Friday, 29 April 2011

Clayheads on Tour in Cyprus - Wednesday 20th April

We had originally planned to go back to Aspro this morning, but when I walked outside, again at 06-00hrs and saw it had been raining during the night, I decided we would head to Paphos Headland and see what migrants had turned up. A bit of rain before sunrise were meant to be classic conditions! We parked up just past the restaurant and soon found a hole in the fence large enough for us to climb through but there were plenty to chose from.
As we walked towards the Avenue, we had our first Spanish Sparrow of the trip. In the first trees by the ruins, we had a male Pied Flycatcher and a male Black-headed Wagtail. We carried on walking around, spoke to a few birders who had the same idea as we had in coming to the headland but no one had seen much at all really. A Red-throated Pipit flew out of the grass, but we returned to the Avenue for a second check, seeing 5+ Blue-headed Wagtails, a male Redstart and two Ortolan Buntings were showing well. We decided to head back having really made the wrong decision this morning.

Today was to be our big day out, and after breakfast we headed over to Larnaca SW, a drive of 1hr-40mins, and we even managed to drive through a bit of rain on the way. We were able to drive straight up to the hide, but we were amazed at how strong the wind was here. The hide was on stilts and above the protection of the grassy banks, and so we decided to shut the windows - only to find all the glass was missing. We sat there and took the full brunt of the wind and it was virtually impossible to keep the scope still. Our target birds for the day were six SLENDER-BILLED GULLS that had been reported here as recently as the day before. A pair of Spur-winged Plovers were showing well in front of the hide, and we also had seven Black-winged Stilts, eight Shoveler, two drake Garganey, five Little Terns and two Whiskered Terns, but there was no sign of the Slender-bills. We headed off to check the surrounding area. As we drove down the track, we stopped to chat with another birder. As we did a male Spectacled Warbler sat in full view only a few feet away. He told us about a BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER just around the corner on Spiro's Pool, and in no time we were watching five Little Terns, five Greenshanks, an impressive 120 Little Stints, c10 Kentish Plovers, a Curlew Sand and the Broad-billed Sandpiper there.

We returned to check the sewage works again just in case the gulls had dropped in. There was still no sign, but we did have five Little Grebes, six Spur-wings and by the access track, a female Pied Fly and Whinchat.
We were bitterly disappointed to have missed our target bird for the day. We headed over towards Akrotiri to try our luck there. Our first stop was at the Phasouri Reed beds. We weren't sure we had arrived there as we were looking at such a small pool, but we stopped and checked it out and saw five Cattle Egrets, two Black-winged Stilts, a Little Egret, a Squacco, three Glossy Ibis, drake Garganey and drake Ferruginous Duck.
We carried on driving along the road and soon came out onto the Akrotiri Plains. At our first stop, we heard a BLACK FRANCOLIN calling, and then we had two birds answering back in the distance. I thought I saw some movement in one area but nothing more came of that, so we drove further down the track. As soon as we pulled up, one called literally feet away from us. Again we tried our best to see it, but we were having no luck today. We drove down several tracks in the area but there was no further sign. Time was running out and we had to head back. As we left the plain, two Turtle Doves were in a field, another BLACK FRANCOLIN started to call, and a Purple Heron was showing extremely well by the side of the road as it walked about in an olive grove.
We decided on one last check of Phasouri Reed beds, and three Irish birders had turned up since we were last there. We stood with them and chatted, and then they casually said there were three BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATERS over the reeds. We soon were watching them and had good but distant views. They eventually perched up on the reeds and were joined by a fourth bird. They had been seen in the area on the two previous days, but I didn't expect them to stay for a third. It was a good session here to end the day, with a Squacco, a male Little Bittern, three Ferruginous Ducks, Garganey and two Marsh Harriers to end a hard day's birding.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Clayheads on Tour in Cyprus - Tuesday 19th April

Up at 06-00hrs but it was much cooler (17C) and I immediately regretted leaving my fleece in my hotel room. First stop was Cape Drepanum, to the north of Paphos. We parked up by the small harbour first, seeing a pair of Cyprus Pied Wheatears and a Common Sandpiper. In the fields on the headland itself, we had at least five Ortolan Buntings, four Tawny Pipits and 8+ Yellow Wagtails, of which at least two were Grey-headed, and 5+ Blue-headed.

Above - Ortolan Bunting on Cape Drepanum

We still hadn't seen CYPRUS WARBLER yet, and after careful checking of all the information I had bought out with me, we headed to Mavrokolmpos Dam. We pulled in by the dam itself and walked down to view the bushes on the dam slopes. We had a singing male Cyprus Pied Wheatear, a Woodchat Shrike, and eventually we had 5+ Cyprus Warblers in the area, located by most birds singing and behaving quite territorial to each other. Relieved by getting another of our target birds, we walked over to the other side of the dam, and had a CHUKAR fly over and perch on a rock. We also had Kestrel, Great Tit and Magpie in the area.

Above - Male Cyprus Pied Wheatear

Above - Cyprus Warbler

Above - Chukar

Mavrokolympos Dam

Monday, 25 April 2011

Clayheads on Tour in Cyprus - Monday 18th April

This holiday, as with most of my others is a family holiday, and so the majority of birding is done pre-breakfast. Its a punishing schedule of getting up at 05-30hrs daily, but you just get on and do it. This morning we were up and out of the hotel by 06-00hrs and we made our way to the pools below Aspro dam. To be honest it was very disappointing down there with just Fan-tailed, Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers on show, with a single Moorhen on the pool. We drove up to the dam, and immediately had a LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD being mobbed by corvids on the ridge to the left of the road. Our first tick safety in the bag. We parked up by the dam and started to walk across, finding a pair of CYPRUS PIED WHEATEARS on the overflow. We also had a Common Sandpiper and a Whiskered Tern.

