Gageo Island, Shinan County (Part Two), October 27 – November 1

Selected Bird Survey highlights from Nial Moores

In total 110 species recorded, with between 66 and 83 species recorded daily.  Winds remained stubbornly to the north or northeast, and skies largely fair, with the only precipitation being several rain showers on 27th and a 30-minute spell of rain on October 31st.  Numbers of most irruptive migrants (the only exception being Eurasian Siskin) fell steadily during this period.  Highlights (with all images taken with a hand-held Nikon P7100 through a SUPERB Swarvoski scope) included:


Amur Falcon: One feeding actively at 2-Gu on the evening of 31st.



Northern Lapwing: One between 29th and 31st in 1-gu is perhaps only the second record for Gageo (the  last being more than 10 years ago).


Red Turtle Dove: One (presumed First-winter male) was seen briefly at 2-Gu on 27th. This species is recorded scarcely annually in the ROK.



Eurasian Magpie: One arrived in 1-Gu on 29th and was still present on November 1st.


Rook: A maximum of four were present on 30th.  All corvids are very scarce on Gageo.


Yellow-bellied Tit: 10+ were present on 27th, with numbers falling steadily through the period, and the last being seen on 31st.



Siberian Chiffchaff: One was present in 1-Gu early in the morning of 28th. Based on its strong wing-bar and lack of yellow on the wing-bend this is believed to be a different individual to that on the 21st.  There are still probably fewer than 20 national records of this species: however, this is the fourth recorded on Gageo just this year.



Arctic Warbler sensu lato: Both single Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (examinandus) and Japanese / Pacific Leaf Warbler (xanthodryas) were believed heard calling in 1-Gu. The only individual that was well seen (on November 1st) appeared exceptionally green on the upperparts, and showed much yellow in the supercilium and ear coverts, as well as on much of the underparts. While it is tempting to claim this individual as a Pacific Leaf Warbler, it appeared rather small and was not heard to call.  Can other yellow-tinged taxa (like kennicotti) be ruled out?  We would welcome receiving expert advice and published articles on how to separate these taxa in the field!





Hume’s Leaf Warbler: One on November 1st (which was much easier to ID than the above!).


Chinese Nuthatch: In some ways, perhaps the most extraordinary record on Gageo this autumn so far – suggesting that this year’s irruption could result in this species turning up anywhere in the ROK (and perhaps also in eastern China or even Japan?).  One possible was heard on October 30th and presumably the same individual was digiscoped (terribly!) on November 1st, both times in the quarry in 1-Gu.


Siberian Stonechat: Between 20 and 40 present daily.  All are believed to be Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri , recognised as a full species (distinct from both European S. rubicola and Siberian Stonechat S. maurus) in version 3.2 of the Checklist of the International Ornithological Congress.  As such, this species will be listed in the next update of the Birds Korea checklist. Details are now being sought on how to separate Stejneger’s from Siberian Stonechat on field-views (for example, do maurus also sometimes show dark marks on the longest uppertail coverts, shown by probably 1 in 4 of the stejnegeri seen on Gageo this autumn)..



Red-breasted Flycatcher: One was seen and heard well (in the same view as a Taiga Flycatcher!) in 1-Gu on 31st.  Red-breasted Flycatcher appears to be a very scarce but predictable late-autumn visitor to the ROK.


Siberian Accentor: Typically rather scarce on Gageo, even in good winters for the species on the mainland.  The first personal records of the autumn were on October 30th, with two present on 31st and November 1st.



Red Crossbill: A female flew west on 30th.


Eurasian Bullfinch: A small flock was heard (but not seen) on 30th. This is my / the (?) second record of the species on Gageo (first was in January 2009), although it is not yet listed for the county by Lee Kyung-Gyu.


Pine Bunting:  Three together were in a mixed bunting flock in the 1-Gu quarry on the evening of November 1st.



Black-headed Bunting: The 2-Gu bird remained present and confiding throughout the period.



