Socheong-do, May 17-26

Bird News from Jens Thalund


I arrived in Korea late afternoon on 16 May, so didn’t manage to catch the boat to Socheong-do.

17 May
Arrived on Socheong-do around mid day, after dozing through most of the ferry ride because of jet lag, but still managed to see 4 Streaked Shearwaters close to the island.

I spent the rest of the day slowly working my way out to the light house, checking out the different roads leading off the main East/West road, and having just arrived from Denmark, I was kept busy by even the most common stuff. There seemed to be many migrants around, with Phylloscopus warblers and Buntings being common, with about 15 each of Dusky and Radde’s Warbler, 25+ Yellow-browed Warblers and a nice mix of Little, Yellow-breasted, Chestnut and Black-faced Buntings. Less numerous were Arctic, Pallas’s, Pale-legged and Eastern Crowned Warblers, Rufous-tailed and Siberian Blue Robin.
Six Black Drongos were at the village with 2 Daurian Starlings, and of the 12 Brown Shrikes – 2 male birds at the lighthouse looked like the warm rufous-brown ssp superciliosus.


18 May.
Windy and foggy, with number of birds much the same as the day before. 2-3 Chinese Pond Herons were found around the island, trying hard to find something to feed on, a Black-capped Kingfisher near the power station (which remained until 24 May), one Two-barred Greenish Warbler heard at the light house, a male Bluethroat, 3 White-throated Rock Thrushes and at least 9 Pale-legged Leaf Warblers.


19 May.
Less windy but more foggy, with scattered migrants arriving through the day, like a mixed flock of 2 Little Egrets, 1 Intermediate Egret and 7 Eastern Cattle Egrets. A few Chinese Sparrowhawks seemed to drop out of the fog every now and then, along with 3 Asian House Martins, single White-shouldered and Daurian Starling, single Pechora Pipit, that for once was calling several times as it circled the western end of the island at the lighthouse, a Japanese Waxwing at the power station, 2 male Tiger Shrikes and 3 new White-throated Rock Thrushes.


20 May.
Very heavy fog for most of the day, that lifted in the late afternoon, made birding difficult, but a singing Lanceolated Warbler in the morning cheered me up, as did a White-breasted Waterhen, 4 Chinese Bulbuls and 2 Two-barred Greenish Warblers.
With the fog lifting in the afternoon, vizzmiggin was on again, and in a few hours 12 Chinese Sparrowhawks flew east (along with 4 roosting birds), with single Japanese Sparrowhawk, Grey-faced Buzzard and male Amur Falcon, as well as 12 Dollarbirds.


21 May.
Plenty of new birds had arrived overnight, and suddenly Arctic Warbler had become the most numerous Phylloscopus (25+) along with Dusky Warbler (23) instead of Yellow-browed Warbler (20). New birds were Dark-sided Flycatcher, Oriental and Lesser Cuckoo, and scarcer birds like single Japanese Grosbeak, Northern House Martin, 2 fresh White-throated Rock Thrushes and a Hair-crested Drongo on the hillside behind the two churches in the village. This bird could be found daily in the same flowering tree until the day I left the island (26 May), and was remarkable in having a yellow bill! First I thought it might just be an overdose of pollen from the flowers it had been feeding on, but it seemed to be a constant feature on the bird (see photo below taken on 26th May).

Japanese Grosbeak . Photo © Jens Thalund


22 May.
Another good fall had occurred during the night, and 3 Lanceolated Warblers could be heard giving short bursts of song, on my way out to the lighthouse. 3 Eastern Oystercatchers flew west along the northern coastline, numbers of Black Drongos had climbed to 10, 7 Chinese Bulbuls tried to leave the island repeatedly as did a Jay, a White-breasted Waterhen was flushed from the lighthouse gully (where it was seen daily until my departure 26 May), late, male Red-flanked Bluetail and female Daurian Redstart were present, there was a female Common Rosefinch at the lighthouse and a singing male was heard from the village, a Pechora Pipit was flushed into a tree, where it perched for 10-15 seconds (also present next day), a mixed flock of Swallows and Swifts held 4 White-throated Needletails and 2 Asian House Martins, and a Northern Hawk Cuckoo was calling from the eastern end of the island.

Brown Shrike ssp superciliosus. Photo © Jens Thalund

Black-browed Reed Warbler . Photo © Jens Thalund

An interesting/frustrating ficedula-flycatcher was seen briefly three times, that looked mostly like a female Mugimaki Flycatcher, but the orange wash on the breast continued all the way down to the vent, and the brown colour on the back seemed to have a greyish tone, suggesting a second-year male. I’ll try and post a few pictures later.

Mugimaki Flycatcher . Photo © Jens Thalund


23 May.
A calm a sunny day, that once again had birds to keep me busy all day. Warblers were common with 29 Arctic, 18 Radde’s and Dusky Warblers, 8 Black-browed, 3 Thick-billed and 4 Oriental Reed Warblers, 26 Brown Flycatchers, 19 Brown Shrikes, 210 Barn, 40 Red-rumped Swallows and single Northern and Asian House Martins, calling Oriental Scops Owl in late morning, 2 Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers, a female Japanese Quail flushed, 3 Tiger Shrikes and 2 Japanese Grosbeaks.


24 May.
Another sunny and warm day, where fresh birds had clearly arrived during the night. 67 Arctic Warblers were counted during the day, and single digit numbers only of Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers marked a turning point in Spring migration. I finally managed to track down a Siberian Rubythroat (and thankfully a male), and there were single Greater Short-toed Larks at opposite ends of the island, and a couple of fresh Tiger Shrikes.
Best bird of the day though, was a Tickell’s Leaf Warbler on the shrubby hillside behind the churches in the village, which showed for half a minute, before disappearing in the bushes further along the hill.

Greater Short-toed Lark . Photo © Jens Thalund


25 May.
My last full day on Socheong-do started off with a surprise, when what initially looked like an odd, slender shrike perched on a telephone-wire turned out to be a male Black-winged Cuckooshrike, once I got my binoculars on the bird. Sadly it only just perched here long enough, for me to get my camera out, before disappearing into the trees.

At the lighthouse, the local, and very noisy, pair of Peregrine Falcons were so kind to alert me to a Yellow Bittern that came in off the sea, and somehow managed to evade the attacks from the falcons. In the gully here a Lanceolated Warbler was singing briefly, a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was flushed and best of all, a female Siberian Thrush showed briefly alongside a Grey-backed Thrush. There was also a new Black-capped Kingfisher here and 10 Chinese Bulbuls, which tried to head out west several times, before finally giving up.
Compared to this morning, the afternoon seemed almost dull, with 23 migrating Chinese Sparrowhawks and an adult male Red-flanked Bluetail.


26 May.
A last walk out to the lighthouse in the morning, gave the impression that numbers of migrants were low, so not the worst day to leave the island. Still 29 Arctic and 15 Radde’s Warblers counted and no less than 4 Two-barred Greenish Warblers heard, but more interesting was ‘the one that got away’: at the lighthouse, an acrocephalus-warbler the size of a Black-browed Reed Warbler was seen for a few seconds. It perched high in the lush grass, showing it’s head, which had an obvious pale supercilium, only reaching as far as the eye, and no dark eyebrow. The rest of the bird was hidden in the grass, so I couldn’t see the wings and tail, but it gave the impression of a Blunt-winged Warbler. Unfortunately it disappeared into a large rose-bush, where I wasn’t able to relocate it.

Hair-crested Drongo . Photo © Jens Thalund

The ferry ride back to Incheon had around 40 Streaked Shearwaters and single Common and White-winged Tern.


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