Bird news from Subhojit Chakladar
What a weekend it has been. Started with me loosing my camera bag as I dragged my sleep deprived body off the train at Dong-Incheon station! It took me a few minutes to realize what had transpired. It however had the effect of putting my body and mind on overdrive, as I searched for options. Thanks to the extremely helpful security staff at the station, I got my bag back after about 20mins with all my belongings still intact! I just couldn’t believe my luck. I made it to the Ferry Terminal with time to have a kimbap and some tea for breakfast. The ferry ride which under normal circumstances take about 3hrs took 4.5hrs that day. The waves pummeled the vessel. People were throwing up, babies were crying and the grown ups were praying. At times, I doubted if we’d make it safely! Luckily, the ordeal was over earlier than I’d expected, thanks to some calm seas towards the end and some deft maneuvering by the captain.
Given the conditions, I could spot only a couple of Streaked Shearwaters as the vessel swayed wildly. Pretty shaken by up the ride, I was more than happy to get back on terra firma and birding started from the very first moment with 2 Eastern Buzzards circling at a distance. Already an hour and a half shaved off a short trip, I skipped lunch and went straight to the lighthouse. With gale force winds making it difficult to keep the camera steady on the road, I descended into the gully. Because of the possibility that it holds, birding in Socheong is quite a bit more stressful than on the more accessible places. Every bird you miss could have been something special. Though there was nothing spectacular there, I spotted my first Winter Wren of the season. Apart from that, the other thing of note was a very active flock of Eurasian Siskins.
Back on the road, I gradually moved eastwards, scanning every tree and bush. The remaining few hours had more than one highlight. At first a flock of extremely agile Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and Goldcrests providing some difficult but worthwhile photo opportunities. This was followed by atleast 4 Eurasian Treecreepers, which was a lifer for me. So far Socheong has yielded at least one lifer every day I’ve been on that island! The fish farm area yielded a pair of Eurasian Bullfinches. By this time, the wind induced chill coupled with pain in my fingers was making it really difficult to keep the camera steady. As I walked back to the minbak after sundown, playful and inquisitive Orange-flanked Bluetails checked me out from the roadside. The more bold ones would come forward, sit on the road in front of me, flicking their tails and accompanying me, as the street lights were turned on.
With skies clearing out, temperature dropped below zero, as I walked towards North Point in the pre-dawn hours. The first bird of the day was a probable White’s Thrush seen at a distance of about 50m under poor light conditions. At North Point itself, a pair of unidentified Larks, were seen flying around. At this point, the wind caused my eyes to water, making it particularly tricky to photograph. Very soon, a group of Naumann’s Thrush were seen flying off towards Daechong. A group of Pallas’s Reed Bunting, after a bout of feeding and warmup, gained height and sailed towards China. Other birds of note were Meadow Bunting, Chinese Nuthatch (thanks to the irruption, it is my 3rd encounter with this species this winter) and a Siberian Accentor.
On my last visit to the island, the soldiers were clearing a trail that hugged the contours of the north coastline of the island connecting North Point to the road leading to the fish farm area. This time I decided to take this trail and check out what it had to offer. About a third of the trail has been cleared and the remaining section is not difficult to follow. The new species encountered in this section, were a vocal group of finches including Long Tailed Rosefinch and Hawfinch. The fish farm area was alive with activity. There were flocks of Brambling and Rustic Bunting cris-crossing the road. As I scanned the tree tops, I had the biggest miss of the day in form of a warbler, as it flushed from the top of a bush, sat momentarily on the branch of tree before plunging into the undergrowth. I could only see it for about a second. The position of the sun also made it difficult to identify it accurately. It had a greenish-brown color (probably not a Phylloscopus) with a prominent supercilium, largely white underparts with some brown-orange on the undertail coverts, pinkish tarsi and a beak quite large compared to its head. Just before it flew it gave a short call that seemed rather loud as compared to its dimensions (and one which I cannot recalled having heard before), which was similar to an Arctic Warbler. Any help with ID based on this rather clumsy description would be appreciated. Apart from that the area yielded the resident Light Vented Bulbul, a couple of Little Buntings, more finches and a rather bold Hoopoe.
With time running out, I hurried to the stream at the second village in search of thrushes. Scanning the trees, I virtually ran trying to make most of the last couple of hours that I had. In this process, I flushed a probable Japanese Quail (based on a split second view of its back plumage) less than a meter off my feet. Disappointed at another miss, I slowed down and let the birds get accustomed to my presence. Very soon the thrushes resumed their activity with Dusky Thrush being the most prominent. There was also a couple of Bohemian Waxwings. On my way back to the main village, I spotted a group of White-cheeked Starlings.
A total of 54 species were spotted on the island and the neighboring sea in about 10 hours of birding. On the way back, the sea was remarkably quite and hardly any birds.