All images © Nial Moores / Birds Korea.

2 comments on “Gageo Island, Shinan County (Part Two), October 27 – November 1

  1. Though I’m not an expert, I’m sure, there is some correlation between the species that are experiencing irruptions, for example, in terms of say feeding habits or preferred habitat. There are some overlap between the species that you mention in this report and the species that I encountered over last 2 weekends in Deokjeok-do. For example, Chinese Nuthatch, Crossbill, Pine Bunting, Siberian Accentor etc. I was wondering , if you could point out some resources where I could study more about irruptions and maybe get an idea of what to expect given the current conditions. I also guess there are some difference in the migratory patterns of the birds that you encounter on Gageo and on one of the more northern islands like Socheong. I’ve always been fascinated by migration … now it seems the more I learn about it, the more enthralled I get.

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for your updates and for your comments.

    Re Irruptions etc: the best summary resource that I know of is a paper by Newton (which I refer to in a couple of earlier blogposts). As we do not yet have permission from the author or from the journal to post the pdf of this paper on our websites or blog, I will send it to you directly.

    In brief, this paper refers to several species that are well-known as irruptive migrants, most especially from research in western Europe. There is much overlap in species groups that irrupt in western Europe and that irrupt here – and as you will read there are also a (very) few records of banded individuals (eg of Common Redpoll) that have migrated from western Europe to as far east as eastern China…Typical irruptive species groups include some titmice, some woodpeckers, some nuthatches, some jays and finches, and some owls and diurnal raptors. This autumn in the ROK we have already seen irruptive migration by Varied, Eastern Great, Coal and Yellow-bellied Tits, by Chinese Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker, and by Eurasian Siskin and perhaps some other finches (as Newton explains, describing irruptions is not always simple and clear-cut – some species like Brambling are irruptive migrants and there are large numbers here this autumn- but are these numbers actually much higher than might be expected in an average winter?).

    As some of these species will be moving hundreds or even thousands of kms, especially during irruptions, there will be substantial overlap in records of the same species on different islands only 400km north-south in the West Sea (and elsewhere in the ROK).

    Higher numbers of some species north-south or west-east, IF accurately observed, noted and understood, can then, in ideal circumstances, be used to help identify the likely source areas of SOME of the birds concerned. For example, the mapped breeding distribution of Chinese Nuthatch and the larger number of Chinese Nuthatch recorded northward, eg in Incheon (closer to the breeding area) this autumn is only to be expected. Less clear: were there actually many more Varied Tits moving west in the far southeast and southwest of the ROK than in central and northern ROK? Or was the greater number of birds counted due instead to observer bias (IE a FEW people counting in the south; PERHAPS no-one counting Varied Tits on the move in Gangwon or Incheon)? If not due to obsever bias, then, in combination with observed westerly movements of Varied Tit also recorded at the same time in Japan, this would suggest that at least some of the Varied Tits seen on the move in the ROK (and even in China) might have been coming from Japan….

    Such interpretaion, if it is to have any real value, needs to be based on large numbers of observers recording their observations accurately. Birding is great fun – and in a region with so few people observing and especially counting birds, it also potentially has great scientific and conservation value.

    Therefore, even as a small organisation, Birds Korea has long been trying to do all that we can to encourage people to count birds when they bird, and to share these counts publicly. We also continue to try to initiate constant effort counting at local sites, and to encourage birders to record and describe the habitats that they find, and to record (and to challenge!!) the threats that they find in these areas.

    Once birders record numbers and start looking closely at the places where they bird, then it should become much easier e.g. to understand and explain migration routes and to assess the impacts of habitat change – from reclamation to an increase in collision potential, to an increase in disturbance (yes, in many areas a major and growing problem for many of our bird species).

    Even though there are still so few birders, there is so much good we can do together for the birds – especially if we take the time to record our observations carefully, and if we then share our findings publicly.

    Hope that the above is of some help, and that you enjoy the pdf.

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