Bird News from Jason Loghry
On Christmas Eve, a few colleagues and I decided to choose a site and have a bird race, or a “Big Day”. I chose the Junam area including the two nearby reservoirs. The weather was pleasant with little wind and clear skies for most of the day. The water level at the main lake has finally receded, providing a mud bank for many of the wintering species to roost or feed upon, particularly for the cranes. In total I observed 65 species for the day. There were a few of the more common species, such as grebes and a few of the forest species, that I couldn’t find. There were also a few species that I was surprised to see. Here are a few of the highlights:
- White-naped Crane Grus vipio Most of the White-napes were observed in small flocks on the rice fields throughout the morning until a large flock of 72 flew overhead, which included the two Hooded Crane mentioned in my previous Junam report. At one of the rice fields, I met a researcher studying cranes. He noted that there were close to about 220 White-napes in total. I counted 182 for the day, with many roosting at sunset on the mud spit alongside the two Hooded.
*Taxonomic side-note/inquiry: I’m aware that many taxonomic changes have been made to the BirdLife Checklist. Does anyone have information as to why the genus name for White-naped Crane has moved from Grus to Antigone (del Hoyo and Collar 2014)? Currently Sarus, Sandhill and Brolga have been also placed in the genus Antigone. The only information I can find on the web about Antigone is: “The genus Antigone differs from Grus in having nearly the whole head and neck bare; the hind-neck, face and chin covered with coarse granulations”, which was taken from an Indian Avian Biodiversity website. I also found this, via Wikipedia: “In 1976, it was suggested that the Brolga, Sarus crane (Grus antigone) and White-naped crane (Grus vipio) formed a natural group on the basis of similarities in their calls. This was further confirmed by molecular studies of their DNA. These also showed that the Brolga is more closely related to the White-naped crane than it is to the morphologically more similar Sarus Crane.” Interesting. Any thoughts?
- Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons A flock of about 580 mixed with a few Bean were seen on a rice field some distance away from the main lake. There were also several hundred on the rice fields near the main lake, as well as many seen in flight. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Lesser.
- Swan Goose Anser cygnoides There were two on the mud spit of the main lake at sunset. They were the last new species I was able to count, and surprisingly a Peregrine Falcon (one for the day) was perched upon a tree only feet away from these two geese.
- Baikal Teal Anas formosa It’s very easy to call this the Bird of the Day after having remarkably daycent views of this beautiful species on the pond across from the main lake, and a total of 41 for the day.
- Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 29 were observed at roost in the early morning on the main lake.
- Rook Corvus frugilegus Up to 4 were observed throughout the day. Two of these were seen in flight, and then at mid-day, two more were seen together on a rice field. It’s very hard to know whether or not they are the same as previously seen. Personally, this is the first time I have seen this species at Junam. Lately, in the past few weeks, I have also seen small groups in and around the Gimhae area.
- Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis Only two were observed after an hour of watching several flocks in and out of the rice fields near the main lake.
- Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica Several flocks of skylark were observed, some with more than 50 birds to a flock. After spending time watching them in flight and feeding on the rice fields, I could see that most were Far Eastern. It was satisfying to finally start to get “the feel” for how to distinguish these species. For information about Skylark identification, please see our ID Notes page: http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Identification/ID_Notes/BK-ID-Lark-Taxonomy.shtml
- White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla Two were seen perched on the trees next to the main lake in the early morning.
- White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus More than 100 observed in and around the rice fields, including one of the same hybrids observed on the 29th of November.
- Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 16 observed throughout the day mixed with a flock of White-cheeked, with the largest concentration of starlings feeding near a persimmon orchard.
- Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni 2 observed, one at Dongpan and the other at the smaller lake of the three. After looking at some of the older “classic” ID pages on the BK website, I came across this interesting one, something to keep the eyes peeled for : http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Identification/ID_Notes/BK-ID-Thrush.shtml
- Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus For some reason, this species is one that I look forward to seeing wherever I’m birding. 1 was heard in the early morning, then a few others were observed perched in trees throughout the day.
- Hoopoe Upupa epops Very pleased to have found a total of 4, with the first observed in flight, another at Dongpan, and 2 together near a persimmon orchard.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica While watching the starlings feed at one of the persimmon orchards, a flock of about 30+ Rustic Buntings dropped in a perched upon the trees I watching. Interestingly, there is a record of a Rustic that ended up at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco in early December this year.
Rice fields at Junam, with very distant White-naped Crane © Jason Loghry