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Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
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Biggest Twitch

How many species are possible on Cyprus in a day? We were about to find out. The four of us (Alan, Ruth, Owen and Glynis Roberts ) were joined by Colin Richardson, bird recorder for the island. Of course it was an early start and we met Colin pre-dawn, no Scop’s Owl called near the house, not a good start. Owen drove the jeep east across the island from Paphos towards Fassouri. It was surprisingly cold as we leapt out to score our first birds of the day.  Thankfully it was much calmer here than in the west of the island. New birds came thick and fast, Hoopoe flew up right in front of us. At the edge of the reedbed, small pools held plenty of birds: Cetti’s, Reed, Sedge and best of all Moustached Warblers, Marsh and Green Sandpipers, Kingfisher added a splash of colour. A drake Garganey was amongst some Teal. A Black Francolin stood on a mound and called to the rising sun. Marsh Harriers quartered the reeds where Water Rail squealed below.
A Cypriot birdwatcher wandered over and chatted.  He worked here at the reedbed and had seen some great birds recently but we were all taken aback when he mentioned Demoiselle Crane, a rare autumn migrant on Cyprus! A flock of 26 had been here just 24 hours earlier! Aargh! Where are they now, what a fantastic bird to see. Sadly the birds had departed soon after dawn and not returned. But he did have some great photos to show us, and we were well and truly gripped by the wonderful images of these superb birds.
Short drive to Zakaki, a roadside pool fringed with reeds near the busy port. Despite the less than scenic surroundings it was full of birds. Greater Flamingoes, Black-winged Stilts, Ferruginous Ducks and Pintail were added to the list. Common Swifts and a House Martin joined Barn Swallows over the pool. A thin high pitched call behind us had us whirling round in time to see a male Penduline Tit, bird number fifty for the day.
On again to the Aiga Napa Sewage works, nowhere near as bad as it sounds, a hillside with scrub and some settling pools, and lots of birds. It was hard to keep pace at first as everyone called new birds, Masked Shrike, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Isabelline, Black eared and Northern Wheatears, Cretzchmar’s Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Ruppell’s Warbler, whew!
Cape Greko next and it was soon obvious that an arrival of migrants had occurred with wheatears all over the place including singing Cyprus Pieds. Alpine Swifts whizzed over and an early Woodchat Shrike was a surprise. Chukar ran for cover amongst the rocks and dozens of Short-toed Larks roamed the grassy fields. Scanning offshore produced three fine adult Mediterranean Gulls sat on the sea. No time to enjoy the warm sunshine and fine sea views, more birds needed, score now 75.
Kermia Beach and our target bird was sitting waiting for us, seven Audouin’s Gulls were roosting on the beach. A new bird for Owen and Glynis’s Cyprus list and of course a new bird for our year list. A bonus Greater Sandplover here was very welcome. Another stop just west of here added here Little Egret, the only ones of the day, and Kentish Plover. But no sign of the Red-breasted Mergansers that had been reported here recently.
Oraklini pools next and despite building work in progress right next to the pools plenty of birds here. New waders were Spur-winged Plover, Dunlin and Common Redshank. Panic ensued as a crake appeared and quickly disappeared on the far bank. Where? Directions, can’t see it! It’s gone into the reeds. Tense moments followed as two had seen it three not. Luckily it soon popped out and we all enjoyed a fine male Little Crake.  We finally added our first and only Yellow Wagtail of the day, a fine black-headed specimen.  A Spotted Crake showed briefly for bird number 85. 
With the afternoon rapidly slipping away, we headed for Larnaka and another sewage works, this time complete with a hide overlooking two large lakes.  A mind-boggling array of large gulls roosted on the causeway.  Owen and Colin opted to check through these but as the Clements list we use does not acknowledge most of these birds as true species, we were content to look for other things.  A flock of Slender-billed Gulls were new for our year list, while Shoveler, Pochard and Shelduck were all new for the day.  Just as we were about to leave, we added one more species, Black-necked Grebe.    Near Larnaka airport, we quickly found a displaying Calandra Lark, new for both the year and the day.  A quick look at the watch and the sinking sun showed we were well behind schedule, and a dash back to the west of the island was well overdue.   Onto the motorway, doing our best to avoid the numerous police radar traps, we blasted back to Pafos. 
The Aspro Pools were our first stop in the west, where we had Cyprus Warbler and Great Crested Grebe which was bird 100 for the day.  With seriously little daylight left, we sprinted around several sites in the hills above Pafos, adding Serin, Red-throated Pipit, Red-rumped Swallow and, at last, a Chaffinch to the list to bring our score to 104.  With dusk rapidly engulfing us, our options for new birds were seriously running out.  What to do with only minutes to play with?  We headed for the coast and in an olive grove near the airport, scored Stone Curlew for 105, then literally in the last seconds of daylight added Short-eared Owl at Mandria beach for 106.  A great day’s birding, and we were pretty sure a new record day list for Cyprus.  The only problem was that the others couldn’t agree just how many they’d seen when they’d set the record.  Owen thought it may have been as high as 106, but Colin and Glynis both felt it was around 104, so it was too early to pop the champagne.  We headed back to drop Colin off, and as we pulled up outside his house, calling Scop’s Owl.  We leapt out of the car one more time and amazingly saw not just one but two Scop’s Owls on the roadside wire, bird number 107.  Surely now we had the record?!
Drinks all round and notebooks were consulted.  The news was even better than expected as the previous record stood at 103.  So a good reason to go out to celebrate with a delicious meal in the local village taverna with Owen, Glynis, Colin and his wife Sylvie.
Bird species total: 1860
Posted Pafos, Cyprus 2pm, 22nd March


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