Bird News from Spike Millington
Growing up in England, hearing the first song of the returning Willow Warblers really meant spring was on the way. Sure Chiffchaffs arrived earlier, but they didn’t cross the Sahara to get there. And their song is pretty boring, especially in comparison to the delightful, silvery, descending notes of the Willow Warbler, maybe still my favourite bird. When I moved to Beijing in 2006, the arrival of spring was marked by another Phylloscopus warbler, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler. Each year I would make a trip to the gardens of the Summer Palace in mid-April to hear the songs of the warblers, which seemed to arrive en masse and thronged the majestic old willow trees, singing from every corner. One year I didn’t make it and heard the first Pallas’s Leaf Warbler in my tiny suburban garden. Nice, but I was sad to have missed the Summer Palace arrival. Now, in Songdo, I am still waiting for spring to arrive. But on 12 April, with the buds barely out, I saw and heard my first Pallas’s Leaf Warblers in Michuhol Park, two birds flitting among the pines and singing away. Apart from the Red-flanked Bluetails, which arrived in numbers a couple of days earlier, the warblers were my first “real” spring migrants, and they presaged the rapid arrival of many other species over the next couple of days. In fact, later on the same day, an Asian Stubtail appeared, feeding unconcernedly under the pines in my apartment complex. A singing male Daurian Redstart was also my first for a while. Meanwhile a Coal Tit and a couple of Chinese Nuthatches still lingered from the winter. The next day, 13 April, I visited Incheon Old Golf Course, where there were a couple of splendid Scaly Thrushes, one of which perched up in a pine tree and began singing its deliberate creaky door” song. Brilliant! Skulking Grey-backed and Pale Thrushes were less cooperative. Other birds here included Barn Swallow (2), Dusky Thrush (6) and Brambling (10). A Eurasian Woodcock gave good views as it flushed from a pine copse. On 14 April, Grey-backed Thrushes seemed everywhere, with 8 at the Golf Course, 5-6 at Namdong Reservoir and 1 in my apartment complex. The scrub along the edge of Namdong Reservoir also held 2 Pale Thrushes, 6 Dusky Thrushes, 2 Korean Bush warblers and several Black-faced Buntings, some singing. Two Eastern Crowned Warblers were new. Chinese Penduline Tits were noisy in the reedbeds, although only the odd bird popped up because of the wind. The wintering Chinese Nuthatch put in appearance in the small park. Duck numbers on the water included 10 Mallard, 100 Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, 400 Shoveler, 100 Eurasian Teal, 6 Eurasian Wigeon, 3 Falcated Duck, 30 Tufted Duck, 6 Common Pochard and 105 Common Shelduck. Interestingly, the unusual Baer’s Pochard-type duck that was seen late in 2012 was again present. It’s plumage was identical to that in late 2012, indicating a hybrid origin (male Baer’s Pochard would surely show a greenish head at this time of year). Ten Common Greenshank were along the stream, with 3 Black-winged Stilts. 40 Far Eastern Curlew rested on the exposed mud, but a calling Green Sandpiper remained unseen. Finally, a single Spotted Redshank was on Gojan mudflats, with increasing numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits (500) and Great Knot (200). On 11 April, at least 250 Saunders’s Gulls were also present here at high tide.