Female Cyprus Pied Wheatear

Whiskered Tern

Second tick of the day and it was only 07-40hrs. Next stop was at nearby Paphos SW. As soon as we pulled up we had our first of six SPUR-WINGED PLOVERS showing well just inside the fence. We also had a Cattle Egret fly over and a Cyprus Pied Wheatear.

The main trip of the day was the drive up north to the Baths of Aphrodites, west of Polis. We had another four Cyprus Pied Wheatears, some showing well on the telegraph wires, several Blackcaps and our first Magpies of the trip. After hearing an unfamiliar Reed Warbler type song coming from a bush, we eventually tracked it down and had good views of a singing EASTERN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER. There were probably at least three singing birds in the area. We had 10+ Pallid Swifts overhead. In Latchi just down the road, we had two Black-headed Wagtails, one Blue-headed and a Grey-headed in a field by the beach. So with four lifers, it wasn't a bad at all.

Clayheads on Tour in Cyprus - Sunday 17th April

We arrived on Cyprus at 21-50hrs and made the short transfer from Paphos airport to the Louis Imperial Beach Hotel, just on the eastern side of Paphos. We had booked a hire car for the week but that wasn't coming until 10-00hrs, so I went for a walk along the coast. I spotted a small headland and made for that, seeing plenty of House Sparrows, Swallows and Hooded Crows. It was a warm, clear morning and I soon realised that I didn't need my fleece on. A Common Sandpiper was feeding in one of the bays, and on the headland, two Crested Larks were singing.

Crested Lark

I did a bit of sea watching, but there was nothing going past at all, other than a flock of five Cattle Egrets. It seemed strange to watch Linnets feeding fully grown young having just left Britain. There was a patch of open waste land near to a building site, and here I watched 8+ Blue-headed Wagtails feeding. I also found a female Black-eared Wheatear feeding on the mounds.

Female Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Blue-headed Wagtail

Grey-headed type Wagtail

Two Tawny Pipits flew in and stayed briefly, as did two White Wagtails. As I walked back, I saw a Northern Wheatear along the beach.
We planned to visit Paphos Headland during the morning, mainly to see the ruins. We arrived at 11-00hrs and I knew it was not an ideal time. We had several Sardinian Warblers singing, plus many Fan-tailed Warblers and Crested Larks. A Hoopoe flew over and we had three Woodchats. We saw some German birders watching some large lizards/gecko's, and I noticed a Black-headed Wagtail was feeding amongst the ruins. We stood there for a while and eventually had two Black-headed Wag's showing well and a male Redstart. I managed to add Kestrel, Corn Bunting, Cetti's, Swift and Yellow-legged Gull to my list before we headed back to the hotel. It was quite warm with temperatures of 25C +

Black-headed Wagtail

Monday, 11 April 2011

Saturday 9th April - North Wales

PJ suggested that we went on a trip, and as the week progressed, our attention turned towards North Wales, especially to Anglesey, where a PURPLE HERON was present. So armed with our target birds, we headed off at 05-30hrs. First stop was at World's End. We had fabulous view of lekking BLACK GROUSE along the road, but we decided to only have a brief look at these as there was a larger lek further down the road apparently. Unfortunately, we never found this, and so if you want to see any pictures of lekking Black Grouse, check out SURFBIRDS!

We spent about two hours here, seeing two male WHINCHATS, three male RING OUZELS and fly over CROSSBILLS. The star bird at this site took two hours to show, but when it finally show, it showed down to a few feet.

We then headed for Anglesey, but there was no news on the PURPLE HERON yet. We decided to head instead for the Great Orme where a DOTTEREL had been found earlier in the morning. Then we changed direction again when news came through on the wires of a BLACK SCOTER off the Rainbow Bridge. It took us ages to find how to get to the bridge, and by the time we walked to it, there was not a birder in sight. The SCOTER flock were swimming just off the wind turbines and picking out a BLACK SCOTER at this range was impossible. We did see several RED-THROATED DIVERS, GUILLEMOTS and two SANDWICH TERNS flew past.

By this time, the PURPLE HERON was showing, and so after wasting an hour on the SCOTER, we finally crossed over to Anglesey. We knew that we had to find a footpath opposite the church in Dwyran, down in the SW corner of Anglesey. No problem we thought. Churches are easy to find. What we didn't know was that it was a small Welsh chapel set back from the road, and it didn't have a steeple. We found it on our second drive past. We walked into the field, joined two birders already there and enjoyed good views of the PURPLE HERON as it fed in a small pool. The light was very good as we were looking directly into the sunlight, but I thoroughly enjoy watching my first Purple Heron for five years in Britain, and, more importantly, my first Welsh Purple Heron.

The pool at Dwyran

My first Purple Heron in Wales, and my first photographed one in Britain

Next stop was for the GLAUCOUS GULL near to Menai Bridge. We did find a field with quite a few large gulls in it, but there was no sign. After a brief discussion, we decided to head towards the Great Orme. Reports on the DOTTEREL were quite infrequent during the day, and so I was not expecting it to be still present. Following a small detour via the carpark at the top of the Orme (due to GAS's navigating and then admission that he didn't actually know where the Limestone Pavement was), we parked up a saw two birdwatchers standing, staring. PJ leapt out of the car and confirmed that the DOTTEREL was still present. It performed like a dream, and we were soon joined by fellow Westport Wanderer DK. The Orme was full of Clayheads on Tour!

Dotterel on Great Orme - another Welsh tick for me

DK exhausted after taking 7500 shots of the Dotterel