Periods of intense cold alternate with milder spells. In the coldest winters maxima are often below freezing; in milder winters maxima often reach 10°C in Seoul. A few lingering autumn migrants can still sometimes be found as well as huge numbers of wintering waterbirds.
A great birding month. Saunders’s Gulls are widespread, while very small numbers of Relict Gulls also start to appear at a number of sites, especially in cold winters. Scaly-sided Merganser are back on preferred rives (with at least 140 overwintering in 2012), while numbers of Baikal Teal usually also reach their peak. Tundra Bean Geese are widespread in rice-field areas, and Taiga Beans too can be found in the low thousands especially in the southeast, the mildest part of the mainland. Raptors include good numbers of Cinereous Vulture in the Cheorwon Basin, where they are often joined by White-tailed and the occasional Steller’s Sea Eagle, while cranes (Red-crowned, Hooded, and White-naped), also remain at key sites. Numbers of wintering landbirds vary in number greatly from year to year. Most years, there are large numbers of Brambling and Rustic Bunting (especially towards the north), mixed thrush flocks (including Naumann’s and Dusky Thrushes and the occasional Red-throated Thrush) and occasionally large numbers of Siberian Accentor. Towards the south, species such as White’s and Pale Thrush, Japanese Bush Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail and Japanese White-eye also remain in reasonable numbers - on Jeju Island and in the far southeast.
Highlights in recent years have included irruptions of Chinese Nuthatch (especially in 2012 / 2013), and multiple records of Sandhill Crane, Siberian Crane and Cackling Goose. National firsts in the past ten years or so have included Grass Owl (2003), Meadow Pipit (2006), and Lesser Black-backed Gull (2008).
Northeast River, December 3
A morning visit to a small stretch of Bukhangang, with mist giving way to mild early winter sunshine. On the river, 12 Common Mergansers, 3 Common Goldeneyes, a Grey Heron, 5 Little Grebes and about 20 fly-over Eastern Spot-billed Ducks. Also above, an Eastern Buzzard. On and around the rocks: 2 Brown Dippers and 2 Japanese Wagtails. In the brushy verge, a few Yellow-throated Buntings and a pair of Great Tits.
Busan, December 2
A two-hour walk near the Birds Korea office in east Busan provided several interesting encounters…The first was a squid sp., swimming at the surface in a small harbour in wide arcs. With a body probably a metre in length, this animal swam out and then repeatedly back towards the seawall and tetrapods, attracting the attention of several onlookers (a few of whom were wielding sticks). Knowing very little about this species group, it would be great to learn – if possible – which species this is - and perhaps some possible reasons for its disorientated behaviour. Any ideas?
Twenty minutes later, the next highlight was hearing then seeing two or three First Calendar-year Yellow-bellied Tit. This is only probably the third confirmed record in Igidae (with previous records in autumn 2012, during large movements of other tits). Several were also seen near Jinju (100km to the west) by MF the same day. And, of course, this autumn there were multiple records of small flocks on offshore islands and also inland (at the National Arboretum in Seoul). Also in Igidae, in the small part of the main park that was checked, most noteworthy were 20 Goldcrest, several small flocks of Yellow-throated Bunting, Brambling and Eurasian Siskin, two White-backed Woodpecker and at least a dozen Red Squirrel.
Jinju, December 2
A sunny afternoon walk in nearby woods led to an area of the track where I always see a variety of tits. This time, however, I was surprised to see bright yellow, and there, showing some curiosity from the mid-level branches, were at least three juvenile Yellow-bellied Tits. I watched and photographed them for over six minutes, and then they went on their way. It was exciting to see such rare visitors, especially as this was a first for me.
Cheolweon, November 30 - December 1
Many thanks to Dr. Jung Jiseok and Miss Han Gasun of the Border Peace School for all sorts of help and hospitality. Clear weather and relative warmth in Cheolweon; patchy snow on the ground and thin ice on the larger streams and ponds. Highlights from the afternoon of Nov. 30: about 100 White-naped Cranes and 30 Red-crowned Cranes, mostly in small “family groups” of 3 or 4. One brief Upland Buzzard and a few slow-circling Eastern Buzzards. Even slower, 4 Cinereous Vultures. Also 2 Common Kestrels and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Several Common Pheasants. One distant skein of Bean Geese and a few flocks (c.500 and 200 birds) of White-fronted Geese. On So-i-San, several Great Tits, 3 Yellow-throated Buntings, a Eurasian Nuthatch, and a very welcome male and female Pallas’ Rosefinch. Also from the car—a fast drive-by/fly-by flock over the fields of likely (from structure and flight) Lapland Longspurs—at least 100.
