The prime reason for the trip was to see the two endemic breeding species, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear, and two late arriving migrants, Eleonora’s Falcon and Black-headed Bunting. The latter we had missed in previous visits to Mediterranean and North African countries which had been earlier in the season.
Our visit therefore, was planned to fall after the main migration period. Naturally, this resulted in a limited species list but we managed to find all the birds we intended along with Black Francolin and Caspian Reed Warbler which are resident regional specialities.
As most birders will know there remains a deeply ingrained culture of hunting in Cyprus. Very regretfully, the ever-present discharged shotgun cartridges were a constant reminder of this.
The great surprise was to find such excellent accommodation at such a reasonable price. Suffering from low occupancy, no doubt because of the recession, hotels were actively seeking to redress this. We managed to get an 11 night package from First Choice a week before departure. The cost including flights and transfers was £581 ea half board in the four star Avanti Hotel, Paphos. We found this hotel to be very friendly, with excellent food and accommodation and as we were leaving the hotel around 5.30AM most mornings, they provided us with a substantial take-away packed breakfast. Flights were ex Birmingham.
We arranged car-hire before we left the UK and booked directly with Europcar in Paphos by telephone who had a special local deal for First Choice/Thomson/Tui Group customers. 11 days Ford Focus including ½ tank of petrol, 2 drivers and super CDW/TDW with no excess, cost E358.29. Taking the vehicle into Northern Cyprus was not permitted.
Paphos proved to be a good location for getting around to the main birding areas although Limassol would have been just as good. Our hotel was on the eastern edge of Paphos which meant very easy access to the motorway rather than having to negotiate the suburbs of Paphos at the end of the day after very early starts.
English is spoken widely and all the locals we met were very friendly. Throughout our travels we met no other birders except two rather uncommunicative chaps very briefly on our second visit to Oroklini March.
Thanks are due to the Cyprus Tourist Board in London for providing maps and much other general information; Philip Callagher for his excellent 2010 trip report; Stagg and Hearl’s ‘A Birdwatching guide to Cyprus’ which although dated is still excellent; and Martin Hellicar of BirdLife Cyprus who had very generously given us a lot of information when we met him at the Rutland Bird Fair in 2009.
Europcar, 43 Morphou Street, 8015 Paphos, Cyprus. Tel: 00357 268 22633
Hotel Avanti, Poseidon Avenue, PO Box 61082, CY8130 Paphos, Cyprus. Tel 00357 269 65555
Books, Reports, Articles, Maps
Stagg, A. & Hearl, G. (1998) ‘A Birdwatching Guide to Cyprus. Pub. Arlequin Press, Chelmsford, Essex
Reports and Articles
Callagher, P. ‘Cyprus Trip Report May 6th – 11th 2010’
BirdLife Cyprus ‘Birdwatching in Cyprus. A brief guide for visitors’. Available at www.birdlifecyprus.org
Reise Know-How ‘Zypern – Cyprus’ 1:150,000 2010 ‘rip and waterproof’ edition
We were unable to find large scale maps in the UK but were provided with good quality district and town maps for Larnaka, Nicosia and Paphos from the Cyprus Tourist Office, London.
Birmingham/Paphos flight arriving 23.10 after being delayed by an hour.
22 May. Sunny, max temp 30C, wind SW force 1-2
Car delivered to our hotel by Europcar at 08.30.
Petra tou Romiou.
Petra tou Romiou. The pic-nic site west of the cafe yielded excellent views of a male Cyprus Warbler singing from the tops of low trees. It was useful to compare the spotted breast of the male Cyprus Warbler with the Sardinian Warblers in the same area. Several Hooded Crows of the sub-species sardonius, especially on the beach at Aphrodite’s Rock, were scavenging in rubbish bins. There was also a flock of biblicus House Sparrows around the café car-park.
23 May. Sunny, max temp 25C, wind still
Acrotiri Peninsula: Phassouri Reed Beds, Aerial Farm, Ladies Mile, Zakaki Pool.
Phassouri Reed Beds. Arrived 06.45 to hear the mechanical calls of at least two Black Francolins but were unable to locate them in the tall grass although subsequently we found that Black Francolins tend to call from the top of low mounds. Many Squacco Herons were at the pools and a Little Bittern flew across to land in full view on the reeds. There were many vocal Cetti’s and Caspian Reed Warblers, the latter song seeming much slower than our Eurasian Reed Warblers. Excellent views of both adult and juvenile Caspian Reed Warblers feeding on insects in an area of reeds surrounding a pile of dung.
Aerial Farm. Track to some pools (marked 4, p13 in Stagg & Hearl) yielded four Collared Pratincoles, otherwise no waders around but had excellent views of the endemic Great Tit aphrodite feeding young. Returning to the main track, on a small shrub was a Lesser Grey Shrike.
Ladies Mile. The first section approaching from the west of the peninsula is now asphalted as far as the monastery. There were many Barn Swallows and cypriaca Crested Larks on wires, but the pools to the west of Ladies Mile were birdless except for a single Little Egret and two Squacco Herons.
Zakaki Pool. Noisy site with heavy trucks driving past to the port. Excellent views of eight Ferruginous Ducks.
