The number of birds passing over during the spring and autumn migration periods is impressive, as literally millions of birds pour through Cyprus. Spring migration gets underway in earnest around the middle of March, usually depending on how settled the weather is, and continues into May. A few early arrivals can even be noted in February, especially the hirundines, Isabelline and Northern Wheatear and the Great Spotted Cuckoo and Eurasian Hoopoe.
Slender-billed Gull and different heron species can be seen in flocks along the coast. Each week seems to provide a different species to watch for. The end of March sees different wheatear including Desert and Eastern Black-eared, Tawny and Red-throated Pipit, Greater Short-toed Lark, Masked and Woodchat Shrike, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, different Yellow Wagtail races and hybrids and Rüppell’s, Eastern Subalpine and Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, while on the wetlands many species of wader including Marsh Sandpiper and Collared Pratincole occur as can Little, Spotted and Baillon’s Crake.
Moving into April and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Eurasian Roller and European Bee-eater start to arrive with possibly a few Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Pied, Collared and the occasional Semi-collared Flycatcher will be seen together with Wryneck, Ortolan Bunting and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. A late arrival that stays to breed is the Black-headed Bunting. Barred, Icterine and Savi’s Warbler also occur in small numbers. Raptor passage can also be observed with Red-footed Falcon, European Hobby, Pallid, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier and Lesser Kestrel regularly seen. Wader migration continues and Broad-billed Sandpiper and Great Snipe can occur together with Little Bittern and possible Eurasian Spoonbill.
In the autumn the passerine migration may seem less notable but there are still plenty of species around – shrikes, flycatchers, warblers and wagtails etc. The migration period gets underway in earnest during August with Glossy Ibis, Purple and Grey Heron, Little and Cattle Egret and Garganey coasting along shore, especially along the north-west coast and a sometimes considerable passage of cranes and raptors attracts attention in September and October. Demoiselle Crane pass through at the end of August and start of September and in some years flocks spend the night at Akrotiri Salt Lake, leaving there in the morning once it gets warm. Honey Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon and harriers are regularly observed. Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Kite ‘Steppe’ Buzzard and Egyptian Vulture have all been spotted in recent autumns. Again an assortment of waders pass through and there is usually a large passage of European Bee-eater. Whiskered and White-winged Tern migrate through –although they look less striking than they do on their northward journey in the spring.
Passage migrants of note that can occur some years are Saker Falcon, Cream- coloured Courser, Caspian Plover, Great Black-headed Gull, Caspian Tern, Bimaculated Lark, Citrine Wagtail, Kurdish and Hooded Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Bush Robin, Isabelline Shrike, Trumpeter Finch and Cinereous Bunting.