Gageodo, April 23~27

Bird news from Subhojit Chakladar

With an interesting weather system developing near the Shanghai coast, I was tempted to see what would the storm bring to an isolated island like Gageo as the winds sweep migrating birds across the Yellow Sea. It turned out to be an interesting trip despite vastly reduced “bird-friendly” habitat on the island.

April 23

Arriving past mid day, a massive construction of a new harbor greeted as we entered the island. One of the most productive places on the island – the “quarry” was operational in full swing. That left a rather small portion of the main village and the uphill road leading to the “pass” as suitable habitat for birding. The whole island was shrouded in dense fog. There were good numbers of buntings with Little Bunting being the dominant species followed by Black-faced Bunting. Smaller numbers of Tristram’s Bunting and Yellow-browed Bunting were seen in cultivated patches and forest edges. The best bunting species for me personally were a couple of Yellow Bunting, which predominantly migrate through the southern islands as they head towards Japan. The other species that I was encountering after a long time was Brown-headed Thrush, which follows a similar migrating path. However, there was a noticeable lack of species like warblers (just a few Yellow-browed Warbler and Eastern-crowned Warbler seen and 2 Dusky Warbler heard), flycatchers (couple of Narcissus Flycatcher and 1 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher) and shrikes (none). A Wood Sandpiper was the only shorebird for the day. Wagtails were present in good numbers with White Wagtail (almost all of them ocularis) being the majority, with one each of taivana and macronyx Eastern Yellow Wagtail. A dead Asian Stubtail was also found on the road to the pass 🙁

Narcissus Flycatcher, Ficedula narcissina

ebird checklist for the day. A total of 53 species observed.

April 24

Continued fog clearing momentarily around noon. More or less the same species but an early arriving cuckoo (seen from a distance, with general structure suggesting either Common or Oriental). Later an Oriental Cuckoo was heard calling. A Dollarbird was seen near the “pass” which seemed a bit early for this species. Other new birds for the day included Pacific Swift, a juvenile Grey-faced Buzzard, Oriental Reed Warbler, Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Pechora Pipit, Cattle Egret and a Yellow-breasted Bunting perched on the wires.

Yellow-browed Bunting, Emberiza chrysophrys

ebird checklist for the day. A total of 59 species observed.

April 25

With the storm system starting to move in from the afternoon, this was the least productive of days. Fog continued through the morning. By late morning as winds picked up, the fog started to dissipate. Rain started at around 4:30pm. In general things were very quiet this day.

A Japanese Woodpigeon was seen flying and 2 small flocks of Ashy Minivet were heard. 3 Asian Brown Flycatcher were also new for the trip as was a Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.

Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus
Yellow Bunting, Emberiza sulphurata

ebird checklist for the day. A total of 41 species observed.

April 26

Heavy rain and strong winds overnight continuing into the dawn. Rain stopped around mid morning but it was still very foggy. The weather system that I had come here for had passed and now it was time to see what it had brought. It didn’t disappoint!!

A Lesser Sand Plover and a Whimbrel on the rocky beach near the trash tip and an Ashy Drongo on the wires nearby. Couple of Wood Sandpiper flying around. A large influx of Cattle Egret and Chinese Pond Heron. Passerine numbers had also swollen with significant numbers of Yellow-browed Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Olive-backed Pipit. A Chinese Grosbeak was seen on the road leading to the “pass” while a Japanese Grosbeak was seen calling/singing from the wires in the main village. The 2nd highlight of the day came in form of a Tree Pipit, which seemed rather tame allowing me to examine its features from all angles before concluding its identity. A Common Snipe was flushed from a roadside ditch going up to the “pass” revealing its identify thanks to the prominent white trailing edge to the secondaries. Another snipe was seen flying from a vegetable garden in the main village. General pale coloration, lack of white on the trailing edge of the wing made me assume it was a Latham’s Snipe. But the highlight of the day came close to sunset in form of a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo. While coming down from the “pass”, my attention was drawn to a movement in between the trees. Ducking down beneath the guard rails, I slowly raised by bins to find a bird the size of a large magpie in the tangles. At first, I could only see a shade of dark grey and blue. That left me scratching my head for a while. The bird seemed to be bent down in an awkward position. However, it must have sensed my presence as it turned its head towards me revealing a prominent crest and the chestnut brown shoulders from which it derives its name. Still looking through the bins, I hesitated to move knowing that it would spook the bird. Very slowly I reached out to my camera, still looking at the bird through my bins. In the span of time it took to switch my view from the bins to the camera view finder, the bird moved further into the slopes. By the time the camera had focused, all I could see was some twigs moving 🙁 Despite waiting for about 30 mins and trying a short burst of call playback, the bird was not seen again. It didn’t respond to the playback either.

Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus
Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis

ebird checklist for the day. A total of 61 species observed.

April 27

With wind picking up and getting stronger throughout the day, it was difficult to be outdoors. Nevertheless there were new birds to be found. 2 Red-necked Stint, 1 Broad-billed Sandpiper, 2 Terek Sandpiper, 1 Kentish Plover and the Lesser Sand Plover from yesterday were all feeding on the “mossy slab”. A Striated Heron was seen flying around, while one (of the 2) Latham’s Snipe was obliging enough to give me an opportunity to take some close shots. The Ashy Drongo from yesterday was also seen again and a probably White-breasted Waterhen was seen briefly in the roadside tangle.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus
Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus
Latham’s Snipe, Gallinago hardwickii

ebird checklist for the day. A total of 47 species observed.

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