Hwaseong Wetlands Flyway Network Site (FNS): June 23rd-28th

Bird News from Nial Moores with Hwaseong KFEM’s Park Hea-Jeong and Jung Hanchul

Six (part-)days in the field and rain as the first of ten or so surveys for the EAAFP-led and Hwaseong City funded Hwaseong Wetlands Project. Highlights included 23 species of shorebird, one or more Purple Heron, two species of skylark, plenty of good looks at Black-faced Spoonbills and Chinese Egrets and “good listens” to fields alive with the squeaking and rattling of Golden-spotted Pond Frogs.

Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, Hwaseong Wetlands Flyway Network Site, June 2020

The presence in late June of so many shorebirds in the Hwaseong Wetland and elsewhere in the ROK was already well-known (see this post from back in June 2017).   All the same, some of these shorebird species are still assessed (correctly?) by Birds Korea as having fewer than ten mid-summer records (“SV2”) – an assessment made somewhat complicated by the reality that most birders avoid tidal flats in the summer months,  while for many species of shorebird autumn is already well underway by late June!   

Either way, a few of our most notable observations and highlights are as follow:

Common Shelduck 혹부리오리. LC. One in the Flyway Network Site on June 23rd and 24th, and one in the main Asan Bay reclamation area on the 28th. Listed as SV2 by Birds Korea.

Far Eastern Oystercatcher 검은머리물떼새. NT. Evidence of continued breeding within the Flyway Network Site, and a high count of 66 on June 28th.

Black-winged Stilt 장다리물떼새. Highest day count was 68 on June 26th, with 59 of these in one rice-field. Multiple pairs are known to breed within the FNS – one of only a handful of known breeding sites nationwide.

Part of a flock of 59 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus © Park Hea-Jeong

Kentish Plover 흰물떼새. Evidence of breeding within the rice-fields as well as on small islets off from the coast. One bird sported leg flags which match the colour combination used by banders in Shanghai.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus in rice-field breeding habitat! © Nial Moores
And a Kentish Plover with leg-flags © Park Hea Jeong…this bird was accompanied by two young juveniles so presumably bred on this rice-field road.

Mongolian Plover 왕눈물떼새. Two were in the Flyway Network Site on June 26th and four were in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area on June 28th.

Greater Sand Plover 큰왕눈물떼새. One was in the Flyway Network Site on June 26th. An over-summering bird or an early returning autumn migrant?  This species is assessed as SV2 by Birds Korea.

Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii © Nial Moores

Eurasian Whimbrel 중부리도요. The high count was 116 on June 24th.

Far Eastern Curlew 알락꼬리마도요. EN. Numbers apparently building during the six days, with 1,014 counted in five roosts along c.35km of coast on June 28th. This is about 3% of the estimated world population of this globally Endangered species.

Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis © Nial Moores. Based on the fabulous length of this bird’s bill, presumably a female.

Eurasian Curlew 마도요.  NT. Strong evidence of southward migration, with a rapid increase in numbers during the six days in the Flyway Network Site – with e.g. only 15 on June 24th but 234 by June 28th.

Bar-tailed Godwit 큰뒷부리도요. NT. The highest day count was seven on the 24th. Birds that were seen well were menzbieri, so seem much more likely to be left over from the spring rather than being autumn migrants.

Black-tailed Godwit 흑꼬리도요. NT.  The highest day count was 21 in the Hwaseong Wetlands Flyway Network Site on June 26th. Most intriguing was – again – an obvious size difference between individuals, combined with a few differences in bare part coloration and plumage. With some people now researching this species in depth on our Flyway, are we any closer to knowing whether these are all melanuroides, or are these larger birds nominate limosa (or something else again?)?

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa melanuroides © Nial Moores…some small, with shortish bills, very broad rust-fringes to the upperparts and a Hudsonian Godwit-like grey “face”…
Others, like the rear bird, obviously larger, with a longer bill, narrower chestnut fringes to the upperparts and a brownish wash across the “face”. Same subspecies or…? © Nial Moores

Great Knot 붉은어깨도요. EN. Nine were in the Flyway Network Site on June 24th; and 16 were in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area on the 28th. Some of these birds were in a really dull non-breeding plumage and others (grouped together tightly) were in still-resplendent breeding plumage: a mix of birds that never left the Yellow Sea and some already back from remote breeding grounds?

