Belated Bird News from Nial Moores with the “Belgian Bird Conservationists” (Miguel Demeulemeester, Marc Van Mierlo and Joost Mertens).
Approximately 220 species were logged in total by the “BBC”, with highlights including Oriental Stork, von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ruddy-breasted Crake and Watercock, Grey-headed Lapwing, Crested Murrelet, Asian Koel, “Barking Cuckoo”, Himalayan Swiftlet, Common Swift and House Swift, Ruddy Kingfisher, Fairy Pitta, Black Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-streaked and Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, Japanese Leaf Warbler, six (or seven?) species of locustella and Tree Pipit…and the discovery of a Chinese Penduline Tit nest!
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis © Nial Moores
The weather was unexpectedly poor for seeing migrants (almost clear skies throughout, with very warm temperatures and occasionally strong winds – largely lacking the rain and sudden swing in wind direction needed to trigger a large fall). All the same, our focus on late spring skulkers took us to Baekryeong from May 18th– 25th and Eocheong from 27th-29th, with time also spent on Yeongjong (on 17th); at Seosan (late on 25th and again on 26th); in Yeosu (on 30th); in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam and at Junam Reservoirs (on 31st); in and around Odae National Park (on 1st); and to Gangwon/ Gyeonggi/Incheon on the 2nd.
Fortunately, there were a couple of moderate fair weather arrivals, and in addition to seeing flocks/ groups of several of the globally-threatened Yellow Sea specials (e.g. Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret and Saunders’s Gull) we also enjoyed multiple encounters with typical late spring landbird migrants or breeders like Indian, Lesser, Common and Oriental Cuckoos, Tiger and Brown Shrikes (including one lucionensis in potential breeding habitat near Odae San on June 1st), Black-naped Oriole, Grey-streaked and Dark-sided Flycatchers, Oriental Reed, Black-browed Reed and Thick-billed Warblers, Arctic and Kamchakta Leaf Warblers, Two-barred Warblers, Forest Wagtail and few late buntings.
Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus © Nial Moores
Possible Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus, Baekryeong, May 18th © Nial Moores. ID in the field as Oriental was based on the well-proportioned head; the darker upperparts contrasting with the paler head and breast; the strength of underpart barrring; the hint of buffish wash on the vent (though often looking much stronger than this in Oriental); and the slightly darker-than-Common-Cuckoo eye. However, ID of silent birds is always a challenge and also present in the same area that afternoon were 10+ vocalising Common Cuckoo, one “Barking Cuckoo” and 2-3 Oriental Cuckoo.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus © Nial Moores
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus © Nial Moores
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis © Nial Moores
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica © Nial Moores
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus © Nial Moores
In the hope that some ( much!) better images will be available for posting in the near future, here follow some of the more notable records in the Korean context (with their 2014 global status from BirdLife followed by national status in brackets taken from Moores and Kim 2014). Please note that many of the suggested counts are closer to rough estimates and that even these might well vary between the four observers as we were often solo or birding in pairs; and, as above, that all images below were digiscoped by Nial Moores through a truly superb Swarovski scope…:
Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis LC (P2, W3, SV2). Two at Seosan on May 26th.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus LC (W3, SV2). One at Junam Reservoir on May 31st. Although not visible in the images taken at the time (or seen by NM), the bird sported some kind of metal neck band, identified at range as a geolocator or satellite pack of some kind.
Falcated Duck Anas falcata NT (W3, SV1). Five (four males and one female) were at Junam on May 31st.
Baikal Teal Anas formosa LC (W1, SV2). One male was seen very distantly at Seosan on May 26th.
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana EN. (W5, SV2) One was at Seosan on May 26th. This individual wore a simple white band on the right tibia, inscribed “A37” in black, and a metal ring on the lower tarsus of the left leg, presumably put on as part of one of the various restoration programs. Is there an online resource that can be used to trace the history of this bird?
Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus LC (S5). An adult male was seen several times in flight over a reed-bed in Seosan on May 26th.
Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus LC (P3 S5). The highest day total was of 28 on May 20th on Baekryeong.
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis LC (P3 S4). Red-listed by Moores et al. 2014 on account of recent massive declines. All the same, still the most widespread raptor this period, with highest day counts of ten on May 20th on Baekryeong and 11 on Eocheong on the 29th, and displaying/nesting birds found in Gunsan on May 29th and Goseong on May 31st.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus LC (P3, W3). Several records, with one apparently in display flight (even calling) on Baekryeong on May 22nd.
Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus LC (P2, S5). In addition to a few migrants seen on the islands, one at Odae San on June 1st is suggestive of local breeding.
Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca LC (S5). First noted at the lotus ponds on Baekryeong on May 20th and 21st (eventually showing well if briefly) with two there on the 24th, and one heard in an additional two locations on the island. One was also heard at Seosan in the evening of May 25th.
Watercock Gallicrex cinerea LC (S5). Red-Listed by Moores et al. 2014. An adult male was on Baekryeong on the unexpectedly early date of May 20th (remaining at least until May 21st); and one was heard in Paju on June 2nd.
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus LC (V1). One was on Baekryeong on May 24th.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum LC (P5, SV2). Two were on Baekryeong on May 18th, with three together in the same fields on May 20th.
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus LC (P4). Two breeding-plumaged adults were at Yeonjong on May 17th.
Crested Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume VU (S4). One was seen between Eocheong and the mainland on May 29th (MD only).
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus LC (V2). One was sound-recorded on Eocheong on May 27th, when the bird was also glimpsed in flight by NM.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis LC (R5). One or two were heard in or near to breeding habitat at long range on June 1st.
Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris LC (V1). One was seen very well in excellent light from “Needletail Point” on Baekryeong on May 21st.
White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus LC (P4, S5). The highest day count was of 40(+) seen from “Needletail Point” on Baekryeong on May 20th.
Common Swift Apus apus LC (Category 3). One was seen flying past “Needletail Point” at close range on May 20th. Seen on approach through the scope by NM, this swift showed obviously darker lores and a very large throat patch. The bird was then watched through binoculars by MVM, who saw both the underparts and upperparts at close range in good light, noting that the bird lacked any kind of white or paleness on the rump.
House Swift Apus nipalensis LC (V1). One was seen very well at close range over “Needletail Point” on Baekryeong on May 20th. A further two or three smaller swifts seen at very long range the same day might well have been this species.
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda LC (S4). Five or so were heard and probably three were seen at one site in Goseong on May 31st.
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius LC (R3). One was heard in Goseong on May 31st: perhaps a new site for the species (where four other woodpecker species are already known to breed).
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha. VU (S4). Two were heard on Baekryeong on May 23rd. On May 30th, probably five were heard in forest near Yeosu (at a site first found by Birds Korean Matt Poll: our thanks to him!), with one seen there. Another was heard in forest in Goseong on May 31st.
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus LC (P4, S4). First noted on May 18th on Baekryeong, with a day high count of c. 10 on Eocheong on May 27th; and also found in breeding habitat near Yeosu on May 30th and in Odae San on June 1st.
Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata NT (S4, P5). Three were found in breeding habitat in Gunsan on May 29th.
Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica NT (W4, P4). Two were seen briefly in flight on the very late date of May 24th on Baekryeong (MD only).
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus LC (P5, W5). Up to five were heard or seen near-daily on Baekryreong, including birds paired-up and in song.
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus LC (P3, W4). On May 20th, 15-25 (+) were present in one part of the island, including a male in frantic song and display to an attentive female. The comment was made that this was the kind of behaviour that might indicate breeding; and within seconds of stating that finding a nest would be very difficult, JM then calmly called out that he had indeed just found one – hanging in an acacia-type tree. Following his direction, we all watched as a male and female worked on the nest – even entering it. We did not visit the nest site on any subsequent date. Whether breeding or not, this is the first record of nesting by this species on the Korean Peninsula that we are aware of. On May 21st, 10+ were seen in a different part of the island.
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis LC (S4, P5, R5). One of the most numerous landbirds on Baekryeong, with a peak day estimate of c. 125 (on May 20th), flocks of 30-40 birds seen in two areas and large numbers of birds in territory, with the first fledged young seen on May 22nd. One was also on Eocheong on May 27th-29th.
Pale Martin Riparia diluta (Not Recognised) (V2). Presumed single Pale Martins were seen on Baekryeong on May 25th and on Eocheong on May 28th.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica LC. P1, S2, WV2. Red-Listed by Birds Korea (Moores et al. 2014) on account of massive declines over the past few decades. Only small numbers noted, with the first fledged young seen on May 31st at Junam.
Common House Martin Delichon (urbicum) lagopodum LC (P5). In addition to single house martins sp. seen on three dates, one Common was seen on Baekryeong on May 25th
Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii LC (V2). One was heard and poorly seen on Baekryeong on May 18th.
Hume’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei LC (P5). Remarkably scarce, with the only confirmed record one heard and seen on Eocheong on May 27th (MD only).
