Baekryeong Island, April 15th-29th

Bird News from Nial Moores (Birds Korea)

In addition to meetings and supporting more frog ladder installation as part of the long-running Birds Korea-initiated Baekryeong Wetlands Project (this time led expertly by the offices of Incheon, Seoul and national KFEM in collaboration with the Baekryeong-myeon office), research on bird migration continues on the migration hotspot of Baekryeong Island.

During the second half of April, at least 172 species of bird were recorded, including half-a-dozen presumed first records for the island (Eurasian Nuthatch on 18th and 23rd;  Greater Sand Plover on  23rd and 28th; Brant Goose on 26th; Little Stint on 27th; and Willow Warbler and Sanderling on 28th). I also recorded presumed new national high counts of Little Bunting (1,800 grounded  in Jinchon alone on  26th) and of the newly split simplex Swhinoe’s White-eye. In addition, repeat counts of birds on the move during four hours on 25th involved an estimated 27,000 individuals, with likely 15,000 Olive-backed Pipit, 5,000 Brambling, 1,000 Eurasian Siskin and thousands of buntings involved.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 힝둥새 (above) and Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla 쇠붉은뺨멧새: two species found in record-breaking numbers on Baekryeong Island during late April 2020 © Nial Moores

More details on records of 26 species follow (with all images copyright of Nial Moores / Birds Korea. Permission will happily be given for use for conservation purposes if requested in advance) :

  1. Brant Goose Branta bernicla 흑기러기. One in Jinchon on 26th. Appeared to have been chased by a Peregrine Falcon and was not seen subsequently. This species has declined terribly in the ROK; and will be Grey-Listed in the 2020 Birds Korea Checklist (i.e. after decades of decline, the species can no longer be considered regularly occurring in the ROK).

2. Garganey Spatula querquedula 발구지. Highest count was seven in the Hwadong Wetland on 27th.

3. Stejneger’s Scoter Melanitta stejnegeri 검둥오리사촌. Forty-two still present off the south of the island on 28th.

4. Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii 큰왕눈물떼새. Two on Jinchon tidal flat on 23rd.  Not seen subsequently. On 28th, one was in the Hwadong wetland and another was on Sagot beach. Greater Sand Plover is a very scarce and local migrant through the ROK.

5. Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis 알락꼬리마도요. According to islanders formerly common on the island. This spring, only single adults of this globally Endangered species were on the JInchon tidal flat on 20th-21st and again from 26th.

6. Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 붉은어깨도요. Three of this globally Endangered species were on the Jinchon tidal flat on 18th.

7. Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii 흰꼬리좀도요. Two in the Hwadong Wetland at least on 26th and 27th. This species is undergoing a substantial, protracted decline in the ROK (and presumably in some other parts of the range too).

8. Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta 종달도요. Present from the 18th. With a peak of eight in the Hwadong Wetland on 27th.

9. Little Stint Calidris minuta 작은도요. A breeding-plumaged adult was at the Hwadong Wetland on 27th. The species is currently recorded probably about 1-3 times annually nationwide.

10. Latham’s Snipe Gallinago hardwickii 큰꺅도요. Presumed singles in Jinchon on 18th and near the Hwadong Wetland on 27th; with one seen very well in Jinchon on 29th. Much more on the identification of this individual can be found here.

11. Oriental Pratincole Glareola madivarum 제비물떼새. One in Jinchon on 29th.

12. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 노랑부리저어새. Two in the Hwadong Wetland, from at least 18th to 27th.

13. Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor 저어새. Present on the island from at least 18th, when two of this globally Endangered species were on Jinchon tidal flat and five were back in the breeding colony.

14. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes 노랑부리백로 . This globally Vulnerable species which breeds in small numbers on the island was first noted on 20th.

15. Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 개미잡이. Noted in 4-5 parts of the island, with 1-4 seen on most dates between 23rd and 28th.

16. Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica 홍여새.  This Near Threatened species was seen on several dates, with the highest count six on 17th, and the latest bird noted on 29th.

17. Eastern Great Tit Parus minor 박새.  Movement of this species (together with Coal and Yellow-bellied Tits) noted on several dates, peaking on 24th when c. 120 were seen in high flight.

18. Mongolian Short-toed Lark/ Syke’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella dukhunensis 쇠종다리. Present in Jinchon between 23rd and 29th, with a peak of 11 on 26th, with two singles also seen coming in off the sea in Junghwadong on 28th. This recently split species is a regular migrant to western islands in April.

19. Hume’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei 연노랑눈썹솔새.  One on 23rd; one on 24th; and three on 25th.

20. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 노랑허리솔새. Present in small numbers throughout, with the peak count 42 in Dumujin alone on 27th.

21. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 연노랑솔새.  At Junghwadong on 28th, one was heard calling. Use of calls and song downloaded from Xeno Canto elicited calls back in response, and then one brief song. The bird then flew in close for 3-5 seconds only; and then could not be re-found in the next hour. The upperparts looked brownish-green; the underparts whiteish apart from some greyish-brown suffusion on the breast sides. Based on the plumage, this was therefore presumably of subspecies yakutensis from toward the east of the breeding range. Although Willow Warbler was first recorded in the ROK back in 2006 ( and is now known to be regular in Japan in tiny numbers on islands like Hegura, there are still probably fewer than half-a-dozen records of this species nationwide.

22. Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides 사할린되솔새. One heard briefly in song on 17th: approximately the fifth record of this species on the island.

23. Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex 작은동박새. Between 1-3 in Jinchon from 19th to at least the 25th; a minimum of 24 in Dumujin on 27th; and two in Junghwadong on 28th. This newly split species appears to be quite regular on Baekryeong Island (with even a wall mural of a white-eye in Jinchon appearing to depict the species!); and, based on personal observations over the years, is likely to prove regular on islands all along the west coast.

24. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 흰눈썹울새. One or two in Jinchon between April 26th and 29th.

25. Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 노랑머리할미새. One at the Hwadong Wetland on 27th.

26. Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta 옅은밭종다리. One in nearly full breeding plumage in Jinchon on 23rd.

Please Kindly Note:   Funding for the Baekryeong Wetlands Project work has been from an overseas source; much of the (highly enjoyable!) fieldwork has to be done pro bono, even though serious and urgent aims remain: i.e. against the background of rapid habitat loss and major developments (including the proposed airport on Baekryeong and an initial concrete-centric proposal for “Bible Land”, now happily evolving into something much more ecological) the need to improve knowledge of migration timing and of identifying large-scale population changes remains; as does the need to raise awareness of the island’s outstanding value for wildlife, so that local people can start to see the benefits (to them and to the birds) of conservation. 

Finally, thanks to the extremely efficient COVID-19 response in the ROK, there are currently no restrictions on movement. However, the economic impacts of the virus are already proving severe. If you are able to make a donation to Birds Korea to support our work, or to identify potential sources of funding and projects relevant to bird and habitat conservation, please mail me at Nial dot Moores at Birds Korea dot org. Thank you and best of health!

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