The morning of the 1st dawned very foggy: rising temperatures meeting snow and ice. A stop at the heavily shrouded lake hinted at many hundreds of geese on the water, Beans and White-fronts both; about 60 Mallards swam within sight and a single Whooper Swan flew out of the murk. Later, the sun rose and the fog dissipated; we spent the rest of the morning watching cranes (with probably 50+ Red-crowns) and crane society, wonderfully complex and cooperative—skylarks calling overhead.
Suncheon Bay, November 30
Jason Loghry, Mike Friel, and I spent the day birding throughout the Suncheon Bay area. Highlights of the day included c.400 Hooded Cranes in the fields around the Eco-park. Within this congregation we found three White-naped Cranes and what appeared to be a Common x Hooded Crane hybrid. Birds of prey were also plentiful: 10 Bull-headed Shrikes, a Merlin, two Eastern Buzzards, and several Cinereous Vultures and Common Kestrels. A complete list of all the species (42) sighted is below.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
- Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris
- Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos; included a domestic or leucistic individual
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha
- Northern Pintail Anas acuta
- Baikal Teal Anas formosa
- Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
- Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
- Eastern Great Egret Ardea alba modesta
- Little Egret Egretta garzetta
- Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
- Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
- Merlin Falco columbarius
- White-naped Crane Grus vipio
- Common x Hooded Crane hybrid Grus grus x monacha
- Hooded Crane Grus monacha
- Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
- Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
- Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
- Dunlin Calidris alpina
- Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
- Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
- Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
- Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus
- Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis
- Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana
- White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
- Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba
- Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
- Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
- Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Gangjin Bay, November 25
A visit to the Gangjin Bay on the afternoon to check for Whooper Swans turned out to be a very birdy trip. Strong wind and several rain showers made it occasionally uncomfortable. The first stop was at an observation point that now had undergone a dramatic change. A 14km long paved bicycle path had been constructed along the bay and the observation point had been turned into an open board-walk platform. Now it is impossible to see birds from close range as even just opening a car door makes the birds move away – no shielding as it had been there before.
In the bay ca. 500 to 600 Whooper Swan accompanied by at least 1000 Mallard and about 300 Eastern Spot-billed Duck. Flocks of ducks constantly flying between reed beds and rice fields. Also seen a few Common Goldeneye and one Northern Pintail. In one corner a group of c. 30 Common Merganser with a small group of Spot-billed Ducks could be observed. On a mudflat area along with some swans c. 300 Taiga Bean Geese were mostly roosting while 7 Common Greenshank and 18 Dunlin were busy feeding. Also there one Eurasian Spoonbill, one Great Crested Grebe, one Little Egret and a few Grey Heron. Small numbers of Eurasian Treesparrows, Eurasian Magpie and Brown-eared Bulbul passing by as usual, one Bull-headed Shrike enjoyed a short period of sunshine and a flock of c. 60 Buff-bellied Pipit coming from rice fields was a nice surprise.
Ulleung and Dokdo, November 20 - 23
A short research trip to Ulleung County from November 20th-23th found a total of c. 74 bird species (including five seen only from inside the ferry between c. 10km north of the Guryongpo Peninsula and Ulleung). Weather throughout was mild, mostly overcast with occasional sunny periods (especially on the 23rd), with overnight temperatures falling to 3-4C and day-time highs reaching 13-15C. Winds were from the west, and were generally either light or moderate.
The main research aims were to determine whether there was much overlap in migrant landbird species on Ulleung Island (at approximately 37.50° N, 130. 86° E), with those found earlier in the month on Baekryeong Island c. 540km to the west-northwest (see: http://www.birdskorea.org/Habitats/Other/Baekryeongdo/BK-HA-Baekryeongdo-Nov-2013.shtml). Main species of interest this visit therefore included Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra and Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea, in addition to populations and subspecies of more widespread presumably sedentary species (including the “Ulleung Great Tit” Parus minor dageletensis). While much of the centre of the island is mountainous and forested, fieldwork focused on more open areas, including the ‘arboretum’ and hillside behind Sadong harbour in the southeast (on 20th PM); fields and villages at Hyeonpo and Taewa in the northwest (on 21st); and the Nari Basin (in the north) and Taewa again (on 23rd).
