March 2005

The storks of Alcala de Henares. Alcala is an old town near Madrid, and the University there is a World Heritage Site. The white storks have stopped migrating to Africa, and many are now resident there. Early March was an excellent time to photograph the mating behaviour of the storks, while I was attending a workshop on biomimetic sonar. There are also many spotless starlings in the town, and their song is more melodic than that of our starlings. The photos below were taken with a Nikkor 75-300mm AF zoom. I bought this lens secondhand as a travelling lens in preference to a new 70-300mm lens as it is reputedly of higher optical quality. When used carefully, it can give some nice sharp images, even at 300mm, and the colour rendition is excellent.

white storkwhite storks, alcala

white storks, alcaladisplaying white storks

mating white storkswhite stork


Mid-month was quiet, though I did find an adult summer Iceland gull at Barrow tank 3 on 12 March, and saw 3 greater scaup and 10 Mediterranean gulls at Chew on the same day.

Our family holiday at Easter this year was in Cyprus, between 20-27 March. This is a little too early for the main spring migration period, but I saw some good birds nevertheless. We stayed north of Pafos on the south-west of the island, and enjoyed sunshine all week.

mosaic, Pafosinside a church, Agios Georgios

My local patch was around our apartments at Helios Bay. White wagtails fed on the lawn. On the first morning, I found a spur-winged plover, quite an uncommon bird in Cyprus.

white wagtailspur-winged plover

The area also held migrating wheatears. The photos below are of a male (left) and female (right) northern wheatear.

Northern wheatear, maleNorthern wheatear, female

On the last day I found an Isabelline wheatear. Note the black alula and the extensive black on the tail of this bird.

Isabelline wheatear Isabelline wheatear

Other interesting birds in this area included crested larks (left), and up to 4 short-toed larks (right).

crested larkshort-toed lark

My favorite birds here were the Cretzschmar's buntings, with up to 4 seen.

Cretzchmar's bunting, maleCretzchmar's bunting, male

Spanish sparrows nested in the grounds of a nearby restaurant, and yellow-legged gulls were seen along the coast.

Spanish sparrow, maleyellow-legged gull

I also found a Ruppell's warbler along the coast, and corn buntings were common on the nearby farmland.

Ruppell's warbler, malecorn bunting

Around the island, the endemic Cyprus warblers were common. The photo below shows a singing male that I photographed by locating a song perch, and waiting for the bird to sing from it on a following day.

male Cypus warbler

Pafos lighthouse area is renowned as a migration hotspot, but I saw very little there. I did manage to photograph a hooded crow gathering nest material. I also had some excellent views of a male kestrel.

hooded crowmale kestrel

male kestrel

Black francolins are widespread in farmland around Pafos, and I photographed a male singing from a mound close to the lighthouse.

black francolin malemale black francolin

I saw the Cyprus subspecies of coal tit and crossbills (below) on a trip to the Troodos mountains.

Troodos mountainsCyprus crossbill


The area around Mavrokolymbos Reservoir held endemic Cyprus pied wheatears, chukars, and I saw a wryneck on my drive back.

Cyprus wheatearchukar

To find real wilderness, it is worth taking a 4WD into the Akamas peninsula. Turtles breed on the beaches here, though their eggs are taken for hatching, or nests protected on the beaches nowadays.

Akamas peninsulanear lara beach, akamas

Other wildlife included long-eared hedgehogs, and starred agama lizards.

Cyprus hedgehogstarred agama

A great place for a family holiday, with something for everyone and excellent weather. A mid-April trip would be even better!

HB around Helios Bay; MR - Mavrokolymbos Reservoir; PL Pafos lighthouse; TK Tomb of the Kings; AP Akamas Peninsula; ApP- Aphrodite's Pool; TM Troodos Mountains; AG Agios Georgios.

•  Shag Pafos harbour. 30 past HB 21/3.

•  Little egret 4 PL 22/3.

•  Grey Heron 2 PL 22/3, 2 others over HB.

•  Kestrel common

•  Peregrine 1 AG 26/3.

•  Chukar common MR and 2 AP 26/3.

•  BLACK FRANCOLIN common. Seen around HB 22/3, PL 23/3.

•  QUAIL heard, TK 24/3.

•  Spur-winged plover one HB 21/3.

•  Common Sandpiper HB 24/3, PL and MR.

•  Turnstone 3 PL 22/3. AJ saw birds N of Helios Bay.

•  Lesser black-backed gull a flock of ca. 5 L.f. fuscus over HB 23/3.

•  Yellow-legged gull widespread along coast.

•  Feral pigeon common.

•  Wood pigeon common.

•  Collared dove common.

•  Swift strong passage ApP 26/3.

•  Alpine swift near Limosol 25/3, and several moving over ApP 26/3.

•  Wryneck MR 26/3.

•  Hoopoe - TK 24/3; MR 26/3.

•  Short-toed lark up to 4 (27/3) HB.

•  Crested lark common.

•  Swallow Common, nesting HB. 100s migrating ApP 26/3.

•  Red-rumped swallow 10s migrating APP 26/3.

•  House martin 100s migrating ApP 26/3.

•  Meadow Pipit several HB.

•  White wagtail HB.

•  Wren 1 Caledonia Falls 25/3.

•  Black redstart HB, TK and MR.

•  Stonechat PL and AP.


•  Northern wheatear several HB.


•  Blue rock thrush male S of HB 21/3.

•  Song thrush HB 22/3.

•  Cetti's warbler common, especially in bamboo thickets.

•  Fan-tailed warbler common.

•  Spectacled warbler several MR.

•  Subalpine warbler one female dead HB 24/3 probably flew into hotel window.

•  Sardinian warbler MR.

•  CYPRUS WARBLER common MR. Also HB.

•  RUPPELL'S WARBLER male HB 23/3.

•  Lesser whitethroat HB and MR.

•  Blackcap HB, MR.

•  Chiffchaff common.

•  Coal tit common in Troodos 25/3. Endemic subspecies cypriotes .

•  Great tit common.

•  Jay several Troodos 25/5. Endemic subspecies glaszneri.

•  Magpie common.

•  Jackdaw common.

•  Hooded crow common.

•  Raven 2 over Mt Olympus 25/3.

•  Starling 1 Pafos harbour 23/3.

•  House sparrow common.

•  Spanish sparrow small breeding colony at Victoria? restaurant N of Helios Bay.

•  Chaffinch 1 Troodos 25/3.

•  Greenfinch common.

•  Goldfinch common.

•  Siskin 2 Troodos visitor centre, 25/3.

•  Linnet several HB.

•  Crossbill ca. 5 Troodos 25/3.

•  CRETZSCHMAR'S BUNTING. Up to 4 (27/3) HB. 2 AP, 3 MR.

•  Corn bunting common HB.

63 species