Birds News from Jason Loghry
I took a two-day hike at Jirisan National Park. On day 1, the plan was to start from Jungsan-ri to Cheonwangbong, and then on to sleep at Jangteomok Shelter. I packed food and water for two days, and only brought my bins (no scope). So I wasn’t expecting to get any photos, just observations. At the beginning of the trail, 20 Eurasian Bullfinch flew over, with ten of them landing in a nearby tree. It certainly felt like a good omen. On the way up, there was a patch of trees that seemed full of Eurasian Nuthatch, and at times I thought I heard Chinese Nuthatch. I made a couple of recordings, so I’ll have to ask someone more familiar with them to give a listen. At one point, I stopped to have an oat bar, and the nuthatches were foraging the leftover crumbs left by me and other hikers. It must have been a popular stopping point. They would take crumbs and hide them in trees, and then return to get more. A Marsh Tit curiously caught on to what they were doing, but it couldn’t figure out where they had been hiding the crumbs and the nuthatches were certainly not happy about the tit getting near their food. After the nuthatch section of the hike, I was surprised to hear what sounded like the drumming of a distant Black Woodpecker. I waited around hoping to see one, but I didn’t have any luck. Also, there weren’t any large trees that I would expect to also be around. I have read that there are reports of them at the park, but not exactly sure where. The other species of woodpeckers include White-backed Woodpecker and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker.
Finally reaching the summit, there were only two other hikers. I waited for them to continue their hike, and then sat quietly alone enjoying views of some very entertaining (and intelligent) Large-billed Crows foraging through crumbs and fruit left by other hikers. As I watched, I looked over my shoulder to find an Alpine Accentor at about an arm’s reach, which was the species I was most hoping to see on this hike. Its colors are something out of this world, and it seemed to have such a gentle personality. I watched it for a while and then look over my other shoulder, and to my surprise there was another of my favorite species, a lone Asian Rosyfinch! The scenery of the mountain range along with the interactions of these three species was just extraordinary. I was able to take a few images with my handheld camera and then “digi-binned” a few shots through my Swaros. Luckily I had prepared for the cold weather, because the low temperature was unsurprisingly noticeable. Close to sunset, I walked down for the night’s stay the shelter.
In the morning, it was easy to wake up because I couldn’t stop thinking about the rosyfinch and the accentor throughout the night. On my walk back to the peak, shortly after sunrise, I heard the beautiful vocalization of a nearby Hazel Grouse. I listening to it vocalize a few times, and then I watched the sunrise. Before reaching the peak, a flock of more than 50 Asian Rosyfinch flew overhead, and then three Spotted Nutcrackers. I stopped walking as my friend caught up to me, and we watched together as 11 Asian Rosyfinches landed on a large boulder and then more on the path in front of us. I couldn’t stop smiling, and then to make it even better, my friend said, “What’s that bird over there on the stone?” And sure enough, it was close but silent Spotted Nutcracker. Then two more swooped in, then four more behind us. I can only assume the three in front of us could have been the three that had flown over earlier, but the four behind us were certainly new. We watched them as they quietly sat atop a few of the nearby fir and pine trees. On the walk down, we came across what looked like Korean Hare tracks, but there were very birds to be seen. We mostly saw Large-billed Crows and Eurasian Jay. At the end of the hike, near Yupyeong Village, there were some Rustic Bunting and an unidentified Phylloscopus warbler in some bamboo near the trail’s end (or beginning). This trip at times was physically challenging and took some preparation beforehand, but it is certainly recommended for those of you wanting a short birding adventure.