Phassouri Reed Beds. Returned in time to have close range views of an Eleonora’s Falcon landing in one of the tall trees opposite the reed beds, shortly followed by four Glossy Ibis flying in to land on the marsh.
24 May. Sunny, max temp 22C in mountains, 30C in Paphos, wind still
Diarizos Valley, Persephone Trail, Troodos.
Diarizos Valley. Approx 2-3 miles up the valley from Agios Nikolais we found our first Cyprus Wheatear singing from the top of Black Pine trees at the interface of the vineyards with the forest edge.
Persephone Trail, Troodos. Excellent views of two endemic sub-species: glaszneri Jay and cypriotes Coal Tit.
25 May. Sunny, max temp 30C, wind westerly force 2-3
Keratidi headland, Kathikas, Evretou Dam.
Keratidi headland, north west of Paphos. Greeted by a migrating flock of 14 Grey Herons. Highlight was extremely close views of a Black Francolin calling from the top of a pile builders rubble next to a partially completed housing development.
Kathikas. Many Cyprus Wheatears both in and around this picturesque village, together with the local niediecki sub-species of Goldfinch. We had hoped for Black-headed Buntings but only managed the briefest of views of a pair on a telegraph wire a couple of miles north east of the village on the Akourdaleia road. Also on the same wire was the bonus of a European Roller.
Evretou Dam. Full of water but except for a few Little Egrets, was birdless.
26 May. Sunny, max temp 30C, wind westerly force 1-2
Larnaka airport South Lake, Spiro’s Pool, Cape Kiti Lighthouse, Kiti Dam, Larnaka Salt Lake, Oroklini March.
Left Paphos at 05.30, arriving at the South Lake bird-hide shortly after 07.30. South Lake is a balancing pond for the water treatment plant.
Driving along the track to the hide, we flushed 2 Chukars of the local cypriotes sub-species giving excellent views. Star birds from the hide (sadly now a bit knocked about) were Spur-winged Plovers flying noisily around the reservoir and two Black Francolins. Also present were Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, Little Terns and three male Shovelers.
Along the coast from South Lake is Spiro’s Pool which, not unexpectedly at this time of year, was more or less dry and therefore birdless except for a couple of Little Terns. Huge numbers of Barn Swallows on the wires.
Kiti Lighthouse. This area is now spoiled due to several very large housing developments in various stages of completion (and decay!), along the coast. Only birds were four Greenfinches.
Kiti Dam. Difficult to find as the route to the dam was not apparent on our maps and locals were unable to give good directions. Navigating road works and taking a diversion across a field we eventually arrived at the dam only to find it completely dry.
Larnaka Salt Lake. Looking over the salt lake from Tekke Mosque yielded two Black-winged Stilts and some very distant Kentish Plover.
Oroklini March. Excellent site with reed-fringed pools which seems to be a new site since Stagg and Hearl’s book, and is now mentioned in the BirdLife Cyprus on-line Bird Guide.
How to get there: – Exit A3 motorway at junction 58 then drive south. The main pools are on west side of road with a smaller pool on the east. Highlights included 22 Black-winged Stilts, 10 Spur-winged Plovers, a Purple Heron, Greenshank, Ruff and seven Green Sandpipers. There was also a single Greater Flamingo with a damaged wing, likely preventing it from migrating.
27th May. Mixed showers and heavy rain, max temp 20C, wind easterly force 2
Mandria, Aspro Dam, Paphos Sewage Works and coast west to Paphos Head.
Mandria. Arrived 06.30 in heavy rain. 4 Little Egrets on the rocks, Zitting Cisticola, Crested Larks and Barn Swallow. Just north of the village were a flock of 15 Bee-eaters on a telegraph wire.
Aspro Dam. Very heavy rain. On the pool south of the dam wall were Night and Purple Heron. A small road on the west side of the dam before crossing the dam wall (not marked on the map in Stagg and Hearl’s book) lead to up a track through pines and a limestone pavement after the car park. This provided excellent views of Cyprus Wheatear and Olivaceous Warbler in and around the wooded area. In the low shrubs of the limestone pavement we had the best views of the trip of Cyprus Warbler with a male and female feeding young. There were also Sardinian Warblers and a Spectacled Warbler in the same area.
Paphos Sewage Works. Still raining, and nothing but two Spur-winged Plovers.
Coast road to Paphos Head. Much disturbance, and our only birds of note were two Squacco Herons flying over the sea to land on the beach. Paphos headland is now cordoned off except for a paved track along the coastline. From this we saw several Crested Larks, 4 Bee-eaters and a large number of Barn Swallows.
28th May. Overcast then broken cloud. Max temp 25C, wind north easterly force 3.
Cape Aspro, Kurion and Kensington Cliffs, Omodos.
Cape Aspro. Arrived 06.30 to find desmarestii Shags and sinensis Cormorants on the rocks. Stopping at each lay-by we systematically scanned the cliffs for Eleonora’s Falcons. Eventually we found three resting at the base of a cliff at the easterly end; one light morph and a mixed pair of one light and one dark morph. Also, a total of three Peregrines.
