OROKLINI MARSH. Introduction

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1 OROKLINI MARSH Introduction I have been a keen Bird-watcher for many years and my interest has gradually changed to carrying out in depth study of specific sites rather than random outings to various areas. I have been involved in the production of, or have carried out myself, site dossiers at many sites both in UK and abroad. Obviously inputs from entomologists or botanists make the site dossier more useful if they are available. When I started visiting Oroklini Marsh in 2001, it soon became obvious that few Birders visited the site regularly, certainly not enough to give an overall picture of resident and visiting birds to the marsh. Compared with other local sites such as Larnaca Salt Lake, Larnaca Sewage Works and Akhna Dam, Oroklini Marsh tends to be regarded as the poor relation. I visited the site almost daily and noted 195 species in 11 years which makes visiting the site very worthwhile and attractive to visiting Birders. The marsh is a Special Protective Area (SPA) under EU Birds Directive and a Site of Community Importance (SCI) under EU Habitats Directive. There are plans to carry out serious management of the site such as removal of invasive plants and construction of Bird Watching Hides. Currently, the best viewing point for the main lake is from the Ooooops car park at the northern end and from the derelict buildings at the southern end to view the more marshy areas. It must be said however that the marshy area is also more of a lake in the wet season and access is very limited. It is hoped that the document might be of use to visiting Birders or local residents who may not be aware of what may be seen on the marsh at different times of year. As can be imagined, daily sightings produce a wealth of data which is updated at least monthly. For anyone less than keen on meeting snakes I have only ever come across Large Whip Snakes which are reputed to be quite harmless. The largest I have seen was about 2 metres long with a Rat sized swelling half way along.

2 Geography/Topography Like the majority of place names in Cyprus, Oroklini suffers from indecision regarding the use of Greek, English or Gringlish. Most maps use the spelling VOROKLINI while most road signs use OROKLINI with the Greek spelling underneath. The marsh is situated south of the village between the motorway and the Larnaca/Dhekalia road. Visitors from the west should take the Oroklini exit from the motorway turning first left after about 100 metres which will take you under the bridge shown at the top of the sketch map. Visitors from the east should take the Oroklini exit which will lead directly to the road junction at the north east part of the marsh. The marsh shows all the signs of having been a mini salt lake in a previous life. The sea is only a matter of about 200 metres away, and, when drying, a glaze of salt is obvious on the flat areas. Salt loving plants grow over the whole marsh and Mullet and Eels have obvi0usly found a way in, being very common when the marsh is full. The majority of the water comes to the north west of the main lake through a culvert under the motorway from slightly higher ground. Local council workers carry out weekly anti-mosquito activities over the whole marsh which includes spraying and the introduction of Mosquito fish, much appreciated by the Grebes and Egrets etc. A dam at the north east part of the marsh ensures that no water flows to other areas until the southern part of the main lake is 100cm deep. Once the dam overflows, the remaining areas gradually fill to a depth of about 50cm as long as the season s rainfall has been sufficient. The 3 drainage channels fill to a depth of about 200cm and therefore very rarely dry out. Winter In UK, the winter period is easy to define.not so in Cyprus. With Barn Swallows only being absent for about 7 weeks centred around December but with the first wintering European Robins being seen in October, it all seems a bit hazy. I shall plump for the period November to April.

3 Generally speaking, activity on the marsh is dictated more by water level and food availability rather than the time of year. The normal start of the rainy season during November kicks off rejuvenation of the marsh when counts of 100 appear on the sightings lists. Eurasian Coots are usually the first obvious winter arrivals with numbers rising to many hundreds by December. Other water fowl making an appearance are Little and Black-necked Grebes, Water Rails, Common Moorhens, Little and Spotted Crakes, various Gulls and Ducks. Common Black-headed Gulls are usually present in hundreds, once water levels permit, using the marsh to rest, preen and bathe. Slender-billed Gulls visit in small numbers and give Birders a challenge trying to sort them out from the Common Black-headed Gulls. Yellow-legged, Baltic, Mediterranean, Caspian and Little Gulls visit in small numbers. Eurasian Teal are easily the most common and long staying ducks, being present from November until April in counts of up to 400. Other visiting Ducks seen in smaller numbers include Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Garganey and Ferruginous Duck. Various Heron and Egret species occur in variable numbers, the most common being the Little Egret at 98 and the Cattle Egret at 67. Glossy Ibis normally appear during March with numbers peaking in April, the record being 173 on 21 st April Western Marsh, Hen and Pallid Harriers appear during the winter with the Western Marsh Harrier being the most common, much to the annoyance of the Eurasian Coots and Ducks. Common Buzzards and Eurasian Sparrowhawks are occasionally seen while Common Kestrels are seen throughout. Although large numbers of Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing and Ruff arrive during March, the genuine winter visitors among the waders include Little-ringed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Common Snipe, Common Redshank and Common Sandpiper. Meadow Pipits are fairly common throughout the winter, reaching counts of up to or 2 European Robins, Bluethroats, Western Black Redstarts, Eurasian Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Common Chaffinches are present throughout but normally restricted to the area near the Sveltos Hotel which has dense cover near water.

