Cyprus for 10 days – a rather long blog sorry!!

Arrived very late on Sunday evening at our Limassol hotel, we were all here for my daughter Hannah’s wedding to Neil a few days later but hopefully a little impromptu birding would take place while here for 10 days when the chance arose.

The Limassol location of our hotel was set back a couple of roads from the sea front. Not many birds seen in or above the hotel pool areas with only House Sparrow and Hooded Crow being seen. The sky was sadly bereft of birds in any direction.

On day 1 we had a brief walk from the hotel to search for a suitable restaurant to house the wedding reception and on this walk close to the hotel in a small empty car park was a lone Laughing Dove, it stayed long enough for a couple of pics to be taken. The obligatory and aplenty Feral Pigeon took the number of species seen so far to a massive 4!

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Day 2 saw me sneaking off for a couple of hours walk to a couple of hours to 2 large areas of wasteland with some vegetation dotted around them. In no time I heard the call of a flying Wagtail. It landed in a small park area and I tracked it down to hopefully ID it correctly as a White Wagtail, plant of these seen during my stay.  

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A few more Wagtails were seen not long after the first sighting. Later I saw a couple of resting Collared Doves more House Sparrows, Hooded Crows and wow 2 more species, Blue and Great Tit. So 7 species seen thus far, to be honest I did not expect to see loads and loads of different birds with the main focus of the holiday being the I important holiday event of Hannah and Neil’s wedding but 7 species was a little disappointing even allowing for the time of year being the end of the migration season.

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I returned to base camp which unlike that at Mount Everest had cold Keo beer on tap 🙂 and as I was enjoying this beverage I caught sight of a large high flying, well gliding, bird first thought was ‘eagle!’ I only got a few seconds before it had passed heading east so no ID made, maybe I would spot another raptor soon?

As dusk fell on the end of day 2, this is about 5.30pm at the moment in Cyprus I was on our room balcony and soon saw 2 large groups of calling Wagtails, mixed species I am guessing. The Wagtails were heading to their night time roost and must have totalled 60 plus. The odd single bird passed heading westward into the setting sun too. The aim was going forward now to see if I could catch a glimpse and maybe decent pic or 2 of 1 the Wagtail group heading to roost.

I also saw species number 8 from the balcony in the fast fading light, a Kestrel again flying westward in close proximity along with 1 of the half a dozen Hooded Crows that were heading to their roosts to settle down for the night.

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Day 3 was a non birding day stuck in the bloody hotel with its 3 pools, on tap Keo beer and other spirits and ice cream and sarnies at my beckon call – it was hard but I managed to survive enjoying the fine company too

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Day 4 the big day Hannah’s Wedding gulp! – no birding obviously but all went extremely well I am pleased to say 🙂

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On day 5 Karen, My brother & sister in-laws Andy, Nicky and I went to Limassol Old Town and new Harbour (confusing that eh?) for a walk about and change of scenery, here I saw some large pale silver backed Gulls and a a quick glance thru my camera and lens I ID’ed these as Yellow Legged Gulls. All the usual afor mentioned species were seen again so now 9 species will I make 10 before we head back to the UK? The afternoon saw more of the same really just relaxing around the pool with a beer or 2.

I watched the skies before from my balcony again as dusk fell and although I saw and heard maybe 4 Wagtails heading west into the sinking sun I was amazed my the numbers of Greenfinches heading to what looked like the same direction, was this to roost too? I am only estimating numbers here but I think it is safe to say that there was a total of easily 200 Greenfinches seen in various sized groups with about 30 being the largest seen, good numbers of House Sparrows were doing the exact same thing too!

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On day 6 which was Saturday I had 2 priorities, 1 was to find a pub that was showing the Everton v Aston Villa game and also how best to get to Lady’s Mile beach, a popular birding spot that is adjacent to the Akrotiri Salt Lake.

Sunday was day 7 and it started out with light rain Karen was looking out from the balcony before we headed down for breakfast and she then called me as she had spotted 2 passing Cormorants heading west along the coast, another species for the list, I got to see the birds too and so could legally add to my sightings list, ta Karen!