Broad-billed Sandpiper 송곳부리도요. LC. One dull-plumaged individual was in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area on June 28th. The lack of any breeding plumage perhaps suggests that this bird might have been left over from the spring (their northward migration peaks very late, toward the end of May). This is the first mid-summer record of this species that we are aware of.

Dunlin 민물도요. LC. Three in the Flyway Network Site and seven in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area on June 28th, including one bird in song!  As we did not see any earlier than the 28th, and as all had much breeding plumage still, it seems reasonable to assume that these were very early-returning migrants rather than over-summering birds.

Terek Sandpiper 뒷부리도요. LC. Highest day count was 90 on June 26th.

Grey-tailed Tattler 노랑발도요. NT. Five in the Hwaseong Reclamation Lake on June 24th; two on the outer islets on June 26th; and one in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area. Listed as SV2 by Birds Korea.

Common Redshank 붉은발도요. LC. Plenty of evidence of local breeding in the Flyway Network Site, and a high day count of 54.

Fresh-plumaged juvenile Common Redshank Tringa totanus © Nial Moores
And a worn-plumaged, patchy-looking adult Common Redshank © Nial Moores

Marsh Sandpiper 쇠청다리도요. LC. One in rice-fields in the Flyway Network Site on June 26th. The apparent mix of breeding and non-breeding type plumage perhaps suggests the possibility that this is a Second Calendar-year. Assessed by Birds Korea as SV2.

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis with Black-winged Stilt and Common Redshank © Nial Moores

Wood Sandpiper 알락도요. LC. One overflying rice-fields in the Flyway Network Site on June 26th. Assessed by Birds Korea as SV2.

Spotted Redshank 학도요. LC. One in full breeding plumage on June 26th. Recognizable record shots were taken by PHJ. This is the first June (or July) record of this fast-declining species we are aware of in the ROK.

Little Tern 쇠제비갈매기. LC. Only small numbers seen (5-10 in the FNS and two in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area) – most of these very oddly nesting on unpaved roads in the rice-fields. The catastrophic decline of this formerly common and widespread summer visitor appears to be continuing.

Great Cormorant 민물가마우지. LC. A fairly rare sight in summer at the turn of the century, this species is undergoing a massive expansion in numbers and range. The highest day count was 1,550 in one scan of the Hwaseong Wetlands on June 23rd.

Black-faced Spoonbill 저어새. EN. Highest counts were 93 in the Flyway Network Site on June 23rd and 64 in the main Asan Bay Reclamation Area on June 28th.

Yellow Bittern 덤불해오라기. LC. Only small numbers recorded, with probably ten in total seen and heard on June 26th.

Von Schrenck’s Bittern 큰덤불해오라기. Nationally Endangered Class 2. One or two birds heard bark-booming at distance at night on June 26th were considered to be this species.

Black-crowned Night Heron 해오라기. LC. Only half-a-dozen seen, but these included four perched together oddly on overhead wires!

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax © Nial Moores
And an immature, presumably a Second Calendar-year © Nial Moores. Ageing based on the combination of replaced wing coverts and upperpart plumage and red eyes and the still spotted remnants of juvenile plumage.

Purple Heron 붉은왜가리. Between one and three were seen in the FNS on June 26th: a stunning adult, seen several times in flight; a bird in the same area seen briefly which appeared to be an immature; and another seen briefly 2km to the north at dusk by Amael Borzee.

Adult Purple Heron Ardea purpurea © Jung Hanchul

Chinese Egret 노랑부리백로. VU. Highest day count was six on June 25th.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl 수리부엉이. Nationally Endangered Class 2. Two perched out on “telegraph poles” in the rice-fields at dusk on June 26th.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo © Nial Moores

Eurasian Skylark 북방종다리. LC. Breeding Skylarks have largely disappeared from the Republic of Korea – so a real highlight was seeing two melodic singers with open tails singing alongside half-a dozen more repetitive singers with tails largely closed on June 25th.

Light-vented Bulbul 검은이마직박구리. LC. One singing by Maehyangri on June 24th.  The spread of this species onto the mainland apparently continues on unabated.

A much more detailed interim report has already been shared with several project participants, including the Secretariat of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership. If you are a Birds Korea member and would like to receive a copy, please let us know: thank you.

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