4 Cetti s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Eurasian Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler share this area, the Cetti s Warbler starting it s song at full volume from January. Common Starlings are usually seen overflying en route to roosts, occasionally in numbers to 200. Summer I will assume for the sake of convenience that the summer period includes the months May to October and the mentioned birds will include resident breeders as well as summer visitors. Little Grebe will be seen in all months providing the water levels are suitable, a few pairs normally breeding. When the marsh is in the final stages of drying out, Little Grebes can be seen feeding on the stranded Mosquito Fish without the necessity to dive. Little Egrets have bred on the marsh in previous years in small numbers but not for the last 5 years. The species has gradually reduced in numbers over the years with the previously uncommon Cattle Egrets becoming much more common. Grey Herons can be seen visiting in all months of the year but cannot be called residents and definitely don t breed. Mallard breed regularly, Garganey have bred sporadically on the marsh since 2002, Northern Shoveler bred in 2010 for the first time in 100 years and Red-crested Pochard started regular breeding from Common Kestrels are resident and breed on the roof of nearby Hotels. Chukar used to breed in small numbers and groups of up to 15 were often seen. The last 5 years has seen a dramatic decrease in numbers and the species is now extremely rare on the marsh, probably due to the spread of building now surrounding the marsh. It seems odd that Black Francolin should be unaffected and are still quite common, more often heard than seen. Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot breed annually, numbers dependant on water levels. Black-winged Stilts breed annually, numbers dependant on water levels but can reach 60 nests. Little Ringed Plover often have 1 or 2 nests but chicks have never been seen. Spur-winged Lapwing breed every year with about 7 pairs normally having 2 broods. Nests with 5 eggs instead of the normal 4 are often seen. Ruff are migrants but are seen in May with counts of up to about 75. Little Stint are

5 similar with counts of up to about 40. Small numbers of Wood Sandpipers are common throughout the summer as are Green Sandpipers. Little Terns occasionally breed on the marsh but with little success. Recently, from 5 nests, only a single juvenile was the result. A very abnormally high number of snakes was seen around the nests and it is assumed they accounted for the poor result. Eurasian Collared Doves are resident in trees and buildings on the edge of the marsh. Common Swifts normally arrive in January and feed over the marsh until the end of August. Barn Swallows feed over the marsh from January to November counts of up to 350 being noted in September when a large movement takes place. Common House Martins are around from February to September only reaching counts of about 20 birds. Crested Larks are resident and breed on the drier parts of the marsh. Black-headed Wagtails are seen from March until October and breed in small numbers. Zitting Cisticola and Spectacled Warblers are resident and breed in the drier years. Eurasian Magpie are resident but reducing in numbers every year. There was a single nest in a large bush on the edge of the marsh a few years ago. Hooded Crows are common residents but have never bred. House Sparrows breed adjacent to the marsh and feed their young on the emerging Dragonflies of the Red Sympetrum type which number literally millions. European Goldfinches obviously breed but nests have never been found. Migrants Migrating species are a little difficult to describe as they don t all stick to the rules. Some species can be seen throughout the summer and are presumed to be non-breeders, not bothering to travel great distances for no reason. Little Bittern, Night Herons and Squacco Herons visit in Spring and Autumn. Little Egrets are seen in larger numbers in Spring and Autumn, with a few in summer. Purple Herons and Glossy Ibis are regular in Spring but rarer in autumn. Little Crake put in an appearance in March and April and occasionally winter. Common Cranes can be seen overflying in spring with counts of 100 s but with less in autumn.

6 Black-tailed Godwits visit in small numbers from March to June and in even smaller numbers in autumn. Marsh Sandpipers and Greenshank are seen in spring and autumn. European Turtle Doves visit in spring and autumn, as do European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Common Kingfishers are seen mainly in autumn, less in spring and a few winter. Sand Martins are seen in spring in low numbers but more common in autumn. Whinchats, Isabelline and Northern Wheatears are usually seen in spring and autumn. Among the Warblers, Great Reed and Icterine Warblers appear in small numbers in spring and autumn but I admit to failures in positive identification of some other species. I always err on the side of accurate idents only, so have not recorded glimpses of Little brown birds skulking in dense Tamarisk bushes. I feel sure there are Olivaceous and Eurasian Reed Warblers passing through but have not logged them. Red-backed, Lesser-grey and Masked Shrikes can be seen in spring and more commonly in autumn. Numbers are very variable. Vagrants and Casual Visitors The following species can be regarded as Occasionl visitors, Vagrants or Rarities, the status referring strictly to the marsh and not Cyprus as a whole. Black-necked Grebe Great White Pelican Lttle Bittern Black Stork Common Shelduck Booted Eagle Common Quail Eurasian Golden Plover Great Snipe Ruddy Turnstone Common Woodpigeon Pied Kingfisher Citrine Wagtail Fieldfare Great Reed Warbler Collared Flycatcher Woodchat Shrike Great Cormorant Eurasian Bittern Great Egret Greater White-fronted Goose Long-legged Buzzard Eleonora s Falcon Collared Pratincole Broad-billed Sandpiper Eurasian Curlew Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Common Cuckoo Red-rumped Swallow Dunnock Savi s Warbler Eastern Orphean Warbler Rose-coloured Starling Cretzschmar s Bunting

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