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.