Birds Korea Survey of the Yeoncheon Imjin River Biosphere Reserve, Early June 2022

Nial Moores, Baek Seung-Kwang, Lee Su-Young and Jang Ryang

Under contract from Yeoncheon County, we conducted five very productive days of survey of breeding birds and other biodiversity in the Yeoncheon Imjin River Biosphere Reserve on June 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th. Survey included walking along c. 12km of (really beautiful!) forest trails; multiple point counts along two of the rivers; and active search while driving through suitable habitat.

In total we recorded 90-91 species of bird, three species of mammal (including two close encounters with Nationally Threatened Asian Badgers Meles leucurus 오소리), five species of amphibian and two species of reptile (including at least 17 Nationally Threatened Reeve’s Turtles Chinemys reevesii 남생이).

Asian Badger 오소리 © Nial Moores

Among many bird highlights, the following really stand out in the Korean context: the discovery of more than 20 singing Fairy Pitta and three singing Black Paradise Flycatcher; a flock of Hill Pigeon; several Hazel Grouse seen and heard; two singing Yellow-bellied Tit; two gulping Watercock; a pair of Ruddy-breasted Crake; Crested Honey Buzzard; good numbers of Grey-faced Buzzard and Ruddy Kingfisher; and an apparent nesting pair of Little Tern.

To prevent the risk of increased disturbance, locations will only be provided in the formal report which we will submit to the County at the end of this year.

A few of the highlights follow:

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 들꿩. At least 11 encountered, including three “singing” males and a female guarding over four young chicks.

Hazel Grouse 들꿩: Adult female (above) and Chick (below) © Nial Moores

Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis 큰부리큰기러기. One seen on June 5th, together with single Greater White-fronted Anser albifrons 쇠기러기 and three Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 큰기러기.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 원앙. Surprisingly widespread, with four seen in flight in forest; several groups of males seen in rice-fields (largest groups was 24 together) and along rivers (including 17 males together with one female at one location); but only one female was seen with (four) ducklings.

Mandarin Ducks 원앙. Top © Nial Moores, below © Baek Seung-Kwang

Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 낭비둘기. Between 21 and 26 of this Nationally Threatened species were seen.

Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca 쇠뜸부기사촌. A male and female were seen together on 5th.

Ruddy-breasted Crake 쇠뜸부기사촌 © Nial Moores

Watercock Gallicrex cinerea 뜸부기. An adult male was heard and seen on 2nd; and a second individual was heard very briefly at a different location on 5th.

Watercock 뜸부기 © Nial Moores

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 검은가슴물떼새. One highly unseasonal individual was found on 5th.

Pacific Golden Plover 검은가슴물떼새 © Baek Seung-Kwang

Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus 흰목물떼새 . In large part because of high levels of disturbance and perhaps also because of the date, only three chicks and one larger juvenile were seen during the present survey.

Long-billed Plover 흰목물떼새 © Nial Moores

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 깝작도요. A total of 26 were counted along a few stretches of river, including several presumed juveniles.

Little Tern Sternula albifrons 쇠제비갈매기. Two were found on a gravel-covered island in a river on 5th, initially with one sitting and one feeding. After 20 minutes, the feeding bird replaced the sitting bird, sitting in exactly the same location, suggesting that the birds were on eggs.

Little Tern 쇠제비갈매기© Baek Seung-Kwang

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus 벌매. Two were seen flying along one hill ridge on the 7th, raising the possibility of local breeding.

Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 붉은배새매. At least 14 were counted, with two pairs in display, and the remainder males sat out watching over rice-fields.

Chinese Sparrowhawk 붉은배새매 © Baek Seung-Kwang

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 참매. Up to five individuals were seen in 3 different locations, including one striding through a rice-field!

Northern Goshawk 참매 © Baek Seung-Kwang

Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus 왕새매. Approximately 13 were seen, including one carrying a branch (presumably to use in nest construction).  

Grey-faced Buzzard 왕새매 © Nial Moores

Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda 호반새. Approximately 18 were heard (and one glimpsed) in the main survey areas; many areas in Yeoncheon known to hold the species from previous research were not visited.

Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata 청호반새. Only one was seen; and another two or three probables heard. The rapid decrease of this species noted elsewhere apparently continues on – even in Yeoncheon, in the inner border area.

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha 팔색조. Survey of an especially sensitive site in Yeoncheon in 2020 found five in song.   During the present survey period, that site was not revisited but single birds were heard in song over a motel in Jeongok and next to the home of two Birds Korea Yeoncheon members; and at least 21 additional individuals were heard in song in forest which we consider to be highly suitable for breeding during the survey work. More research is required, but it seems rather likely that the Yeoncheon Imjin River Biosphere supports globally important numbers (i.e., >1%) of the world population of this species, estimated by BirdLife International (2022) to be between 1,500 and 7,000 mature individuals.

Fairy Pittas 팔색조 © Nial Moores

Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus 칡때까치. Remarkably numerous in some of the areas we surveyed, with c. 38 individuals recorded in total.

Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata 긴꼬리딱새. Three heard, with one (a Second Calendar-year male) seen and photographed.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone 까마귀. Found in two different areas. In one area, a juvenile was watched begging food off two adults.

Carrion Crow 까마귀 © Baek Seung-Kwang

Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus 노랑배진박새. Two were heard singing in forest on 4th.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola jundicis 개개비사촌. Two were heard in song on the 5th.

Warbling White-eye Zosterops japonicus 동박새. Small numbers were found in four different areas, including one seen gathering nest material.

Warbling White-eye 동박새 © Baek Seung-Kwang

Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 쇠솔딱새. Seen in two locations.

Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 검은딱새.  Remarkably numerous in suitable habitat, with at least 37 individuals noted, including several freshly-fledged juveniles.

Juvenile Stejneger’s Stonechat 검은딱새 © Nial Moores.

Reference

BirdLife International. 2022. Species factsheet: Pitta nympha. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/06/2022.

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