On the wing – with Gary Atkins

This week’s column is about Cyprus. Why? Well, for one I’ve just returned from a week there. But also, little in Derbyshire has changed over the past two weeks – despite the arrival of British Summertime!

And there is a subtle connection as Cyprus is one of the main Mediterranean migration routes across into Europe from Asia Minor and Africa.

Birds seem to have a built-in weather forecasting system, so it’s quite probable the reason for the lack of migrants reaching our shores is not entirely unassociated with the unprecedented cold spell.

Cyprus is always a great place to visit in early spring, though, when migrants stream in.

I had an early glimpse of the Swallows and House Martins that will be with us shortly, together with Swifts – which arrive in the UK until late April.

Northern Wheatears may have reached Britain by now, but plenty of others were dallying in Cyprus, where I also saw Black-eared, Isabelline and Cyprus Pied Wheatears.

A striking ‘fall’ of Yellow Wagtails were dashing in and out of the ancient ruins and mosaics on the Paphos headland.

Long-tailed, noisy Greater Spotted Cuckoos were worrying Magpies, in whose nests they lay their eggs. Other species unlikely to reach Britain were Spur-winged Plover, Black Francolin and Crested Lark, whose prominent top-knots bobbed around everywhere.

Of those birds likeliest to be setting a northerly course, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Redstarts all made an appearance and a Nightingale sang sweetly from low down in a bush. I enjoyed a close encounter with a Kingfisher and yet another sighting of Hawfinch – seen only a few weeks ago near Cromford.

Roll on spring!