Cyprus

Spring Migration on Aphrodite’s Isle

An 8-day single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to Cyprus

Limosa’s birding tour to Cyprus in March offers some of the best bird migration anywhere in the Mediterranean. As the spring warms up on ‘Aphrodite’s Isle’, so too does the northward bird migration - the likes of Masked Shrike, Collared Flycatcher and Cretzschmar’s Bunting arrive, and from our base at Paphos we are ideally placed to see parties of Purple Herons, Bee-eaters, Black-headed Wagtails and other migrants as they come in off the sea. Add the presence of three unique breeding species – Cyprus Scops Owl, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Pied Wheatear – plus a number of distinctive island races, and the appeal of this single-centre birdwatching tour to Cyprus is irresistible!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sat 20th March 2021

Sat 27th March 2021

  • Spaces

4 Spaces Available

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £1895* inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £165*Land Only: £1745*Group Size: 10Leaders:  Gary Elton

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Gatwick to Paphos
  • 7 nights accommodation on Cyprus, based at a comfortable hotel beside the coast in Paphos
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minicoach transport
  • All excursions, entry fees to sites, permits
  • All tour-based tips (driver, staff) and taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks, & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights

Tour Highlights

  • Late March on Cyprus sees the peak of spring bird passage through the island
  • Classic spring falls of migrants possible - anywhere, anytime!
  • 3 endemic breeding species: Cyprus Scops Owl, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear
  • Other specialities include Black Francolin, Little Crake, Rüppell’s Warbler, Masked Shrike
  • Brilliant pink Greater Flamingos on Lake Akrotiri - and Spur-winged Lapwing, too
  • 7 nights at a good hotel close to Paphos headland - the island's premier migration hotspot
  • Small party size - maximum of 10 participants
  • Experty led by Limosa's Gary Elton, making his fourth and fifth visits to the island

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London Gatwick-Paphos. Transfer to our comfortable hotel for the week. Night Paphos

  • Birdwatching on Cyprus, seeking the island's special birds and enjoying the spring bird migration, including visits to Paphos, Phassouri, Akrotiri, Akamas and the Troodos Mountains

  • Morning Paphos. Fly Paphos-London Gatwick

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
cretzschmar's bunting cyprus gary elton card.jpg
A male Cretzschmar's Bunting makes landfall on Paphos Headland - just a stone's throw from our Cyprus hotel © Gary Elton, Limosa

Beneath the shadow of the beautiful Troodos Mountains, a buzzing, insect-like song betrays the presence of a striking Cyprus Wheatear perched atop a Calabrian Pine. Far below, along the island’s picturesque south coast, the black head, white whisker and boldly-spotted underside of a jaunty male Cyprus Warbler, singing atop a yellow-flowered Genista, is etched against a backdrop of dazzling limestone cliffs that plunge into the azure waters of the Mediterranean. While in a quiet grassy valley stretching inland from the coast, the rhythmic calls of Black Francolin and Chukar float over flower-filled meadows to herald the start of another exciting day’s birding.

Lying in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus sits across the migration route of many birds flying north from sub-Saharan Africa, through Egypt and on into Eastern Europe - and is one of the most exciting places we know to watch spring migration. Not knowing what might turn up next is all part of the fun!

We’ll be based at Paphos, within easy distance of one of the best birdwatching areas on Cyprus: Paphos headland and the island's west coast. Visible migration can be exciting here in late March and we might see flocks of up to six species of heron going by over the sea; Hoopoes, Bee-eaters, larks and wagtails flying in to make landfall; and Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts with Red-rumped Swallow sweeping overhead.

Each new day brings fresh surprises... One morning perhaps a stunning Masked Shrike hunting from a Carob tree, while next day we might find an equally spectacular Collared Flycatcher or a Rüppell’s Warbler skulking about the bushes. In spring, waders along the shore can include the scarce Greater Sand Plover, in striking breeding dress. Plus you never know, a rarity or two might just turn up, too - Demoiselle Crane, Desert and Hooded Wheatears, Caspian Stonechat and Cinereous Bunting have been among surprise finds here on past Limosa tours.

