UPDATE: Also Check out the post on Birdwatching in Akrotiri and lady’s mile, Cyprus
Cyprus is supposed to be a very good destination for bird watching, i.e the kind where people spend hours together to see a bird few inches long. I became an avid bird watcher only after my interest in photography developed. Well, i am not the kind who appreciates the fact that a particular bird species is rare or not. But, as long as i am able to get a good photograph of it, I am happy. I can vouch for the fact that a photograph of a “wild” bird definitely gives more satisfaction than one taken at the zoo.
Cyprus is probably most famous for the thousands of migratory flamingos which visit the larnaca and the akrotiri salt lakes every year. They come to cyprus just as winter starts, leave as it starts to rain and return in Spring. Thousands of them making a pink blanket over the lake is a sight beyond words. They are much closer at the larnaca salt lake, but since this is almost next door to the airport, the moment you take out a camera, a cop comes over and starts questioning you on everything ranging from the kind of camera to your religious inclinations. I have been “caught” like this quite a few times in larnaca, but the cops are usually very friendly and once they are convinced of your true intentions request you not to photograph there.
At Akrotiri, you either have to walk a lot or be stupid enough to take your vehicle close to the lake and then call rescue line. I find this place fascinating for watching birds. Apart from the flamingos, the approach to lady’s mile from the new port has many small pools where you can find hundreds of ducks and sea gulls (I assume these are so, I am not an ornithologist!). There are two ways to approach the lake to watch the flamingos. One is to park anywhere on the lady’s mile beach (closer to the end of the beach near the start of the akrotiri base) and walk north. After a walk of a few hundred metres, you should be close to the lake. The place can be pretty slushy and it would help if you had rubber boots. I would recommend at least a 200 mm lens if you intend to get decent photographs. Another approach would be to take the road from Limassol towards akrotiri and as you near akrotiri, you would see the Fassouri plantations on the left. Actually, it is more like a mini-forest, with dense growth and small forest tracks in between. Ordinary cars can go on these roads. Always try to proceed towards the right(south). At a point your cannot go any further, start walking in the same direction. This side is much closer to the flamingos and you also can see other big birds, but there are lot of insects and it can get pretty nasty towards the evenings.
Last weekend, i went to the pools close to the lady’s mile beach to photographs some “ordinary” birds like ducks and gulls. I was surprised to find three flamingos in that pool. They are not often found in these pools. I took shots and then went back home to get my rubber boots and waded into the pools to get closer shots. Some of the photographs are below. All of them are grainy, as i had increased the ISO to 1600 the previous night and forgot to reset it!
Below are some of the photos of birds taken at the small pools on the side of the road on the way to lady’s mile beach.
Last year, i and two other friends went to the akrotiri lake from the side of the phassouri plantations. We had to wade through lot of slush and mud and tall grass to reach the lake. Thankfully, i was properly “footed” for the occassion. Some of the photos from that trip. We didn’t manage to get very good photos, as my lens is not so good at the longer end as it is the cheaper non-ED version of the Nikkor 70-300mm and it becomes really soft at the 300 mm end. Or, maybe i am doing something wrong :-). Btw, it is not me in the photographs below!
More of flamingo watching happened this weekend. It will continue in the coming weekends too until i get “the” perfect photograph capable of being used as my desktop wallpaper. I am far (literally far away from the flamingos) from such a photograph as of now! This weekend, we noticed the flamingos going at each other with their beaks. This happened quite often between pairs of flamingos, always between a pink one and a white one. I dunno whether this is a courtship or a fight for a dominance of the dirty waters!
There were hundreds of seagulls too in the area. They were making trips from one pond to another and to the restaurant by the sea where they got free morsels of bread.
We saw two other birds too, but they were flying quite far and i couldn’t get good enough photographs to identify them.
So, at the end of an adventurous three hours during which, our car was almost stuck in the slush two or three times, the car skidded for almost 4 to 5 metres sideways and the car ended up in tall grass (would like to call it drifting as they do it in the car rallies) and water got into the exhaust and my car was making sounds like a scooter, we managed to safely reach home after a good birding session and a really dirty car!