Various Northern Sites, January 31-February 2

Bird News from Nial Moores with Dan van den Broek and Scott Lukens

An enjoyable and highlight-rich three days of winter birding were spent in the excellent company of Dan van den Broek and Scott Lukens from Audubon in Portland, Oregon. Weather was bright and cold throughout, with dawn minima ranging from -12C on the 1st to -20C at Cheorwon on the 2nd and day maxima rising close to zero. Sites visited included a river in the northeast on 31st; Namhansan Seong and Paldang on the 1st; and Cheorwon and various stops along the Imjin River on the 2nd.

More widespread species of note, perhaps more obvious because of the freezing conditions, included White-tailed Eagle (with probably 19 at Paldang, and e.g. five on the Imjin), Naumann’s and Dusky Thrush (largest mixed flock was probably 40-50 at Paldang) and Hawfinch (small flocks at almost every stop). Other regular species of note seen at two or more sites included Cinereous Vulture (only 5-6 in Cheorwon but 60-70 over the Han-Imjin), Northern Goshawk, Long-billed Plover and Japanese Wagtail. Of greatest note in the Korean context, however, was a concentration of at least 160-180 Carrion Crow at Paldang (easily the largest such concentration seen in the ROK by NM: do others know of bigger-still concentrations?).

rs-HAWFINCH-DSC08340Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes © Nial Moores

Highlights on the 31st included two Pale Thrush at Yeongjong, Japanese Quail and great views of about 30 Scaly-sided Merganser (at one time within the same view as several Falcated Duck, two Baikal Teal and several Smew: where else in the world is that possible?).

RS-ssm2

RS-ssm1Scaly-sided Mergansers Mergus squamatus © Nial Moores

RS-BaikalpairBaikal Teal Anas formosa © Nial Moores.  Ageing of the male as a First-winter (Second Calendar-year) is based on the length and pattern of the “super-scaps”; the brown on the flanks; the contrast in the bill; the dirty look to the yellow and green on the head; and the white line on the head stopping short above the eye. This last ID feature was first presented on the Birding Frontiers website, built by Martin Garner who sadly yielded to terminal cancer last weekend. For one of many tributes written to this truly outstanding birder and human being, please see this heartfelt post on Birding Beijing.

On the 1st, highlights included White-backed Woodpecker, 30+ Mandarin Duck, two Chinese Grosbeak, two Siberian Accentor and three Steller’s Sea Eagle (with an additional Second Calendar-year Steller’s seen near Paju on the 2nd).

RS-stellersSteller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus © Nial Moores

On the 2nd, highlights included probably 75 Red-crowned and 300+ White-naped Crane at Cheorwon and a dozing Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

rsFLYINGWNCBETTER-DSC08278 White-naped Crane Grus vipio © Nial Moores

RS-Redcrowned07700Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis © Nial Moores

RS-EURASIANEAGLEOWL-DSC08449Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo © Nial Moores

All images taken through a truly excellent Swarovski scope.

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