Bird News from Matt Poll
A peaceful bit of coastal reedbeds near the Suncheon Bay park becomes a bit less peaceful every week, with construction creeping in from two sides, and a noticeable increase in noisy bike-tour groups in the short time I have been here. In spite of this, the area has been fairly productive for birds lately, with winter birds clearing out, and migrants and summer visitors moving through.
Mid-April saw the first Stejneger’s Stonechats (8) and Eastern Cattle Egrets in the area, and a pair of Garganey were spotted on the mudflats. On April 28th, a lone Little Tern was seen successfully dive-bombing for fish, Stonechat numbers were down to three, and at least four noisy Oriental Reed Warblers were heard singing their discordant tune from the reeds.
In the early morning of April 30th, on a small farm track next to a reedy ditch and a flooded field, I flushed a small dark snipe. It flushed almost silently (I thought I heard a light gasping sound, but it may have been the wings hitting grass) only when I almost stepped on it, and flew relatively straight and slowly, to a spot perhaps 30 feet away. I got a quick binocular look at it, and made out a small dark pointy tail, and lighter braces on the back. I could not re-locate the bird in the short stubble, in spite of being quite close to where it landed. Later in the day I re-sighted the Eurasian Bittern, as it did a lazy circuit around its reedy pond.
In the vain hope of re-finding the mystery snipe, I returned to the spot before dawn the following day, with predictable results. The day was not a loss by any means, as there were definite signs of movement in the area. Small groups of Ashy Minivets were heard overhead several times heading inland, and three Striated Herons were found on a wooded hill. Six Pacific Golden Plovers paced a stubbly field, with a probable Little Whimbrel spotted nearby. A Siberian Rubythroat was briefly encountered on a small trail.
The highlight came in a small scrubby wetland – my first and long-awaited Bluethroat, a very special experience. A faintly-coloured male was first spotted singing from atop a small tree. It was convincingly plagiarizing snippets of Brown-eared Bulbul, White Wagtail, and Oriental Reed Warbler songs, among others! After shifting singing perches several times, it was chased off by a brighter-toned male, which took up the chaotic crooning. A third, even more colourful male was soon seen singing from a nearby reed. Within an hour after the first sighting, they seemed to clear out, and were not seen again later in the day, or week.
On May 4th a dozen Chinese Penduline Tits still lingered in the reeds, and several groups of 10-20 Brown-eared Bulbuls were seen flying around the coast, and they had the feel of ‘movement’ to them. The highlight of the morning came in the form of an Ochre-rumped Bunting which was quite confiding at first, offering good views of the characteristic peachy wash on the rump and back.
For the past few weeks Eurasian Curlew, Common Greenshank, and Whimbrels have been seen on the flats, in numbers ranging between 40-100, depending on the tides, along with twenty to thirty Godwits, mostly Black-tailed with a few Bar-tailed mixed in earlier in April. On May 4th, three Mongolian Plovers, six Terek Sandpipers, and a dozen Grey Plovers were seen on the mudflats.
Holiday travel logistics conspired to keep me away from Yellow Sea islands over the long Birdathon weekend, so I planned on heading back to Geomundo, south of Yeosu. The boats were cancelled due to heavy fog, so I went to Dolsan-do, a charming and sleepy island connected to southern Yeosu by bridge. In a town on the southwest side, ten Red-rumped Swallows were very picky where they nested, only using the eaves of one seaside minbak. Next to a mountain road, three tiny juvenile Long-tailed Tits perched motionless on a low twig, with no adult bird in site. Perhaps newly fledged? Ashy Minivets could be heard flying just over the treetops, and the songs and calls of Pale Thrush, Oriental Cuckoo, Grey-capped Greenfinch and Asian Stubtail rang through the mountain forest. A Grey Nightjar called from the same hills after sundown.
On the hills and mountains around Suncheon, Ashy Minivets were heard flying across valleys on several occasions during April. On April 27th on Jukdobong Hill, several confiding White’s Thrushes gave some great views as they hopped along trails, and a pair of Common Kingfishers appeared to be nesting in a dense thicket of bamboo. Two Asian Stubtails were heard on a nearby mountain.
On a mountain hike west of town on May 5th, the woods were echoing with the haunting songs of several Oriental and Indian Cuckoos, as well as two Brown-headed Thrush – do they normally sing on migration? A Yellow-browed Warbler was also heard, and an Oriental Dollarbird was seen perched next to a road.