Like so much of the rest of the island, the areas around Paphos headland should be a blaze of colour at this time, carpeted with yellow Crown Daisies, scarlet poppies and pink Convolvulus. In the afternoons, the colour changes to blue as the lovely Barbary Nut Irises open in the warm spring sunshine.

During our stay we'll visit several key wetlands, including the ‘recently discovered’ Agia Varvara pools along the Esouza River, and the reedbeds at Phassouri. To the east, the vast Salt Lake at Akrotiri holds Greater Flamingos, while Oroklini Lake (one of only seven natural wetlands in Cyprus) is the haunt of some smart breeding species - including Spur-winged Lapwing.

On another day we'll drive up into the snow-capped Troodos Mountains, where the island’s own ‘chocolate coloured’ Coal Tits are well worth looking for. We’ll also explore the scenic Akamas Peninsula, which is excellent for wildflowers and highly attractive in spring to flycatchers and warblers on migration. One evening, we’ll drive a short distance out of town to try a good spot to look and listen for Cyprus Scops Owl.

We have again chosen to stay in one strategically placed hotel for the whole week to make this a most birdwatching relaxed holiday, with plenty of time to explore.

Limosa first visited Cyprus in 1999 and we have been lucky to see many superb birds there over the years. Our March 2020 and 2021 tours will be guide Gary Elton's fourth and fifth visits to the island for Limosa - why not join him for all the excitement of a spring migration tour with more than a hint of the Middle East.

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Spring migration on Cyprus... and a squadron of Purple Herons arrives over Paphos headland © guide robinchittenden.co.uk

Day 1
FLY PAPHOS
Our spring birdwatching tour to Cyprus begins with a flight London Gatwick to Paphos. We'll be met on arrival and travel the short distance to our Paphos hotel, which will be our base for the next seven nights.

Being based at Paphos allows us easy access to Paphos headland for our early morning walks. Night Paphos

Days 2 - 7
BIRDING ON CYPRUS, INCLUDING: PAPHOS, ASPROKREMNOS, MANDRIA, AGIA VARVARA, PHASSOURI, AKAMAS, AKROTIRI SALT LAKE, OROKLINI WETLANDS & TROODOS MOUNTAINS

The area around Paphos, on the island’s west coast, makes a superb base for a week’s birding holiday. Immediately to the southwest of town, Paphos headland is a World Heritage Site famed for its ancient mosaics and tombs... but it also happens to be one of the best sites to watch bird migration on the whole of Cyprus! In late March, the neat walled fields of rank grasses and wildflowers, with shady figs, carobs and olives, can hold flycatchers, warblers and shrikes and are well worth checking regularly.

A morning’s walk around the lighthouse and headland can produce some really ace birds. Perhaps a Wryneck will pop up in front of us... or we may find Hoopoe, Red-throated and Tawny Pipits, and Crested and Short-toed Larks along with exciting eastern Mediterranean migrants such as Eastern Bonelli’s, Eastern Olivaceous, Eastern Orphean and Rüppell’s Warblers, the attractive Cretzschmar’s Bunting and Isabelline, Northern and Black-eared Wheatears.

Overnight falls can also bring several races of spring Yellow Wagtails, including the lovely Black-headed. The rugged limestone outcrops attract the handsome Blue Rock Thrush and, in March, waders passing along the rocky shore below can sometimes include Greater Sand Plover in smart breeding plumage. Offshore, we may spot parties of Yelkouan Shearwaters scuttling by, or marvel as clusters of migrating Black-crowned Night Herons, and Squacco and Purple Herons pass by. If we are lucky, rarities may drop in - our March 2019 group saw Hooded Wheatear and Caspian Stonechat here!

