Southeast and South, December 27th-29th

Bird News from Nial Moores with Ashley and Ashton Hopkins, and Cho Sehui (on 27th only)

Three excellent days in mild and sunny weather, with a great mix of species seen.

On 27th, a quick stop in the Guryongpo Harbour before sunrise found four scoters: three Stejneger’s and one which on silhouette at all angles looked much better for Velvet. Unfortunately, the birds flew and could not be re-found.

Checklist on eBird here.

Probable Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca 노랑부리검둥오리사촌 (on left) with Stejneger’s Scoter Melanitta stejnegeri 검둥오리사촌 © Nial Moores . Note the differences in head and bill shapes – and see the post about the national first record here.
Stejneger’s Scoter on left and probable Velvet Scoter on right © Cho Sehui: even in flight the head profiles look strikingly different.

Although the gulling along the main headland was a little underwhelming, the bay held more scoters and Harlequin Duck, good numbers of Temminck’s and a few Pelagic Cormorants, and hundreds of grebes – including 270 Red-necked Grebe , exceptional for here. There were also large numbers of Ancient and nine Long-billed Murrelets (four apparent pairs and one single). We did not spend much time looking for landbirds, but nonetheless enjoyed good views of Meadow Bunting, several mixed flocks of bulbuls and exceptional views of two Warbling White-eyes (one of which started preening the other…beautiful!)

Full checklist on eBird here.

Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus 흰줄박이오리 © Nial Moores
Red-necked Grebes Podiceps grisegena 큰논병아리 © Nial Moores
Two different pairs of Long-billed Murrelet Brachyramphus perdix 알락쇠오리 © Nial Moores
Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus 가마우지 © Nial Moores
Warbling White-eyes Zosterops japonicus 동박새 © Nial Moores

Travelling back to Busan, a stop along a river near Gyeongju produced first a Mute Swan and then a stunning-looking but unsurprisingly confiding Crested Ibis (“18P” in black on yellow band on right tarsus; red band on left tarsus) – the first time any of us had seen one away from the reintroduction scheme at Upo.  The day then finished with a flock of 10,000 Rook and about 300 Daurian Jackdaw in the air together – magical.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 혹고니 © Nial Moores
Globally Endangered Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon 따오기 © Ashley Hopkins
Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon 따오기 © Nial Moores. To the best of our knowledge, this species never nested in the ROK, instead being a locally common winter visitor to the west coast, presumably from breeding colonies in Far East Russia, with localised over-summering or breeding in the far northwest of present-day DPRK (for a fuller account see: Korean J. Syst. Zool. Vol. 26, No. 3: 191-196, November 2010). More recently, a local manager at Mundok (DPRK) reported seeing one two years running in the early 2010s in May, apparently a wild bird on migration. The history of free-flying 18P will be researched when time allows. However, the bird is clearly one of the several hundred descendants of a pair and then two males gifted by China (see here) as part of a very successful captive breeding program at Upo started in 2008, followed by a staggered release program of many dozens of birds since 2019. Free-flying birds at Upo, still sustained by artificial feeding, successfully bred for the first time outside of the holding cage at Upo in 2021 (see here.) Although the free-flying birds seem to suffer from (very) high rates of mortality, a few like this bird have dispersed (in this case at least 100km) – and seem to be able to survive in the wild.
Small part of mixed flock of Rook Corvus frugilegus 떼까마귀 and Daurian Jackdaw Coloeus dauuricus 갈까마귀 © Ashley Hopkins

On 28th, a long drive to Suncheon Bay, where in addition to more than a thousand Hooded and nine White-naped Cranes highlights included a Masked Bunting, an unseasonal Temminck’s Stint, a Rough-legged Buzzard, nine or so of 20+ Cinerous Vulture seen during the day and the first of several stunning Upland Buzzards (seems to be a truly exceptional winter for them here ).

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus 독수리 © Ashley Hopkins

Checklists on eBird here and here

Thanks to eBird reports, we then travelled a further hour southwest to one of the Gohung Reclamation areas where we enjoyed prolonged views of the juvenile Steppe Eagle (one of 4 or so of this globally Endangered species in the ROK this winter), one (or perhaps two?) Pallas’s Gulls, at least nine Upland Buzzard and perhaps as many as five Ferruginous Duck (views were too brief to check all five birds for signs of hybrid influence).

Full checklist on eBird here

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis 초원수리 © Nial Moores
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 큰검은머리갈매기 with Common Mergansers 비오리 © Nial Moores

On 30th, early morning highlights at the Nakdong Estuary included a second-winter Relict Gull and an adult Steller’s Sea Eagle – both globally Vulnerable species.  We then headed to Junam, where three Swan Geese (recently re-assessed by BirdLife as globally Endangered) and based on the small size and reduced black on the head a hybrid Common x Hooded Crane were obvious highlights, followed by a return to the Nakdong Estuary for late afternoon – for three more Steller’s Sea Eagle and the long-staying adult globally Vulnerable Greater Spotted Eagle.

Checklists on eBird here, here and here

Fields flooded for waterbirds, Junam Reservoir © Nial Moores
Presumed Common Crane 검은목두루미 X Hooded Crane 흑두루미 hybrid , with globally Vulnerable White-naped Cranes Antigone vipio 재두루미 © Nial Moores
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga 항라머리검독수리© Nial Moores
Steller’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus 참수리 © Nial Moores

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.