This afternoon of day 7 after the rain had just about stopped Karen and I went off for a walk off the beaten track to see what could be seen along the way, end destination was a pint and a burger on the sea front somewhere. We borrowed an umbrella just case from hotel reception and off we went.

The main aim was for me to walk through the back streets that bordered the many areas of waste/scrub land at the back of our hotel that I had spied a few days earlier. I was hoping to see a remaining Shrike of some sort in the scrubland or two with a little, no, lot of luck.

Well the walk was interspersed with light dots of rain and the usual common birds in the air, House Sparrow, Hooded Crow, Collared Dove and Feral Pigeon. The scrubland drew a blank but I am sure it would have been ideal for mixed Warblers and Shrikes alike in the height of the season here. We turned a corner and saw high on a tree in a lower than the footpath piece of scrubland a Kestrel, the umbrella was passed to Karen and my camera was raised to take a shot of this majestic and in full view bird, Yep you guessed it saw me and off it went into a smaller bush with more cover, never saw it again.

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We noticed during all of our walk an abundance of fruit trees that were bursting with their goods, pomegranate, passion fruit, lime, lemon, orange and possibly mandarins too. All of these were in arms reach and we could have easily picked enough for all the people we are here in Cyprus with.

We also saw a family, from Syria as it turned out when we spoke with them, that were harvesting their large crop of olives in their big garden. Olive trees were growing and by now fully laden by the sides of the footpaths that we walked along.

We got to a small bridge which crossed a wide storm drain and to our right Karen spotted small bird activity on the ground, we investigated and yes you have probably guessed it was a group of about 20 House Sparrows foraging on the bank of the storm drain.

I then heard 2 calls that of a Ring Necked Parakeet and 1 that I could only describe as Thrush-like. I got no sighting of the latter bird sadly.

In the same area as the feeding House Sparrows was a different faster moving bird, camera to my eye and onto the bird ID’ed as a Sardinian Warbler, cool!

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The walk did not throw up any more bird sightings so it was finished by a nice pint and a burger as originally planned, day 8 should be more interesting as I was off to Lady’s Mile / Akrotiri Salt Lake area for the morning on my own, probably my best chance to see a few more species while here.

Day 8 and he Lady’s Mile / Akrotiri Salt Lake excursion was here just a 40 minute €1.50 bus ride (a taxi would have costed €25 – one way!) took me to the birding hotspot in this area, at the end of the No 30 bus ride a 20 minute walk was waiting for me to get to the hide on the road leading to Lady’s Mile beach.

The bird hide is a large and obvious object that can be seen from some distance. I got off the bus one stop earlier than planned as his would save me 10 minutes walking time, the sun was again shining brightly so no excuses for poor photos once the sun was behind me.

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Walking to the hide I saw a few White Wagtails and the obligatory busy House Sparrow groups, now only a couple of minutes from the hide I saw a busy Willow Warbler followed by more close up views of White Wagtails that were feeding in a small pool area near the large and high reedbed, then 2 large raptor like birds hovered in the breeze above the reedbed some way off, wow 2 Marsh Harriers, more on them later.

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Then in the air a single White Stork floated into the scrape opposite the hide, brilliant, what would I see next?

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A Little Egret then chose to glide towards me from the reedbed and land about 40 feet away, already this trip out was proving to be worth it, this was confirmed even more when a Kingfisher belted past at top speed from, over and into the reedbed too. The White Stork decided that it did not like the scrape and took off this time closer to me so a few better images were achieved.

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Walking to the hide a female Stonechat posed in classic form on the top of a dead branch.

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I walked up to the hide and get set up and immediately a Squacco Heron ambled across the empty and dry scrape from one small pool to another it kept itself behind the sparse vegetation so a clear shot was not managed.

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The Kingfishers buzzed the reeds in front of the hide some 80 feet away and then the female of the Marsh Harrier pair appeared once more albeit briefly before Hooded Crows did their usual mobbing trick to drive the bird away. Both White and Yellow Wagtails (Blue Headed form?) covered all areas in front of the hide noisily calling all the time. Black Headed Gulls began to join the Mallard, Grey Herons and Teal on the main body of water.

