The eastern Mediterranean has long been known as a crossroads for many species of migrants on their long-distance travels between northern breeding areas and wintering grounds in Africa and Asia.
One only has to look at its geographical location to see it's obvious potential. The mountains hold Bonelli's Eagle, while Pallid Harrier are regular. There are two endemic species; Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Pied Wheatear, while species such as European Roller, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Shrikes pass through in big numbers. Locations, the joy of the unexpected [you never know what migration time would bring]. A great bunch of people made for a wonderful ringing holiday, all in all a terrific week was had by all.
Although Bird ringing has been taking place in association with KUŞKOR for many years, I have only recently become involved as of 2013. For the last 3 years one week in April has been blocked out of the calendar for helping out with ringing the endemic, breeding and passage birds that frequent North Cyprus.
With the tremendous effort that was afforded by Wayne Fuller, Damla Beton, Robin Snape and Clive Walton who are very much active throughout the year organising field trips and various projects. If it wasn’t for their help and professionalism our ringing trips wouldn't be so well organised, without their help sorting out all our permissions with the relevant bodies that control our ringing activities in North Cyprus we surely wouldn't be able to participate, also for supplying us with KUŞKOR’s rings to which we are indebted.
In 2015, six of us travelled from Edinburgh via Stansted to reach Ercan airport in North Cyprus.
William Edmond (me), Andy Coates, Shirley Miller, Shona Quinn, Les Hatton and Derek Robertson.
We all stayed in the very comfortable and hospitable Pia Bella Hotel in Girne, where the staff were very friendly to our delight as they looked after us and very much so catered for our needs, breakfast was served for us at 05:00 prior to us setting off, which set us up for the day ahead, lunch was at local restaurants and a lovely 3 course evening meal in our hotel.
We arrived late evening on 13/04, so a lazy morning was afforded to catch up on some sleep before our bird ringing started in earnest on the afternoon of 14/04.
We had made arrangements to meet up with Clive Walton at Balıkesir (Demirhan) pools in the afternoon for our first ringing session also to collect our KUŞKOR rings. Balıkesir has always been a tremendous area where we could be guaranteed to get our week off to a terrific start with the amount of birds that frequent the pools and the reed beds that surround these pools we surely wouldn't take long. Our first ringing session duly started with setting up our nets in the reeds and around the fringes of the pools. Within no time at all we were catching and ringing, a few off us never having ringed some of the species that we were catching! Great Reed Warblers, Reed Warblers, Cettis Warblers, however, the highlight of the afternoon were the amount of Yellow Wagtails that were around, feldegg and flava, these were some of the most colorful birds that we had the pleasure of ringing that afternoon.
Having been inspired by our afternoon session we had the afternoon before, we all decided that Balıkesir would be an excellent place to try for our first morning session. We were aware that there was a few Bee-eaters flying around the previous afternoon and we were keen to see if we could try and catch some even one would be nice like we had the previous year at Balıkesir. We arrived on site just after 06:00, we decided to set up more nets than we had the day before around where the Bee-eaters were frequenting, we managed Bee-eater the year before and we were keeping hopeful of a repeat performance this year. Alas, we never caught any, however we did make up for it with an unexpected Little Bittern flying into the net that was set up around the open area between the reeds and the pool! Although it seemed the place was now devoid of Yellow Wagtails we still managed to catch 3 of these delightful looking birds. It was a pleasant surprise to have Damla Beton arrive this morning to ring some of the birds we were catching.
A change of ringing venue today we travelled West from Girne, along the coast to a little village called Sadrazmköy. Here there are plenty of catching opportunities around a 20sqm water tank, the walls around it built up to around 1.0m, just enough to hold water to supply the surrounding fields containing crops, although it didn’t contain a huge amount of water when we arrived, there was a sufficient amount within to attract the birds down for a welcoming sip of fresh water. The tank is surrounded by a large Mulberry tree and a few smaller trees. if the weather is favorable this is an excellent site for a fall of migrants, it really merits more than one visit as the birds change daily. We set up 3 nets around the tank, we also set some nets in a freshly cut field along with a scattering of nets amongst the scrub. We were ringing for around an hour when we were confronted by the local police, although there was a lot of visible signage erected by us, we were glad in a sense that that one of the nearby residents had telephoned the police just in case there was any illegal activity going on. The police seemed to take a great fascination in what we were doing after all our credentials were scrutinized and stayed for a short time for a chat.
Another terrific site that requires more than one visit was Kukla Wetland (Köprülü Reservoir), follow the signs from Girne on the Lefkosa to Famagusta road. Although it had taken over an hour and a half to reach this site it was well worth the travel. Our nets were set up at a few areas where we thought they would catch well up and down bankings, between trees, along reed beds and also out amongst the smaller scrub. to our pleasure and then dismay 2 Greater spotted cuckoos bounced out of the nets, it wasn’t for the lack of effort trying to get to the nets before they managed to escape with a few of the team thinking they were taking part in the Grand National and not paying attention to the terrain while running and falling at the first hurdle. However we had a few special birds to make up for our disappointment at Kukla. A breeding eastern specialty of the island is Spectacled Warbler and to our surprise we ended up catching and ringing 6 being.
On Clive’s advice we headed out to a place that we had never visited or set our nets up in the past, this would turn out be a great but hostile place to set up. The site was up some very rocky terrain. Horseshoe Bay on the coast road to Sadrazmkoy in amongst scrub land, if we thought the day before at Kukla Wetland had been tricky on foot this was even more tricky in our 4x4s, especially when the one that I was driving decided to give up and die on us, it was even harder trying to jump start some life back into it by letting it roll down a hill, only for the thought to come into my head “how do I jump start an automatic” as I was nearing the edge of a cliff I decided to stop before it was too late. However, we managed to get a replacement from the hire company to last us our last couple of days. This session was to prove our only one for catching a couple of endemics, well done Clive for suggesting this site, even though it proved troublesome!
We had a vote to see where everyone would prefer to have our last ringing session, out of all the sites we had visited Balıkesir came out the clear favorite. We arrived on site to see around 36 Glossy Ibis circling the pools above our head, later on in the morning we were also treated to a most spectacular flyover, over 53 Purple Heron in the sky above us let us all know why we wanted to head back here, magical! We proceeded to set our nets up in all our usual places, hoping for a chance that we would maybe catch our Bee-eater? We had a thoroughly entertaining morning throwing red and orange bird bags into the nets as decoys to try and entice them in, alas, to no avail. Still there’s always next year!
Before we left North Cyprus we all decided that we would like to take a walk around Bellapais Monastery, after a pleasant lunch in the grounds we had walk through the Monastery. Les Hatton from the TAY Ringing Group couldn't resist having this photo opportunity on a bench situated within the grounds and I couldn't resist taking the photograph, ”home from home”.
(“Through their trip the group ringed 300 birds from 25 different species. We would like to thank them for their support in our work and kind contribution to buy new rings for KUŞKOR Ringing Scheme.” Damla Beton on behalf of KUŞKOR)