Baekryeong Island, November 1st-16th

Bird News from Nial Moores

With northerly or northwesterly winds (occasionally reaching 50km/hr) on multiple dates, a total of 157 species were logged during 14 days of survey between November 1st and 16th. Half of the days were spent walking or being driven through rice-field areas in a sadly unsuccessful search for Oriental Storks (in the company of Ju Yung-Ki on November 1st and of Green Korea’s Park Jeong-Un on 8th, 9th and 11th) – a previously regular species on the island before the degradation of the Hwadong Wetland (“Area 6” below).

Instead, there was a good spread of winter irruptive species and good numbers of ducks and geese on the main reservoir (“Area 8”) and in the rice-fields of “Area 5” but – considering the mass irruption into Beijing at least – disappointingly no Pallas’s Sandgrouse (yet!).  Rarest in the Korean context therefore were at least two (and perhaps three or even four different?!) Black-winged Kites, single Black Stork and Common Crane, presumed Bimaculated Lark, Black-throated Thrush, two Water Pipit, and single Black-headed Bunting and Savannah Sparrow.

A few of the more notable species and counts, include (with all images by / copyright of Nial Moores & Birds Korea):

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides. 개리. VU. One on the main reservoir and in “Area 5” from November 6th until the end of survey.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. 큰고니.  LC. Twenty-three moving west over the sea on Nov 1st; and three on the main reservoir on 11th were the only records.

Stejneger’s Scoter Melanitta (deglandi) stejnegeri 검둥오리사촌. LC. The highest count was 191 on November 6th.

Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica. 메추라기. NT. The only record of this apparently still fast-declining species was one on November 10th.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra. 먹황새. LC. A young bird tried to stop over at the small Junghwadong reservoir on November 6th.

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus. 흰날개해오라기. LC. Although elusive, one tardy individual remained in Jincheon until at least November 12th.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. 붉은왜가리. LC. An immature was at the Hwadong Wetland on November 1st.

Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus. 검은죽지솔개. LC. An immature bird was first found in the rice-fields of “Area 5” on November 1st (by Nial Moores and Ju Yung-Ki). After going missing for a week, a young bird was found in the exact same area again on 8th, remaining until the end of survey . Although initially assumed to be the same bird “progressing well”, images suggest that the original immature had very worn primaries but a squareish-ended tail; while the later bird unexpectedly had much less worn-looking outer primaries and a more obviously cleft tail .

On 5th, an adult-type was also seen briefly in flight in Jincheon in “Area 13”. Views were distant because the bird was being severely harassed by Large-billed Crows. On 8th, an adult was then found in “Area 7”, remaining there until the 11th. This autumn has proven to be exceptional for this species. Although there were only three records prior to 2019, these become about the 7th and 8th (and perhaps 9th and even 10th?) national records.

Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga. 항라머리검독수리. VU. Single juveniles on November 6th and 8th; two juveniles together on 11th; and one juvenile still present on 12th.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. 검독수리. LC. A juvenile was seen moving west across the island on November 9th.

Common Crane Grus grus. 검은목두루미. LC. An adult was present in the Hwadong Wetland (“Area 6”) and in rice-fields in “Area 5” from November 8th to the end of survey. According to Green Incheon’s Park Jeong-Un , a single Common Crane was found on Baekryeong in 2018 by government researchers.

Amur Falcon Falco amurensis 비둘기조롱이. LC. A surprisingly poor autumn for them on the island. The last record was of one in “Area 5” rice-fields on November 1st.

Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus 물때까치. LC. An excellent autumn for them, with a highest day count of eight on November 14th, and a probable dozen in total logged during the month.

Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus 황여새. LC. An adult male was in Jincheon on November 4th.

Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica 홍여새. NT. After the unusual record in October, this highly irruptive species was recorded on five dates in November, with 35 seen on November 10th and 50 logged on 12th.

Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata 큰부리종다리. LC. A very bulky, big-billed and almost tailless lark which was pale brown above and lacked a white trailing edge to the secondaries, and appeared to show some pale tail corners and extensive dark on the forecollar, was presumed to be this species. The bird was watched flying south over “Area 14” on November 2nd at close range and in good light but no images could be taken. There is only one previous national record (again without images – a bird seen in flight and briefly on the ground on Gageo Island on October 9th and 10th 2001 by Nial Moores, and less well in flight by Charlie Moores and Kim Su-Kyung: In consideration of the rarity of this species in East Asia, the identification is best left as tentative.

Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis (heinei?) 북방쇠종다리. LC. On November 9th, a distinctive “Djark-djark” lark call was heard in “Area 7”. Although the bird was not seen, the call closely resembled my memory of the call of Asian Short-toed Lark, and matched closely the calls I recorded of this species on Socheong in 2009. On 15th, an obviously smaller, grey-toned lark was seen flying in among a group of 20+ Eurasian and two Far Eastern Larks about 1km from the same place. Calls were not heard. As good views were not managed (as during several other previous surveys on the island), ID as this species must remain somewhat tentative.

Black-throated Thrush Turdus atrogularis 검은목지빠귀. LC. One, apparently an adult male, was seen close in flight on November 5th.

Red-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis 붉은목지빠귀.  LC. Four were present on November 2nd, with a single bird remaining in the same area until the 5th.

Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni 노랑지빠귀. LC.  Good numbers were recorded this year, with a high count of 300 on November 10th.

Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus 개똥지빠귀. LC. Fair numbers were recorded this year, with a high count of 250 on November 10th.

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris 바위종다리. LC. Although none were seen during several visits, six were on the usual rocks at Dumujin on November 15th.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta 옅은밭종다리. LC. One was in the main Hwadong Wetland on November 6th and a second bird was poorly digiscoped in rice-fields in Jincheon on 14th.

Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula 멋쟁이. LC. Apparently a good winter for this irruptive species, with birds logged most days, and a high count of 25 on November 12th.

Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus 양진이. LC. Apparently a good winter for this irruptive species, with birds logged most days, and a high count of 14 (almost all adult males) on November 1st.

Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea 홍방울새. LC. One /separate single birds was seen on three dates in Jincheon.

Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra 솔잣새. Moderate numbers were logged this year, with a high day count in November of only 15 on the 10th. Of interest, although early movers all sounded as expected, birds from the 8th onward gave unusual calls that to my ears closely resembled “Type C” birds (as labelled on Xeno canto) in that they recalled e.g. Common Redpoll. Although only one group of these later birds was seen perched, all six or seven of them looked to have very deep-based bills.

Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis 초원멧새. LC. One very confiding individual was found in the “Area 5” rice-fields on November 15th. This is likely to the fourth or fifth national record.  The first was one photographed in the Nakdong Estuary, Busan, by Jürgen Fiebig, Michael Hoffmann and Axel Braunlich on Feb 18 1998 (image lost? but reviewed and ID definite); one or much more likely two on Gageo in November 2001 seen by NM (one of which was appallingly digi-scoped); and one apparently on Heuksan this autumn, together with the Mongolian Finch (!!!!!) (via Shim Kyu-Sik).

Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala 검은머리멧새. LC. A very dull immature with greyish upperparts and yellowish undertail coverts was seen in dense vegetation in “Area 7” on November 14th. Identification from the even rarer Red-headed was based on the bird’s very bulky size and heavy bill, and a hint of darker head shading from some angles. The bird was looked for on the 15th but not re-found. This is presumed to be the first record for Baekryeong Island.

All images – were taken with a handheld Nikon camera through a still superb Swarovski scope…

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