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CYPRUS WILDLIFE ECOLOGY
Birdwatching, nature conservation and consultancy in North Cyprus

birds

Field Trips

University of Exeter field \course in TRNC
University of Exeter field course in Karpaz.

The convoluted biogeographical history of Cyprus resulted in an island of high biodiversity and with a high rate of endemism. It is the only Endemic Bird Area in Europe and an important component of the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot and bioregion. Cyprus is also very geographically diverse, so a wide range of habitats lie just a stone’s throw apart. Rocky shore, dunes, sea grass beds, reefs, coastal scrublands, upland scrubland, arid scrubland, ancient orchards, ancient forest, plains, salt marsh, lakes, lagoons and reservoirs for example. For all these habitats there are a range of examples with some relatively pristine and others highly impacted by both intensive and traditional/sustainable land/sea anthropogenic exploitation. Cyprus therefore offers a fantastic opportunity to consider past, present and future impacts of man on the diversity of life.

There are also specific sites where vulnerable and threatened species congregate, such as marine turtle nesting sites, a sea bird colony, nest sites of threatened raptors, wetlands with large numbers of waders and flamingos and avian migration bottlenecks. Located in a major bird flyway, bird diversity is very high and during spring and autumn migration is starkly obvious. Indeed much of Cyprus’s fauna and flora are scarce throughout Europe and are more typical of the Middle East and Africa. As such North Cyprus is a priority destination for European and global birders and naturalists.


Cyprus warbler
The endemic Cyprus warbler Sylvia melanothorax.
Photo: Nathan Edmonds

Man has also played an enormous role in shaping Cyprus’s current biodiversity and habitats. Development of North Cyprus has been stifled by nearly half a century of political and economic isolation, but is now increasing with foreign investment. Global politics will dictate the future of North Cyprus’s biodiversity, as reconciliation efforts with the south of Cyprus and EU continue. But being less developed, examples of traditional ways of life with more sustainable/small-scale industries are very easy to find, with striking examples of intensive/industrial and high impact development and industries too.

Hunting and trapping of migrant birds on Cyprus is considered a major part of the cultural heritage. With an increasing human population the impacts are felt at breeding grounds thousands of miles away where numbers of some species continue to plummet.

Roads are excellent and traffic negligible, so field groups can easily hop between study sites. Glorious sunshine and warm turquoise Mediterranean waters are also very appealing. 
 
These characteristics make North Cyprus an excellent choice for exciting field courses with a focus on conservation biology. Cyprus Wildlife Ecology offer guided field courses with their experienced local guides, whose professional experience in local environmental NGOs, conservation and research and knowledge of the Turkish Cypriot stakeholders, will leave students with a first-hand impression of the conservation issues that they deal with.

Suggested Itinerary

Six full days of activities with additional activities/opportunity for exploring local surrounds on first and final days depending on flight times.

Day 1- Transfer to Ambelia Holiday Village, Bellapais, Kyrenia.
Ambelia Village is a quiet and picturesque hotel and holiday village in Bellapais, nestling in the Five Fingers mountain range in Northern Cyprus. The complex is 1000 feet above sea level on a terraced hillside. From every balcony and patio in the village you can enjoy the panoramic view of historic Bellapais, the northern coastline and the beautiful harbour town of Kyrenia. The hotel is surrounded by rich maquis scrubland and mountain trails which are great for exploring. 

Day 2 - West Coast:
Visit to the site of the abandoned Cyprus Mines Corporation copper mine. See the impact of the industry which gave Cyprus its name. When abandoned this site caused long-term unmitigated environmental terrestrial and marine pollution with considerable human health consequences.

Visit to Akdeniz village. A rural village at the heart of a Specially Protected Area. See fossilised remains of pygmy elephants and relics of ancient Bronze Age civilisations. Although much of this area is in good condition, sand extraction, forestry and invasive species introductions have caused conservation losses.

See a recently expanded dam where water is being transported via pipeline from a dam in Turkey to abate the impact of drought in agriculture and domestic supply in North Cyprus. Consider the impact of the pipeline, dams and the manipulation of water in the Middle East.

 

Geçitköy Dam
Geçitköy Dam.


Day 3 – Kyrenia Mountains and Alagadi:
Visit to a bonelli’s eagle nest site where we consider the threat of ongoing use of poison in agriculture and its impact on these and other raptors, some of which are now locally extinct (griffon vulture, black vulture, imperial eagle).

Visit to Alagadi sea turtle nesting beaches, a showcase example of where conservation of a flagship species with a great deal of public support, has resulted in wider protection of a biodiversity rich site against nearby mass tourism. Visit a recently completed casino hotel and power station and consider their biodiversity impacts on the Alagadi area.

Some down time opportunity at the beach.

 

Alagadi Beach
Alagadi Beach.
Photo: Özgür Gökeşan


Day 4 – Mesaoria Plain:
Mesaoria was once forested but trees were cleared and the plains have since been managed for agriculture as “the bread basket of Cyprus” between the Troodos and Kyrenia Mountains.


