Thursday 29 April 2010

Cyprus daily blog 14th April

Another hot day with temperatures starting to climb to mid twenties.  As always, the day started quietly but ended in a nice flourish.  The image of the Karpasian valley below is unusual in that early morning mists are rarer than Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.  Bird of the day was a Bimaculated Lark but sadly not all of us connected.  Three Scops Owls at dusk were also memorable though.

Red-veined Darters were exceptionally common in damp areas.  At one site we estimated perhaps thousands.

Purple Herons migrate through Cyprus in variable numbers.  This migrant was found wandering around the Juniper forest near the coast.

Sardinian Warbler - a different male to that photographed yesterday.

Cretzschmar's Bunting were scarce during mid April.  All but one of the handful we saw were females.  Cretzschmar's Bunting migrate early through Cyprus hence the low numbers.    

Crag Martin trickle through and no more than ten were logged during the fortnight.  The migrant below took a breather and landed on the rock late in the evening.  By morning it had departed.

Nine Isabelline Wheatear were seen today and the three images below show some of the important ID features; any Cornish birder looking for the second Isabelline county record can note the bolt upright stance, plain uniform fawn upperparts, plain secondaries and open-faced expression.

Audouin's Gull breed in Cyprus and were seen daily. 

Totals for the day included one male Subalpine Warbler, four Sardinians, three Eastern Bonelli's, nine Isabelline Wheatear, 10 Black-eared and 40 Northern Wheatear, three Roller, two Wryneck, 200+ Spanish Sparrow, eight Short-toed Lark, 10 flava Wagtail, two male Red-backed Shrike, five Woodchat and three Redstart.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Cyprus daily blog 13th April

The quietest day of the trip so far and a turn in the weather.  No more fingerless gloves and four layers of clothing.  Warmer settled conditions though, means few birds.  Although the quantities appear large, there is a feeling of a general clear out of migrants.  A trip to Memetcik is required to get a wader fix, though this shallow bowl has lost much water in just a few days since our last visit.  Kolly witnessed a male Little Bittern being knocked over by a white van man and Bobbo had a dilemma whether to tick a bird with a 2% pulse.  A Great Snipe was bird of the day albeit with brief but good views.

Hoopoe's were fairly common with seven seen today.    This photo was taken on a rough track where it blended in nicely...or so it thought.  Later that afternoon, we found it had been eaten by a raptor.

Sardinian Warblers were unexpectedly more common than normal with three or four seen daily.  

Pallid Harriers were seen daily.  This ringtail was seen over Memetcik being harried by the resident Hooded Crows.

White Wagtail

 Totals for the day included: 13 Woodchat, 100 Ruff, 40 Wood Sandpiper, 8 Green Sandpiper, 2 Squacco, Little Bittern, Night Heron, nine White Stork, 3 Stone Curlew, Great Snipe, 2 Collared Flycatcher, seven Hoopoe, nine Roller and one Eleonora's Falcon.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Toilet roll required on Cyprus ?

A roll of toilet paper was nearly required, twice - once to wipe up this Chameleon which was almost squashed by our car tyre.  Luckily the driver just spotted him crossing the road.  The second time was when I turned the corner and stumbled upon these two five foot Blunt-nosed Vipers....

Further information gleaned from the web and courtesy Paul Hopwood:

Levantine Viper or Mountain Adder or Blunt-nosed Viper

Macrovipera lebetina, Macrovipera lebetina obtusa, Macrovipera lebetina turanica

Genus: Macrovipera
Status: Rare and restricted
Warning: This snake is deadly poisonous. Risk to man high. A dangerous snake of major medical importance

Description and Biology:

This is a large snake, up to 1.6 meters long; females larger than males. Has no horn, no shields; fangs very large. Scale pattern consists of rosettes with light centers; intensity of margination may merge into wavy band, lateral spots more distinct than dorsal patterns. Coloration is gray, gray-brown or yellowish with gray underside in females. Tail pinkish brown, tapers abruptly.

Bee-eater at Land's End, 24th April 2010

Below is John Chapple's video of the Bee-eater at Land's End last Saturday.  More of John's video footage can be viewed on his YouTube page here

Monday 26 April 2010

Cyprus daily blog 12th April 2010

A day of gale force wind, but also a reasonable movement of raptors, by Cyprus standards anyway.  Not a location noted for special raptor movements, we did however log today seven Lesser Kestrel, three Eleonora's Falcon, two Bonelli's Eage, 15 Marsh and four Pallid Harriers and an Osprey.  Wheatear movement increased by dusk as more and more birds found their way to the tip of the island.  Totals included 12 Black-eared, 30 Northern and eight Isabelline Wheatear.  

