Every now and then a lumbering combine harvester or tractor disturbed the peace. At one point a small group of farmers waved me over, rightly confused as to why an Englishman with a notepad and binoculars was wondering around their fields on a Tuesday morning. My answer was met with some amusement (and even more confusion).
Moving around the lake to the other side we continued to find good numbers of birds with squacco herons, wood sandpipers and black-winged stilts conspicuous on the rushy edges. We each focused on counting different species, Anders counting stilts, some of which were in amongst the feet of the now-nearer flamingo flock. While doing this he turned to Martin and me and asked us to check out an odd flamingo with an ‘all black’ bill and a shorter neck. The bird was feeding separately from the flock but clearly had a much darker bill, appearing at our distance to be black or dark brown. Anders suggested it could be a Lesser Flamingo based on an illustration in the Collin's Guide - predominantly an African species rarely recorded in Europe. Aside from the bill though, which we agreed was unusual and unlike Greater Flamingo, it was hard to gauge much else at this point and there were no other flamingos in the same view for close comparison.
However, soon the bird moved back to the flock and straight away we noticed the size difference – it was significantly smaller than the greater flamingos by a third or more! At this point I think burst out laughing as the differences became more apparent.
The bird then moved to the rear of the flock where it was easy to follow because of its size. It began preening during which point its legs were more clearly seen. These were darker in comparison with the other flamingos, like the bill, they appeared more reddish/brown than pink. After watching it for around 25 minutes, A and I felt confident it was a Lesser Flamingo which Martin pointed out would be a first record for Cyprus. None of us had ever seen this species before so photographs etc have been sent off for further study. It was a great spot by Anders and a good reminder that double checking 'common' or abundant birds can pay off.
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|Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor), Kouklia lake, Cyprus, 12/5/15. Photo digiscoped (PB)|
Bird is roughly in the centre of each photo (though slightly hidden in the second) Initially spotted by Anders Gray.