Cyprus Trip Report
4 – 11th April 2004

Easter in Cyprus

Our family had our third holiday in Cyprus in early April, a couple of weeks later than our first spring holiday there (see my earlier report-March 2000). We stayed at the Venus Beach Hotel, just to the West of Paphos, on the coast (very close to the Tombs of the Kings, one of the main tourist spots). As in my previous report (October/November 2002), I have named a small stream surrounded by giant reeds, about 400 yds W of the hotel ‘the Wadi’. (This is, in effect, my ‘local patch’ in Cyprus.) As I was with my family, most of my birding was done before breakfast, or when I spent an hour exploring a site while my family patiently sat in the car or visited some tourist attraction. I owe them a debt of gratitude for their indulgence.

What follows are notes from my holiday diary. I have not gone into great detail about the places as most of them are mentioned in the indispensable ‘A Birdwatchers Guide to Cyprus’ by Arthur Stagg and Graham Hearl. The BOU Checklist, ‘The Birds of Cyprus’, by P.R. Flint & P.F. Stewart, is also recommended as it gives more details about the abundance, timing and distribution of all the species. I end with a list of species seen. (Any not mentioned in the text can be assumed to be fairly common in Cyprus.) And also a list of butterflies identified. The only odonata seen were blue-tailed damselfly, a blood-red Sympetrum sp. (probably fonscolombii–I’ll see if my photos come out!) and some unidentified teneral Anisoptera.

The weather was warm and sunny throughout, with day time temps reaching about 22 dec C (in the shade). It was ideal weather for migrants, which is why I saw no notable ‘falls’, I imagine.

Monday 5th April
Due to our flight being delayed for seven hours (we got as far as Brussels and then returned to Gatwick), we only checked into our hotel at 4.30 a.m. However I woke at 6.30, too excited to go back to sleep. I walked towards the Wadi. I didn’t see much along the coastal path: kestrel, swallow, house sparrow, hooded crow etc. But things picked up at the Wadi with woodchat shrike, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap, and common sandpiper. On the return walk I saw a male Rüppel’s warbler (a lifer) in a tiny little bush.
Later, going round the Tombs of the Kings I saw a female Sardinian warbler feeding young, Spanish sparrow, a couple of unidentified wheatears and a male Cretschmar’s bunting.
Returning to the Wadi in the afternoon, I almost stood on a quail (lifer #2). It flew off with a short, high-piched note. Another took off a few seconds later.
I noticed a spotted flycatcher perched on a dead flower frond. It behaved very much like a whinchat, constantly flycatching but never going more than three feet above the ground. It even landed on the ground and pecked at something.

6th April
I woke a bit later, the day was a little dull. Walking to the Wadi I saw a grey heron fly W out at sea. I caught a glimpse of a nightingale and I could hear two others which seemed to be keeping in contact with alternating ‘chink’ notes.
Later we went down to Paphos harbour (a few yellow-legged gulls, two little egrets and two common sandpipers) and walked to the much-improved archaeological site. (Well worth a visit at Cyp£3 for the three of us.) (Followers of Stagg and Hearl should note that it is now much harder to walk around the Paphos headland without paying the entrance fee, although some birders still go ‘under the fence’. The gates officially open at 8.00 a.m.)
Even before we had entered the site we saw four bee-eaters on a wire, hawking for insects. I thought that they were not as colourful as I remembered, being mainly green with some colour about the face and orange underwings. It shows how rusty I am, that it was only when I got home and looked in Collins Bird Guide that I realised that they had been blue-cheeked bee-eaters (lifer no. 3)!
We saw a superb male Eastern black-eared wheatear of the white-throated form, another Rüppell’s warbler and lots of black-headed yellow wags (ssp. feldegg).

7th April
An early morning walk to the Wadi produced a Cyprus wheatear, another view of the woodchat shrike, Isabelline wheatear, a good view of a black francolin, sand martin and a flock of 40 grey herons ‘coasting’ W. Also a whinchat.
We got the hire car and headed for the Asprokremnos pools. I was disappointed to find that they were virtually dry, having it seems been destroyed by having too much water pumped through them. There was just enough water for there to be a few fish thrashing about, half out of the water. I had my first decent view of a Cyprus warbler, and there were still a few moorhens and coots. According to Cyprus BirdLine (dial 26270447 from Paphos) there had been a male little crake there. As it was nearly mid-day and baking hot, I thought that my chances of seeing it were very slim. I spent some time scanning the shadows of the distant reeds when, suddenly, I noticed a small crake walking across the mud about 20 feet in front of me! (lifer no 4). It seemed unconcerned by my presence and stayed in view for several minutes. Other birds seen were another black-eared wheatear, hoopoe, chukar and a common kingfisher (what a mundane name for such a beautiful bird!).

8th April
We drove through Paphos Forest (turtle dove, hoopoe, Alpine swift) to Aphrodite’s Pool at Latsi. I spent an hour wandering round the famous caravan park. There were masses of birds but most of them were blackcaps. I did see a lovely male redstart, lots of house martins, common swifts and a couple of Sardinian warblers. There were also four wood sandpipers on a pool near Latsi.
In the evening I walked out to the Paphos headland. I could see what looked like three gulls flying towards me. They landed on some rocks and turned out to be squacco herons (lifer no.5).

