Peter and Pat were staying in Nicosia so we spent the morning at two sites nearby the capital with a view to seeing Cyprus Warbler and, if we were really lucky, a late Cyprus Wheatear. Our luck didn’t extend as far as the Cyprus Wheatear – they all seem to have left now – but we saw a good variety of species in the late autumn sun.
Starting at Agios Sozomenos the first bird we saw was a male Hen Harrier flying towards the car! We stopped and watched it quartering the alfalfa fields putting up several Meadow Pipits as it did so. Two Cattle Egret were unmoved and remained feeding near the water sprinkler. We moved on and stopped to watch a late migrating juvenile Red-backed Shrike. As we got out of the car a female Hen Harrier flew up. Great to see both sexes of this winter visitor. A few Eurasian Skylark were seen in the distance at the edge of a field and they were put to flight by one of several Common Kestrel. At least one Common Stonechat seemed to be perched on every bush or stem we passed and we gave up counting quite early on. Plenty of Western Jackdaw and Hooded Crow as well.
A Little Owl watched us as we searched the cliffs for a Finsch’s Wheatear – a localised winter visitor to Cyprus. This area usually has several individuals but we had no luck at our first stop. We did see a Western Black Redstart, a couple of Common Chaffinch and of course some Common Stonechats. We heard a European Robin staking its territory. We had a quick look in the Sewage Pool at Vathi Gonia and added Little Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Coot and two Green Sandpiper to the morning’s list. A Peregrine Falcon flew over but disappeared quickly over the top of the ridge.
Driving back to recheck the cliffs we quickly spotted a male Finsch’s Wheatear flitting across the road from left to right. Usually they will move away from the road if you stop but this one didn’t and we spent some time watching him quite close to the car. Returning to the abandoned village we were entertained by two Spectacled Warbler flying near us as we drank a welcome cup of coffee. We checked the fields again as we left the area and found a group of Spanish Sparrow and a Zitting Cisticola.
We then spent an hour in the Panagia Stazousa valley. We heard many European Robin setting up territories as well as seeing a female Eurasian Blackcap and hearing several singing males. Several Common Chaffinch, many Western Jackdaw, flocks of European Goldfinch, a few Meadow Pipit and again lots of Common Stonechat were around. A single European Serin flew over and we saw three Corn Bunting and another flock of Spanish Sparrow – but although we had heard a couple of Cyprus Warbler contact and alarm calls it looked as if we were to be denied a decent view of one. A female popped into view from a fig tree but she didn’t hang around for long. But as we were heading back along the valley towards Nicosia I spotted some movement to our left and there sitting and even singing for us on the top of a bush was a male Cyprus Warbler. We watched him for several minutes before he flew off. A great end to the morning – although not to be upstaged another male and female flew briefly into the road side vegetation as we drove past.
A good morning out and proof that it’s not always necessary to head the island’s birding ‘hot-spots’ to see a good variety of species.
Full species list
Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Hen Harrier, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Coot, Green Sandpiper, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, European Robin, Western Black Redstart, Common Stonechat, Finsch’s Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Spectacled Warbler, Cyprus Warbler, Eurasian Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Eurasian Magpie, Western Jackdaw, Hooded Crown, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, European Serin, European Goldfinch, Common Linnet, Corn Bunting