Baekryeong Island, May 18~23

Bird news from Subhojit Chakladar (with Soyoung Sung, Jiwone Lee, David Farr and Elizabeth Skakoon)

A return visit to the Korea’s premier birding destination after little more than a week resulted in a very different mix of species. Personally, I observed 122 species during this time (including a few heard only). Prior to my arrival SS and JL were on the island for about 3 days and they had a few other birds not seen later (most prominently Grey-headed Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover and Long-toed Stint). DF and ES joined us from the afternoon of 19th. A day by day account of a very enjoyable trip …

May 18

Technically, it was a working day for me. Thanks to the option of remote work, I was able to squeeze in about 2 hours of birding in the Jincheon area in between conference calls (and enjoy a steak dinner with SS and JL!). Initially I walked around the church area where a group of Eye-browed Thrush were busy feeding. There were quite a few Arctic Warbler and my first Two-barred Warbler this year. I also saw my first Dark-sided Flycatcher and Tiger Shrike of the spring (which are typically late migrants). There were quite a few cuckoos around. Later in the afternoon, I ran into SS who started named Jincheon as “Cuckoo Town”, thanks to an abundance of (mostly) Common Cuckoo on the wires. In all 49 species were observed in a small part of the island within these 2 hours.

Common Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus © Subhojit Chakladar

Link to the eBird checklist for the day: May 18th checklist

May 19

Start of holiday and 1st full day of birding. We started at around 5:30 in the morning (SC, SS and JL). The 1st highlight of the day was a Black-capped Kingfisher which was initially spotted sitting on telephone wire. We also encountered this species in the general area on later days as well and was probably the same individual. We also heard the 1st Lanceolated Warbler of the spring. Later in the morning, as the thermals began to rise, we spent sometime scanning the skies from an elevated viewpoint in the NW of the island. There were multiple flocks of Pacific Swift (totaling about 90 birds) which contained a single White-throated Needletail. JL informed me that their Korean name translated to “knife birds” – what an appropriate name! There was also a trickle of raptors including 1 Crested Honey Buzzard, 3 Chinese Sparrowhawk and 2 Japanese Sparrowhawk. We also same a group of 4 rather skittish Richard’s Pipit in overgrown patch. (Though I still find it challenging to distinguish them from Blyth’s in the field and their behavior matched that of Blyth’s, the generally larger and more full chested structure coupled with the structure of their median coverts showing more elongated black spots led me to conclude them as Richard’s). In a woodland, we came across multiple singing Arctic Warbler, a Narcissus Flycatcher and 2 groups of Black-naped Oriole (totaling 9 individuals).

Reed lined wetlands, ideal for a host of waders, acrocephalus warblers and lots more … © Jiwone Lee
Fog rolling in with easterly winds. There are 3 species of Egret present in this picture. Can you recognize them? © Soyoung Sung

DF and ES arrived close to noon. I went to the ferry terminal to get them on their 1st trip to the island. No sooner had they got into the car, I received a call from SS – Oriental Pratincole in the fields. So off we went to see those birds before DF and ES could drop off their bags at the hotel. Welcome to Baekryeongdo!!

Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum © Subhojit Chakladar

Later in the afternoon, we birded around a reservoir in the SW corner of the island. I heard (and poorly) saw the 1st Pallas’ Grasshopper Warbler. There were also a few Thick-billed Warbler (mostly hidden and singing), a Dollarbird, a Black Drongo, a Siberian Blue Robin, a Rufous-tailed Robin (many more heard) and a Chinese Blackbird. A total of 84 species were observed.

Link to eBird checklist for the day: May 19th checklist

May 20th

Another early start but the bird numbers seemed generally down (perhaps due intermittent rain which made observation more difficult). We managed to log on 68 species on this day. New birds for the trip was a Mandarin Duck, 3 Daurian Starling, a Red-billed Starling and a flock of 20 Chinese Grosbeak.

Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata © Subhojit Chakladar

Link to the eBird checklist for the day: May 20th checklist

May 21st

Determined to improve upon the numbers of the previous day, we started early again with renewed resolve as the weather improved! Starting at the SW corner, we encountered more locustella warblers including a singing Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler, singing Radde’s Warbler, a Schrenk’s Bittern (which unfortunately flushed before everyone could look at it properly), Indian Cuckoo (in the scope) – living upto its Korean name of “black backed cuckoo” and 2 Japanese Grosbeak mixed with a flock of Chinese Grosbeak.

We spent quite a bit of time looking through multiple flocks of Pacific Swift (approx 120) but couldn’t find anything interesting. Scanning the skies, we also came across a group of very distant about 20 Crested Honey Buzzard and 2 different Grey-faced Buzzard (much closer). We also encountered a ball of about 15 Chestnut-flanked White-eye – a 1st for the trip. Later in the day, we came across a female Amur Falcon perched on a tree very close to a Grey-backed Thrush (busy singing). Closer to sunset, back in the fields of Jincheon, we spotted dozens of Common Cuckoo and 5 Yellow-breasted Bunting (on barbed wires). A total of 81 species were observed.

Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes © Subhojit Chakladar
Black-browed Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus bistrigiceps © Soyoung Sung
Looking towards the southern part fo the island. This viewpoint is good for watching swifts © Jiwone Lee

Link to the eBird checklist for the day: May 21st checklist

May 22nd

With good weather and favorable wind, there was a large scale clearing out of birds overnight resulting in rather low numbers in the morning. However we still found about 5 singing Lanceolated Warbler, a Japanese Leaf warbler (initially alerted by its deeper call and then being able to compare its song with Arctic Warbler and Kamchatka Leaf Warbler present and singing at the same time). New birds for the trip were a Pechora Pipit, a Blyth’s Pipit, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and a Tristram’s Bunting. Later in the western part of the island, we came across Far-eastern Oystercatcher chicks (observed at a distance through scopes) as well as Little Ringed Plover chick – which walked into the road and SS had to get off the car to guide the cute little ball of down to its mom calling from a grassy track beside the road. Unfortunately, some urgent work meant that I had to cut short my birding for the day 🙁

It was close to 6 when I finally got some time to bird again. I spent the last hour before sunset walking the valleys and fields in Jincheon. The best birds were a singing Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler, an Amur Falcon, a Pallas’ Leaf Warler, singing Radde’s Warbler, a party of Long-tailed Tit and a Chestnut-earned Bunting (which appeared to fall asleep perched on a reed). A total of 78 species for this day.

“little” Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius © Soyoung Sung
Pechora Pipit, Anthus gustavi © Subhojit Chakladar

Link to the eBird checklist for the day: May 22nd checklist

May 23rd

Last day on the island. We only managed to bird till about 10:30 in the morning but still managed to find 66 species. New birds for the trip included a Ruddy-breasted Crake and an Ashy Minivet. On the return ferry, despite spending close to an hour looking for birds from the deck, all I could find (apart from Black-tailed Gull) were 2 Common Tern.

Ruddy-breasted Crake, Zapornia fusca © Soyoung Sung
Black Drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus © Subhojit Chakladar

Link to the eBird checklist for the day: May 23rd checklist

Even though there were no megas during this trip, we did enjoy some good birding and awesome company. The weather ranged from bright and sunny with strong westerly winds to spells of rain and fog (along with easterly winds).

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