Bird News from Nial Moores with Jennifer Michaels and Ha Jung Mun
Three days were spent in the field, in weather that was calm and mostly sunny, with temperatures ranging from c.20°C as minima to 29-30C as daily maxima. On August 29th, the afternoon was spent at the Geum Estuary, near the barrage and then on Yubu Island for high tide (with 45,000 shorebirds and no other people at the latter site!); on the 30th, we then took a day-trip out to Eocheong to look for early autumn migrants; and on the 31st, we checked some woodland and a couple of reservoirs near Gunsan, before rechecking the barrage area and then visiting a river near Jeonju. In all, approximately 120 species were logged, including several fascinating ID challenges (at least two of which are the focus of articles on the highly informative Dig Deep website), and some excellent highlights that included:
- Garganey Anas querquedula. A total of 103 were counted in one scan of Ognyeo Reservoir on 31st. This appears to be the highest post-2000 site- and day-count in the ROK known to Birds Korea. The highest counts in Park Jin-Young’s 2002 thesis are of 333 and 145 at Cheonsu Bay (Seosan Reclamation Lakes) in April 1996 and 1997 respectively.
- Common Pochard Aythya ferina. Three on Ognyeo Reservoir on 31st.
- Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. Excellent views of several of the 40+ seen from the Eocheong ferry.
- Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. Ten were on Yubu.
- Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes. Seventeen were counted on Yubu by HJM.
- Far Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus (ostralegus) osculans. Very approximately 2,000 were on Yubu.
- Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus. Six or seven were on the river near Jeonju: almost all were birds of the year.
- White-faced Plover Charadrius (alexandrinus) dealbatus. One male moving into non-breeding plumage and one female-type were found in among the Kentish Plover flocks on Yubu. Several other suspects were seen by NM, but were not confirmed due to insufficient time. This is the third year in a row that this taxon has been found on Yubu in late August. Although not yet recognized as a full species by Gill & Donsker, it is now listed as a full species by BirdLife with its own species factsheet (though unfortunately with an inaccurate description of plumage and an incomplete range map…).
- Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii. At least ten were found mixed in with Kentish (2000++) and Mongolian Plovers (500+).
- Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus. Two (an adult in breeding in plumage and an adult type in non-breeding plumage) were found on Ognyeo Reservoir: presumably another new ROK site for the species.
- Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala. One was on Eocheong Island, in the main concrete drain. Although identification of this species is extremely challenging, ID was based on a combination of features, including the shape and pattern of one or perhaps more outer tail feathers (in the image, it is the feather on the right of the bird, immediately adjacent to the more rusty-red central tail feathers). Compare this with images of tail feathers on p.225 of Park Jong-Gil’s excellent new photo guide and the plate found at:
- Latham’s Snipe Gallinago hardwickii. A possible was seen and heard in flight on Eocheong.
- Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Probably a thousand were at the Geum barrage on the 31st.
- Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. Approximately 800 were on Yubu.
- Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer. Four were seen on Yubu at high-tide. As large numbers of shorebirds moved away from Yubu to roost, it is possible that more might have been present.
- Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris. Approximately 200 were onYubu.
- Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea. Probably five were on Yubu.
- Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus. On Yubu, an adult was scoped well but at distance by HJM and probably the same bird was seen much more briefly by NM.
- Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus. Although there was too little time to make proper counts, probably >1,000 were present on Yubu.
- Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. About 30 were seen from the Eocheong ferry. One of these first appeared as a distant flying speck, before it flew towards the boat and landed just off the bow giving excellent views.
- White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus. Approximately 20 were on the Gunsan reservoirs briefly on the 31st, including one in nearly full-breeding plumage (puzzlingly showing a greyish rump apparently more or less concolorous with the tail; and greyish upperwing coverts, but striking black underwing coverts).
- Black Woodpigeon Columba janthina. One or two were on Eocheong on the 30th. This is perhaps only the second record of the species on this island.
- Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus. Perhaps two or three were on Eocheong on the 30th and one was on the mainland in Gunsan on 31st.
- Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. Out of c. 25+ cuckoos seen, most (~15?) were believed to be this species. Although four species were identified, many birds were left unidentified.
- Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata. One was on Eocheong.
- Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus. One was in Gunsan on the 31st.
- Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus. Two were on Eocheong.
- Sand Martin Riparia riparia. Four or five juveniles were in Gunsan on the 31st. Separation from Pale Martin was based on the combination of: the deep tail fork at rest (and in flight); the dark brown plumage tones of the upperparts and the complete and wide breast band (lacking grey tones: though such grey tones might perhaps only be a feature of adult Pale?); the darkness of the ear coverts which were as dark as the crown (again, though, perhaps only a feature which might be useful in adults?); and the feathering on the rear of the tarsus, which appeared to be restricted to an obvious feather tuft, and not to extend up the rear of the otherwise bare tarsus as expected in Pale. Although tarsal feathering is considered diagnostic of Pale and to be more or less absent in Sand, this can be difficult to see in the field and might even be somewhat variable (as first suggested by Dave Bakewell in his articles on Dig Deep). Umegaki Yusuke wrote (in lit. December 2013) that after his brief article on “brown-backed martins” was published in the Japanese birding magazine BIRDER last year, he subsequently received some conflicting information: one person saying that all ijimae Sands have tarsi feathering to some amount (based on skin examination), and another saying that no brown-backed martins trapped and ringed in central Honshu in autumn had tarsi feathering. Therefore, until better information is published, it seems wise in the ROK to consider dense or extensive tarsal feathering as diagnostic of Pale; and sparser feathering (in addition to the tuft) only as a supporting feature for those birds that also show the appropriate structural and plumage features.
- Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus. One heard on Eocheong on the 30th (sounding obviously different from the more numerous Arctic Warblers which were also present).
- Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon. Three were seen together in one ‘scope view on Eocheong.
- Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi. Singles heard on 30th and 31st.
- Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria. Probably 20 were on Eocheong.
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