Reem and her family were in Cyprus for the Christmas holidays and had asked for a day’s birding during their stay. We started at the Amathus Archaeological Site as one of their target birds was the Cyprus Warbler and I had seen several there on a visit two weeks previously. We walked up the slope behind the site and very quickly found some Spanish Sparrow and the first of the day’s many Stonechat. We could hear European Robin and also calling Cyprus Warbler but at first only managed fleeting views as they flitted around the area and flew deep into bushes. We watched two Chukar climbing over the ruins as well as four Eurasian Skylark, several White Wagtail and Meadow Pipit. A flock of Corn Bunting flew over and we could hear Blackcap singing. On our return walk the Cyprus Warbler were more obliging and we even managed to watch two males through the telescope. A female was seen briefly as were two Zitting Cisticola. On returning to the car we were able to watch a female Black Redstart.
We moved onto Germasogeia Dam and drove to the Finikaria area. As we parked the car a black and white bird flew in front of us. A Pied Kingfisher – never a common visitor to Cyprus. It flew off over the Dam and we set off to relocate it. We had great views of a Great Egret and two Little Egret. At least four Great Cormorant were on the water as were several Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe. Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff were in the waterside vegetation and there were several Meadow Pipit and White Wagtail at the side of the track. Finally the Pied Kingfisher flew up, stopping just in front of us to hover and then drop down into the water. It did this several times and was a real treat to see. As we left the Dam a Grey Heron also flew over.
A Phassouri Reed Beds we stopped to watch several Cattle Egret sitting on the back of a cow feeding on the insects. A female Marsh Harrier floated over the reeds and we saw many Mallard flying around the back of the area. The only other water birds were Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe but we picked out a Water Pipit amongst the Meadow Pipits. The surrounding bushes were alive with Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Robins and we flushed a Song Thrush. From Sylvana’s Restaurant we watched the Greater Flamingos on Akrotiri Salt Lake through the telescope. There were several Common Shelduck on the Lake as well as many Teal although the heat haze meant it was hard to pick out any other species. A Marsh Harrier quartered the dry area in front of us and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew by while a Common Kestrel sat on a telegraph pole.
We ate our lunch at Agios Georgios Church on the Gravel Pits and were treated to fly pasts by both the Marsh Harrier and a Hen Harrier. Several Serins and Greenfinch were flying around the area but although I could hear a Sardinian Warbler I couldn’t see it. We headed to Bishop’s Pool with the intention of seeing Ferruginous Duck. As we walked to the pool we came across a Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Great Tit and Stonechat all bathing in a large puddle. Several Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warbler were also in the bushes by the side of the puddle and we did actually manage to watch a Cetti’s until it disappeared into the undergrowth again. On the pool we found four Ferruginous Duck, many Teal and a female Shoveler. I was hoping we could find the White-throated Kingfisher that had been at the site since September and we scanned the trees at the back. Finally I found it but by the time I could get the ‘scope trained on it and call the others, it had flown off. I did feel guilty though as I was the only one to get any sight of it. We all searched the area for it again but no luck this time and finally we decided to head off to Kensington Cliffs to finish the day there.
This proved to be a good decision as no sooner were we out of the car than two Griffon Vulture floated over our heads. They flew over the area the entire time we were there – one of them even landing on the top of a pine only 100m away from us and plucked a twig which it then took to the cliff face where it is possibly building a nest. As well as their show, two Common Kestrel and two Peregrine Falcon were also soaring over the area. We picked out eight Shag on the rocks offshore together with two Yellow-legged Gull. At Amathus we had been searching for a Blue Rock Thrush with no luck but we were rewarded here with a lovely male on a ledge of the cliff face. We headed back to the car as the sun disappeared behind the cliffs.
Day’s total – 55 species
Birds seen – Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Ferruginous Duck, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Chukar, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pied Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher (only seen by guide), Crested Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, European Robin, Western Black Redstart, Common Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Song Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cyprus Warbler, Sardinian Warbler (heard), Eurasian Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Eurasian Magpie, Western Jackdaw, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, European Serin, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.