A chance conversation with the motel owner (of the excellent M Motel in Dodong, Ulleung) on November 21st also resulted in a wonderful opportunity to visit Dokdo on November 22nd. Well-known to everyone in Korea, Dokdo (at approximately 37.24° N, 131.87° E) is a small cluster of islands and islets approximately 90km southeast from Ulleung and 215km east from Uljin. In addition to being the ROK’s easternmost and most isolated island-group, Dokdo also possesses deep meaning and value to people nationwide. It is “where the Korean Peninsula begins”. While most visitors nowadays are restricted to spending only 20 minutes on the jetty, the Dokdo Management office and police officials most kindly allowed a few of us (including no less than three media teams) to join the county boat as it ferried police and supplies to the island – and then me to spend almost two hours freely searching for birds on the eastern island of Dongdo. Although I was unable to find the ROK’s first Pine Grosbeak that had been recorded there in late October and early-mid November, it was still an excellent experience - to visit these remote Korean islands and also to get some sense of their value (increasingly realised) to migration studies in this part of Korea and in the East Sea. Habitat-wise, the islands of Dokdo are steep-sided, with patches of grasses and some fruiting bushes. They were remarkably ‘birdy’ considering the date and weather, which on the 22nd allowed clear views of Ulleung to the northwest.
Of course, there is much overlap between these islands (from jurisdiction and administration to geology and birdlife). However, one surprising species on Dokdo, was Tree Sparrow Passer montanus (more or less absent from Ulleung, where it is replaced in summer by the only substantial breeding population of Russet Sparrow P. rutilans in the ROK). Why were they on Dokdo and not on Ulleung?
From this visit to both Ulleung and Dokdo, it was also clear that several species were indeed still on the move in the ROK – including both Red Crossbill and Common Redpoll. Other species of most note included Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina on several dates; a Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis and Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria (on 21st); Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus (on 22nd); and apparent Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis and a gull showing several features of Thayer’s Gull Larus thayeri, in among large numbers of other gulls, on the 23rd.
As there is little detailed information publicly available on the birdlife of Ulleung and Dokdo (especially on our websites or in English), a full list of species from this short research visit follows. All are from Ulleung unless specifically stated otherwise. All observations and images were by NM, using a hand-held Nikon Coolpix P7100 and superb Swarovski optics.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. Noted daily on Ulleung in small numbers. Apparently introduced on the island.
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. On Ulleung, seen only at Taewa, with 12 on the 21st and two on the 23rd. A group of 25 duck – including or comprised entirely of this species – were seen flying south over the sea c. 15km east of Ulleung on the 22nd.
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha. Six on 21st and three on 23rd.
- Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Three on the 21st and two on the 23rd.
- Greater Scaup Aythya marila. Two on the 21st.
- Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus. An adult male and female were in Hyeonpo harbour on the 21st and 23rd.
- White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi. One First-winter male was in Hyeonpo harbour on the 21st.
- Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. One on the 23rd.
- Common Merganser Mergus merganser. Three on the 21st.
- Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata. From the ferry, in addition to two close to Pohang one was seen c. 150km southwest of Ulleung, all on 20th.
- Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. From the ferry, one was seen c. 110km southwest of Ulleung on the 20th and eight were seen between c. 25km and 60km southwest from Ulleung on 23rd.
- Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. One was in Hyeonpo harbour on the 21st.
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Four were seen over the sea approaching Ulleung from the east in the evening of the 20th and one was in Taewa on 23rd.
- Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. Fairly widespread with the highest area count 40 along the east coast on the 20th. At least five were also seen on Dokdo.
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. A juvenile was in Taewa on the 23rd.
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus. One or two were seen daily, including one on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. One on Ulleung on 21st and one on Dokdo on 22nd.
- Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Singles were at Hyeonpo and Nari and 2-3 were also on Dokdo on 22nd.
- Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. One was in Taewa on the 21st.
- Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva. Perhaps the oddest observation of this trip was a Pacific Golden Plover at Nari on the 23rd. Not only is this an exceptionally late date, but this bird was also in near full breeding plumage!
- Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria. One was at Taewa on 21st. Although looked for on 23rd it was not re-found. The species is probably not recorded annually in the ROK away from the National Arboretum, with most such past records coming from offshore islands (e.g. Gageo and Socheong) during migration or from Gangwon Province.
- Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Two (including one with broad white edges to the coverts) were with the Solitary Snipe in Taewa on the 21st. One even seemed to imitate the bobbing feeding motion of the Solitary, before both flew off an hour after sunset.
- Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius. From the ferry, a phalarope in non-breeding plumage seen c.40km southwest of Ulleung on the 23rd was presumed to be this species.
- Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. From the ferry on the 20th, c. 125 were seen 5-10km northwest of the Guryongpo Peninsula; three were seen halfway between Pohang and Ulleung; 20+ were c. 40km southwest of Ulleung; and 25 were within 10km of Ulleung. One adult was also seen close to Sadong harbour on the 20th and 15+ were feeding off from Hyeonpo on the 21st.
- Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. From the ferry on the 20th a total of 55 were seen in open sea, with a further 19 within c. 10km of Ulleung. On Ulleung itself, the highest single count was of 1500 (at Taewa), and there were also c. 1000 at Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Common Gull Larus canus. Two were at Hyeonpo on the 21st and 3+ were at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Thayer’s Gull Larus thayeri (?). A juvenile gull showing multiple features of this species (and a few features perhaps not so typical of thayeri) was at Taewa on the 23rd. As shown in the images, taken in very strong light, structurally it was intermediate in size between Black-tailed and Vega Gull L. vegae, and was also long-winged and slender-billed. Most of the underparts were solidly brown (at times appearing “velvety”), more so that seen in any regularly-occurring Korean gull species, while most of the upperparts, including the wing-coverts, were pale and strikingly frosty-edged. It lacked the darker coverts expected in e.g. L. smithsonianus and was much more strongly patterned than L. schistisagus. The primaries of the closed wing were dark but obviously brown-tinged, with strong white tips for a gull of this age. The upperwing when open showed dark primaries (especially outer edges) contrasting strongly with greyer-washed inner primaries (also ruling out all but an extreme-plumaged L. vegae or L. smithsonianus). The underwing coverts and axillaries were dark brown (latter with a hint of barring) contrasting with silvery undersides to the primaries, which were tipped darker (an underwing pattern shown by very few gull species). The bill was dark (with a hint of some paling – but much less so than all other First Calendar-year gulls that were present for direct comparison) and the legs were pink. While Thayer’s Gull is a rare but regular visitor to Japan, it is recorded less than annually in Korea (with most records being of adults). Informed comments on the images here would therefore be greatly appreciated (NB: there are also several minutes of video that could be sent to any guller interested in helping with its identification).
- Vega Gull Larus vegae. Only small numbers (<10) were noted in open sea during each ferry journey. Much larger numbers were present in main harbours on Ulleung (e.g. 500+ at Sadong and 500+ at Taewa) and also on Dokdo (>1000).
- Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. One or two were with other large gulls at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Small numbers (<50) were seen on Ulleung, and at least three were on Dokdo.
- Heuglin’s Gull Larus heuglini. In total, at least 25 (all apparently taimyrensis) were seen on Ulleung and one or more were also seen on Dokdo.
- Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus. From the ferry one was seen c. 100km southwest of Ulleung Island on the 20th.
- Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. From the ferry, one murrelet (presumably this species) was seen c.75km southwest from Ulleung on the 23rd.
- Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina. Three or more were seen well in trees above Sadong harbour on the 20th; one was seen in flight at Taewa on 21st; and 2+ were seen on Dokdo on the 22nd, sitting on cliff-sides and feeding in berry bushes. All individuals appeared rather dull, with some green gloss on the neck sides and weakly on the breast and mantle, but apparently lacking, as previously noted, obvious pinky-purple tones on the head as shown by (most) adults on Gageo and at some other sites.
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis. On Ulleung only seen above Hyeonpo (where 3+ on 21st and one on 23rd), with the highest number (eight) seen on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus. A total of five were seen or heard on Ulleung.
- Rook Corvus frugilegus. Sixteen were in Hyeonpo on the 21st, with four there still on 23rd when one was also in Nari.
- Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos. One was in Nari on the 23rd. Bill depth and length appeared closer to more northern than to more southern birds and this individual was therefore most likely to be of subspecies mandshuricus.
- Varied Tit Poecile varius. The most numerous landbird species encountered on Ulleung during this short survey period, with small flocks of 5-10 present in all areas. While many Varied Tit show rufescent tones to the head in autumn (perhaps more than at other times of the year?) birds on Ulleung all appeared strongly washed through with rufous-orange, including weakly admixed into the mantle. They therefore lacked the clean blue and orange appearance of typical mainland Varied Tit.
- Coal Tit Periparus ater. A total of six were encountered on Ulleung.
