Bird News from Nial Moores and Jung Hanchul
Highlights of five days of survey along the Gyeonggi coast included 31 species of shorebird, with a minimum 2,755 Far Eastern Curlew in the Hwaseong Wetlands FNS and 443 in the Asan Bay Reclamation Area; a single Nordmann’s Greenshank; internationally important concentrations of Terek Sandpiper and Eurasian Whimbrel at Maehwari and in the FNS; good views of displaying Greater Painted-snipe; more than 350 Black-faced Spoonbill in total; and also in the FNS, vocalizing von Shrenck’s Bittern and one or two Chinese Penduline Tit – suggesting local breeding.
Funded by the EAAFP and the Hwaseong Eco-Foundation, our surveys were part of an effort both to catch the likely peak of southward migration of the globally Endangered Far Eastern Curlew through the ROK, with teams also counting tidal flats in Incheon (on 24th and 25th) and in the Geum Estuary (on 22nd and 23rd) (a detailed report on that now in progress); and also to gather counts of waterbirds to compare with survey over the same dates last year as part of the Hwaseong Wetlands Project.
Conducted in oppressive heat (with morning lows of 28C and maxima daily reaching 35C, briefly peaking at 38C), our surveys recorded 58 species of waterbird and almost 13,900 individual waterbirds in the FNS. This compares well with 49 species of waterbird and 13, 253 individual waterbirds counted on July 21st and 24th 2020 in somewhat milder and much wetter conditions.
Our counts help contribute further to the really good baseline that we have developed for the Hwaseong Wetlands FNS over the past year. In truth, this is now a far more scientific and useful dataset for conservation-management purposes than much of the shockingly poor commentary on waterbirds included in the formal submission for World Heritage listing of four tidal flats accepted earlier this week (see for example the really confusing text on page 87 of the”Nomination Text” at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1591/documents/). Our counts also help to confirm the Ramsar-defined international importance of the still unprotected Asan Bay (with its three large reclamation impoundments idle for now) and the still unprotected “Maehwari Tidal Flat” (stretching from Gungpyeong to Songgyori). However, our high counts alone do not capture what appears to be a massive rate of turnover through this area of many shorebird species in late July, including in stints, Terek Sandpiper and Far Eastern Curlew (but NOT in e.g., Far Eastern Oystercatcher and Eurasian Curlew)…Are many of “our” shorebirds arriving on the ROK coast in late July; remaining for only a day or two; then moving across the Yellow Sea to stage on the Chinese Yellow Sea coast, or are they heading even further south on the Flyway (perhaps to Taiwan and the Philippines?) on their long, long journey back to Australia?
A few species / observations of interest follow:
Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 큰기러기. 23, some now starting wing moult, still in the FNS.
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons 쇠기러기. Seven in the FNS still.
Far Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus osculans 검은머리물떼새 . 508 on the 24th and 514 on the 25th in the FNS. Only 16 juveniles noted.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 장다리물떼새. The main breeding area for this and several other species was (intentionally?) bulldozed a week before our survey started, in order to create flat, dry fallow fields (instead of wet fallow fields) . We found only 33 stilts in total, including about 10 young.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 흰물떼새. Less than 10 seen in the FNS (compared with 1,013 recorded in the same period last year); and a high count of only about 200 in the Asan Bay Reclamation Area. Did flooding and high water levels in late May/ early June wipe out most of the local breeding population? Or is some other factor at work here?
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis 호사도요. Four were heard (and two well watched).
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 중부리도요. High counts of 550 (1% of the estimated Flyway Population) in the FNS and of 632 in Maehwari. Many of these were likely the same individuals moving between the two sites.
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis 알락꼬리마도요. In the FNS, 445 on the 22nd; 2,755 on the 24th; and 1,655 on 25th. At Maehwari, 478 on 22nd and 525 on 24th. In the Asan Bay Reclamation Area, 333 on 21st and 443 on 23rd. Only 65 were counted on a massively wide tidal flat between Jeibu and Teibu on the 24th. The big daily changes in numbers in the FNS and the low number of birds starting wing moult was in stark contrast to the next species.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 마도요. In the FNS, 1,685 on the 22nd; 1,700 on 24th; and 1,850 on 25th. Large numbers in progressively higher numbers at the other sites too. Many were in heavy wing moult.
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor 저어새. High counts of 176 in the FNS (including one bird with a sat-backpack), 127 in Asan Bay Reclamation Area, and 48 at Maehwari.
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes 노랑부리백로. High counts of 18 in the FNS and of 34 at Maehwari. None seen in the Asan Bay Reclamation Area.