Kukla Wetlands
Kukla Wetlands.
Photo: Olkan Ergüler and Şevket Türel at Flycam Cyprus


Visit Kukla wetlands birding hotspot where local NGO KUŞKOR is implementing a project to improve an important wetland on the Mesaoria Plain. See efforts to remove invasive species and promote halophytic marshlands, the use of islands to provide nesting habitat to mitigate the threat of stray dogs and foxes, construction of hides and signage to attract birding tourism to this rural village so that the project is homed and supported locally. Taste Turkish coffee in the village coffee shop and get the first hand opinion from local stakeholders, some of whom depend on the site for their agriculture.

 

European Roller nest box
European Roller nest box on the plains.
Photo: Olkan Ergüler

See KUSKORs efforts to reintroduce European roller to the plains through a nest box scheme with win-win benefits for agriculture, conservation and tourism.

Visit a sewage treatment plant which has become an Important Bird Area of global significance. Effluent used to irrigate fodder crops produces year-round flowering plants attracting pollinators and birds. Outdated settling tanks are the largest areas of permanent standing water on the island and support a great number of birds including many threatened and regionally important species. A European Union funded project to upgrade this system could compromise the conservation of the site.



tank
Settling tank at the Nicosia water treatment plant.
Photo: Barış Saydam


Visit the divided capital of Nicosia.       

Day 5 – Famagusta Wetlands and transfer to Karpaz:
Famagusta was built on a sprawling wetland system and is still expanding. The wetlands are impacted by agriculture, eutrophication, tipping and littering, human disturbance, stray domestic animals, climate change, unregulated construction, drought to name but a few. Despite these impacts important birds and important floral assemblages persist. There is also a stark example here of where partitioning of land by military has had a positive conservation impact, an important theme for Cyprus.

Visit the historical walled city of Famagusta.


Transfer to Balcı Plaza hotel, Yeni Erenkoy and settle in.
Night time excursion to see or at least hear the endemic Cyprus scops owl, little owl, nightjar, stone curlew, and hopefully handle the long-eared hedgehog, which is native to the Middle East and Asia.

 

Balci Beach
The beach at Balcı Plaza

 

Day 6 – Introduction to Cyprus marine fisheries:
This morning focuses on the Cypriot fishery. Although small-scale and less industrialised than trawl fisheries operating in the region (trawls are banned in North Cyprus) fishery impacts are/will be a major consideration in Marine Spatial Planning. They are difficult to mitigate or manage as their methods are very diverse and they have strong socioeconomic links. The fishery is culturally valuable and provides a source of income to some of Cyprus’s poorest people.

fishing boats
Nets
A Karpaz fishing shelter
Trammel net landings


Visit to a small-scale/semi industrial fishing harbour where we see a fisher land his catch and help to remove and identify fish from gill nets. Here is an opportunity to appreciate the local marine biodiversity. Converse with fishermen on their trade, historical declines in catches and economic sustainability of fishing. Get a first-hand account on the threat posed by migrant fish entering the Mediterranean from the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal (Lessepsian Migration), interaction of dolphins and sea turtles with their gears and the economic and conservation implications of these.

Visit to local Karpaz fish markets.

Explore the habitats surrounding the Balci Plaza hotel, its small-holding and its sandy beach.

Optional guided walk.

Relaxation time.

Day 7 – Karpaz Peninsula:
Ringing session before breakfast. See migrant and resident birds and talk about the role that bird ringing has played in our knowledge of bird ecology, behaviour and habitat use. See methodical data collection for the KUŞKOR ringing scheme and the European Union of Bird Ringing.

Slow cruise from Balcı Plaza Hotel to the Eastern tip of the Island, stopping en-route to see migrating birds, specific habitat types and the impact of plastic marine debris and invasive Acacia at an important coastal site.

Visit the donkey sanctuary. This extensive area of coastal juniper dominated scrubland is full of birds taking a last rest and feed before making the sea crossing onwards with their migration. The area is also home to semi-feral donkeys. The conservation value of the donkeys themselves is debatable but they have become an important tourist attraction and as such are supported by locals as an “eco tourism” asset. In recent years their management has been the subject of huge debate, with farmers calling for their removal.

Signage
Signage alerting sea users to nesting sea birds.


We will likely see many migrant raptors here and also the most Eastern colony of the Mediterranean endemic Audouin’s Gull, which in Cyprus is declining and in danger of local extinction; a significant potential range contraction for this range-restricted species.

See some of the apparatus used to produce lime sticks and other indiscriminate trapping methods which have a significant toll on migrant birds. See prepared final product “pulya” (plucked and pickled blackcaps) and talk with locals about the commerce and cultural significance of this delicacy.

Pulya
Karpaz villagers with pulya.
Photo: KUŞKOR

Hoopoe
Hoopoe caught on a lime stick. Photo: Huseyin Yorgancı

Day 8 - Transfer

 

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