Bird News from Nial Moores and Guillermo Rodriguez Lazaro
In continuing mild conditions (before the forecast two-day freeze) a day visiting several sites in the southeast of the ROK looking for some Korean “winter specials”, starting in the Nakdong Estuary, followed by part of the Southeast River and then Gyeongju, finishing in Pohang.
Expected species of interest seen during the day included a good range of ducks and gulls (including c. 50 Saunders’s and various ages of Taimyr, Mongolian and Vega Gulls, and based on size and advanced plumage of First-winters apparently both heinei and kamtschatschensis Common Gulls), 3-4 White-tailed Eagle and a dozen or so Cinereous Vulture, two leucopsis White Wagtail in addition to a dozen or so lugens and Japanese Wagtails, three Dusky Thrush, two Siberian Accentor heard and a couple of Meadow and one Black-faced Bunting seen.
There were multiple highlights. These included four First-winter Relict Gull, two Steller’s Sea Eagle and an Eastern Marsh Harrier all still at the Nakdong Estuary and 18 Scaly-sided Merganser (including five adult males) and five Eurasian Hoopoe at a short section of the Southeast River which was surveyed more fully last week. This small but probably record-breaking flock of Eurasian Hoopoe seems likely to have over-wintered in the area, as early spring birds typically start to arrive in the ROK only in the last week of the month and this has (already) been a genuinely exceptional winter for the species. In addition to this flock, three Eurasian Hoopoe were seen together in Gyeongju in early December, and several birds have overwintered around Junam and at several other sites in the southeast. In the afternoon in Gyeongju, the first corvid flock we found contained probably 3,000 Rook and half-a-dozen Daurian Jackdaw, while a second flock of 8,000+ birds contained at least 1,800 Daurian Jackdaw (individually counted, with a third or so of the flock only poorly checked). Easily exceeding NM’s personal high day-count, this single mass-concentration of Daurian Jackdaw represents about a third of the national total recorded during the 2014 MOE Winter Census, and is three times greater than the total number counted nationwide by the same Census in 2012: why are there such extreme fluctuations in numbers of this species in the ROK each winter? In Pohang towards dusk, our excellent day in the field finished with half-a-dozen Baikal Teal, two Long-billed Plover, two Short-eared Owl together and, scarcest of all in the national context, a Ruff (first found by GRL, Ruff is at best a scarce migrant and is very rarely reported in Korea in winter).
Common Gull Larus canus (presumed heinei) with Black-headed Gull (on right) © Nial Moores