Bird News from Nial Moores with Team Zoothera (comprised of John Ridley, Graham Mant, Lance Degnan and Malcom Pittam, led by Nick Upton)
Multiple highlights included huge numbers of Baikal Teal and species that included Swan Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Steller’s Sea Eagles, four Relict Gull, three Sandhill Crane and seven Oriental Stork…
On January 26th, in increasingly windy conditions along the coast between Daejin and Gangneung, good views were enjoyed of both American and Asiatic White-winged Scoters, 10+ Harlequin Duck, half-a-dozen Glaucous-winged Gull and 3-4 pollicaris Black-legged Kittiwake, while we also had excellent views of White-backed and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers and both Dusky and Naumann’s Thrushes at the edge of Seorak San National Park.
Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens (with unusually pale eyes) © Nial Moores
Pacific Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla pollicaris © Nial Moores
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos © Nial Moores
On January 27th, the day started with an Eastern Imperial and perhaps three White-tailed Eagles on the river near Gyeongju; followed by a feeding flock of 11 Chinese Grosbeak at a busy road crossing; and three Red-billed Starling in Busan. At the Nakdong Estuary, we found three First-winter Relict Gull, and in woodland at Daedaepo 3+ Yellow-bellied Tit, single Japanese Bush Warbler, two personata Black-faced Bunting, and perhaps three Grey and 1-2 Tristram’s Buntings (several seen only by a couple of the team; and the last species heard only).
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria © Nial Moores
On January 28th, in beautifully sunny and mild weather (with a day-time maximum of 10C), 2+ Grey Bunting (one female and one apparent adult male) and several Yellow-bellied Tit were again in Dadaepo but still highly elusive. There were also four Relict Gull (three First winters and one Second winter), one adult Steller’s Sea Eagle and one Greater Spotted Eagle in the estuary, with single Eurasian Hoopoe, 3-4 Yellow-bellied Tit and a couple of Light-vented Bulbul (heard by NM only) in parkland at Miyeonji. In the afternoon, highlights at Junam included three distant Swan Goose, 90+ White-naped Crane, four Northern Goshawk, two White-tailed Eagle and two Hen Harrier, two Eurasian Hoopoe and 100+ Dusky Thrush, joined by a single Naumann’s Thrush.
Relict Gulls Ichthyaetus relictus with Common Gulls Larus canus © Nial Moores
Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus (with some Naumann’s Thrush influence) © Nial Moores
On January 29th, despite poor visibility and periods of heavy rain we enjoyed very good views of 500+ Hooded Crane (out of a reported 1500 there), one pure-looking and two presumed hybrid Common Cranes, and thanks entirely to help from Mr Kang Naru (of Suncheon Bay Eco-Service) also three Sandhill Crane. Also present in the same fields were single Rough-legged and Upland Buzzards, a Red-throated Pipit (heard only) and high hundreds of geese – with this goose flock also containing 3-4 Swan and two adult Lesser White-fronted Goose.
Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis © Nial Moores
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus © Nial Moores
In the late afternoon, we went to a public roadside viewpoint overlooking a reservoir that is still closed-off because of fears over Avian Influenza. There we enjoyed somewhat distant but still good views of a hugely impressive flock of close to a half-million Baikal Teal. The awesome serenity of the place, however, was somewhat broken by one verbally abusive and overly officious person who tried to get us to move from this public road by shouting rudely and waving his fist at us: what for?
A small part (!) of the flock of Baikal Teal Anas formosa © Nial Moores
On January 30th, strong cold winds made birding quite challenging – but all the same we still found seven Oriental Stork (three with bands) and perhaps half-a-dozen Cinereous Vulture in and around Gomso Bay; and then enjoyed prolonged views of a flock of 240 Saunders’s Gull at the Geum Estuary, where there was still one Tristram’s Bunting (NM only) and a single flock of 20+ Light-vented Bulbul (NU & MP only). Last day of the bird was quite unexpected: a single Eurasian Woodcock was watched flying out from cover and across the highway.
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi © Nial Moores
Our last day was spent travelling back up towards Incheon, en route seeing Daurian Jackdaw and a flock of 5-8,000 Baikal Teal. Visiting the Haemi Stream we saw 80+ Eurasian Spoonbill and good numbers of buntings (with Rustic, Black-faced, Common Reed, Little and Pallas’s Reed) all logged. In the late afternoon, during our final stop at the Han River we found a single Second Calendar-year Steller’s Sea Eagle and a grand total of 14 White-tailed Eagles, with one adult Steller’s also glimpsed from the car (NM) as we left the site.