Bird News from Nial Moores and Amaël Borzée
One and a half days in between two typhoons spent along the Guryongpo Peninsula, the ROK’s best mainland site for land-based seabirding. Weather on the 5th was fairly calm, with winds increasing on the 6th to reach 50 km/hr during heavy rain showers (on 7th, these peaked at 140km/hr locally).
Highlights included thousands of Common Tern and Red-necked Phalarope, three species of skua (providing some much-needed practice in long-range ID of this tricky group), and, rarest in the Korean context, two or three Greater Crested Terns (on 6th) and an unidentified whale (on 5th).
A few of the more notable bird sightings from an afternoon checking suitable sites on the headland on 5th, and about eleven hours of fixed-point counting on the 6th included:
Garganey Spatula querquedula. Several groups seen on active migration, with probably more than 90 individuals logged on 5th, and half-a-dozen on 6th.
Red Knot Calidris canutus. Two together at dusk on 5th.
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. Approximately 160 on 5th, and 2,470 counted on the move on 6th, with groups alternately rounded up and rounded down to the nearest five; and likely many birds missed. The sight of lines of birds heading into the wave troughs, with half or so changing direction in perfectly-timed maneuvers while the remainder continued on the same flight path, was – to borrow the language of Jason Loghry, a Birds Korean now in the USA – “awesome”.
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes. Four juveniles together on 5th.
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Two or three in total.
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii. On 6th, an all-grey above tern with a black and white head pattern was seen at very long range in the morning, and was suspected to be this species. In the late afternoon, NM picked up what looked like a juvenile approaching the watch-point and AB started taking a series of images. Oddly, review of the images in the camera monitor after the bird had passed were of a worn adult. Doubting the initial aging, a review of >2,000 images taken by AB during the weekend reveal that somehow in all the excitement he had managed to photograph both an adult AND a juvenile flying close to each other! To date, there are still fewer than 10 national records of this presumably much-overlooked species, with the most recent record an extremely unseasonal adult found in early 2020 in Gangwon Province.
Aleutian Tern Onychoprion aleuticus. On 5th, an adult progressing toward non-breeding plumage was very poorly digiscoped before being knocked off the perch by a Common Tern. This species is regular in Korean waters, usually in small numbers, with most records between the second decade of August and the first decade of September. Many are likely overlooked in among flocks of the slightly larger Common Tern, which share several plumage features with Aleutians, including dark upperparts, grey-washed underparts and in some (but not all!) a darker trailing edge to the underside of the secondaries.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo. On 5th, approximately 1,750 were watched feeding, with small numbers roosting up, and 252 passed the watchpoint in 90 minutes. On 6th, approximately 4,400 were estimated to have passed out of the bay, with some spectacular feeding concentrations (including one of about 2,000 terns!). Most were quite distant: the only close-sitting perched bird was seen by AB during his coffee break…
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida. What appeared to be an adult in breeding plumage was carried by wind at high speed into the bay on 6th.
Pomarine Jaeger / Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus. Allowing for the possibility of mis-identification of some individuals, nine were logged on the 6th, including a couple of birds with full spoons.
Parasitic Jaeger / Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus. Allowing for the possibility of mis-identification of some individuals, seven were logged on the 6th.
Long-tailed Jaeger / Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus. One adult was seen on the 6th.
Skua sp. Three distant skuas seen on the 6th were left unidentified.
Auk sp. One heavy-looking, dark-looking alcid was seen in flight on 5th.
Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. The default shearwater species in Korean waters. Surprisingly, though, this was the only shearwater species (knowingly!) seen, with four on the 5th and 1,083 counted moving out of the bay on the 6th.
Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. Half-a-dozen were seen on the 5th.
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. Two were seen resting up on rocks on the 5th: a very surprising location for this species.
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. Heard at 5+ stops, and seen at one. This perhaps still remains the best mainland site to see decent numbers of this species.