Southern Provinces, East Coast, Chungju and Seosan, January 13 – 17

Bird News from Tim Edelsten with Jason Loghry, Nial Moores, Ed Keeble and Jang Ji-Eung

Focused survey work in temperatures down to minus 10, along various mostly-frozen rivers on the 13th and 14th was followed by some recreational coastal birding in north east Gangwon Province on the 15th, and a spectacularly memorable pelagic trip from Daejin Port, Hwajinpo on the 16th. On that day excellent calm conditions allowed us to venture some 17-18km offshore, on a trip remarkable for unprecedented numbers of particular species and the unexpected absence of others. The morning of the 17th started out very foggy at Chungju and remained overcast for a brief afternoon visit to Seosan Lakes. Altogether, a lot of fun for everyone involved. Noteworthy observations listed below:

 

  1. Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. 59 on the reservoir at Chungju and up to 200 on Seosan Lake A on the 17th.
  2. Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. Markedly scarce, with only five in total along the Nam River on the 13th.
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila. Two on the reservoir at Chungju on the 17th are remarkably far inland and scarce on freshwater. In addition, an unusual female-type Scaup was seen. In direct comparison to Greater Scaup it appeared noticeably smaller and with darker a head. It was also faster, more pugnacious, and fed and dived far more actively.
  4. Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. Koreas first, a female, was seen well at Chungju on the 17th. It qeued up behind a line of other aythya ducks diving in the rapids.
  5. Bufflehead Bucephala albeola. A male, undoubtedly the same individual as last winter (when Korea’s first record), has returned to Yongrang Lake in Sokcho, where seen on January 13th and 15th.
  6. Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Seen offshore at Sokcho on the 15th as well as far inland at Chungju on the 17th, with also two in very shallow freshwater near Gyeongju on the 14th.
  7. Smew Mergus albellus. Concentrated on the Jinyoung reservoir, Jinju and on Gyeongpo Lake, Gangneung.
  8. Common Merganser Mergus merganser. 163 counted at Jinyoung Lake, Gyeongsangnam Province on the 4th.
  9. Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus. Noted at several locations. Our survey work is building a clearer picture of this intriguing species, which seems to show a preference for broad, undisturbed shallow rivers with stretches of rapids and also rocky areas for resting.
  10. Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata. One seen on Jinyoung Lake, Jinju, on the 14th is an extraordinary record, being not only far inland but also on freshwater. It was very slightly oiled on the breast.
  11. Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii. One was seen in flight from the boat off Hwajinpo on the 16th. Also on that day, one off the lighthouse in the morning was likely the same individual seen at exceptionally close quarters in Daejin Harbour later in the day.
  12. Great Egret Ardea alba. A notable count of 204 alba gathered to roost on Jinyoung Lake, Jinju on the evening of the 14th.
  13. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Large numbers on the Jinyoung Lake, Jinju, although no nests seen.
  14. Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus. One on the sand spit at the mouth of the Namdae Stream, YangYang on the 15th, and one atop a pine tree near the Unification Observatory, Gosong County on the 16th- (where last years Lammergeier was searched for without success).
  15. White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Of especial note, an immature was seen attempting to hunt mergansers at Jinyoung lake on the 14th, making low passes and lunges, which the ducks easily evaded by diving at the critical moment. More surprisingly, a full adult was seen in the futile act of diving after ducks at Chungju on the 17th, once again being spectacularly unsuccessful. Other individuals were also seen along the Nam River on the 13th (in a picturesque area with spoor of Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra), from the highway north of Jinju on the 14th, one at Yang Yang on the 15th, and one or two off Daejin on the 16th, where a similar number was said to be seen daily on nearby Hwajinpo lake by Mr. Shin of the January Pension. Two were also seen near the Unification Observatory on the 16th.
  16. Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus. One apparent individual was seen distantly from the pelagic boat, offshore from Hwajinpo on the 16th.
  17. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. An adult was seen hunting the river near Gyeongju on the 13th, when a teal narrowly escaped its talons by jinking and crashing into the water at the last split-second.
  18. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. Two on the river near Gyeongju on the 13th.
  19. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. One on the Hyeongsan River near Pohang on the 14th.
  20. Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus. Two on the Hyeongsan River near Pohang on the 14th and one below the reservoir spillway at Chungju on the 17th.
  21. Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi. Three on the Hyeongsan River near Pohang on the 14th.
  22. Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides. An adult was seen well and photographed at Ayajin Port on the 15th.
     

    Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides, © Tim Edelsten

     

  23. Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans. A superb adult – showing all the requisite features- was seen at Kongheunjin Beach, north of Ayajin Port on the 15th. This was followed by One adult and three further Caspian-types near the lighthouse at Daejin on the 16th.
  24. “Steppe Gull” Larus (heuglini) barabensis. One seen at Daejin on the 16th.
  25. Brunnich’s Murre Uria lomvia. A stupendous 49 counted off Daejin/ Hwajinpo on the 16th has easily smashed all records and becomes the new national high count of this species. This included several groups feeding together and also bizarrely one apparently chasing after a Red-necked Grebe. Undoubtedly this is a prime feeding area, as several individuals were too heavy for take off and instead “rowed” away to escape, their wings slapping uselessly on the water. One also showed a unique landing method whereby it banked upwards in flight before hovering momentarily and parachuting down onto the water with a splash.
     

    Brunnich’s Murre Uria lomvia and Common Murre Uria aalge, © Tim Edelsten

     

  26. Common Murre Uria aalge. Four or five were seen from the headland at Geojin on the 15th. Up to 25 counted off Daejin on the 16th is easily the highest day-count of this species nationally, at least in the past decade. Unusually, one of these had a clear white nape.
  27. Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo. One seen from the headland at Geojin on the 15th was followed by two seen offshore on the 16th.
     

    Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo, © Tim Edelsten

     

  28. Long-billed Murrelet Brachyramphus perdix. One seen from the headland at Geojin on the 15th was followed by three seen from the boat on the 16th.
  29. Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. Several hundred were seen offshore on the 16th, when at close quarters they were heard to give their soft and barely audible cheeping cries.
     

    Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus, © Tim Edelsten

     

  30. Least Auklet Aethia pusilla. An unprecedented count of 12 from the boat off Hwajinpo on the 16th is easily a new national high count. It even exceeds the total number of previous records and also individual records. This number included two flocks of three and other individuals which were seen excellently at close quarters and photographed. Interestingly they were seen to fly with a distinctive see-sawing motion and also show much variation in the amount of white on the scapulars.
     

    Least Auklet Aethia pusilla, © Tim Edelsten

     

     

    Least Auklet Aethia pusilla, © Tim Edelsten

     

  31. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. One on the river below the dam wall at Chungju on the 17th.
  32. Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor. We re-found and photographed the much-vaunted Seosan juvenile on the 17th. It gave good views before pouncing on a mouse and then disappearing with it in its claws. This bird was initially found by Shim Kyu-Sik on December 29th 2013.
     

    Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor, © Tim Edelsten

     

  33. Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus. One seen at Seosan on the 17th, holding territory adjacent to the aforementioned Great Grey.
  34. Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus. A group seen near Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam Province.
  35. Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis. A restless flock of up to 20 in ricefields at YangYang on the 15th.
  36. Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus. Four seen near Sancheong in Gyeongsangnam Province on the 13th.
  37. Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. One sen “tutting” in scrub at at Jinyoung Lake on the 14th.
  38. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. One in Daejin harbour.
  39. Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. One at Gyeongpo Lake, Gangneung on the 15th and one at Daejin Lighthouse on the 6th.
  40. Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis. Widespread and fairly common throughout, e.g. at Gyeongpo lake, Gangneung, on the 15th and at Chungju reservoir on the 17th- where singing.
  41. Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. Only one, on the river at Chungju.
  42. Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. One at Jinyoung Lake.
  43. Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus. Two at the Namdaecheon, YangYang on the 15th.
  44. Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. Two seen at Sokcho on the 13th by Jang Ji-Eung were followed by two at Daejin lighthouse on the 16th.

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