Jeju Island, April 11-13, 2019
For any birder who has yet to visit Korea’s Yellow Sea during spring migration…what are you waiting for? Aside from the ‘regular’ East Asian migratory specialties that can be found along the East-Australasian Flyway, there are national firsts and rarities that show up on the islands annually during this period. Interacting with the rugged but always-friendly islanders, and experiencing the local food and slow-paced, old-fashioned lifestyle on these islands is also a rewarding aspect of such trips. Spring on the islands is my happy place, and this trip did not disappoint.
It was thrilling to re-visit my former subtropical home of Jeju Island! On April 11th, I visited some of my old birding haunts in and around Seogwipo, and found some notable signs of seasonal movement, including:
Black-winged Stilt-4 in the harbor
Pacific Swift-2 very high above
Asian House Martin-9 flying slightly higher than the other hirundines
Olive-backed Pipit-8 in a riverside park
Grey-backed Thrush-1 at dusk
Narcissus Flycatcher-1 male in the park
Asian Brown Flycatcher-2 in the park
The following day, I was up early. After a dawn raid of a small island in the harbour turned up little, I had a siesta then returned to my favourite scruffy park for a couple of hours. I encountered Narcissus Flycatchers there pouncing on prey from low trees at four separate spots – I’d forgotten how absolutely spoiled rotten I was in Seogwipo when it came to refuelling Narcs!
On the way out, I decided to give what I long-ago dubbed “thrush corner” one last check, and was rewarded with the sight of two (or more) Grey Thrushes foraging under low fruit trees.
On the 13th, I brought Mike Balfour, my Jeju birding partner of old, to check out the bird activity in Seogwipo’s parks. As morning gave way to afternoon, a pair of minivets appeared and shreeped from the trees just above eye-level. I was quite surprised to discover that rather than the expected Ashy Minivets, they were in fact Ryukyu Minivets, a species only documented once before in Korea (https://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=8914).
The pair called to one another and fed in low trees for 30 minutes before flying off. The species, once an Ashy Minivet subspecies, has been colonizing northward in Japan lately. Hopefully this sighting means they’re also coming this way. Is it possible they will colonize Korea like Light-vented Bulbuls have over the past 20 years, or were these just more rare overshoots? I’m betting they visit coastal Korea more frequently than twice in seven years, and are perhaps overlooked. The winds were blowing straight up out of the Ryukyu Islands on April 12-13th, incidentally.