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Day 1: Sat 20 March – arrival into Paphos, Cyprus
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London to Paphos and transfer by minibus to our comfortable hotel in the hills above the city. The gardens and rocky cover around our hotel are a great place to start birding, and we may take the opportunity to search for Black Francolin, which though common and often vocal, can be elusive.
Day 2: Sun 21 March – Paphos headland
We begin with a full morning birding at Paphos headland, a famous migrant trap with great potential. Here, active migration can be visible all around; the coastal scrub around the lighthouse can be ‘buzzing’ with passerines and just as many birds may be seen passing over the sea. Expected species include Wryneck, Hoopoe, Northern, Isabelline and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Redstart, Whinchat, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrike, Ortolan and Corn Bunting. Over fifteen species of warbler are possible on this trip, and at Paphos we might see Ruppell's, Eastern Subalpine and Sardinian to name a few. Female Ficedula flycatchers provide a rewarding ID challenge, with Pied, Collared and Semi-collared all occurring. Migrating groups of Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Great and Little Egret, Night, Squacco and Purple Heron can pass offshore or rest on the rocks, while Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Honey Buzzard and Pallid and Marsh Harrier may be on the move overhead. The headland also has an impressive track record for rarities, recent highlights being Little Swift, Caspian Stonechat, Hooded Wheatear and Isabelline Shrike, and while birding we can also take a look at the Roman 'Kato Paphos' ruins with their stunning mosaics.
After a bird-filled morning we relocate to Cape Drepanum for lunch, an especially good area for pipits and wagtails. In the fields Tawny, Red-throated and Tree Pipit will be the most conspicuous, and several Yellow Wagtail races are possible including smart feldegg, or 'Black-headed' Wagtail. Short-toed Lark and wheatears may be found on stony ground and the Cape is a good vantage point to scan for passing seabirds such as Yelkouan Shearwater. Later, we drive up to Avgas Gorge to look for Blue Rock Thrush on the rocky cliffs, for migrants in the Juniper bushes, and for raptors overhead. An absorbing first full day.
Day 3: Mon 22 March– Arkamas peninsula, Polis and Evretou
An early start to drive north along the attractive west coast, arriving at Arkamas National Park within an hour or so. Covering an area of approximately 230 sq kms, this protected peninsula has escaped mass development and remains one of the most beautiful parts of Cyprus. Migrants filter to its tip, and many birds pause to refuel before continuing across the Mediterranean. All three endemics can be found, and by exploring trails and tracks we have a good chance of seeing Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear. The area is also good for Great Spotted Cuckoo, and we scan exposed perches for Woodchat, Red-backed and stunning Masked Shrike. Commoner migrants might include Crested and Short-toed Lark, Redstart, Nightingale, Serin, Sardinian and Wood Warbler, while rarities have included Thrush Nightingale and Cinereous Bunting. Occasional Ortolan, Cretzschmar's or a very early Black-headed Bunting may be found coming to drink at trackside puddles, with any pool or creek which still holds water worthy of investigation in this largely dry landscape.
Nearby is the Polis Reedbed, which although not as extensive as wetland sites in the south and east, can be very good for birds. Singing Cetti’s, Savi’s, Sedge, Reed and croaking Great Reed Warbler may be heard and hopefully seen, and near exposed water Little Bittern, Squacco and Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Wood and Green Sandpiper and perhaps Spotted Crake too. Agricultural land can be good for Black Francolin, Quail may be heard calling and on minor roads we might encounter Turtle Dove, Little Owl, wagtails and pipits. Stunning Citrine Wagtail has been recorded at Polis a number of times, as has Eastern Orphean Warbler. We also plan to see the 'Baths of Aphrodite' before venturing inland to Evretou Reservoir for more great birding. On a natural migrant flyway spectacular numbers of birds pass through in the right conditions, including herons, waders including Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover and Ruff, wagtails and pipits. If water levels are suitable, late staying or migrant wildfowl such as Shoveler, Pintail and Garganey may be present and White-headed Duck has also been recorded. This area is also very good for Orchids, including Small-flowered Tounge Orchid and several others including laxiflora and italica. A busy day, with lots of wildlife!
