CYPRUS TRIP REPORT
Late May/early June 1996
I have received requests by e-mail, asking me for details of my visit to Cyprus in 1996, particularly regarding sites for Cretzchmars Bunting. The following is my reply to that e-mail, with a few minor changes. I hope it is of interest:
I have looked through my notes and tried to pick out bits that may be of interest to you. I wont dwell too long on some of the better known sites. Unfortunately, due to work and family commitments the only time I could go was late May and early June, which means a lot of what I saw (or in many cases didn't!!) may not apply at other times. I used two books on Cyprus by Bill Oddie and Derek Moore, one is a slim booklet with Bee-eaters on the front, and the second is a Hamlyn birdwatching guide to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus with a Black headed Bunting on the front. Both are excellent books. I used a Freytag & Berndt 1:250 000 map, and all the place names I use are from that map.
Firstly Cretzchmars Bunting. In April, my guess is that you will see them fairly easily on migration, so you probably wont need any help, but the sites are well worth a visit anyway. I was given two breeding sites for this species. One was the Dhiarizos valley, a few miles south of Paphos. This valley was one of the best birding sites I went to on the holiday, with many Black headed Buntings, Cyprus Warblers, Red rumped Swallows, Spanish Sparrows, Chukars, and quite a few Black Francolin, Serins, Rollers and Griffon Vultures, and one of the few pairs of Long Legged Buzzards on the island.
You can make a nice round route of the valley, and you should keep your eyes open everywhere, and occasionally stop and walk down one of the minor tracks that goes through the olive groves. The best place to stop, however, is right at the head of the valley. Take the road immediately to the north of the river Dhiarizos through the villages of Fasoula and Kithasi. Just after Kithasi, take the next road to the right through the village of Gerovasa. Just after Gerovasa the road goes steeply downhill and right at the bottom it crosses a bridge over the river Dhiarizos. Park here and walk up the track that follows the river. The Long legged Buzzards can be seen well from the track right by the car as well as Griffons, but the Cretzchmars are apparently best seen from the track about one mile from the car. This is also a good place for Masked Shrike. They're building a new dam here, so you'll soon know if your in the right place, but don't let t hat put you off. It's still a nice place.
The second Cretzchmars site is at Mavrokolymbos dam just north of Paphos. The dam is mentioned in both books and is well signposted from the main road between Pegeia and Paphos. Take the track to the dam, and park as soon as you get to the dam. Walk down the track that goes round the dam on the north side, but after about ¼ mile take the track that goes uphill away from the dam. On my visits, the scrubby hillsides were alive with Cyprus Warblers, Cyprus Wheatears and the odd Great Spotted Cuckoo, but no Cretzchmars. I suspect that I did not go quite high enough.
I found Cyprus Warblers to be very common on the scrubby hillsides, and the Cyprus Wheatears were even more common from Paphos resort right up into the Troodos Mountains. Black Francolins were calling in many places, always at lowland sites, but I only saw one. It was a stunning singing male in full view, at close range at Phassouri reed bed.
The other good site I went to was Cape Aspro just past Petra tou Romiou. You can't miss this place if you take the coast road from Paphos to Limassol. Its the big white cliffs that you see just as the road turns to the east. I saw small parties of Eleanora's Falcons at close range at this site, as well as Alpine Swifts, and Griffon Vultures.
At the time of year I went, it was very much quality rather than quantity, with most migrants long gone. Phassouri was a big disappointment, being completely dry. Apart from birds, it was much to dry for many flowers, and I didn't recognise any. It was very good for reptiles, with Agamas very common, even on the walls of the hotels. I saw a few Kotchy's Geckos, possible Greek Wall Lizards, one Snake eyed Skink (in the garden just outside our hotel), lots of other lizards and just two large black snakes. There were many unknown insects, and Swallowtail butterflies (just the common type) were everywhere.