Bird News from Nial Moores with Bernhard Seliger, Ha Jung-Moon and Choi Hyun-Ah
As part of Birds Korea-HSF research on the birdlife of the inner border region of Korea, we spent two full and two half-days on Baekryeong in weather that was sometimes cold and clear (with morning lows down to -7C), or mild (+7C) and windy (on the 22nd) or very foggy, with visibility falling to <100m at times (on the 23rd). Although no species were seen undertaking active migration, the species mix and the day-to-day changes in numbers suggest that spring migration has now started.
Covering most of the best sites on the island at least once, we recorded a total of 79 species, including the following estimates:
Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis. c. 300
Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris. c. 950
Tundra Bean Goose © Nial Moores. Identification of Bean Geese to species is often complicated by wide variation – both in field conditions and in Taiga Bean – with the biggest, most obvious middendorffii in the SE, and less obvious birds locally along parts of the west coast. Subtle features used in combination to ID these as Tundra rather than middendorffii Taiga Bean include their fairly modest size; their stocky-looking necks (longer, thinner-looking in Taiga, especially when alert); their “swollen” lower mandible, thicker basally, thinner distally (usually more straight-looking or shallowly convex in middendorffii, and importantly of almost equal depth both basally and distally); the obvious forehead (most middendorffii Taiga have a more swan-like slope from the forehead continuing along the bill); the darkness of the head extending on many down the neck (most middendorffii look contrastingly dark-headed); the variability of orange on the bill (almost all middendorffii show a narrow band of orange of more or less equal extent); the lack of rusty plumage tones; and the fairly subdued flank barring which often looks more contrasting in middendorffii.
Stejneger’s Scoter Melanitta (deglandi) stejnegeri. 35
American Scoter Melanitta americana. Globally Near Threatened. Ten
Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus. Globally Vulnerable. 3-6. This species is very locally distributed in Korea.
Horned Grebe © Nial Moores
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana. Globally Endangered. 1-3: three singles seen in three parts of the centre of the island, all on the 20th only. None were found in Hwadong wetland.
Oriental Stork © Nial Moores
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. One (or less likely two) on the 20th. Perhaps the first record of this species on Baekryeong?
Golden Eagle © Nial Moores
Black Kite Milvus migrans. Seven.
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. A conservative 13-14, with no less than 11 in view at one time.
White-tailed Eagle © Bernhard Seliger
Far Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus (ostralegus) osculans. Globally Near Threatened. 38-45 were present, including a flock of 34 on the 22nd. Most surprising was the behaviour of one (apparently hormonally-supercharged!) male, which displayed actively and then copulated with a female towards the centre of the flock, surrounded by “onlookers”.
Far Eastern Oystercatcher © Nial Moores
Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus. Four on the 21st and two on the 22nd.
Daurian Jackdaw © Nial Moores
Rook Corvus frugilegus. A flock of 350 on the 21st had increased to 470 on the 22nd.
Rook © Nial Moores. Although most birds showed a decent white blaze around the bill, several (presumably Second Calendar-years) lacked any white.
Carrion Crow Corvus corone. One on the 22nd. Perhaps the first record of this species on the island?
Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus. One heard on the 22nd.
Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica. Globally Near Threatened. Six were recorded in total, with singles found in two areas and a group of four seen at Yeonhwari.
Japanese Waxwing © Nial Moores
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus. Only one was heard, that on the 22nd.
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. A conservative minimum estimate of 75 included a flock of 40+ on the 20th.
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris. A flock of seven were on the rock stack at Dumujin. Easy to overlook, were some of these the same as those watched trying to head out to sea last October, that instead decided to remain for the winter? Or did they arrive later for the winter (most inland records in the ROK tend to be in Dec-Jan)? Or were they perhaps early spring migrants?
Alpine Accentor © Nial Moores
Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus. A total of 23 were recorded, mostly comprised of groups of 3-5 birds. At least one, and perhaps two, birds called with an odd rhythm.
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. One was heard on the 21st.
In addition, many images were taken of habitats; much discussion was had on possible ways forward; and two brief meetings were held with the County Mayor. Thanks – as always – to the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Korea) for funding and actively participating in this important research.