The position of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean with Turkey to the north, Syria to the east and Egypt to the south, places it on one of the major migration routes in the Mediterranean and makes it a stop off point for many species which pass each year from Europe/Asia to Africa via the Nile Delta. The birds that occur regularly on passage form a large percentage of the ‘Cyprus list’ that currently totals nearly 380 species. Of these only around 50 are resident and around 40 are migrant species that regularly or occasionally breed. The number of birds passing over during the spring and autumn migration periods are impressive, as literally millions of birds pour through Cyprus. Spring migration gets underway in earnest around the middle of March, usually depending on how settled the weather is, and continues into May. A few early arrivals can even be noted in February, especially the swallows, martins and swifts, some wheatears and the Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius. Slender-billed GullsLarus genei and herons can be seen in flocks along the coastline. Each week seems to provide a different species to watch for. The end of March sees Roller Coracias garrulous, Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus, Cretzschmar’s Bunting Emberiza caesia, Black-headed Wagtails Motacilla flava feldegg and Red-rumped Swallows Cecropsis daurica, while on the wetlands Marsh Sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis, Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola, Spur-winged Vanellus spinosus and Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii can be seen. Into April the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida eloecia and the European Bee-eater Merops apiaster are notable as are flycatchers and Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana. A late arrival that stays to breed is the Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala, which comes from Asia. Raptor passage can also be observed with Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus, Eleonora’s Falcon Falco eleonorae and Hobby Falco subbuteo while Ospreys Pandion haliaetus and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni are also possible. In the autumn the passerine migration may seem less notable but wagtails and wheatears can be seen. The migration period gets underway in earnest during August with herons, egrets and ducks cruising along the coastlines, especially along the north-west coast and a considerable passage of cranes and raptors attracting attention in September and October. Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus, Red-footed Falcon and harriers are regularly observed. Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Black Kite Milvus migrans and Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus have all been spotted in recent autumns.
The winter is also good for birds, with around 90 species occurring as regular winter visitors. The notable ones are the Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus and wildfowl that congregate on the two salt lakes in Akrotiri and Larnaca in their thousands. Many other winter visitors to Cyprus are common to the European birdwatcher – Stonechats Saxicola torquata, Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, Robins Erithacus rubecula, Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, Blackbirds Turdus merula, White Wagtails Motacilla alba and Starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Others include Wallcreepers Tichodroma muraria, Finsch’s Wheatear Oenanthe finschii and Bluethroat Luscinia svecica. Hard winters in Europe may bring swans to the wetland areas.
Summer in Cyprus is not really suited for bird watching as it can be extremely hot. This is a good time to visit the cooler mountainous regions where Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus, Crossbills Loxia curvirostra, Jay Garrulus glandarius glaszneri and Masked Shrike are among the breeding species. The endemic Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca also breeds in considerable numbers there. As do the four endemic sub-species – Jay, Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla dorotheae, Coal Tit Parus ater cypriotes and Scops Owl Otus scops cyprius. While the first three of the sub-species are confined to the mountains, the endemic Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax is mainly found at lower elevations.
Where to watch birds in Cyprus - Pafos area(Paphos) Paphos itself is in the southwest corner of the island and is served by its own airport. There are many sites worth visiting in its vicinity including the Akamas peninsula to the north of Pafos. • Asprokremnos Dam This is a man-made reservoir that requires four-wheeled drive for full access. Leave the motorway at the exit to Timi. Follow the old Pafos-Lemesos road towards Mandria and continue in the direction of Lemesos. A sign post to the left indicates the dam. The track leads all the way to the top of the dam and views of the reservoir and surrounding area are obtained from here. To explore the area fully drive through Anarita after taking the Timi exit instead of heading to Mandria. Follow the road through Anarita and past the large army training camp heading for Nata. Just before the village of Nata look out for a disused water tank to your left. Take a track opposite this to the right past the deserted village of Foinikas until you reach the water’s edge. In winter the area is good for Finsch’s Wheatear and in summer visiting Black-headed Buntings are present from late April onwards. Various water birds visiting the reservoir include wildfowl, gulls, herons, egrets and waders – depending on the water level. If this is high and the river flowing, the area between the dam and the road is worth checking out especially for warblers on migration such as Great Reed Acrocephalus arundinaceus, wintering Moustached Acrocephalus melanopogon, and the Cyprus Warblers that breed there. These pools – known to local birders as Aspro Pools - provide shelter for herons etc, waders, rails and crakes. They are best reached by turning off the track that leads to the head of the dam onto an unsurfaced track that goes past some old ‘industrial’ style builders. The dam is now part of a Special Protection Area for birds declared by the Cyprus government, and forms part of the pan-European NATURA 2000 network.