On the main bare ‘hippo shaped’ Island on the scrape a Little Stint flashed into view, a long way off though.

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By this time I was joined in the hide by a Cypriot birder called Christos, he gave me local birding tips and we shared photography tips too. A Kestrel hovered in the distance towards the Salt Lake. The Stonechats were busy around the hide with a nice male posing occasionally.

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Crested Larks appeared both in front of and behind the hide now and then busy birds these and not easy to get a photo of, managed this one against the sun though.

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Then in the small brown looking pool closest to the hide a Water Rail chased a pair of Dragon Fly, caught them and then darted into the vegetation for cover as they do, managed to capture the bird before it went, look to the left of the image you can see the Water Rail’s target for lunch!

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The hide then began to fill up with birders from the UK a serious birder called Paul landed with his wife and soon after another couple from the same area as Paul (Sussex) arrived. At this time the pair of Marsh Harriers rose from the reedbed to our surprise, best pics of these birds below.

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This stunning entertainment lasted a few minutes then off the majestic pair went, a Swallow dipped down for a drink and went off to continue its journey south I assume.

In the same area as the Water Rail a Reed Warbler showed well for a few minutes.

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Then real excitement as a fine looking male Bluethroat came into view, the birder Paul had said earlier this bird was about the area, WOW! A first for me, if you could have seen the smile on my face at this time, brilliant!

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Paul mentioned that he had seen a Spotted Crake in the same area as the Water Rail was seen on his last visit and that this diminutive bird was showing well then, well sadly it was not to be seen during my visit, shame as this would have been lifer number 3. It got a little busier now with a Willow Warbler showing too.

Then the real star moment of the day all birds on the scrape went mad and into the air at once, the Teal flew off, the couple of Grey Herons that were in view when on the ground became a group of 8, the Black Headed Gulls headed to the old port for safety, why you may ask did this happen? Well!

It was not all happy news at this time though because just as I was snapping away at what was unfolding before our eyes my CF card was full and needed changing!! So I struggled to quickly change the memory card and get back to the action, sadly the Bonelli’s had just about moved on when I was back int he game.It was only due to a blooming Bonelli’s Eagle arriving trying to take one of the birds for its mid morning snack!! This caused pandemonium on the scrape and surrounding area but great glee in the hide. Isn’t it amazing what you can see when you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, another first for me this big old Eagle, my smile just got bigger I can tell you.

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All the birds began to fly back to the scape after this and a couple of minutes later you would not have know what had just passed as normality resumed.

I decided to move on as it was nearly time to get the bus back to the hotel, I never got to the beach but in reality never needed to it was great here, what with Kingfishers being seen at least a dozen times, the Squacco Heron showing well etc. but move on I must.

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I went to an area close to the hide where I was told you may see Kingfishers up close, pic below.

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I walked back to the bus stop and along the way had a low Little Egret fly past and views of female Stonechat and 2 Swallows that were resting on telephone cables. All in all a brilliant day, loads of images to look at a total of 23 new holiday species seen on the day and 2 lifers for me as well.

Day 9 was the last full day of the holiday and so a restful and lazy one based at the hotel pool close to the pool bar of course. It ended with me on my room balcony from 5pm (after my Keo induced kip!) for an hour while the sun set watching all the Greenfinches, House Sparrows and Wagtails heading to their favourite night time roosts, nice way to end a day, I thought.

Day 10 was the journey home and with the bus ride from the airport being in total darkness it was nice to travel back to the airport for the UK bound journey in daylight.

I kept my eyes open for any birds I could see through the coach window but only saw what had seen before during the holiday apart from decent numbers of Magpies that were active in between Limassol and Paphos over the rocky, arid, mountainous countryside so, all in all 32 species seen with 2 lifers included so as you would expect I am pleased with that and thanks to the Lady’s Mile bird hide for boosting the numbers and some memorable entertainment!