Bird News from Nial Moores
Between May 6th and 9th I conducted a second round of shorebird counts as part of a regional project on the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper led by the wonderful SBS in China, funded by the National Geographic Air and Water Conservation Fund (China). The survey provided many reasons (tens of thousands of them in fact!) to be out birding in Korea – and to conserve remaining tidal-flats.
At the Nakdong Estuary on May 6th, however, although I recorded 21 species of shorebird the number of birds was again remarkably low, with between only 941 and 1,110 shorebirds in total. Although I might have missed some, this total compares with a count of 5,354 shorebirds I made here on May 14th 1998 and of 2,525 by a team of us on May 13th 2008 – an apparent more than halving in number per decade. The species of most note was a Pied Avocet – although (noted with quite some despondency) even this was injured. Also present were 300+ Common Tern and about 150 Little Tern (a species that has also undergone a catastrophic decline here, following “clean-up” efforts of the breeding islands undertaken by Busan city during the past few summers).
Fortunately, conditions were much better at the Geum Estuary with probably 50-60,000 shorebirds present in total below the barrage and on Yubu Island. This compares with an estimate during northward migration of 66,700 in the whole Geum Estuary between 1997-2001 (made by Dr Yi Jeon-Yeong and the Ministry of Environment, before the importance of Yubu was properly realised) and of 97,670 counted here by the SSMP team in the whole estuary with large survey teams on May 6th 2008.
Among 28 species of shorebird at Yubu on May 8th, most numerous were Dunlin (15,000-16,000), Great Knot (4,500-5,000), Bar-tailed Godwit (2,500) and Far Eastern Curlew (2,100).
There was also alot of additional enjoyment to be had from close encounters with e.g. breeding-plumaged Mongolian Plover (750-900 – almost only at high tide), Broad-billed Sandpiper (c. 130), Sanderling (400-450) and Red-necked Stint (150-200).
Standout highlights at Yubu were six Spoon-billed Sandpiper (including Lime-green “01”) and 4+ Nordmann’s Greenshank, a single Little Stint, half-a-dozen Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders’s Gulls and two Chinese Egret.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus © Nial Moores. This particular individual has featured in media in several countries, including an online news article in China on May 11th this year!
Several other flagged birds were seen, including a Ruddy Turnstone and landbird interest was provided by a Red Turtle Dove and e.g. 20+ Eye-browed Thrush and a Pechora Pipit.
Below the barrage, there were at least 32,000 shorebirds on the 9th, including 21,000 Dunlin, 4,500 Red-necked Stint, 2,500 Terek Sandpiper, 1,100-1,300 Grey Plover and 800-1,000 Mongolian Plover (with most flying down river at high tide, presumably to Yubu…).
Viewing conditions were excellent – with prolonged close encounters and a wonderful diversity of birds including several hundred Black-tailed Godwit and what appeared, based on yet another excellent ID article on the Dig Deep website to be two subspecies (ussuriensis and terrignotae) or even perhaps three subspecies of Common Redshank as well as a single breeding-plumaged Spotted Redshank.
With thanks again to SBS in China and the Nat Geo Fund for supporting this essential survey work (for details of a May 23rd Nat Geo Young Explorers Grants’ seminar to be held at Ehwa University, please see [NGS Asia] Young Explorers Grants Seminar at Ewha Univ May 23 2016_Program
Thanks too to Swarovski Optik for providing the use of some truly superb optics; and to Seocheon County for supporting conservation of the Geum Estuary. Again, good luck to all the participants at next week’s meeting there!