Selected Bird News from Nial Moores and Jason Loghry
As part of research into biodiversity conservation in the inner border region of Korea with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Korea), we surveyed marine preferential bird species (“marine birds”) along parts of the east coast, to compare abundance and distribution in Goseong County and other areas. We surveyed the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 11th; much of the Yeongdeok coast, north to Hupo, on 12th; and parts of the coast north from Gangneung on the 13th, including Ayajin and the headland above Geojin. On 14th, we counted marine birds moving off from the wonderful January Pension from 15 minutes before dawn for approximately two hours; counted from the boat out of Daejin for 3.5 hours in suddenly worsening conditions with Dr. Bernhard Seliger and Ms. Youn from the Hanns Seidel Foundation; and then spent some time counting and checking through the huge mass of gulls present in the area (with a staggering 22,000 plus gulls between Daejin and a little south of Geojin).
On 14th, we then visited the apparently reliable but hard-to-access Asian Rosyfinch site near Taebaek on our way back to Busan and Gimhae.
In total, we found eight (!) species of alcid, and good numbers of loons and grebes.
Although almost all time and effort was focused on marine birds, we also did very rapid stops at a coastal site for Russet Sparrow (18 counted by JL) and a couple of usually excellent lakes in Gangneung and Sokcho. Surprisingly, they looked to be almost devoid of birds, with only a handful of Mallard, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaup present – a few of which were rather approachable.
Notable counts and highlights included:
- Pacific Loon 회색머리아비 Gavia pacifica. On the 12th, 580+ were seen off part of the coast near Chuksan port; and several hundred were seen between 5km and 7km offshore from Goseong, most moving south, on the 14th.
- Yellow-billed Loon 흰부리아비 Gavia adamsii. The only observations (all NM only) of this Near-threatened species were of two flying south past the January pension and two probables at sea seen from the boat off Daejin on the 14th.
- Red-necked Grebe 큰논병아리 Podiceps grisegena. On the 12th, 379 were counted along the Yeongdeok Coast, with an additional five seen off Hupo. On the 13th, 510 were counted off the Geojin Headland. On 14th, an additional 90+ were seen from the boat towards the north of the Goseong count area. None at all were seen at the Guryongpo Peninsula.
- Horned Grebe귀뿔논병아리 Podiceps auritus. Recently uplisted to globally Vulnerable. The only counts were 38 at the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 11th and one at Ayajin on the 13th.
- Black-necked Grebe검은목논병아리 Podiceps nigricollis. Highest counts were 501 at the Guryongpo Peninsula on 11th and 55 at Goseong on the 14th.
- Common Gull 갈매기 Larus canus. Largest numbers were found north off Gangneung, with an exceptional 13,700 present between Daejin and the next harbour south of the Geojin headland. As might be expected, this flock contained massive and bewildering variation, with several extremely short-billed and quite small-looking birds, some very odd-looking ones, and a few more massive individuals. Top image © Jason Loghry, lower image © Nial Moores.
- Glaucous-winged Gull 수리갈매기 Larus glaucescens. At least five were present in and around Daejin. Both images © Nial Moores.
- Glaucous Gull 흰갈매기 Larus hyperboreus. Rather local in distribution, with the largest day count 18 on the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 11th. Image © Nial Moores.
- Thayer’s (type) Gull Larus thayeri (?)캐나다갈매기 (?). An adult gull sitting on rocks on 13th in Gangneung (where there was a definite dark-eyed Thayer’s last winter) showed multiple characters supporting ID of this bird as a Thayer’s including: small size; rounded head and “cute look”; long primary projection beyond tail; extensive white on the upperside of the closed primaries, with white extending from the apical spots along the inner webs; extensive pale sheen to the underside of the primaries; raspberry-pink legs; and pink-purple orbitals. Although the bird was not seen in flight, Californian birder Tristan McKee commented in an email dated January 20th that based on these images, ” I would not hesitate to call that gull a Thayer’s if I saw if here. Something like 5% of adults have bright pale eyes, but a much larger percentage (I’d guess 20-30%) have sort of pale brownish eyes, still considerably paler than the “traditional” dark brown”. Images, with vegae to left © Nial Moores.
- Caspian-type Gull Larus cachinnans (?)카스피해갈매기 (?). An adult gull seen at roost on the Guryongpo Peninsula on January 11th appeared to show several features indicative of cachinnans or more likely, perhaps, a cachinnans-type. Image © Nial Moores.
- Slaty-backed Gull 큰재갈매기 Larus schistisagus. Common from the Guryongpo Peninsula northwards, with a conservative 2,300 present in the Goseong area the largest concentration.
- Brunnich’s Murre 흰줄부리바다오리 Uria lomvia. One apparently oiled individual was seen (and poorly digiscoped) off the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 11th; two were seen off the Geojin headland on 13th; and one was seen from the boat off Daejin/ Geojin on the 14th.
- Long-billed Murrelet 알락쇠오리 Brachyramphus perdix. Eight of this Near-threatened species were seen off the Guryongpo Peninsula on 11th; three singles (including one exceptionally pale-looking bird) were seen off Yeongdeok on 12th; one was seen off Ayajin and eight were seen off the Geojin headland on the 13th; and two were seen from the boat on 14th, including one additional bird north of Daejin.
- Least Auklet 작은바다오리 Aethia pusilla. Five were seen in flight with Rhinoceros Auklet off Hupo at dusk on the 12th (NM only).
- Rhinoceros Auklet흰수염바다오리 Cerorhinca monocerataAs in previous winters, this appears to be the commonest alcid off much of the Gyeongsangbuk coast. On the 11th, 487 were counted off the Guryongpo Peninsula; and on 12th, a total of 1,574 were counted between Yeongdeok and Hupo. Much smaller numbers were found in Goseong, with the highest count about a dozen seen from the boat in very calm conditions on the 16th by SC and MDS. Image below © Bernhard Seliger
- Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella. One was seen in flight off the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 11th (NM only), about 1km to the south of where we saw (and very poorly digiscoped) one earlier in the winter. Seen in very good light at moderate range, the bird simply looked like an all-dark Ancient Murrelet-sized alcid. Not yet listed by Birds Korea.
- Asian Rosy Finch 갈색양진이 Leucosticte arctoa. A minimum 240 were present at the apparently regular mountain site near Taebaek on the 15th (where there were also 10 Siberian Accentor and 30 Rustic Bunting).