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis LC (P2). Based on vocalisations, the most numerous phylloscopus on the islands, with the highest day counts of c. 80 logged during the “birdy” afternoon of May 18th on Baekryeong and of 50+ on Eocheong during the fair weather arrival on May 27th.
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus (Not recognised) (P4). Based on vocalisations, noted (almost) daily on the islands, with high counts of 8 on May 23rd on Baekryeong and 15+ on Eocheong on May 27th.
Although identification of this individual was not supported by vocalisations, this bird had quite a bright green blaze on the closed wing and looked “clean” on the underparts (lacking the dirty wash and streaking often shown by spring Arctic), with yellowish-buff tones to the fore of the supercilium and on the ear coverts; and weak yellow on the throat and down the centre of the breast (often shown more strongly than this by Kamchatka Leafs). The bill also looked quite long and bright. These are all features suggestive of Kamchatka Leaf. However, it is important to recognise that based on present knowledge, there can be complete overlap in plumage features shown by Kamchatka Leaf and Artic Warbler. In the same area as this bird, there were 3-4 calling Kamchatka Leaf and nearby a couple of Arctics and Two-barreds. For more on this still poorly-known species, please visit Beijing Birding and Shanghai Birding for locally first records in two different parts of China…
Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas (Not recognised) (P5). 3+ were on Eocheong on May 27th.
Two-barred Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus (Not Recognised) (P4, S5). Recorded on several dates on the islands after the first 1-2 on Baekryeong on May 18th, with the high day count of 6+ on Baekryeong on May 23rd and of 2+ on Eocheong on May 27th.
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides LC (V1). In addition to multiple birds identified on call to Sakhalin Leaf or Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, one was heard singing on Baekryeong on May 23rd (MD only).
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes LC (P3, S3). Although only small numbers were logged on the islands, probably 20+ were heard in song (with several seen) in two areas of Odae San on June 1st.
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps LC (P3, S5). Recorded daily on the offshore islands, with the highest day count 20+ on May 23rd on Baekryeong.
Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon LC (P4). 3+ on May 18th, 8+ on 19th, four on 20th, two on 21st, three on 22nd, 4+ on 23rd, 10 on 24th and two on 25th on Baekryeong; and on Eocheong, 1-2 on 27th and 28th.
Baikal Bush Warbler Locustella davidi. LC (V1). On Baekryeong, singles heard on May 22nd, 23rd and 25th with the high count of three heard on the 24th. One was also heard on Eocheong by MD on May 27th (one of six species of locustella he logged that day).
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata LC (P3). On Baekryeong, four on 18th, three on 19th, two on 20th, three on 22nd, 5+ on 23rd and 24th and one on 25th; and on Eocheong, two on May 27th and one on 29th.
Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella ochotensis LC (P4). 1-2 were seen on Baekryeong on May 23rd, with another possible there on 24th; and there were “between 1 and 25” on Eocheong on May 27th (MD), with numerous locustella too poorly seen to confirm to species.
Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella pleskei VU (S3, P4). One (presumed) was heard singing on Baekryeong on May 24th (NM and MVM); and 1-3 were logged each day on Eocheong on May 27th-29th, with at least one singing bird seen well.
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola LC (P3, WV2). Presumed to be the most numerous locustella during the period, with 3-4 on May 18th, five on 19th, two on 20th, one on 21st, three on 22nd, eight on 23rd, 7+ on 24th and 3+ on 25th on Baekryeong; 6-15 on 27th, “several” on 28th and one on May 29th on Eocheong; and one heard in song in riverside bushes in Munmak (Gangwon Province) on June 2nd.
Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella fasciolata LC (P4). On Baekryeong, one or two were heard (with one glimpsed) on May 22nd, 4+ were logged on 23rd (with at least two seen well, and one bird heard that sounded better to NM for Sakhalin Grasshopper Warbler); and additional singles were heard on both 24th and 25th. On Eocheong, there were 3+ on 27th and one on May 28th.
White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis LC (PV1). At least two were (still) on Baekryeong.
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava LC (Data Deficient). One “plexa” was seen on Baekryeong on May 24th.
Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii LC (P5). Singles were on Baekryeong on May 18th and 21st; and one was heard on Eocheong on May 27th.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis LC (PV1). One was seen on Baekryeong on May 19th.
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola EN (P4). A flock of 12-15 was in Jincheon, Baekryeong, on May 18th.
Yellow Bunting Emberiza sulphurata VU (P4). One was on Eocheong on May 27th.
Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensis NT (P5, W5) One was on Baekryeong on May 25th.