrub at 34.648478, 32.718112 produced presumably the same pair on 2 mornings.
Other sites that held Cyprus Warblers included the maquis to the west of the lay-by at 34.654769, 32.718197, and the scrub at 34.657766, 32.717142. As mentioned, a search of any suitable looking habitat in this general area should produce.
Other birds in and around Pissouri included several Chukars and 4 Hawfinches (from the apartment balcony!).
Lady’s Mile and Zakaki Marsh
Lady’s Mile was visited for the gulls, and whilst some close-range views of Armenians were had on the beach, numbers were disappointing. I’ll go into more detail in the second post, but aside from the Armenians and a sole Slender-billed Gull, there wasn’t loads of note.
Zakaki Marsh was visited on the morning on the 15th and was very productive, with 2 Moustached Warblers, a Bluethroat and 3+ Penduline Tits all seen. The former was a lifer – I’d only previously heard this species.
This mountain town is home to a few Cypriot sub-species, and it certainly made for a change to be birding in snow instead of 20 degree heat. 3 Crossbills were seen in flight, and 1 ‘Dorothy’s’ Short-toed Treecreeper was knocking about. The Cypriotes Coal Tits were numerous, and both looked and sounded very different to those encountered in the UK - possibly worthy of full-species elevation one day? A Hawfinch flew over.
The track leading east towards the reservoir is mentioned by Gosney as a reliable Cyprus Scops Owl site, and it certainly delivered. Despite being warned that this species is hard to see, particularly in the winter, we heard one calling within minutes of pulling up at the recommended lay-by/track at 34.850312, 32.396198.
By patient scanning of the ridge on the south side of the road, 2 Cyprus Scops Owls were eventually seen, both in flight. They called surprisingly frequently, but the views weren’t amazing. A covey of 6 Chukars were also here.
Gulls up next.