Bird News by Leslie Hurteau
Around mid-June, I camped at Seogwipo Natural Recreational Forest, up on the south-west slope of Hallasan. There had been previous sightings of Ruddy Kingfishers, Black Wood Pigeons, and Northern Hawk Cuckos at this park in past years, so I gave it a shot. None of those species were found on this visit (unfortunately), but plenty of other species were around regardless.
Sunday evening was spent doing a quick stroll through some roads and trails before sunset. Plenty of Grey-backed Thrush were heard in song, and a couple Lesser and Common Cuckoos. Plenty of expected species, such as Oriental Greenfinch, Brown-eared Bulbul, Warbling White-eyes, calling Ring-necked Pheasants, and Eastern, Long-tailed, and Varied Tits. A few Large-billed Crows could be found looming about, as well as Oriental Magpies by the parking lot. One surprise was an Ashy Minivet heard calling from the canopy. It was not found or heard again, but I did manage a sound recording.
Just after sunset an unusual call was heard as I was nearing a bend in the trail. it was a three syllable call that sounded unlike anything I had heard before. After listening and doing a quick recording I decided to do playback with some flycatcher calls to listen for a response and see if I sort out the mystery bird. It responded immediately to a Narcissus Flycatcher call, but after listening to the Narcissus song it wasn’t matching the mystery song. I remembered that Ryukyu Flycatcher looks quite similar to Narcissus so I played its song to compare and surprisingly it matched. It was quite dark at this point so I decided to move on and try the next day at dawn.
The rest of the night was uneventful with no owls calling, although plenty of White’s Thrushes were heard singing. The trip back to my tent was enjoyable with various moths, spiders, and fireflies that came out with the dark.
The next morning had an early predawn start, with a possible singing Japanese Scops Owl heard from my tent. The call was a bit higher than I expected, reminding me a bit of the knocking heard at Buddhist temple, very consistent pulsing but not as fast as a nightjar. With no temples around, I could only assume an owl. Unfortunately it stopped before I could record it.
I took a trail to the lookout point before sunrise. Around 4:50am, about 20 minutes before light, the forest began to come to life with all sorts of birds calling, including most of the previously seen birds, and Blue-and-white Flycatcher and Wrens. I made my way back to the area with the interesting flycatcher and it was quickly refound singing. This time the song was more complex, with a lot more variation added. After making some sound recordings I managed some good looks and photos. It had a lot more black, making it fit a Narcissus Flycatcher instead of Ryukyu. Later on after checking photos and sound recordings with others (many thanks to Dr. Nial Moores, Tim Edelsten, and Neil Davidson), it seemed that it was most likely a Narcissus Flycatcher based on physical appearance and song phrases not heard in Ryukyu Flycatcher. Given that Narcissus Flycatcher is known for mimicry (something I learned recently), it’s possible this male learned a Ryukyu Flycatcher song at some point and now had it as part of its repertoire. Regardless, a Narcissus Flycatcher in mid-June on Jeju is a fine record, and if it breeds it would be the second known breeding record for Jeju.
The rest of the morning was spent walking the rest of the paths. Highlights included Black Paradise Flycatcher (seen well), Fairy Pittas (heard extremely close but not seen at all!), a dozen or so Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, and one unfortunate Northern Boobook getting mobbed by a riled up group of Tits, White-eyes, and Bulbuls.