Northeast Coast, February 4

Bird News from Nial Moores and Brad Sulentic

After overnight snow, there were long sunny periods and mild conditions (maximum of 7C) along the Gangwon Coast. Three exceptional highlights this day included a Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, an adult American Herring Gull (at Geojin) and the now long-staying Bufflehead (on a lake in Sokcho).

The Bearded Vulture was first reported (apparently by Park Jin Yeon) on or around January 30th, and was later re-found by several experienced observers (including Dr. Shim Kyu-Sik on February 3rd), together with several Cinereous Vulture, three or more White-tailed Eagle and on the 3rd a First-winter Steller’s Sea Eagle. A visit to the same area on 4th resulted in excellent flight views of 15 Cinereous Vulture and of the juvenile Bearded Vulture – believed to be the first reported on the Korean Peninsula since the three cited in Austin’s 1948 review of the Korean avifauna. According to Austin all three previous records were from the east coast, once in Nam Hamgyong Province (in 1912) and twice in Gangwon (on December 21st 1916 and January 6th 1918). As the location for the two Gangwon records seems to be unclear (and could perhaps be within either modern-day DPR Korea or within the ROK), this is perhaps the first national record of the species. Director Park Joo-Hyun (director of the leading website BirdDB, at was present at the same time as us, and has very generously provided us with two much better images of the vulture which we will be posting later.

Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, North-east Coast, Photo © Nial Moores
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, North-east Coast, Photo © Nial Moores
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus, Photo © Nial Moores
At Geojin, a check of the gulls then found two Glaucous-winged and an adult American Herring Gull – the latter species identified on the basis of its pale blue-grey saddle (obvious in direct comparison with Vega Gull; its pale, clean eye and yellow-orange eye-ring; its orangey gonys spot (with faint dark markings); the tone and type of head markings; and to some degree on its primary pattern.

American Herring Gull with Vega Gull Larus vegae, Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus and Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris showing paleness of “saddle” and structure. Photo © Nial Moores
American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus, Photo © Nial Moores
American Herring Gull Larus smithsonianus, Photo © Nial Moores

The afternoon then ended at Sokcho, where the Bufflehead continued to display to a group of ducks including several Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaup.

Bufflehead Bucephala albeola (back), Photo © Nial Moores

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