Bird News, Part 1, from Nial Moores with Team Zoothera
Several excellent days of birding in below-average temperatures, with morning lows close to -15C on both the 22nd and 23rd.
On the 21st, highlights of a visit by Team Zoothera (comprised of John Ridley, Graham Mant, Lance Degnan and Malcom Pittam, led by Nick Upton) to the National Arboretum included three Solitary Snipe, two Yellow-bellied Tit and a Black Woodpecker heard.
Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria © Nial Moores
On the 22nd, a day was spent in and around the CCZ in Cheorwon (again with warmest thanks to Dr Jiseok Jung for helping with access), with highlights including 200-250 Red-crowned and 300-350 White-naped Cranes; c. 500 Cinereous Vulture, seven White-tailed Eagle, 50+ Baikal Teal, a single Chinese Grey Shrike, three Long-tailed Rosefinch and 400+ Rustic Bunting, with the day closing to the sight and sound of a “singing” Eurasian Eagle-Owl.
White-naped Crane Grus vipio © Nial Moores
Long-tailed Rosefinches Carpodacus sibiricus © Nial Moores
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo © Nial Moores
On the 23rd, two Hazel Grouse (one feeding, the other sleeping) and a small number of Naumann’s Thrushes were highlights of a morning spent at Namhansanseong where a Japanese Waxwing was also heard but not seen. Afternoon highlights at the Han River including a single adult Steller’s Sea Eagle, a Rough-legged Buzzard, 3+ Siberian Accentor and six Pallas’s Reed Bunting.
Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia © Nial Moores
Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni © Nial Moores
Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus © Nial Moores
Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella © Nial Moores
On the 24th, to a stunning background of trees clad in hoar frost, we found a dozen globally Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser and enjoyed great views of several Meadow Bunting at four river-stops; and in the afternoon counted 190 Asian Rosy Finch and found a single (returning?) Snow Bunting and 6-10 Pallas’s Rosefinch on a mountaintop near to Taebaek City.
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides © Nial Moores
Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis with Asian Rosy Finch Leucosticte arctoa © Nial Moores
On the 25th, with day-time maxima finally climbing above zero, we enjoyed spectacular numbers of birds along the coast between Daejin and Geojin, with perhaps 25,000+ gulls (with the majority Common Gull [perhaps 15,000] and Slaty-backeds [8,000?) , several thousand loons, and hundreds of Red-necked Grebe, Ancient Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet. In addition to the massive numbers, species of greatest note in the Korean context included one or two First-winter American Herring Gulls (the one in the image below not seen in flight; the second seen well on the ground and in flight); 5+ Glaucous-winged Gull; a very small (barrovianus?) Glaucous Gull; a gull that showed multiple features of Western Gull and seemed to be far out of the range of Slaty-backed (digiscoped through those annoying green railings…); and from the boat, at least seven Spectacled Guillemot; two Brunnich’s and 12-15 Common Murres; and a single Long-billed Murrelet.
One of the presumed American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus © Nial Moores
Gull apparently showing multiple features of Second Calendar-year Western Gull Larus occidentalis © Nial Moores (top two images) & Nick Upton (lower three images).
This was an agressive and strikingly dark-looking grey, brown and white gull seen in very bright light next to several hundred Slaty-backed and a few dozen Vega Gulls. In addition to the darkness of the bird, including a strong dark grey wash on much of the underparts, the single most distinctive plumage feature was the grey face-mask. The bird’s size combined with the replaced “adult grey” on the upperparts should rule all out all Asian species apart from Taimyr and Slaty-backed. That face-mask and many other features rule out a pure Taimyr. And the longish black primaries (with the underside of the closed primaries looking obviously dusky when seen in shade); the dark on the scutes; the broad white fringe to solid dark tertials and the strong grey wash on the underparts and head really are not Slaty-backed features. Instead,the dark streaks in the “adult grey”; the streaking on the crown; the extent of wing-coverts moult; the dusky tone to the underside of the primaries; the strong patterning on the white background of the rump contrasting with the broad dark tail band all seem to be “good” Western features. Concerns have been raised about the pattern of the coverts and in the overexposed top two images about the bird’s being too pale and the bill too weak for a Western. Further informed opinions, as always, are highly welcome.