Day 4: Tue 23 March - Akritori
Another absorbing day birdwatching, this time in the very south of the island where a variety of habitats offer much potential. Dominated by the large salt-lake, Greater Flamingo are often the first birds we see, while the margins can be excellent for waders, perhaps including Kentish Plover, Spur-winged Lapwing, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Snipe, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank with Broad-billed Sandpiper also recorded. Open water attracts wildfowl and gulls including Slender-billed, Caspian and 'Baltic' Lesser-black backed, and on reed edges we have chances of herons and Spotted, Little and Baillon’s Crake.
On the plains, hunting Pallid, Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel and Peregrine are possible. Dry fields are worth checking for migrant flocks of Stone Curlew and those with crops for Zitting Cisticola and Spanish Sparrow. We may connect with late Common Cranes or even beautiful Demoiselle Crane which though rare, are fast becoming more regular in Cyprus. Coastal cliffs are home to a small (but recovering) population of Griffon Vulture, and we could encounter an early Eleonora’s Falcon, or perhaps even a Cyprus or Spectacled Warbler in the clifftop scrub.
Day 5: Wed 24 March - Troodos Mountains
A change of scene today, as we drive meandering roads through the Dhiarizos Valley into the scenic Troodos mountains, and ultimately Mount Olympus. Passing through unspoilt farmland, from the roadside we stop to look out for Chukar, Great Spotted and Common Cuckoo, Woodlark, Alpine and Pallid Swift, Cyprus Wheatear, Masked Shrike, Cretzschmar's and Black-headed Bunting, plus other migrants and early breeders. This is a great area for raptors and we look out for Bonelli’s Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard, with chances of migrant Honey Buzzard, Osprey or an early Red-footed Falcon. At Troodos, we walk through the Calabrian and Black Pine woods, listening and looking out for endemic races of Jay, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Common Crossbill. this is also good area for Eastern Subalpine, Eastern Bonelli’s and Wood Warbler and flycatchers. We also plan to visit the gold decorated Kykkos Monastery to marvel at its wonderful murals depicting scenes from the bible. After a day in the hills, we may choose to return to our hotel a little early for some rest and relaxation, in preparation for an after-dinner excursion for endemic Cyprus Scops Owl, if we haven’t already found one!
Day 6: Thu 25 March- Mandria, Asprokremos Dam and Paphos
A local day exploring both new and familiar hotspots for any freshly arrived birds. As Cyprus becomes more popular with visiting birders, it is the fields and beach at Mandria to the east of Paphos which are growing in reputation. Anything is possible, the beach having become a good spot for Greater Sand Plover, while other recent rarities include Caspian Plover and Blyth’s Pipit, and we can also expect migrants similar to those seen earlier. Asprokremos Dam attracts waterbirds on passage and can be a great place for overflying raptors. Other, lesser known pools and patches of cover close to the coast valleys can yield surprises or we could return to Paphos headland in the afternoon. We will be flexible, and if migration is quiet, can devote time looking for rare plants and orchids, and enjoy a range of butterflies including Swallowtail, Eastern Festoon, Clouded Yellow, Cleopatra, endemic Paphos Blue and the local race of Orange Tip.
Day 7: Fri 26 March – South-east Cyprus and Larnaca
Today we journey east, perhaps with an early start, to make the most of sites near Larnaca. Fantastic wetlands await and depending on water levels, provide stopover and important feeding for large numbers of birds. Possibilities include Greater Flamingo, herons, Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Slender-billed and Pallas’s Gull and Gull-billed Tern. Being patient in hides we have every chance of seeing a Little or Baillon’s Crake, and rarities have included Great Snipe, Sociable Lapwing, White-winged Black and Whiskered Tern. The first few Roller, Bee-eater or Golden Oriole might be arriving on this coast, and raptors are inevitably drawn to such dense concentrations of possible prey. Migrant passerines in the scrub and fields will likely include pipits, wagtails, shrikes and many warblers, with both Spectacled and Cyprus Warbler found here. Another great day!
Day 8: Sat 27 March– Final birding and departure
Depending on flight times, we might take a walk and enjoy some final birding. There may be time to search for a rarity or two, or just to enjoy some of our favourite wildlife of the week before taking our flight back to the UK.