Monday, 13 July 2009

Cyprus - June 2009



Troodos mountains

Bush fire



Collared Pratincole

Jan and I had booked a non birding holiday in Cyprus. No scope no camera, but we both took our bins. Migration would be over so it would be a nice relaxing break. 'Wasnt it about here you saw that Pallid Swift' said Jan, as we drove from the airport. 'Pallid Harrier dear, Pallid Harrier' I replied. We started to reminise as we drove the short distance to our usual hotel in Paphos. Nothing had changed just a couple of new faces at the reception desk, but everything else was the same. I always feel very at home in Cyprus
Over the next 14 days we visited all the places we were familiar with. Agios Georgious on the Akamas peninsular is a favourite but we were horrified to see a huge area fenced off for development. They really are doing their best to ruin the place as bit by bit the coastline is covered with concrete. On the fringes of the Akamas it really is a case of Paradise Lost. We were to find other examples of prime birding habitat being lost to property development.
On day two we went to the north coast to Latchi and then on to Smyllies trail (its spelt differently on every sign you see) via the village of Neo Chorio. There are some lovely walks around this part of the Akamas but again new villas and complexes are springing up on the edge of the forest. It was surprisingly hot for early June but we did manage a new short nature trail starting from the picnic area. Not many birds but plenty of Butterflies, mainly Great banded Graylings. We did hear a Long eared Owl at the picnic site and heard Black Francolin near Latchi. We saw a few more species as we drove back through the countryside. Rollers were numerous on the wires but only one Shrike, a single Lesser grey Shrike. Other birds included Red rumped Swallow, Swallow, Ortolan, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Cyprus Wheatear and Hoopoe.

We enjoyed alot of short walks over the next few days as I adapted to non birding mode and gradually became more relaxed. I still kept my eyes open though and was delighted to find a pair of Calandra Larks at Mandria as Jan enjoyed the last rays of the evening sun on a quiet bit of beach. Mandria, an area of rich agricultural land next to the sea is a migration hotspot in the spring but again is beginning to suffer from the property developer. On another visit to Mandria beach we found a very confiding Collared Pratincole which I attempted to photograph with Jan's compact camera. Despite the new housing estates there are still a good number of bird friendly fields and to be honest an increase in greenhouses and polytunnels might pose a greater threat. We'll see. Other birds seen at Mandria : Stone Curlew and Turtle Dove c20

The highlight of this non birding holiday in a birding sense was a trip to Troodos. The wooded slopes and peaks around the village were alive with birds, many of the woodland species being endemic to Cyprus. Birds seen on non birding walk along 'Atalantie Nature trail: Jay, Pallid Swift, Common Swift, Coal tit, Wren, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Spotted Flycatcher, Short toed Treecreeper, Cyprus Wheatear, Black Redstart, Masked Shrike, Crossbill, Serin, Swallow and House Martin. A Scops Owl called close by but kept well out of sight. The most remarkable sighting though was of Eygptian Vulture seen well, low over the trees but for just a few seconds. A very rare bird in Cyprus, unheard of in June! I'll submit the record but I know it will never be accepted but I know what I saw.
So a good day, goodness knows what we'd have seen if we had been birdwatching.
On the way back along the Motorway we stopped to watch a Bush fire. Luckily the sea was close so the four helicoptors could fill their water buckets very quickly. Just as well with the strong wind blowing the flames towards a housing development in the hills. The helicoptors were amazingly accurate in dropping each load of water, quite dramatic to watch.
Later in the week we visited Kourion a Roman settlement on the way to Limassol. Very interesting and very cultural I'm sure but it doesn't do a lot for me. Having already visited the Roman ruins/mosaics on the virtually birdless Paphos headland I was in danger of suffering an overdose of Roman archeology. We had a quick non birding drive to Phasori reed beds to allow me to recover but no water no birds except a few Cattle Egret. And a quick non birding stop at Zakaki pool which did have water and where we happened to notice a few birds : Whiskered Tern c10, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Black headed Wagtail, Moorhen, Coot and two Green Sandpiper. On the way back we had to stop for a juvenile Great spotted Cuckoo on the road.

Another walk took us from Agious Georgious to Lara bay. A few Alpine swifts flew over the island and a small flock of Linnets fed on the scrub behind the beach. Yellow legged gulls flew aimlessly up and down the shore. Sardinian warblers showed on the stubby bushes. We enjoyed a coffee at the Lara beach cafe but there was no sign of any Turtle 'nests' which are supposed to occur here. We did find evidence of Turtles on the way back though. Metal frames had been erected to protect the eggs but it seemed a rather half hearted effort and a few people were sun bathing or even parking their 4x4s very close to the mounds.
We tried walking around Anarita Park but the tracks and paths we tried to follow usually petered out but we did notice Spectacled, Fan tailed and Sub alpine warblers as well as Corn Bunting on our wanderings.
We revisited Smyllies trail and Jan spotted a Chameleon on the edge of the track. It was the first one I'd ever seen. It did just what it says on the tin. Changing colour completely as it moved from some dead leaves to green grass.A little further on a bird flew up from the track ahead of us, either a Green Sandpiper or a Black winged Pratincole!! I'll say no more.

For a non-birding holiday it had been full of interest for both of us.

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