Kurion and Kensington Cliffs. More Eleonor’s Falcons were seen here with excellent in-flight views at eye level. Also of a flock of 9 Chukars were working their way down the cliff-side. These were flushed by a fisherman’s truck as it rounded a bend on the track coming up from the bay.
Omodos. Still seeking acceptable views of Black-headed Bunting we headed up to Omodos, a picturesque village in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. Martin Hellicar of BirdLife Cyprus had kindly indicated that the prime habitat for this species is low intensity vineyards adjacent to the forest edge, typically with interplanted Almond trees. As the sun appeared later in the day this proved to be the exact habitat. Here we had excellent views of several males singing from the top of low trees. In this area we also had very good views of Linnet, Spanish Sparrow and the best views of the trip of Cyprus Wheatear.
29th May. Thunderstorms followed by sun in the afternoon. Max temp 25C, wind westerly force 2.
Polis, Baths of Aphrodite, Acro Pomos, Kathikas, Cape Drepano.
Polis, Baths of Aphrodite. We found nothing of note in this over-developed area although the Akamas Peninsula itself would have much potential especially during migration.
Acro Pomos. With far less development than the Polis area we were pleased to note a flock of at least 20 Serins in the trees of the harbour restaurant. Great views of a Black Francolin calling from a hummock in the long grass of a smallholding on the headland itself.
Kathikas. This village, not mentioned in Stagg and Hearl’s book, is well worth a visit. Since we were in the area we stopped to find Black-headed Buntings again. These we heard but could not locate.
We did however locate the gorge which lies a good 1Km down a small lane south-west of the village. A steep path down for a hundred metres or so leads through an archway carved out of the rock, to an excellent viewpoint and seat overlooking the treetops to the cliffs opposite. Amongst other species, we found Turtle Dove and Cyprus Wheatear. Shortly after leaving Kathikas en route to the coast, two Long-legged Buzzards came into view enabling good scope views. One was a juvenile suggesting this is now becoming a well established breeding species.
Cape Drepano. Sea watching and looking over to Geronisos Island. On the island was a large colony of Yellow-legged Gulls, 7 Little Egrets possibly at the tail-end of migration, and a pair of breeding Peregrines.
30th May. Sunshine and heavy showers. Max 28C, wind south easterly force 2.
Non birding day. Nicosia and Kyrenia, North Cyprus.
It was very easy to cross to Turkish North Cyprus, generally referred to by Greek Cypriots as the ‘Occupied Territory’.
As our car-hire firm prohibited taking the vehicle to the North, we took the car to Nicosia, and after parking in a side road, looked around the south side of the city. We crossed over to the North by foot at the ‘Lidras Street’ crossing, ensuring that a loose sheet of paper and not our passport itself was stamped by the Turkish Border Control - we had been advised that entry back to the South with an ‘Occupied Territory’ stamp in our passport would have been a serious issue.
Walking up to the Kyrenia Gate we were soon picked up by a dolmus (shared taxi) and travelled at top speed to Kyrenia or Girne as it is known in the North, for a total of 5 Euros. Kyrenia is a beautiful walled city with an immense Venetian Fort guarding the harbour. Our return journey was simply a reversal of the route out.
31st May. Sunny, max 28C, wind still, but max 18C in the mountains.
Akhna Dam, Oroklini March, Platres, Kalidonian Trail.
Akhna Dam. On the road at 05.00 to arrive around 06.45. Starting out from point 2, map 10 in Stagg and Hearl’s book, we made our way to the south side of the reservoir rather than the north along an indistinct track. From here excellent views of Little Egrets, Squacco, Purple and Grey Herons and Spur-winged Plovers. Little Terns were dip feeding over the water as were a flock of Sand Martins over the reed-bed.
Oroklini March. The Ruff and Green Sandpipers seen on our first visit had moved on but it was worth a stop to see a male Garganey in full breeding plumage. Otherwise our species list was the same as on our previous visit.
Platres and Kalidonian Trail. Seeking the endemic Wren Cypriotes, this was a very pleasing walk up the trail to the waterfall. Close views of the Wren were to be had as we approached the waterfall as well as the endemic glaszneri Jay feeding in the leaf litter either side of the footpath. A pair of the endemic aphrodite Great Tits were at the waterfall, coming in and out of a hole in a tree feeding their young.
In Platres were flocks of Pallid Swifts and lesser numbers of Crag Martins.
1st June. Sunny, max temp 30C, wind still.
AM: Cape Aspro, Aspro Dam. PM: home to the UK.
Cape Aspro. As this was the last day, we returned to a favourite local birding spot. The same mixed pair of light and dark morph Eleonora’s Falcons were on the cliff ledge, suggesting that they were holding territory. This species postpones breeding until late summer, co-ordinating the timing of south bound migrants with peak food demand of their brood. A flock of 50+ Alpine Swifts were circling the cliffs and flying low over the sea, their call being reminiscent of Whimbrel.
Aspro Dam. Generally quiet, but close views of a Black Francolin calling from the top of a pile of builder’s rubble to the south east of the dam wall. Also in this area we had very good views of 12 Chukars.
Return to UK on 19.00 flight.
Click here for our day by day bird log