East Coast Winter Trip Report, Feb 25-26

Bird News by Bradlee Sulentic with Dr. Nial Moores, Ju Yong-ki Nim, Jason Loghry, Tim Edelsten, Matt Poll and Subhojit Chakladar

Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus antiquus. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with six fellow birders from Birds Korea (of six different countries), on a trip to the east coast for some sea-watching and hopefully a pelagic trip (fell through due to weather). We were able to see 57 species over the course of two days, including a few real good looks at some nice birds (more on this later). The weekend started out with snow on the drive in and stayed brisk and breezy for the remainder of the weekend, which made for some cold fingers and noses, as well as some tricky birding. A few things really stand out to me from the trip.

First, to be in the company of six fellow Birds Koreans was special. I found out that it’s definitely the people that make this organization what it is. There were seven very different people present, though everyone’s passion for birding and conservation was evident. I learned a lot about myself being around such good people and great birders. Second, and this goes hand-in-hand with the first point, I thoroughly enjoyed the times we weren’t “eye-on-scope” as much as when we were focused on the birding. Saturday evening we stayed in Pohang and were able to share great conversation over good pizza. To sit and talk conservation and the science of birding with Dr. Moores, Mr. Loghry and Mr. Ju Yong-ki Nim was ONE-OF-A-KIND!!

Lastly, to have the opportunity to hone my skills next to some of the best birders on the peninsula was a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. I never realized that there really is an “art” to scoping. Anyone can set one up and look into the eyepiece and see some birds, but to get to most out of one takes practice and patience. Before this weekend I was something of a field mark birder, too. To find a field mark and move to the next bird was my game. Doing it that way, though, was just scratching the surface and leaving me without ever really knowing a bird. To take the time to sit and really break down a bird until I know everything there is to know about it is the only way to take my skills to that next level (that I didn’t really know existed until this weekend). Dr. Moores is a meticulous and patient teacher/mentor and it was through spending time with him that I take away the most from this weekend. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

And now for the birds:

Saturday we saw small numbers of Common Pochard and White-winged Scoter moving north along the coast. Distant looks at Ancient Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet were common throughout the day. Of the gulls seen on Saturday, the highlights were a Glaucous-winged Gull and a couple Glaucous Gulls, Taimyr Gulls and a few very smart Common Gulls. At one of the many lagoons we stopped at, we got fantastic looks at an Artic Loon and learned a lot about loon identification at that time. Being that the focus of the weekend was on seabirds we only noted a handful of passerines. Most noteworthy (for me) was a single Siberian Accentor calling from a wooded area at the base of a light house and a flock of around 100 Bramblings moving through some trees near to where we were birding at one of our stops. Other noteworthy birds from the day were Harlequin Duck, large numbers of Red-Breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Pelagic Cormorant, Falcated Duck and Northern Goshawk.

Sunday, with the help of three more Birds Koreans who came in overnight, we birded the Pohang area and the Guryongpo peninsula. The first noteworthy event for Sunday was seeing two large flocks of Russet Sparrows in a village just north of Pohang, totalling about 300 individuals- the largest number known to Birds Korea of Russet Sparrow seen on the mainland of Korea. The other noteworthy sightings were the probable Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans and Steppe Gull Larus (heuglini) barabensis . We all got great looks at them and Dr. Moores used this opportunity to teach us even more about gull identification (Boy, did I learn a lot about gulls this weekend!!). The highlight of the day, for me, was one of the last stops of the weekend, on the northern tip of the Guryongpo peninsula. Large numbers of seabird species were to be found here, including great close-up looks of Ancient Murrelets and Rhinoceros Auklet, the first male Harlequin Ducks of the weekend, and some great looks at loons and grebes. Other birds of note for Sunday were a Meadow Bunting singing from a treetop, a small flock of Sanderling poking through some rocks along a beach, a Greater Scaup and a couple small flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese and Whooper Swans on the wing.

It was a fantastic weekend and I look forward to the next one.

Probable Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans. Photo © Matt Poll.

Russet Sparrows Passer rutilans. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

Arctic Loon Gavia arctica. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator. Photo © Subhojit Chakladar.

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus. Photo © Matt Poll.

Presumed Steppe Gull Larus (heuglini) barabensis. Photo © Tim Edelsten.

*For More on the ID of Steppe Gull, click here.

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