Bird News from Bernadette Kolb, Omar Naji and Nial Moores
During the week of 14th-22nd, several birding hotspots were visited, in weather that ranged from very windy and quite cold (especially on the 20th) to sunny and seasonally warm (most especially the 22nd, when a high of 15C). Sites visited included the Han River (NM only, on 14th); North River (on 15th); Namhansanseong and Han-Imjin (on 16th, when also joined by Frank Coenjaerts); Cherowon and Han-Imjin again (on 17th, again with FC); Baekryeong Island (18th-20th); Seosan (21st); and the Geum Estuary (on 22nd).
The trip was timed to see some late departing winter visitors and to catch a few early migrants. Highlights included two encounters with Swan Goose; a Ring-necked Duck; a large flock of Baikal Teal; flocks of White-naped and especially of Hooded Cranes; Oriental Stork at two locations; Yellow-bellied Tits at several sites; a flock of Pine Bunting; good numbers of early-spring migrants; and excellent views of an Amur Leopard Cat. Although the birding was excellent, the rampant destruction of key sites continues unabated – with bulldozers in action at almost all of the sites we visited: Green Growth in action.
Selected species of note include:
- Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia. One was seen briefly at Namhansanseong on 16th, with two others heard there.
- Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica. Two were seen in the main marsh on Baekryeong Island on the 18th.
- Swan Goose Anser cygnoides. Four were seen well on the Han-Imjin on the 17th (though no evidence there this spring of the large staging flock that was regular here in the early 2000s) and 14 were still at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd.).
- Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. Approximately 300 were on the Song Do lagoon in Incheon on the 17th and 70 were watched apparently departing Seosan on the 21st.
- Baikal Teal Anas formosa. Three were at Cheorweon on 17th; one was on Baekryeong Island on 18th and 19th; and 22,000 were still present on the Geum River on the 22nd.
- Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca. One or two were still with the 2,600-strong Tufted Duck flock on the Han River on the 14th (NM only).
- Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. A female (apparently an adult) was found and photographed on the Han River on the 14th (NM only), and was seen by multiple observers on the 15th at least. Fuller review of images of the Chungju bird (a first for Korea, found on January 14th and apparently last seen the same month) is needed to establish whether the Han River bird was the same individual that had simply relocated c. 150km north or was instead a second individual.
- Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus.Probably 15 were still present on part of the North River on the 15th.
- Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana. Three were on Baekryeong Island on 18th and one was at Seosan on the 21st.
- Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. One was at the Han-Imijin on the 16th; two were at Song Do on the 17th; and one was at Seosan on the 21st.
- Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia. One, the personal first of the spring, was on Baekryeong Island on the 19th.
- Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius. One was on Baekryeong Island on the 19th.
- White-naped Crane Grus vipio. Eight were seen at the Han-Imjin on the 16th and approximately 120 were seen in a small area of Cheorwon on the 17th. (According to Lee Ki-Sup, two Siberian Crane were also still present in Cheorwon on the 16th).
- Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis. Only two were seen at Cheorwon on the 17th.
- Common Crane Grus grus. An adult and two Second Calendar-years (considered more likely to be pure than hybrid) were at Seosan on the 21st.
- Hooded Crane Grus monacha. A conservative 3,100 were counted (in blocks of 100) from one viewing point at Seosan on the 21st (my personal highest day count of the species in the ROK, presumably containing many birds from Izumi in Japan) and 41 flew north over the Geum Estuary early in the morning of the 22nd.
- Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. At Seosan on the 21st, one flock contained 113 birds and another flock about 5km to the north contained 58. Several of the birds were displaying actively, both in flight and on the ground. This is perhaps one of the highest day-counts of this species in the ROK.
- Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica. At least 110 early-arrivers were counted at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd.
- Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. Two were on Baekryeong Island on the 19th; seven were at Seosan on the 21st and at least 700 were at the Geum estuary on the 22nd.
- Common Redshank Tringa totanus. One or two were at Seosan on the 21st.
- Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris. One at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd was the personal first of the spring.
- Ruff Philomachus pugnax. Two were at Seosan on the 21st.
- Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi. At least 110 were at Seosan on the 21st, and c. 10 were also at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd.
- Caspian / Steppe Gull Larus cachinnans / L. heuglini barabensis. One or perhaps two beautifully distinctive-looking yet still hard to ID individuals were present at the Geum Estuary on the 22nd. The best observed individual was obviously paler-saddled in direct comparison than taimyrensis, vegae and mongolicus.
- Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops. One or two on Baekryeong Island on the 19th were the personal first of the spring.
- Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus. One was seen very well near Wonju on the 15th.
- Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus. At least a dozen were heard or seen on Baekryeong Island on the 19th and 20th (either over-winterers or early spring migrants) and at least five (considered to be early spring migrants) were in coastal pines at two points close to the Geum Estuary on the 22nd.
- Lark sp. On Baekryeong Island on the 19th, a medium-sized and fairly long-tailed lark was seen and heard in flight over the southwest of the island. Calls (given three times or more) and plumage recalled Oriental Skylark (a species not yet formally claimed in the ROK). Despite much searching, the bird was not seen on the ground and the bird’s identification was left unresolved.
- Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. About 10 were present in the southwest of Baekryeong Island on the 19th.
- Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus. Two on Baekryeong Island on the 18th were the personal first of the spring.
- Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. One was at Song Do, Incheon, on the 17th; three were on Baekryeong Island on the 19th and two were at Seosan on the 22nd.
- Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. The highest day count during the week was of approximately 20 seen and heard on the 18th on Baekryeong Island.
- Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus. One on Baekryeong Island on the 18th was in the exact same area as one seen in early November 2013. This bird therefore likely overwintered at this site.
- Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus. Twenty at Namhansanseong on the 16th were the only ones recorded.
- Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. Three were seen on Baekryeong Island on the 18th. The only one that was seen well was clearly a male of subspecies japonica.
- Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. Thanks to Mr. Ha Jung Mun, at least 29 were seen at Imjingak on the 16th in the late afternoon (greatly reduced from the 100 found there on the 15th, with sadly no sign of the Yellowhammer fortuitously photographed there earlier in the day on the 16th).
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. One of the most numerous landbirds encountered during the week, with e.g. 300 at Cheorwon and 500 at Imjingak on the 17th; c.400 on Baekryeong Island on the 18th; and an additional 500+ there (in a different part of the island) on the 19th.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, © Nial Moores
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris with Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (front), © Nial Moores
Hooded Crane Grus monacha, © Nial Moores
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans or Steppe Gull L. heuglini barabensi, © Nial Moores
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans or Steppe Gull L. heuglini barabensi
with fairly pale-looking Taimyr Gull L. heuglini taimyrensis (front), © Nial Moores
Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus, © Nial Moores
Female Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos, © Nial Moores
In addition, mammals noted during the week included Korean Water Deer at several sites; Red Squirrel and Siberian Chipmunk at Namhansanseong; Finless Porpoise en route to and Spottted Seal (five) off Baekryeong Island; and single Raccoon Dog and Amur Leopard Cat at Seosan.