Selected Bird News from Nial Moores with William (Billy) Clarke
During a week of unusually mixed weather (including extremely mild weather in Busan with either sun, rain or fog; and fog, snow and subzero conditions on the west coast for a couple of days followed by brilliant sunshine), we nonetheless found a good range of species and photo opportunities on BC’s side-trip from Japan. There were several early-spring concentrations (including flocks of Rustic Bunting, thrushes and Baikal Teal) and a fascinating mix of species near-confined to Japan (according to some field-guides at least!) alongside those which are much easier to see on the Far East Asian mainland. This mix included plentiful Japanese Wagtails and exceptionally three subspecies of White Wagtail; roving packs of the super-charming Vinous-throated Parrotbills, some even sharing a tree with a couple of Japanese White-eyes; Varied Tits; and a couple of large flocks of Dusky Thrush, which at Junam numbered 200+ and contained several Naumann’s and Pale Thrushes (and even a single Eurasian Hoopoe…).
Further notable observations included:
Swan Goose 개리 Anser cygnoides. Zero at the Geum Estuary again. Recent construction in the hinterland right next to the main preferred area seems to have been too much for the wintering flock.
Snow Goose 흰기러기 Chen caerulescens. One adult at Seosan on 15th.
Baikal Teal 가창오리 Anas formosa. Five or six at Junam on 13th and 19th (including one that might have been a female with half of its facial pattern male-like) ; one on a northern river on February 15; and about 90,000 at the Geum on February 16 (apparently including one bird with a transmitter!).
Green-winged Teal 미국쇠오리Anas carolinensis. A First-winter male carolinensis at the Geum on 16th showed several features that suggest (limited?) crecca influence. Although it was obviously smaller and darker than most of the Eurasian Teal that it was with, and showed a decent foreflank stripe, it also showed a paler spot on both side of the scapulars. Based on images, although “it would not be noticed in California for any reason”, i.e. it would likely be identified as a Green-winged Teal if seen within its expected range, structurally it looks a “little odd” (Tristan McKee, in lit. Feb 20); and Peter Pyle added “I do look a lot for crecca among 100’s of GWTE I see each winter and have not seen any in the past few years with a hint of the horizontal scapular stripe as on your bird. I also think that the thin white line separating the green from the red in the auriculars is stronger than I see in carolinensis here, especially for a first-winter male, which I agree it is. So I guess I would lean toward hybrid for it rather than a carolinensis showing these two crecca-like features. There is a small population breeding in the Aleutian Islands (named “nimia” by some) which can show features like this. Other differences in the plumage could be as much due to age as taxon.” (PP in lit., Feb 20).
First-winter male Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis apparently with Eurasian Teal Anas crecca influence, with Eurasian and Baikal Teals © Nial Moores. Note: the possibility of disputed subspecies “nimia” for now seems unsupported by the observation in Madge and Burn’s “Wildfowl” that nimia average larger than nominate and is resident.
Scaly-sided Merganser 호사비오리 Mergus squamatus. Twenty or so on the main northern river on 14th and 15th; and three on a river in the southwest on 17th.
Oriental Stork 황새 Ciconia boyciana. Two at Seosan on 15th.
Cinereous Vulture 독수리 Aegypius monachus. About 60 were east of Jinju and 250+ were in Goseong (Gyeonsangnam) on 18th. At the latter site, feeding birds were inadvertently flushed by BC as he approached to get better images. The vultures did not return to feed for the next hour or so, prompting much guilt and self-reflection. As BC stated, the birds were unnecessarily stressed and disturbed and opportunities for photography were also reduced, again unnecessarily. Any visitors to feeding stations (or any habitat) please keep the birds’ welfare first – even vultures and eagles can easily be flushed.
Steller’s Sea Eagle 참수리 Haliaeetus pelagicus. An adult was at Seosan on 15th.
Hooded Crane 흑두루미 Grus monacha. About 50 were at Seosan on 15th.
Saunders’s Gull 검은머리갈매기 Chroicocephalus saundersi. A flock of 330 were at the Geum estuary on the 16th. The only individual that stayed separate from the roosting flock on the water was a leg-flagged Bird (DB in black on a white flag on the left tibia) which was also carrying a very obvious transmitter.
Relict Gull 고대갈매기 Ichthyaetus relictus. A First-winter was at the Geum Estuary on the 16th.
Red-billed Starling 붉은부리찌르레기 Spodiopsar sericeus. Two were with White-cheeked (70+) and Common Starlings (8+) near Mangyeung on the 17th.
White Wagtail 검은턱할미새 Motacilla alba. At least three ocularis were at Goseong on 18th. There are very few records of this taxon in the winter period. The same small group also included a bird that although leucopsis-like is probably better considered as an intergrade with lugens.
Presumed intergrade First-winter leucopsis x lugens © Nial Moores (above) and William Clarke (below). While ID of White Wagtails to taxon is always something of a challenge, note the strong trace of an eye-line towards the rear of the ear coverts/ auriculars which should be absent in leucopsis or complete in lugens; the rather extensive black on the breast, reaching the breast sides (recalling lugens); and the still-dark centres to several of the greater coverts (expected in leucopsis but not in lugens).
(As always, all images by NM digiscoped through a truly superb Swarovski scope…!).