22nd February 1983 - 28th February 1983.
At Heathrow Airport with John Potts, a regular Wingspan traveller. We were flying to Cyprus for a 6 day recce, to make plans for a birdwatching holiday there. Arriving at Larnaca Airport we were met by Gordon Rayner, a birdwatcher from Bristol who was now living in Cyprus, and whose flat we were staying in, in Limassol. By the time we left the airport it was dusk and on the journey west we saw a Barn Owl.
Our first day in Cyprus, it was sunny and warm, around the blocks of flats were House Sparrows, a Chiffchaff, 5 Great Tits, a White Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail, 6 Black-headed Gulls with an adult Little Gull. After breakfast Gordon took us to an area north of the town, (I am using the names and spellings from my notes, some of which may have changed), to Yermasoyia Reservoir and Akrounda Creek, on the lake we saw a male Pochard, 6 Coot, 30+ Black-headed Gulls, 3 Great Crested Grebes and a Pygmy Cormorant, only the 2nd Cyprus record.
Around the lake, in the scrub and along the creek we saw 6 Black Redstarts, 15+ Chaffinches, 8 Stonechats with 2 definite Siberian Stonechats, 6 Robins, 11 Song Thrushes, 4 White Wagtails, 2 Linnets, 6 Hooded Crows, 3 Meadow Pipits, 21 Corn Buntings, 5 Jackdaws, 30+ Serins, 5 Crested Larks, 8 Woodlarks, 20+ Goldfinches, 2 Blackcaps, a Blackbird, 2 Tree Frogs, and around a small, reed-fringed pool were at least 25 Chiffchaffs, most of them appeared to be the nominent western European race collybita, at least 3 were of the Scandinavian race abietinus, and at least 3 were Siberian Chiffchaffs, tristis. We also saw a Raven, a Blue Rock Thrush, 8 Magpies, a Cetti's Warbler, 6+ Starlings, a Kestrel and 4 Fan-tailed Warblers or Zitting Cisticolas.
From there we drove west, to an area of farmland near Curium, where on the bare fields and in the scrubby margins we saw 4 Black Redstarts, 3 Cyprus Warblers, 6 Zitting Cisticolas, 20 Lapwing, 4 Stonechats, 2 Kestrels, a Buzzard, 2 Chukar, 20+ Linnets and a Serin. In an area of scree beneath a high rocky buttress we found the bird we had hoped to see, a Finsch's Wheatear, of which we saw 2 males and a female, a new bird for me.
This eastern Middle Eastern breeding species only winters in Cyprus and can be difficult to find, but here they were in their favoured habitat, we had good views of the two males, although they wouldn't allow close approach, often perched on prominent stones or clods of earth in a nearby ploughed field, the female was only seen in flight keeping to the cliff-face higher up.
Our second day in Cyprus and it was cold and windy with occasional showers. Gordon took us to Zakaki, an area of trees, scrub and reeds northeast of the Akrotiri Salt Lake.
We saw 300+ Chaffinches, 120+ Greenfinches, at least 6 Penduline Tits, Stonechats, Linnets, Serins, Great Tits, Meadow Pipits, 6 House Martins, a Swallow, 2 Bearded Tits, a Water Pipit, a Red-throated Pipit, a Reed Bunting, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Black Redstarts, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, a Green Sandpiper, 12 Teal, 2 Shoveler and a Kestrel.
After lunch we went into Limassol to see some hotels, then later a visit to the market, where one shop was displaying the disgusting paraphernalia of bird trapping, liming sticks and mist nets, as well as having caged birds for sale. In one of the cages was a Rock Bunting, this bird was the 2nd record for Cyprus, there was also a pair of Black-headed Buntings, a Woodlark, a Jackdaw, about 20 Serins, 4 Chaffinches and 6 Goldfinch mules.
Elsewhere, on a food stall, were 40+ Song Thrushes, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, a Woodpigeon and 3 Pheasants.
The only conciliation was seeing a Swift flying over, the first one we had seen on the island.
Photos: Pet shop in Limassol
Our third day on Cyprus and it was much sunnier, but still very cold. The first stop was Limassol Harbour where we saw 4 Great Crested Grebes and a Black-necked Grebe. Then on to Phassori Reservoir where there were 12 Pochard, a Tufted Duck and a Water Rail. At the nearby Phassori Reed-beds we saw 12 Ruff, a male and female Garganey, a pair of Shoveler, 4 Lapwing, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 200+ Chaffinches, a Redshank, a Marsh Sandpiper, a Buzzard and 2 Kestrels.
