Bird News from “Team Entomology” (Rob Wiedenmann, Jason Chapman, Ian Denholm, Alistair Drake, Don Reynolds) and Nial Moores.
Four days of birding in above-average temperatures (with daily maxima of between 29C and 34C) found almost 100 species in total. These included some exceptional highlights – including three Spoon-billed Sandpiper, two Nordmann’s Greenshank and (presumably) the first national record of dealbatus “White-faced Plover”.
August 16th: Yeongjong and Nami Island
Few birds found at Namiseom in oppressively humid conditions, with best being two Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and Japanese Wagtail. Yeongjong was rather better. Despite much ongoing habitat loss (including the “beautification”, i.e. destruction, of the former shorebird roost-site) most of Korea’s tidal-flat specials could still be found, including 20+ Black-faced Spoonbill, 25+ Chinese Egret and 25+ Saunders’s Gulls (>10 juveniles), and a few thousand shorebirds. Most numerous included Far Eastern Curlew (400+) and Terek Sandpiper (800+), with a single Nordmann’s Greenshank providing the evening highlight.
August 17th: Yeongjong AM, Yubu Island PM
More of the same at Yeongjong on the falling tide, though with 80 Black-faced Spoonbill recorded (including one individually marked bird: E94 on a red flag on the left leg, and white over blue over yellow on the right leg). On Yubu in the Geum, excellent views of a good range of species during a neapish high tide, with probably 2,000 Far Eastern Oystercatcher, 2,000 Mongolian Plover, 1000+ Far Eastern Curlew, 1000+ Kentish Plover, 1,000 Terek Sandpiper and 800+ Broad-billed Sandpiper the most numerous species present.
Repeated checking of settled flocks found 30+ Greater Sand Plover, single Curlew Sandpiper and a distant Nordmann’s Greenshank, but no Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Returning semi-satisfied to the mainland, tiredness morphed into a mixture of frustration, anxiety and excitement as we heard from Birds Korea’s Jason Loghry (on the island for two weeks) that he had found and digi-videod a Spoon-billed Sandpiper close to where we were looking, only 30 minutes after we were forced to leave by the falling tide….
August 18th: Yubu Island AM, and Gunsan-Eocheong Ferry PM
An outstanding day with multiple highlights.
On Yubu, shortly after first light, distant views of a juvenile Spoon-billed Sandpiper were followed by excellent scope views of a breeding plumaged adult (images will follow once JL returns to the mainland), and a brief encounter with a distant different juvenile or ‘breeding into non-breeding-type’.
Within the same hour, another outstanding moment came with finding an adult male dealbatus “White-faced Plover” in post-breeding plumage. Although digi-scope images were attempted, none were successful. However, identification (in more or less direct comparison with nihonensis Kentish Plovers) was straightforward based on its clean white lores, rust-toned rear crown, rufous-washed upper mantle and otherwise paler sandy-coloured upperparts, and its pale, yellowish-toned legs. This is likely to be the first record of this still poorly-known taxon in the ROK, and presumably the northernmost record. However, it comes only one or two days after JL photographed one or more intriguingly pale Kentish-types (again, images to follow at the end of the month).
After glimpsing one or more juvenile and adult Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler (breeding on one of the islets there), we then crossed back to the mainland in a strengthening wind, just in time to take the ferry out to Eocheong and back – in the hope of some seabirds. This turned out to be an excellent decision. Although most of the views were not so great, we managed to see c. 35 Streaked Shearwater, probably four Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, and single Pomarine and South Polar Skuas…
Where else in the world can you see Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Black-faced Spoonbill, Styan’s Grasshoper Warbler, Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel and South Polar Skua on the same day, all within 50km of each other?
August 19th: Geum River
In stifling heat, highlights at the Geum barrage included a half-dozen Marsh Sandpiper and best of all a Eurasian Eagle Owl!