Good Friday, 9th April
I went to Paphos headland at 7.30 a.m. I could see a flock of herons circling but could not ID them. (Was later told that they were purple.) There was a female redstart, a couple of Rüppell’s warblers, northern, Cyprus and black-eared wheatears, three woodchat shrikes, chiffchaff, tawny pipit etc.
Later in the morning we went back to the Aspro dam but this time, following Jeff Gordon’s advice, I walked downstream (not that there was a stream) to the Dhiarizos pools (just bits of the river that hadn’t dried out). This site (not mentioned by Stagg and Hearl, but recommended by Flint and Stewart) would have been better if there hadn’t been ringers checking nets all over the place! At least I finally got to meet Jeff (who runs the Cyprus Birdline). He showed me a female feldegg yellow wagtail in the hand-I wish I’d had the nerve to ask if I could take a photo! The waders were constantly being flushed but I did managed to identify, green sandpiper, little ringed plover, greenshank, little egret, glossy ibis and sedge warbler. Apparently you really need to be at the site in the early morning to catch the best of the birds. (It was also too muddy to negotiate easily with trainers!)

10th April
Our last full day. As I was driving along the coast road I saw a cuckoo but didn’t have time to ID it. I walked round the Laura Hotel (where we spent our first holiday) but it was very quiet apart from blackcap, Cetti’s warbler, fan-tailed warbler and nightingale.
We drove to Troodos (via Dora) which is a long winding but fairly straightforward route. We didn’t stop much but I did pick up a red-rumped swallow en route.
At Troodos we walked along the Artemis trail (altitude 1,400 m). Almost immediately I saw a short-toed treecreeper of the endemic race dorotheae. We got as far as a patch of snow and were pleased to see a pair of masked shrikes. I heard a wren but couldn’t see it. But we did see a coal tit (another endemic subspecies, cypriotes. Despite the patches of deep snow it was very warm (about 22 deg C in the shade). There were lots of swifts, probably including pallid, but I found it hard to be certain. At least 50 house martins were gathering mud from a small roadside pool, and I saw a swift fly under the eaves of a house.

Easter Sunday, 11th April
We no longer had the car but our flight was not until 10 pm, so I spent some time walking round the Wadi area. The main interest was close views of an Eastern Olivaceous warbler (lifer #6). It was quite obliging and far less active than, say, a chiffchaff, which gave me a chance to clinch some of the main ID features. A ring-tailed harrier flew over being mobbed by hooded crows. It was probably a pallid, but I couldn’t see enough detail to be certain. A kingfisher suddenly flew out of the reeds, and I then spent a lot of time trying to photograph an unobliging dragonfly. I think I got some shots in the end, but had no luck at all with the swallowtail butterflies. Still, it’s nice to have an excuse to pay another visit to Aphrodite’s isle.

1. Squacco heron
2. Little egret
3. Grey heron
4. Glossy ibis
5. Kestrel
6. Chukar
7. Black Francolin
8. Quail
9. Little crake
10. Moorhen
11. Coot
12. Little Ringed Plover
13. Ruff
14. Greenshank
15. Green sandpiper
16. Wood sandpiper
17. Common sandpiper
18. Yellow-legged gull
19. Feral rock dove
20. Wood pigeon
21. Collared dove
22. Turtle dove
23. Common swift
24. Alpine swift
25. Common kingfisher
26. Blue-cheeked bee-eater
27. Hoopoe
28. Crested lark
29. Sand martin
30. Barn swallow
31. Red-rumped swallow
32. House martin
33. Tawny pipit
34. Tree pipit
35. Yellow wagtail (flava and feldegg)
36. White wagtail
37. Nightingale
38. Common redstart
39. Whinchat
40. Isabelline wheatear
41. Northern wheatear
42. Cyprus wheatear
43. Black-eared wheatear
44. Cetti’s warbler
45. Fan-tailed warbler
46. Sedge warbler
47. Sardinian warbler
48. Cyprus warbler
49. Rüppell’s warbler
50. Lesser whitethroat
51. Common whitethroat
52. Blackcap
53. Chiffchaff
54. Eastern Olivaceous warbler
55. Spotted flycatcher
56. Short-toed treecreeper
57. Coal tit
58. Great tit
59. Masked shrike
60. Woodchat shrike
61. Jay (race glaszneri)
62. Magpie
63. Jackdaw
64. Hooded crow
65. House sparrow
66. Spanish sparrow
67. Chaffinch
68. Greenfinch
69. Goldfinch
70. Linnet
71. Cretschmar’s bunting
72. Corn bunting

Butterfly species seen:
1. Swallowtail
2. Small white
3. Eastern dappled white
4. Painted lady
5. Large Wall Brown
6. Paphos Blue
7. Long-tailed blue
8. Orange tip

© Kenneth Noble April 2004