At the Akrotiri Salt Pan were around 2000 Greater Flamingos, about 250 Shelduck, 4 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 200+ Teal and about 100 Ruff. At Bishop's Pool we saw a male Ferruginous Duck and at our last stop at Polemidhia Dam we saw a Swift and 6 Alpine Swifts.
Photo: John Potts.
Our fourth day on Cyprus and today was a little warmer, sunny, but with still a light northerly wind, we were heading north with our first stop at Polemidhia Dam, where the only bird of note was a Cyprus Warbler. Then on to the Troodos Mountains, during a stop in the pine woods in the Moniatis area we saw 12 Coal Tits, 9 Chukar, 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Wrens. This race of Coal Tit was darker than ours, with a much more extensive black bib, making the white cheeks stand out prominently.
We continued higher and at a place called Mesapotamos saw more Coal Tits, a Stock Dove and another 7 Chukar. Returning to the flat at Amathus, I had a wonder around the nearby scrubby area seeing a Siberian Stonechat, 25+ Meadow Pipits, 3 Stonechats, a Cyprus Warbler, 2 Black Redstarts and 4 Greenfinches. Then on a late afternoon visit to the valley leading to Moni Beach, we saw several Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, a Blackcap and 2 Cyprus Warblers.
Cyprus Warblers were a lot more common than I had expected at this time of year, found in all the scrubby areas we visited. We only saw one female, the rest were either adult males with red irises or 1st winter males with dark irises, many of them were starting to abrade into summer plumage, the grey breast and flanks beginning to show the barred plumage. When they were out on the tops of the bushes, they often held their tail erect, sometimes over their back, all gave a low chur to indicate their presence.
Our 5th day in Cyprus and at last it was clear, warm and sunny. In the scrub around the flats, at Amathus, I saw a Cyprus Warbler, then we left for a drive east to the salt pans by the airport at Larnaca.
Here we saw 3 White-fronted Geese, 160 Greater Flamingos, lots of gulls, 28+ Kentish Plovers, 10 Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff, 2 Little Stints, a Redshank, Shelduck, Shoveler and a Pintail. Nearby in an area of stones and sparse grass was a flock of mainly Crested Larks, with a few Skylarks and 3 Calandra Larks, a new bird for me.
We continued east to the Cape Greco Peninsula, where we saw a distant flock of around 2500 geese, 35 Greylag Geese, 14 White-fronted Geese, about 50 Lapwings, 23 Golden Plovers, a Hare, 2 more Calandra Larks, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and a distant harrier.
In this area we also saw lots of lizards, as we had in most scubby low lying and coastal areas, these I think were Schreiber's Spiny-footed Lizards, but I think we also saw Snake-eyed Lizards. There seemed to be a lot of variation and I haven't found the fieldguides or the internet very helpful.
Our last stop was at Cape Greco, where we saw 2 Kestrels, a Cyprus Warbler, 6 Whitethroats, 2 Chukar and a Spectacled Warbler.
Photos: Top two: Schreiber's Spiny-footed Lizard.
Bottom two: Snake-eyed Lizard, but I could be
Our last day in Cyprus and a drive west to an area near Paramali, where we saw 5 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, 2 Cyprus Warblers, lots of Crested Larks, Skylarks and 9 Woodlarks, lots of Corn Buntings and finches, a Siberian Stonechat and several Stonechats, 2 Chukar, 3 Quails, 3 Black Redstarts and around 30 Spannish Sparrows.
Between Pissouri and Petra tou Romiou we saw 2 Griffon Vultures, and, at Aspro Kremos Reservoir there were 50+ Tufted Ducks, 20+ Coot, 80+ Pochard, 2 Black Redstarts, a Kestrel and 2 more Griffon Vultures.
Our final stop was a walk along the Kouklia River bed, which was mainly dry, here we saw a Shoveler, 2 Kestrels, 800+ Goldfinches, 9 Cetti's Warblers, a Black Francoln - a new bird for me, 33 Stone Curlews, around 200 Spannish Sparrows, about 60 Herring Gulls, about 700 Jackdaws, a Woodcock, a Coot, a Hare, 4 Chiffchaff, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Zitting Cisticolas, several Serins and lots of Crested Larks.