Thursday 4 May 2017

Cyprus Trip Report, April 2017

  • A 3 day trip to Cyprus in mid April in order to give both child and parent a nice break in some warm sunshine, and to improve upon photographs of Cyprus Pied Wheatear by applying what is known as the “rock principle”
  • Flights with good old tired old British Airways to Larnaca, £50 each return and a handful of air miles. Left on Saturday lunchtime but arrives in the evening due to a two hour time difference and a 4 hour flight. Return flight departed at 7pm on Bank Holiday Monday which gave very nearly two full days of relaxation plus two opportunities to photograph birds in the early morning light.
  • Adams Beach Hotel in Agia Napa booked in advance via “Kaligo”, a booking service that throws air miles at you, and that was £60 per night for a fancy twin room including breakfast. Very pleasant and exactly the type of kid-friendly place my daughter wanted. Excellent location and very good swimming pools.
  • Car hire with Europecar, £71 for the whole trip. Spent a mere €15 on fuel over the two days as spent most of the time flopped by the aforementioned swimming pools as opposed to actually going anywhere and doing anything.

Day 0
Half the day was spent travelling, but having only hand luggage (in my case a camera and pair of swimming trunks) we exited the airport very quickly and were able to bird for half an hour at Oriklini before sunset, which is a great time to be there with so many birds coming into roost. Hundreds of Cattle Egrets covering the bushes like weird white and orange blooms, mixed hirundines flying low over the central lake, and BW Stilts and Wood Sandpipers feeding in the margins. My daughter spotted the 2 Flamingos first, predictably doing nothing. Possibly this is why I assumed they were Spoonbills, whose primary ID feature is being asleep. Just kidding, the pink gave them away. Child pretended to be interested. 

Hotel check-in was a complicated affair as it turned out we had been upgraded into the deluxe wing of the hotel that is for adults only, hence the receptionist was slightly horrified to discover that one of the Lethbridges was a Ms and only 11. Hushed conversations with various other staff members ensued, but I got the impression that a reverse move would have required booting out some other guests, so in the end permission was sought and granted for us to stay in the nice bit. And very nice it was too actually, although we did get accosted at the special lifts by security the following day for clearly not both being grown-ups. I referred the guy to 'management' and we never saw him again. So dinner slightly later than expected as all these shenanigans took far too long, but there are innumerable places to eat along the strip and they are open quite late. Child is currently undergoing some kind of growth spurt, albeit not quick enough for hotel security's liking, and is mainlining on protein so the cypriot diet of lamb and pork was much appreciated.

Day 1

We were up at 6am for the short drive to Cape Greco, probably less than ten miles down the coast to the east. You can either climb out though the town, or pretend to go back to Larnaca and then turn right and bypass it. At 6am it makes no difference. Using the map above we headed straight for site number 3, the area just above the sea caves, and on a beautifully clear morning we found our (my) target of Cyprus Pied Wheatear straight away. As I describe here, these first birds did not play ball one little bit, and so I wasted a lot of time not getting the photographs I wanted. There was still a lot to hold a birders interest however, with Kestrels, Jackdaws, passing Gulls, and the pretty ubiquitous Spectacled Warblers. Crested Lark were all over the place, along with migrant Whinchat, Tree Pipit, and an unidentified ringtail Harrier. The bushes near the road (just below the number 6) had Great Tit, Hoopoe, all sorts of finches and a bonus Collared Flycatcher. A five minute stop at the picnic site, number 7, provided a Cyprus Warbler tick for my daughter which delighted her no end as you can imagine. 

We dropped in at site number 1 on the way back at around 9am and hit the jackpot immediately, a friendly singing male Wheatear. X literally marks the spot. This bird was a total gem and showed almost no fear. I grabbed a few photos and prayed fervently it would be there the following day, as with the harsher light and more importantly free breakfast about to expire (7-10am at the chosen hotel) we needed to make a move.

The rest of the day was spent doing very little. Topping up the tan, going down water slides, being comatose on a lilo, and sleeping. There was a brief spurt of activity in the early evening as I needed to be online to nab a Yosemite camping slot for a future trip, but post around 10am it was a day of low achievement. You need that occasionally. We had dinner at the hotel, a sumptious buffet that once again saw child eat obscene quantities of everything. She remains a rake, I on the other hand.....

Day 2
Up even earlier and back to site 1. Thankfully the bird was still there, singing from one of the signs warning of danger from the nearby cliffs. As per the photo post I had an absolute blast whilst progeny read her kindle in the car. Some Alpine Swifts provided some variety, but I was only really interested in the Oenanthe. I took far too many photos of this single bird using the rock technique, and then as per the previous day scooted back to the hotel for a large and lengthy breakfast.

We lounged by the pool until check-out, quickly packed up into the car, and then resumed lounging until about four in the afternoon. The hotel has showers and changing rooms so we availed ourselves of those to get ready for travel, and at 5pm were back at Oroklini where this time we found some Spur-winged Plovers in the fields opposite the reserve (behind petrol station). Filled the car up here and then high-tailed it to the airport for a flight back, arriving in the UK at around 10pm. Many G&Ts polished off.

So a very short trip as per usual, but all aims fulfilled. I think I did improve on the photos of the Wheatear, and kiddo got a short break from SATS in some sunshine albeit that she had to endure a few hours of birds. Talking of which here is the list, around 50. Dedicated birders on a birding trip would likely see loads more - as the paragraphs above I hope make clear I didn't try very hard, but in the few minutes I wasn't fixated on the Wheatear I also saw the following:

Trip List
Red-crested Pochard
Greater Flamingo
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-winged Stilt
Wood Sandpiper
Spur-winged Plover
Yellow-legged Gull
Marsh Harrier
Harrier sp
Collared Dove
Alpine Swift
House Martin
Cetti's Warbler
Cyprus Warbler
Spectacled Warbler
Wood Warbler
Pied Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Tree Pipit
Crested Lark
Cyprus Pied Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Collared Flycatcher
Great Tit
House Sparrow
Hooded Crow

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