Saturday, 28 February 2009

Kritou Terra

On Wednesday I went in the field with a friend from BirdLife Cyprus, to look at birds and landscapes on the way to Kritou Terra, where I have permission to use a visiting researcher's flat. Kritou Terra is a small village in the Paphos District on the West of the island (map), with 90 permanent residents and two shops. The place is quiet and cosy. But the flat has no heating. Hopefully I should have access to the internet though, so at least I won't be entirely cut off.


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On the way to Kritou Terra we did some birding. I can verify that many of my educated guesses at bird species turned out to be correct. Meadow pipits have thinner beaks than larks. The woodlark sounds like a flute and has a "headband" (a white eyebrow, or supercilium, that joins at the back of the head; pic), and perhaps that's the lark I saw last weekend. My little warbler was definitely a chiffchaff. It also has a pale supercilium, and it moves about busily, flicking its tail downwards all the time. I learnt how to tell Cyprus from Sardinian warblers apart: the Cyprus warbler has black speckles on its chest and also under the tail, while the Sardinian warbler doesn't. Apparently, Sardinian warblers' calls are more staccato as well. The further West on the island you go, the more likely you are to see Sardinian instead of Cyprus warblers. Sardinians seem to be spreading eastwards, displacing Cypriots. The reasons behind this are still unclear, but probably have to do with both climate change (that allows Sardinians to breed on the island) and land use change (which neatly falls into my doctoral remit). In any case, competition seems unlikely to be direct.

In some vineyards near Polis we saw a huge flock of serins. It was very impressive. And very loud. There were greenfinches and goldfinches and linnets (τσακροσγάρτιλο) in the flock as well, but mostly little yellow things (not a very good pic). They seemed to really like the weeds growing around the vines!

I learnt a new species as well: the fan tailed warbler, or zitting cisticola, which has a cute little rhythmic tzit-tzit-tzit song given in an undulating flight. So every time it reaches the top of one of its undulations, it tzits. Apparently it's the only cisticola in Europe - the rest live mostly in Africa. We also saw a couple of black redstarts, which was lovely. They're quite rare in Western Europe. Also, I actually recognised a Cetti's warbler call!

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