We shall also pay a visit to the remarkable third century Roman mosaics near the Byzantine fortress overlooking Paphos harbour. These are regarded as amongst the finest anywhere in the Mediterranean. Close by is the extensive complex of the Tombs of the Kings, itself another good site for migrant birds.

On one evening, we’ll take an excursion a short distance north to Mavrokolympos Dam, where the distinctive two-note call of Cyprus Scops Owl might be heard from trees close to the road. With a little luck, we should see one here, too!

Not far from Paphos is the Esouza Valley, where pools along the gravel riverbed at Agia Varvara have recently lured many migrants - notably Baillon’s and confiding Little Crakes. Close to the towering Asprokremnos Dam, Anarita Park can hold passing raptors such as Lesser Kestrel and Red-footed Falcon. Chukar and newly arrived Great Spotted Cuckoos might also be seen and heard in the valley, while the fringing scrub is a good spot to try for the cracking Cyprus Warbler - a declining species and one which breeds only on the island of Cyprus.

Rocky slopes above the dam are a favoured haunt of another of the island’s delightful endemics, the dapper Cyprus Wheatear. The scarce Finsch’s Wheatear sometimes lingers in the area (we have been lucky to see this winter visitor to Cyprus on several previous tours), and we have another opportunity to catch up with the elusive Black Francolin. Although often skulking, this handsome eastern Mediterranean gamebird is actually quite common in the island’s arable coastal strip and, with a bit of luck, we should see them well during the course of our stay.

North of the dam are valleys that may hold breeding Long-legged Buzzard and Bonelli’s Eagle, so will make sure we keep our eyes to the skies!

To the east of Paphos, the coastal fields and beach around Mandria have proven to be another hotspot for migrants, notably pipits, wagtails and larks. Species to watch for include Black-headed Wagtail, Red-throated and Tawny Pipits - and in 2018, a superb Caspian Plover turned up here for us! Perhaps a Pallid Harrier will ghost across the fields – late March is the ideal time to see these fabulous birds of prey - while the beach is one of the more regular 'stop offs' for Greater Sand Plover.

One day will be spent heading further east towards Larnaca, visiting both the freshwater wetlands and threatened reedbeds at Phassouri and the newly created reserve at Oroklini. Though much will depend upon water levels at the time, transient waders in spring can include Marsh Sandpiper and Great Snipe, while both Spur-winged Lapwing and Black-winged Stilt have bred at Oroklini. Marsh Harriers patrol the pools, where March migrants such as Garganey, Glossy Ibis and various herons can drop in.

At first sight, the nearby Akrotiri Peninsula is a seemingly barren and featureless wasteland. The centre of this area is dominated by a vast Salt Lake, with its pink ribbon of Greater Flamingos shimmering in the heat haze. Though the size of the lake can make birding here tricky, in spring, the smaller pools around its shore often prove attractive to fleet-footed Kentish Plovers and pink-washed Slender-billed Gulls. Extensive areas of halophytic Arthrocnemum scrub provide a home for the flirtatious Spectacled Warbler, and both Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers pass this way - as do the Red Arrows that train at Akrotiri RAF base in spring.

Weather permitting, we will travel up into the spectacular Troodos Mountains. In late March, they can still have snow on their upper slopes and one could almost forget that this is the Mediterranean as the road winds ever higher through extensive forests of Calabrian and Black Pine. While the scenery alone would be reason enough to visit, these beautiful mountains are home to a number of birds that have evolved distinctive isolated populations: 'chocolate' Coal Tits, dusky-headed Jays and large-billed Red Crossbills await, along with 'Cyprus' Short-toed Treecreeper and a number of other endemic or near-endemic races of otherwise familiar birds.

Our route to and from the mountains passes through a picturesque undulating terrain of ‘forgotten’ valleys that are a patchwork of almond groves, vineyards and hay meadows, brimming with wildflowers. Chukar and the irascible Great Spotted Cuckoo are possible here, along with Quail calling, perhaps a Long-legged Buzzard overhead and lots of ‘Eastern’ Jackdaws, with their distinctive silver neck collars.

