Various Sites, January 11 – 24

Bird News from Nial Moores with Ed Keeble and others

As part of the Birds Korea survey on Scaly-sided Merganser, we visited various inland riverine sites from January 11th -14th; and again for part of January 19th and 22nd. In addition, we visited the north-east coast (where joined for some of 15th and most of 16th by Jason Loghry, Tim Edelsten and Jang Ji-Eung); the south-east and south-west (joining up with Andreas Kim for several hours on the 21st) and northern-central sites again on 23rd and 24th (when joined by Roger and Julia Labbett). In total, we recorded approximately 175 species. Outstanding highlights included finding the ROK’s first Ring-necked Duck (accompanied by a puzzling small scaup); several Caspian Gull; national high counts of three alcid species (as described enthusiastically by TE mid-month); three overwintering Barn Swallows and a new national high count of Pine Bunting. Less positively, in addition to increased disturbance of waterbirds being caused by “scientists in white suits” trying to disinfect Anatidae sites, there is clearly yet another road-building and land-clearing boom taking place, with bulldozers in action at many of the sites we visited – this despite the many near-empty roads and unfinished buildings encountered nationwide.

Among the most notable bird records:

  1. Swan Goose Anser cygnoides. Fifteen were at Suncheon Bay on 21st and 32 were at the Geum Estuary on 22nd.
  2. Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. One was at Suncheon bay (NM only) and probably 10+ were found in Haenam County on 21st and 22nd.
  3. Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. An adult with a red-neck collar, with F16 in white, was on a river at approx. 37.13.516 N, 127.44.638 E on the 12th.
  4. Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. A flock of 110 on the Imjin River was a decent count of this fast-declining species.
  5. Gadwall Anas strepera. A flock of 1,400 was on Gocheonam Reclamation Lake, Haenam, on 21st.
  6. Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. A female was found on the river at Chungju on the 13th. Photographed by EK, this is the first record of this species in the ROK, and will be added to Category 1 of the Birds Korea checklist during the next update.
  7. Scaup sp. Remarkably, a small scaup recalling Lesser Scaup A. affinis was seen for a time feeding alongside the Ring-necked Duck on the 13th. Smaller than Tufted Duck A. fuligula, with a peaked rear crown (more evident at some angles than others) the bird also appeared neater, more richly-colored and smaller-billed than five Greater Scaup A. marila and several “scaup-faced” Tufted Duck present in the same flock. On one brief view of the upperwing, NM noticed grey “somewhere in the outer primaries” and disgiscoped record shots of the bird wing-flapping suggests some contrast between inner (white) and several of the outermost primaries; as well as rather dark-looking undersides to the primaries. A follow-up visit on the 23rd failed to find this individual. Informed comments welcome!

    Scaup sp., © Ed Keeble



    Scaup sp., © Ed Keeble



    Scaup sp., © Ed Keeble


  9. Bufflehead Bucephala albeola. As noted by TE, last winter’s male was back in the same corner of the same lake in Sokcho on 15th.
  10. Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus. In all, we found 115 “Scalies” (out of the total 149 recorded by the Birds Korea survey this winter).

    Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus, © Ed Keeble


  12. Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata. One was well inland on the river in Chungju on the 14th.
  13. Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii. One found off the Daejin lighthouse on the morning of the 16th was relocated later the same evening in the harbour by JJE.
  14. Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana. One was present in Haenam County on the 20th and 21st.
  15. Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus. About 100 were seen on the 11th, with smaller numbers recorded at other sites in the far northeast and southwest and in Cheorwon.
  16. Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca. A rather shy adult was seen well in Haenam County on both the 20thand 21st.

    Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, © Ed Keeble



    Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, © Ed Keeble


  18. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. An adult soaring over Chungju Reservoir on the 14th was a surprise find.

    Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, © Ed Keeble


  20. Black Kite Milvus migrans. One at Suncheon Bay on 20th was NM’s personal first at this site.
  21. White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Found on several rivers and near the coast in the far northeast. Numbers encountered during this survey suggest that perhaps ~200 (?) are overwintering nationally this year.
  22. Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus. An adult sitting on ice in Pohang on 18th, sandwiched in between new roads and other infrastructure, and an adult at Paldang on 23rd were the only ones we encountered.
  23. Merlin Falco columbarius. One near Imjingak on the 11th (EK only) and a male and female sitting within 100m of each other on telegraph wires in Cheorwon County on 24th seem noteworthy.
  24. White-naped Crane Grus vipio. Despite all the bulldozing and noise in Cheorwon, we saw about 290 there on the 24th, with 26 on the Imjin River near Paju on the 11th and c.70 at the Junam Reservoirs on the 18th
  25. Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis. Two were on a river near Wonju on the 13th and about 75 were counted in Cheorwon on the 24th.
  26. Common Crane Grus grus. One First-winter was at Suncheon on the 21st.
  27. Hooded Crane Grus monacha. At least 583 (including multiple hybrids) were present in Suncheon Bay on the 21st.
  28. Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria. Only two were seen at the national arboretum, where >100m of the river has been re-engineered, with gabion mattress and dredging since December for now destroying part of the 400m of river preferred by the species.
  29. Relict Gull Ichthyaetus relictus. Three were in the Nakdong Estuary (EK only) on 19th; and December’s First-winter was still in the Geum Estuary on the 21st.
  30. Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens. Probably ten were seen on 15th, with most at Ayajin and Geojin.
  31. Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides. An adult at Ayajin found earlier by other observers was still present on the 15th. Although its identity was initially questioned by some observers, it showed long primary projection on the closed wing and also a small-headed look (shown well in the images).

    Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides, © Ed Keeble


  33. American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus. An adult found earlier by other observers was watched briefly on Odael beach in Tonghae on the 17th.

    American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus, © Ed Keeble


  35. Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans. Identification criteria for this taxon, and its separation from mongolicus,barabensis and possible intergrades, are still being developed and to date there have been probably fewer than five records nationally, all adults, of what seem to be really “good” cachinnans. Best candidates are more obviously paler-saddled than vegae, white-headed in mid-winter, beady-eyed and long-billed, with much white in the outer primaries. On the 15th, a small, pale-saddled, white-headed though quite pale-eyed adult gull with extensive white on the underside of P10 and a large mirror on P9 was found at Gonghyeun Beach, between Ayajin and Geojin. On the basis of its striking appearance but less than striking bill, this individual was identified as a female cachinnans. Remarkably, on 16th perhaps one or two adult cachinnans (again paler-mantled than vegae, and with strikingly long bills) and one or two additional adult cachinnans-types (same as or darker above than vegae) were then found 20km further north at Daejin in a flock of 500+gulls – sharing several features that seemed to rule against other regularly-occurring taxa. On 17th, this gull flock contained three presumed adult cachinnans and a First-winter (much more contrastingly-patterned than any of the thousands of First-winter mongolicus seen over the years), with one perhaps additional adult and one or morecachinnans-types then seen soon after on the beach by the January Pension 3km south. If identification is correct, probably five or more Caspian Gull were present during this period, found in the three gull roosts that were checked out of the many roosts and feeding flocks scattered along this part of the coast

    Cachinnans-type Gull, © Nial Moores



    Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans, © Ed Keeble



    Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans, © Ed Keeble


  37. Steppe Gull” Larus heuglini barabensis. One Third-winter was at Daejin on the 16th, and an adult was at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd.
  38. Brunnich’s Murre Uria lomvia. A total of 49 (a new national high-day count) was counted during a 3.5 hour boat trip on the 16th.
  39. Common Murre Uria aalge. Perhaps four were seen from Geojin headland on 15th , and 26 (a new national high day-count) were logged during our boat trip on the 16th, including one in full-breeding plumage, and two non-breeding plumaged birds swimming within 100m of each other that both showed oddly white-looking napes.

    Breeding plumaged Common Murre Uria aalge, © Ed Keeble



    Pale-naped Common Murre Uria aalge, © Ed Keeble


  41. Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo. Two were seen from land (on 15th and 16th) and two from the boat on 16th.
  42. Long-billed Murrelet Brachyramphus perdix. One was seen from Geojin headland on the 15th and three were seen together from the boat on the 16th.
  43. Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. Approximately 1270 were counted from the boat on the 16th.
  44. Least Auklet Aethia pusilla. Three or four possibles were seen from the Geojin headland on the 15th (EK and JL only) and 12 (a new national high day count) were counted from the boat on the 16th.
  45. Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo. One was watched calling during the afternoon on the 11th near Jeonkok.
  46. Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops. Two were seen together at the Junam Reservoirs on the 18th.

    Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops, © Ed Keeble


  48. Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus. One was heard (NM only) at the National Arborteum on the 23rd.
  49. Asian Short-toed Lark Calandrella cheleensis (?). A small and slender-looking lark, perhaps this species, was seen on the shore of the Gumho Reclamation Lake, Haenam, on the 21st. Seen only in flight it appeared to be 20-30% smaller and slighter than the Far Eastern Skylarks Alauda japonica it was with.
  50. Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica. Around 400 were seen in fields north of Ayajin on the 17th: This is the largest flock of this species seen by NM since at least the mid-1990s.
  51. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Three hawking over the river at Chungju on 14th in temperatures of -8C was one of the most unexpected observations of the trip.
  52. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs? Although views were insufficient to confirm identification, an olive-toned Brambling-sized and –shaped finch with two white wing-bars, white outer tail feathers and a plain rump was seen briefly at close range by NM as it flew below an elevated stretch of road by the Geum River just west of Gongju City on the 22nd. It was later presumed to join a Brambling F. montifringilla and fly together south down the river.
  53. Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus. A presumed female-type was seen in Cheorwon County on the 24th.
  54. Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. One possible was heard in Gangneung on the 15th (NM only); and two were found and photographed at Daejin lighthouse on the 16th. At least one was still present there on the 17th.

    Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea, © Ed Keeble


  56. Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. On the 24th, one or two were heard and seen poorly at Baekma Hill in Cheorwon, and two hours later a flock of 54 were counted near the road 10km east from there. This is the largest flock and the highest national day count of this species known to Birds Korea (Park Jin Young’s 2002 doctoral thesis includes records of 40 seen on February 2nd 1992 at the Imjin River and 30 in Cheorwon on January 18th 1996).

    Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos, © Ed Keeble



    Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos, © Ed Keeble


  58. Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensis. One (or more?) were at Gumho Reclamation Lake in Haenam County on the 21st.

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