Yeosu Islands, May 23-24

Bird News from Matt Poll with Heloise Stankard


Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha © Matt Poll


Habitat © Matt Poll


Fairy Pittas above, below, and at eye-level! © Matt Poll

Islands south of Yeosu boast some quiet, relatively untouristy (yet) towns and excellent mountain habitat – much of it being inaccessible to foot traffic.  While there was a popular hiking trail filled with busloads of radio-blaring hikers, there were several other trails nearby that were completely devoid of other hikers.  These peaceful trails offered scenic views of the ocean, and no other sounds to be heard than the ample birdsong ringing through a series of small valleys.

The highlight of the trip was definitely the ‘abundance’ of Fairy Pittas.  It seemed like every valley on one island held one or two calling individuals, with at least five heard (two seen) on the 23rd, and a further five or six heard (three seen) on a different mountain on the 24th.  The first two were heard from a hill behind a cafe outside town where we paused for a morning coffee!  While there is a wealth of suitable habitat here, it’s tricky to say if these birds were migrating through the area, or were settling in to breed.  They seemed a bit densely packed in some spots, leapfrogging past each other, and calling urgently at times.

Also in the mountains, a lone Dark-sided Flycatcher was busily living up to its name along a quiet trail, and cuckoos were noisily represented by one Eurasian, five Lesser, and two Oriental Cuckoos.  An ‘Arctic-type’ warbler was seen, and some sound recordings were made of its strange call.  A single Ashy Minivet was also heard over the hills, an Oriental Honey Buzzard sailed high above the mountains, a calling Asian Stubtail was heard, and a Vinous-throated Parrotbill was seen near a mountaintop, uncharacteristically silent and alone.  Bands of fledged Long-tailed Tits jostled in the scrub and low trees, and numerous Pale and Grey-backed Thrushes were heard in exuberant song along the mountain trails.  Towards dusk, an Oriental Scops Owl and two Grey Nightjars were heard, as the mountain path became illuminated by fireflies.  A mystery owl (owls?) was heard at some distance, which sounded ‘Eagle Owlish’.

In town, nesting Barn and Red-rumped Swallows flew low circuits over a pond and the main street, while several White and Grey Wagtails paced the same pond.  I am hoping to return soon to see if the area hosts any more interesting birds.

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