Bird News from Nial Moores and Ha Jeong Mun
As super-typhoon Nangka weakened rapidly into a Category One, and further degraded as it hit land in western Japan on July 16th, hopes still remained high that the resultant northerly winds might be productive for seabirds, even though only Streaked Shearwater were seen by NM moving in any numbers off Igidae on the 15th and 16th (with 605 south in only 30 minutes on 15th; and 250/ hour south on 16th).
On the 17th, counting for three hours (from 0810-11:10) at the first point near Daebo on the Guryongpo Peninsula in strong northerlies, with 2-3m waves, heavy overcast and occasional spells of drizzle (that reduced visibility from >50km to <5km and at worst to c. 1km), produced a total of 442 Streaked Shearwater moving east out of the bay toward open sea. This slow stream of birds contained several highlights.
In the first hour, the first highlight was a Short-tailed Shearwater (first of several seen during the day); followed soon after by an unidentified long-winged and long-tailed all dark petrel-type (NM only); followed by a breeding-plumaged Brunnich’s Murre flying close to the count-point (NM only). Although the light was too poor to see the bill stripe, identification was based on the heavy bill, short-necked and heavy-headed look typical of the species, in addition to e.g. lack of flank striping. This is the first mid-summer record in the ROK known to us.
During the second hour, we then saw the first of two Sooty Shearwater. Identification of both birds, seen about one hour apart, was based entirely on structure as the light was so poor. Both birds looked like “all-dark Streaked Shearwaters”, with a broader-looking wing-base and less angled wings, simply looking more powerful, larger, heavier-bodied, larger billed and longer-tailed than the Short-taileds (although not seen in direct comparison).
This first Sooty Shearwater was followed soon after by the highlight of the day. NM saw a group of five or so jaeger-like birds at the edge of the sea-mist, towering and chasing above the waves before apparently dropping back down onto the sea. Twenty minutes later, he then focused in on a pale-breasted, dark-winged jaeger with extremely long tail streamers that curled down (paradise flycatcher-like!) as it headed east across the bay: adult Long-tailed Jaeger! HJM was able to see the bird for a good few seconds in NM’s scope, before NM then tried to re-find it and take a couple of images as it rounded the headland. Most of the next set of scope views, when the bird did not seem to show such an obviously long tail (the bird below), were of the upperwing which showed at most a faint white line in the outer primaries. Ten minutes later, HJM then picked up another Long-tailed Jaeger with full tail streamers as it also moved east. NM failed to see this bird, but while scanning for it saw another jaeger that structurally also looked good for Long-tailed, with apparently almost no white in the upper primaries and either short or no tail streamers.
Two images show one or more likely two of these birds: the first is a white-breasted, dark-winged blur (not worth posting here); the second (below) is a slender-winged jaeger, with tail projection behind the wings apparently rather greater than the width of the wing base; a short, stout-looking bill; a dark cap apparently extending to the bill base (without any hint of pale as usually shown by Parasitic); and most strikingly, no obvious white in the upper primaries. Increasing the contrast further (bottom image) suggests that the primaries and secondaries were also somewhat darker than the upperwing coverts. In this individual the tail streamers are either too thin to be seen or are broken off.
Assuming that each of these birds were likely to be different (and from the group of five jaeger-like birds seen earlier) then it seems that we probably saw at least three or four Long-tailed Jaeger. There are only a few records and even fewer previous images of this species from Korean waters. While the first sight record was in 2002, the first photograph of the species was only taken in 2011 (published in the Korean Journal of Ornithology) and the species remains listed in V2.
We then moved around the headland, as the wind seemed to weaken and the movement round the headland dried-up. At one point, we counted at least 370 Streaked Shearwater feeding, most of them close-in, though again the light was so poor that taking good digiscoped images was impossible.
Moving down the east coast, we could see a steady line of Streaked Shearwater moving north. Halfway between Daebo and Guryongpo, we made our last stop. Between 1355 and 1535, NM estimated approximately 1500 moving north per hour, based on five timed counts, and with this movement probably starting at about 12, in total we saw probably >5,000 during the day: sadly, none of which were imaged well!
To recap the other highlights of the day:
Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris. Total of 5-7 seen
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus. Two.
Unidentified dark shearwater. Two or three.
Unidentified dark shearwater © Nial Moores. Two images of the same bird, with Streaked Shearwaters. Apparent large size (looking to be as large as or larger than some of the Streakeds?), hint of bill (even in images of this extremely poor quality), and fairly solid tail all suggest that this was perhaps also a Sooty, though identification was left unresolved. Anyone with much experience of both species willing to comment?
Unidentified petrel. One.
Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. Three.
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. Four or five.
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. Probably 300-500.
Long-tailed Jaeger Stercorarius longicaudus. Minimum two full-tailed adults; maximum four or five.
Brunnich’s Murre Uria lomvia. One (NM only)