Various Sites, October 11-13

Bird news from Nial Moores (Birds Korea) and Marshall Iliff (eBird)

Counts and all species lists are posted / will be posted on eBird.

On 11th, an early start at Junam Reservoir found half-a-dozen Pheasant-tailed Jacana and a good spread of freshwater shorebirds and ducks, with highlight an always distant First Calendar-year female Baer’s Pochard (CR) associating with a group of 2-3 hybrid Baer’s x Ferruginous and one possible Ferruginous Duck.

Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri 붉은가슴흰죽지 on left with hybrid type Ferruginous x Baer’s Pochards © Nial Moores. Identification of the Critically Endangered Baer’s Pochard best needs to be based on a combination of pro-Baer’s features, and the absence of any signs of hybridisation – with hybrids presumably between Baer’s and Ferruginous and Baer’s and Common Pochard much more numerous than “pure” Baer’s in Korea, and likely in other parts of the range too. For more on hybrids see: http://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=14726; http://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=14922. Identification of this individual as a Baer’s was based on large head, heavy, rather dark bill and more “drawn-out” body than e.g. Ferruginous; dark stripes on the obviously paler flanks; extensive white to the rear; and dark head. Identification as a female was based on eye colour (dark), combined with a dark brown head, showing a hint of green gloss on the nape, and a paler brown patch on the lores. Ageing as First-winter was based on extreme dullness, contrastingly darker crown and flight views, when the bird showed patchy browner mottling on the otherwise gleaming white parts of the underparts. Initial views (top two images) suggested that the bird lacked sufficient white on the foreflanks to be anything other than a hybrid. However, white on the foreflank became increasingly obvious with better light and as the bird stretched (as with views of a male here seven years earlier to the day!) . The description from Madge and Burn’s Wildfowl (1988), written before Ferruginous became a widespread breeding species in eastern Asia, describes this bird well: “Adult female: similar to male, but whole plumage is a little duller and less rufous, with brown head and neck and dark iris; pale brown oval patch on lores and often some whitish mottling on throat. Sides of belly less extensively white than on male…Juvenile: Resembles female, but duller, with head and neck dull buffish brown, contrasting a little with the darker crown and hindneck and reddish brown breast; white of belly suffused brownish, but white on fore-flanks relatively extensive. Assumes adult plumage during first autumn and winter”.

In the afternoon, among many highlights at the Hwaseong Wetlands (where we met up for an hour with Hwaseong KFEM Director and Birds Korea member Jung Hanchul) were large numbers of Black-faced Spoonbill, great views of foraging Far Eastern (EN) and Eurasian Curlews (NT), and an adult Snow Goose which came in to roost late in the evening, together with 30,000+ Greater White-fronteds and Tundra Bean Geese.

Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis 알락꼬리마도요 © Nial Moores

On 12th, the whole day was spent on Yubu Island, walking out with the falling morning tide, and waiting (together with 25-30 other people) for the evening high tide. Obvious highlights included two or three Spoon-billed Sandpiper (CR), probably 3,000 Great Knot (EN) and 180+ Red Knot, 2,200+ Far Eastern Oystercatcher (NT), a single globally Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank (MI only) and great looks at a beautiful spread of shorebirds, including Mongolian Plovers (soon to be known as Siberian Plover with the split of mongolus / stegmanni from the recently-cointed Tibetan Plover – which is more closely related to and structurally closer to Greater Sand Plover).

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea 넓적부리도요, with Kentish Plovers © Nial Moores.
Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris 붉은어깨도요 © Nial Moores
Mongolian Plovers Charadrius mongolus 몽골왕눈물떼새 (aka Siberian Plover Charadrius mongolus 왕눈물떼새 ) © Nial Moores: a species likely to be reassessed as globally Vulnerable once split. Mongolian / Siberian Plovers apparently have shorter, stubbier bills than Tibetans, shorter-looking legs, and darker brown plumage, with some darker mottling along the flanks apparent in (almost?) all individuals.

On 13th, birds of interest in Gunsan city included at least 4 Red-billed and one “other” starling (either Chestnut-cheeked or Daurian), and in a fairly sprawling park a rather late Black-naped Oriole (NM only), and small numbers of both Chestnut and Tristram’s Buntings. A quick stop en route to Seosan found a group of nine Swan Goose in the Geum Estuary, and at Seosan Lake A best were six Lesser White-fronted Geese seen, with at least one additional bird heard. Like so many other species, the gorgeous but globally Vulnerable species is undergoing an extremely rapid rate of decline including in the east of the range.

Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus 흰이마기러기 © Nial Moores : part of a family of five (two adults and three “birds of the year”). One of the adults (the bird in the top image and to the rear of the bottom picture) was extremely protective and watchful over the young, getting higher to keep an eye on them, and trying to look threatening (with neck outstretched and bill open) as several much bigger and typically-unaware Greater White-fronts barged their way into the Lesser’s feeding patch…

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