The Eleonora's Falcon image below is one of my favourites - they are so difficult to capture in flight.  After chimping through a burst of 30 images, I was quite excited when I eventually found this one in focus.  This is the only acceptable shot which was in focus and exposed correctly.  These medium sized falcons come in various colour phases and this one was a dark phase - the most exciting in my opinion.

Black-eared Wheatears have been seen daily and they appear in many guises.  The birds below are Eastern "throated" versions....stunning.

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler are quite obvious with their beady black eye, greenish rump and wing coverts.  They also have a monotonous single note call.  Two were seen today.
The Isabelline Wheatear below was taken during a red-five moment (read Andy Rouse's books and you will know what I mean).  The last five minutes of sunshine can produce very different images and the low direct sunlight shows the underparts and thorns to nice effect.

Flava wagtails are just simply stunning subjects and this feldegg (Black-headed) was a real poser. I spent quite a bit of time with him and he became quite at ease at a distance of just five yards.  Later on I will post a series of various flava family wagtail shots to highlight the different forms.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Sennen Stoat

I took these images today of a Stoat at Sennen, while waiting for a Grasshopper Warbler to show itself.  The gropper never showed but this little chap was quite happy to pose in front of us for a few seconds.  I fired a burst of about 20 shots and these three highlight its' cheeky character.  For the benefit of non UK readers (and Montanagirl), the Stoat is about a third the size of a cat but three times more aggressive!

Cyprus daily blog 11th April

Very strong wind hampered birding today and this kept the birds low.  We found an "unexplored" valley out of the wind which we named cuckoo valley, as there were so many cuckoos to be found here.  This site proved productive and gave us stunning views of an adult male Barred Warbler.   I've never previously had the opportunity to photo one of these stunners and this individual just gave itself up!

Five Cuckoos were seen today plus one hepatic bird. 

(The two Cuckoo shots below were taken by Pete Maker as they appeared on his side of the car!).

The brown phase cuckoo below is known as the "hepatic"Cuckoo.  Look closely at the bird below and it is carrying a green caterpillar.

Isabelline Wheatears are common migrants and were logged every day.

Masked Shrikes were also common and a handful were seen daily.  Masked Shrike also breeds in Cyprus and we encountered a couple pairs on territory.  Today we logged six birds.

Woodchat Shrikes were also common and found in many different habitats.  Today we logged six birds.

Further sightings of note for the day included two Roller, 10 Short-toed Lark, 20+ Red-rumped Swallow, 80 flava wagtails, one Red-backed Shrike, two Ruppell's Warbler, one Orphean Warbler, three Eastern Bonelli's, one Pied Flycatcher, 12 Black-eared Wheatear, two Isabelline, two Redstart, 20 Ortolan, four Lesser Kestrel and four Pallid Harriers.

All of the images have been taken with the Nikon D3x and 300mm F/2.8, with 2xTeleconverter.  All of the images were taken using a tripod or resting on the car window ledge.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Cyprus daily blog 10th April

The first full day in the field - wall to wall birding, working the area hard.  The day started slowly, gradually gathering momentum by dusk.  Wheatears and sylvia warblers were notable in numbers.

Highlights of the day included 20 Cuckoos including this unusual brown phase "hepatic" Cuckoo, one Calandra lark, 30 Red-rumped Swallow, 20 Tawny Pipit, 3 Masked Shrike, 40 Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Common Whitethroat, two Sardinian, two Ruppells, one Subalpine and two Eastern Bonelli's Warblers.  One Collared Flycatcher, ten Whinchat, 40 Northern Wheatear, three Isabelline and 15 Black-eared Wheatears.

Calandra Lark (above) are common on farmland habitat, especially cornfields. This "out of place" migrant was initially thought to be a Bimac though the flight views clearly showed its' white trailing edge on the secondaries.

Spanish Sparrows were migrating in large numbers with flocks of 200 plus seen daily. 

Rollers were especially common and seemed to be more numerous than in previous years.  About 100 individuals were logged during the two week stay.  Most are migrants though some also stay to breed.  We also witnessed the fascinating "rolling" courtship display which gives the species its' name.

European Bee Eaters were generally scarce except on the last day when we saw about 100.

Tawny Pipits were common and seen every day.  Flocks of up to ten birds were regular and a typical days' tally would be at least 20.