Goheung, July 4-5

Bird News from Matt Poll with Heloise Stankard

A return trip to Goheung once more yielded some very interesting birds.  Goheung is rich in a variety of habitats, ranging from mixed mountain forests, tidal mudflats, small sandy beaches, vast tracts of scrub-fringed rice fields, weedy reservoirs, and impressive stretches of reedbeds.

The undoubted highlight of the trip was found after a 45-minute hike up a quiet mountain trail, amidst mixed deciduous/coniferous forest.  The distinct trill of Ashy Minivets rang across a valley, and a dramatic scene was soon witnessed in glimpses through the dense foliage.  Two Eurasian Jays seemed to be harrying at least two juvenile Ashy Minivets, while one, more probably two, adult birds flew back and forth repeatedly, calling urgently.  This is apparently the first summer and breeding record for the ROK.  The call of the juvenile birds was weaker yet more urgent than that of the adults, which may explain a strange ‘minivet-like’ call I heard coming from a nearby valley on June 13th.  This encounter brought to mind several Ashy Minivets heard calling on a mountain near downtown Suncheon on June 7th.  Were these birds late migrants, or perhaps something else?

Earlier in the day, while driving through a small town, a Black-capped Kingfisher was seen casually perched on wires by the side of the road.   It eventually flew down to a wooded area near some rice fields.   I had forgotten what large and impressive birds they were!

As when I visited on June 13-14, the mountains were bustling with juveniles – young Great, Varied, Long-tailed, and Coal Tits, Eastern Crowned Warblers, Yellow-throated Buntings, and Pale Thrushes were all seen trying out fresh wings and skills.  Two pairs of Black Paradise Flycatcher, and at least five Fairy Pittas were heard in the hills on that earlier trip, but not on this more recent visit.  A tiny Ussuri Mamushi Pitviper was also seen along the mountain trail.  At lower elevations, it was great to see seemingly very healthy summer populations of Chinese Sparrowhawk, Striated Heron, Black-naped Oriole, Oriental Dollarbird, Little Ringed Plover, and Meadow Bunting.  Goheung is an exciting and special place to go birding – I will try to return as often as possible, as there is so much great habitat and potential there.

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Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata © Matt Poll

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Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus (juvenile) © Matt Poll

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Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus (juvenile) © Matt Poll

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Goheung habitat © Matt Poll

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Goheung habitat © Matt Poll

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Goheung habitat © Matt Poll

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Goheung habitat © Matt Poll

2 comments on “Goheung, July 4-5

  1. Superb stuff! What a surprising find – especially as Ryukyu Minivet would seem a rather more likely species to find breeding near to the south coast…A small correction though: no doubt a result of our checklist codes and the quite confused background to this species and assumptions of breeding (which perhaps contributed to Brazil’s field-guide incorrectly mapping the species as a summer visitor to much of the Korean Peninsula).

    There have been several summer time records of Ashy Minivet in the ROK (though none “we” know of since 2000, hence the lack of SV1 or SV2 code). Dr Park Jin Young’s 2002 doctoral thesis, however, contains several records from June and July from Seoul (mostly before 1960), Gyeonggi and Gangwon (most recent was four on July 9th 1997) . Breeding was therefore earlier suspected towards the north of the ROK and perhaps elsewhere.

    For the DPRK, Tomek’s ornithological review (also published in 2002) contains no June or July records of the species. She states that it is a “Passage migrant and probably rare breeding species” in the DPRK, with the likelihood of breeding based on the opinion of Prof. Won Hong-Koo (that the species either bred or was suspected of breeding) and on the assumption of breeding in the ROK (see below). However, many of Won Hong-Koo’s breeding records were earlier wrongly rejected by the likes of Austin (and thence subsequent authors), more because of Austin’s racist sentiments than for any other good reason (see Duckworth & Moores 2008 paper in Forktail 24) . Without access to the original text it seems not possible to state whether breeding was suspected or confirmed in the DPRK. Helpfully though, Tomek provides two references for suggesting that the Ashy Minivet breeds “very rarely in South Korea”. These are by Hahm Kyu-Hwang & Yoo Jae-Pyoung (1992) and Won Pyong-Oh (2000). According to her references, the first paper was a study on bird distribution in “Daechung Lake, Ch’ungch’ongbuk-do” published by the Environmental Research Institute, Kyungnam University (and not in a study on Geoje Island as I incorrectly first suggested: apologies for my mistake) and the second was a national checklist produced by Prof. Won Pyong-Oh (and his students). It would be wonderful if someone could dig out the paper by Prof. Hahm et al: did they confirm breeding? If so, did they rule out Ryukyu Minivet (at that time considered a subspecies of Ashy)? Either way, there are NO records in Dr Park’s thesis to indicate summer presence either in Chungcheongbuk Province or in the south of the ROK. And in addition, the 2000 checklist by the ROK’s father of ornithology Prof. Won (son of Prof. Won Hong-Koo!) sadly contains multiple errors and should not be used by itself to indicate breeding or not.

    To summarise: this is not the first summer record of Ashy Minivet in the ROK (though it might be the first since 2000?); and dependent on whether there is clear evidence of breeding provided by Prof. Won Hong Koo or Prof. Hahm, and in the absence of breeding found in the past decade (please see next comment: breeding was found in 2009), it might well prove to be the first adequately-documented breeding record for the whole of the Korean peninsula! Either way, congratulations and a timely discovery (as we are now trying to revise the Checklist once more).

  2. More on Ashy Minivets: this morning received a very helpful mail from Mr Park Jong-Gil, who shared a record of nesting Ashy Minivet in Wando County, Jeollanam, from 2009:
    그외 번식기록으로 2009년 5월 16일 전라남도 완도군 정도리 해안가에 위치한 방풍림 내 높이 약 16m 교목의 상층부(약 12m)에 성조 2개체가 둥지를 만드는 모습이 관찰되었지만 6월 2일 재조사시 둥지 짓기를 포기한 것을 빙기창박사가 확인한 예도 있답니다.

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