Selected bird news from Nial Moores
“Team Albatros” (Jürgen Schneider, Dr. Klaus Handke, Heidi & Manfred Reetz, Dr. Peter Berndt, Norbert van Bebber, Dr. Lothar Biesert and Dr. Nial Moores) “birded Korea” between January 11th and January 23rd. In weather conditions that ranged from cold and crisp (most days) to occasional blizzard conditions (on 17th) and grey and wet (on 21st and 23rd) we birded Ilsan and the National Arborteum on 11th; Cheorwon and Song Do on 12th; Paldang and “North River” on 13th:, the northeast coast on 14th-16th; the east coast on 17th; Jeju on 18th and 19th; the Nakdong Estuary and Joonam on 20th; Suncheon Bay on 21st; Saemangeum, Gomso Bay and parts of the Geum Estuary on 22nd; and Namhansan and central Seoul on 23rd. In total, we recorded approximately 185 species (a new 2-week mid-winter record) including several records of national ornithological interest. The winter is proving remarkable for the small number of several duck species (most especially Baikal Teal) but the large number of landbirds – providing some of the most enjoyable and varied winter birding for several years. While a fuller report will likely follow later, some of the more notable observations include (with an emphasis on species of global conservation concern, high counts and unexpected records):
1. Nine Swan Goose Anser cygnoides on 21st at Sunchon Bay (the main wintering site in the Geum Estuary was not visited);
2. A single First-winter Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus at Joonam on 20th;
3. The disputed Greylag Goose Anser anser at Paldang on 13th (seen during its discovery by Gwak Ho-Kyong). Some of the group (e.g. KH) are much experienced with the species in Europe and saw the bird swimming. Seeing it at some distance they believed it to be a typical Greylag. Close-up images, however, reveal a rather swollen-looking rear-end, breast and neck, suggestive of some domestic goose influence. Greylag Goose is not recorded annually in the ROK.
4. Baikal Teal Anas formosa found on only three dates, with no large flocks found and the highest count a mere 50 at Suncheon Bay on 21st. We are still unaware of any large flocks being found anywhere in the ROK this winter: has the bulk of this species relocated to other areas in or outside of the ROK or has it suffered a catastrophic decline?
5. Nine Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus at one location on the North River on 13th;
6. Two Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii on 15th and three on 16th, including one watched for 30 minutes at close range in Daejin harbour as it tried to swallow an over-large fish;
7. Single Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana at Gomso Bay on 22nd (the decline apparently continues…);
8. Between 20 and 25 Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor at the regular sites in eastern Jeju;
9. Three adult Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus at Paldang on 13th;
10. Four Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus (one at Yangyang, one at Suncheon Bay and two at the Manyeung) but only one Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius ( at Gomso);
11. Single Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga at Hadori on 18th;
12. An adult Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus in eastern Jeju at dusk on 18th. This stunning individual was apparently found and photographed by Oh Gyeong-Seok on 17th. We located it in the same small roadside wetland (at one time feeding alongside a Black-faced Spoonbill!) thanks only to timely information provided most kindly by Tim Edelsten and Dr. Shim Kyu-sik. This species is being recorded with increasing frequency in the ROK with one or two records most years this decade.
13. A total of 360 White-naped Crane Grus vipio, with observations on four dates and a high count of 250 in Cheorwon on 12th;
14. Approximately 40 Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis in Cheorwon on 12th;
15.Two first-winter Common Crane Grus grus in a flock of 495 Hooded Crane Grus monacha counted by KH at Suncheon Bay on 21st ;
16. Six Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria in the National Arboretum on 11th;
17. A total of 715 Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi (with 224 at Song Do, 250 at Suncheon Bay and 220 at Gomso Bay the largest counts);
18. Eighteen Relict Gull Ichthyaetus relictus at Song Do on 12th. This is the largest day-count in the ROK for several years;
19. Two “Yellow Sea Gull” (Larus mongolicus?) at Song Do on 12th and approximately 80 at Gomso Bay on 22nd. The latter count is the largest site count known to us of this perplexing taxon that to us shows several features not shared by other large gulls. The images by Jürgen Schneider are the best so far known to us and will feature in a note on the species to be posted by Birds Korea sometime in the near-future.
20. One adult Steppe Gull Larus heuglini barabensis at Daejin on 14th;
21. A presumed new national high-count of 25 Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia from the Daejin boat on 16th in only 90 minutes (before high seas made further observations impossible);
22. A total of five Common Murre Uria aalge (including three together on 16th off Geojin);
23. Only six Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo (two on 14th and four on 16th) also off Geojin;
24. Four Crested Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume on 19th (two ‘scoped well from land, one from the ferry and one very distantly from Mara Do) were all already in full-breeding plumage (unlike any of the Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus we recorded during the trip);
25. A distant dove seen during the rain at Suncheon bay on 21st sitting on wires with a large flock of Streptopelia orientalis was in direct comparison obviously smaller and longer-tailed than them, and appeared to show a grey head, pinkish underparts and a pale panel on the wing. Confident identification could not be made, but Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis (two previous ROK records) was considered the most likely possibility.
26. One Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla on Mara Do on 19th is believed to be the first confirmed mid-winter record of the species in the ROK;
27. One Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus at Yanyang on 16th;
28. Singles or small numbers of Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus recorded on three dates;
29. Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica recorded on five dates, with highest counts of 22 in Jeju City on 18th and 22-25 in Seogwipo on 19th;
30. Two Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus together in Jeju City on 18th (this species was perhaps first recorded on Jeju only in 2012);
31. Two Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis were still present (in a blizzard!) on the Guryongpo Peninsula on 17th;
32. At least three Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa were in Ilsan lake Park on 11th;
33. Twenty-five Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus were with 65 White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus and two other starling species in Busan on 20th;
34. A single male Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis was in the mixed starling flock in Busan on 20th. This is believed to be the first mid-winter record of this species in the ROK;
35. Four Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris were also in the mixed starling flock in Busan on 20th (first Busan record?);
36. One first-winter male Red-throated Thrush Turdus rufficollis on the 15th was the only one found despite above-average numbers of thrushes found at many sites.
37. A flock of 380 Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans in northern Pohang on 17th;
38. Single Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis and Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi were both heard on Mara Do on 19th (with an Eastern Yellow also heard at Hadori on 18th);
39. The ROK’s second Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis was apparently found and photographed by Kim Hwa-Jeong (?) at Misari / Paldang on 12th, and was heard and seen poorly by us there on 13th (and later by several other observers, including Dr. Shim Kyu-Sik).
40. In the same area as the Meadow Pipit, three Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta were also seen by other observers, with one of these well-seen by our team.
41. Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus recorded on eight dates, with twelve on both 15th and 16th;
42. Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus recorded on six dates, with the highest day count bring 50 in only two hours in Geojin on 16th;
43. Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula recorded on 11 dates, with the vast majority of those actually seen (about half out of the total of 130 logged) considered to be rosacea. A single male griseiventris type (or griseiventris following a 1992 paper by Morioka) was also seen in Gangneung on 14th; with a cassini type in the National Arboretum on 11th (JS and KH only) and one male cassini also at Hwasun Gotjawal Eco-park in Jeju on 19th.
44. Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria recorded on five dates (total of 31 individuals);
45. One or two Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata were with Chinese Grosbeak on Jeju on 18th;
46. Eleven Grey Bunting Emberiza variabilis were heard (with 1-4 seen by several of the team) on Jeju on 19th.