Cyprus Trip Report
12 - 19 March, 2000
We wanted a family holiday which would include some birding but which would also appeal to our seven-year-old daughter. I had never visited Cyprus before and, on the basis of a week in Paphos in March, I would strongly recommend it. We saw a great many birds with little effort--even the hotel lawn was teeming with house and Spanish sparrows, with plenty of serins and white wagtails, too. The area had fine beaches, historic sites to visit, almost unbroken sunshine and even a McDonalds to keep our daughter going. We used a hire car for two-and-a-half days out of the week. So most of our time was spent around the hotel area, about 5 miles along the coast from Paphos, or in Paphos itself, which was easily reached by local bus. In all, I saw 55 species of birds. A birder who was able to travel more could probably have doubled that total.
I found the new Collins Bird Guide (Grant, Mullarney and co) useful. And the excellent Stagg and Hearl's A Birdwatching guide to Cyprus has an annotated systematic list.
Inland from the hotel you immediately entered an area of orchards and crops. I had pre-breakfast walks most mornings and saw plenty of interest, notably black francolin, chukar, fan-tailed warbler, crested lark and Cetti's warbler. There were plenty of green- and goldfinches, song thrushes and even the odd robin. On one occasion two Alpine swifts flew past. Kestrels, woodpigeons and blackcaps were also seen frequently. I woke one morning to the strident sound of the francolins - a rather monotonous seven-note song. It reminded me of stories of people being kept awake by corncrakes in the Hebrides.
Paphos lighthouse, near the harbour, is a known migration 'hotspot'. On our first visit we arrived towards noon but still saw several black redstarts and an Isabelline wheatear.
On 17th March we went to the Paphos lighthouse area to look for a cream-coloured courser that local birder Jeff Gordon had told me about. A long hunt, and the help of some other English birders, eventually enabled us to see the ccc. Our daughter entered into the spirit of the hunt and enjoyed looking at the bird through my 'scope.
The next morning I went to the lighthouse before breakfast. The ccc was still there and there had clearly been a major influx of stonechats and short-toed larks - there were literally hundreds of the latter. Best birds were three great white egrets flying past in the near-gale. They were almost grey heron sized and flew with leisurely wingbeats.
The week was rapidly approaching its end, and I had still not seen the two 'common' endemic birds – Cyprus warbler and wheatear. So, on our last full day, following a tip-off from Jeff, we visited the Mavrokolymbos dam. We were glad of a four-wheel drive vehicle as we negotiated a steep unsurfaced road to this excellent site just a few miles along the coast from our hotel. I don't recall ever being in a place with so many passerines - every bush, every patch of grass seemed to have a serin, black redstart, chiffchaff, Cretzschmar's bunting, meadow pipit, linnet, stonechat or whatever. After a short while I located two singing Cyprus warblers but it was about an hour before we had some rather distant views of a male Cyprus wheatear, formerly considered to be a distinctive subspecies of pied wheatear.
Our final morning dawned rainy but I went for a walk anyway. And I was glad I did. First I saw a hoopoe fly across a field; then heard a buzzing song and located a very approachable unstreaked Locustella warbler in low roadside vegetation (I believe it was Savi's rather than River Warbler); then I heard a quail calling; and finally a spur-winged plover arrived, allowing good in-flight views. An extremely good finale to an excellent week.
a = abundant
c = common (this is a relative term – in UK terms the birds listed as common would be abundant!)
f = frequent
o = occasional
PLA = Paphos lighthouse area
LHA = Laura Hotel area, about 5 miles W along the coast from Paphos
MD = Mavrokolymbos Dam
ER = Evretou Reservoir
|Great White Egret||PLA||3 on 18/3|
|Chukar||o (LHA and Akamas)|
|Green sandpiper||MD||2 on 18/3|
|Black-headed gull||c PLA|
|Rock dove (feral)||c|
|Alpine swift||LHA||2 on 15/3|
|Short-toed lark||PLA||hundreds on 18/3|
|Cyprus pied wheatear||MD||18/3|
|Blue rock thrush||N of Coral Bay on coastal cliffs||17/3|
|Savi's warbler*||LHA 19/3|
|Sardinian warbler||c on Akamas, also seen LHA|
|Cyprus warbler||MD||3 males on 18/3|
|Lesser whitethroat||from 18/3|
|Cretzschmar's bunting||from17/3||mostly MD|
*An unstreaked singing Locustella warbler in a patch of low vegetation was believed to be Savi's rather than River.
In addition I saw several unidentified terns, a flock of unidentified herons at sea and several large flocks of ducks at sea which probably included shovellers and pintails.
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