Above Paphos, at the northwestern corner of the island, the extraordinary Akamas Peninsula is famed for its glorious coastal scenery ablaze with wildflowers in springtime. The Baths of Aphrodite here are a lovely sheltered spot and well worth a visit. This area is good for Cyprus Wheatear and the recently split Cyprus Scops Owl, and frequently attracts migrants such as Masked, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler and Pied, Collared and Semi-collared Flycatchers. Wildflowers include the endemic Cyprus Gladiolus and many orchids.

We have chosen to be based in one strategically placed hotel for the whole week to make this a most relaxed tour, with plenty of time spent on gentle walks enjoying the birds and scenery of this compelling island. One thing's for sure, with so many wonderful places to visit we shall never be left wanting for things to do!

The lure of the 'unexpected' is bound to call us back to Paphos and neighbouring headlands. Whether it is scanning the grassy slopes for migrant Tawny Pipits and Ortolan Buntings, watching in awe as a ghostly male Pallid Harrier floats by or simply pausing to enjoy one of the many colonies of smartly dressed Spanish Sparrows... in our experience, Cyprus in March provides some of the most exciting birding in Europe! Six further nights Paphos

Day 8
PAPHOS HEADLAND, FLY LONDON

We should have time this morning for a last look around Paphos for migrants - to see if anything exciting has arrived overnight!

Transfer to Paphos Airport for our flight back to London Gatwick, where our spring birdwatching tour to Cyprus concludes.

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In March, overnight 'falls' on Cyprus can bring several races of Yellow Wagtails, including the lovely Black-headed © Gordon Small, wildlifeimagesgs.com

WHAT TO EXPECT
Cyprus in March boasts some of the best bird migration anywhere in the Mediterranean. As the spring warms up on ‘Aphrodite’s Isle’, so too does the northward bird migration - the likes of Masked Shrike, Collared Flycatcher and Cretzschmar’s Bunting arrive and Paphos is ideally located to witness flocks of herons, larks, wagtails and Bee-eaters as they come in off the sea.

Add the presence of three unique breeding species – Cyprus Scops Owl, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Pied Wheatear – plus a number of distinctive island races, and the appeal of this single-centre tour to beautiful Cyprus is irresistible!

Spring weather in Cyprus can be changeable - but this brings the birds! Typically bright and sunny days with showers in March, and daily temperatures in the range of 10-24C (50-75F). In the Troodos Mountains, snow often lingers well into March - so bring some warm layers, too.

BIRDS
100-150 species

OTHER WILDLIFE
The island's wildflowers are at their best in late March and include many orchids and Cyprus endemics.

A few early spring butterflies - including Eastern Festoon and the endemic Cyprus Meadow Brown and Paphos Blue - are usually about, too.

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation at a comfortable 4-star tourist hotel beside the coast at Paphos - within an easy short walk of Paphos headland and its birds. All rooms are en suite.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch or dinner on Day 1 and concluding with breakfast or lunch on Day 8 (depending on flight times).

Breakfasts and dinners will usually be taken at the hotel. On most days, our lunches will be tasty picnics in the field and we will try to find picturesque locations to relax as we eat them. We ring the changes on day 2 (lunch) and day 7 (dinner), with a delicious taverna meal.

WALKING
Easy. Mostly short walks of about a mile or so over easy terrain, except for our first full day around Paphos headland - which is around 3 miles in total, all at an easy pace.

In the Troodos Mountains, our walks will mostly be along level trails that conveniently follow the contours of the hill.

TRAVEL
We fly London Gatwick to Paphos, nonstop with British Airways or Easyjet (according to schedule).

Ground Transport   By comfortable minicoach with local driver (minibus if a small group).

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Spring wildflowers at Cape Drepanum, looking towards Yeronissos Island © davidcottridge.com

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