Open sea between Heuksan and Chilbal, August 29th

Bird News from Nial Moores, Rainer Ertel and Herman Reinhardt

From a fishing boat, an excellent day’s birding, with close encounters with two of 20 Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, 200+ Common Tern (showing a range of bare part coloration), single Flesh-footed Shearwater, several hundred Streaked Shearwater, 600+ Red-necked Phalarope, a single Pomarine Skua and one or two South Polar Skua: the latter species the highlight for NM at least! With wonderful steering by the boat’s captain, we were able to approach one of the South Polar Skua’s closely – as it first rested on a buoy and then roosted on the sea – allowing Dr. Ertel to take an excellent series of images.


Common Terns Sterna hirundo



Common Terns Sterna hirundo


South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki


South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki

Identification as South Polar (a scarce but apparently regular species in ROK waters, especially between July and October) was supported by examination of a couple of the images by seabird expert David James, who commented,

“My first impression is an adult intermediate-morph South-polar. It is within the realm of darkness to be a Brown Skua, but it seems too warm orangey or pinky-buff on the underparts, a distinctive colour of South-polar. From below it would show considerable contrast between underparts. Another important issue is the scattered pale streaks on the scapulars. These are essentially shaft-streaks, are restricted to the scapulars, and are also characteristically paler and bolder distally. When Brown skua shows pale streaks on the upperparts, they tend to be over a range of tracts, are uniformly white, and tend to be on the outer margins of the feathers… It appears that the complete pre-basic moult is well progressed. The timing seems early for SPSK to me, though it is not well-known and apparently quite variable. But I have definitely seen less advanced moult in late October” (David James, in lit. Sep 16 2011).


Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus


Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus


Streaked Shearwaters Calonectris leucomelas


Streaked Shearwaters Calonectris leucomelas


South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki

All photographs © Rainer Ertel/Birds Korea.

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