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor. Ulleung has its own recognised subspecies, P. m. dageletensis. In total, 35+ were found during this survey on Ulleung. Of note, many birds gave a quite distinctive “tuk” call, recalling Marsh Tit Poecile palustris – a call I personally do not yet associate with Eastern Great Tit. There was much individual variation in plumage in the Ulleung birds – though some perhaps appeared paler and greener-toned above than might be thought typical of mainland birds. At least one individual (perhaps a First Calendar-year?) also showed a fairly strong yellowish wash on the underparts – recalling some images of hybrid P. major and P. minor from Russia. What were the characters used to determine this subspecies first used by Kuroda and Mori almost a century ago, when Ulleung must truly have seemed a remote place? P. Minor and P. major are now both known to be irruptive and in some areas regular partial migrants. P. minor frequently migrate out over the sea, e.g. departing Socheong in their thousands some years. Presumably both species are able to reach Ulleung in the right weather conditions – a distance of only 375km from the DPRK coast to the north and 200km from the ROK coast to the west. Therefore, is it possible that dageletensis might be the result less of prolonged isolation and rather more of occasional hybridisation between Northern and Eastern Great Tit following irruptions?
- Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis. Seven at Hyeonpo and perhaps two at Nari. Two larks seen at distance on Dokdo were probably this taxon.
- Far Eastern Lark Alauda japonica. At least 23 were at Nari on the 23rd.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis. Present in small numbers (1-5) in all areas that were surveyed on Ulleung.
- Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone. One was heard at Hyeonpo on the 21st.
- Goldcrest Regulus regulus. A total of five were heard on Ulleung.
- Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Five were in Hyeonpo on the 21st, and one was in Taewa on 23rd.
- White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus. Three were on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea. One was between Hyeonpo and Taewa on the 21st.
- Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni. At least four were on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus. Two were on Dokdo on the 22nd and one was at Nari on the 23rd.
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. A total of c.15 was found on Ulleung during this survey.
- Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. A total of six was found on Ulleung and two on Dokdo.
- Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. About twenty were around the buildings on Dokdo. None were found on Ulleung
- Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. At least three were on Dokdo on the 22nd and one was at Nari on the 23rd.
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Nine were at Taewa on the 21st with six there still (all lugens) on the 23rd.
- Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis. One was seen and heard briefly in amongst a flock of c. 20 Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens at Nari on the 23rd. Before any images could be taken the flock was flushed by an Oriental Turtle Dove, and appeared to depart south out of the Nari basin. Identification was based on heavily streaked upperparts (contrasting with the plain rump) and underparts; facial pattern (including prominent eye-ring standing out in an otherwise plain “face”); sandy-buff plumage tones – obviously warmer than any of the accompanying pipits, especially on the upperparts and flanks; and pinkish legs and fairly extensive yellowy-orangey base to the lower mandible. This species is (still) very rarely recorded in the ROK and in Japan – with perhaps all records being of birds in late autumn and winter, often with other pipits.
- Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Small numbers (3-5) were seen or heard each day on Ulleung and three were also on Dokdo.
- Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus. One late individual was at Nari on the 23rd.
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. Eight on the 21st, three on Dokdo on the 22nd and 35+ in total on the 23rd, including 25+ at Nari.
- Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. Twenty-five were at Hyeonpo on the 21st and ten were on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Five were on the cliffs at Dokdo and one was in Nari.
- Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula. One or two were heard in Taewa on the 23rd.
- Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus. One was on Dokdo on the 22nd: an exceptionally late migrant or one intending to overwinter?
- Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus. One on the 21st and two on the 23rd.
- Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica. Odd “chuw” calls heard on Dokdo from unseen birds on the 22nd were presumed to belong to this species.
- Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. A flock of 11 on Dokdo on the 22nd contained 3-4 greyish birds with obviously pale rumps. Unfortunately, due to moderate winds and the nervousness of the flock views were insufficient to rule out / rule in Arctic Redpoll A. hornemanni. One was also heard at Nari on the 23rd.
- Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. At least 35 were in Nari on the 23rd. Although views of perched birds were distant and brief, all the males seen well (3-5) were pale red and had clearly paler and streaked vents. They can therefore safely be ascribed to subspecies japonica (unlike the males seen earlier in the month on Baekryeong).
- Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus. One on Ulleung on the 21st and 5+ on Dokdo on the 22nd.
- Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. Two non-breeding plumaged males were at Nari on the 23rd.
- Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides. One was heard (but not seen -despite much searching) at Hyeonpo on the 21st.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Two were on Dodko on the 22nd and one was at Nari on the 23rd.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. The only bunting encountered every day, with highest counts 3+ on Dokdo and 3+ at Nari.
- Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis. A male (presumably in its First Calendar-year) was at Hyeonpo on the 21st. This species is recorded less than annually in the ROK and there are still probably only 10-15 records in total nationwide.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. A few heard.
- Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. Large flocks.
- Bean Goose. Large flocks.
- Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. 24.
- Gadwall Anas strepera. 8.
- Falcated Duck Anas falcata. 1.
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Several hundred.
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha. Several hundred.
- Greater Scaup Aythya marila. 6.
- Smew Mergellus albellus. 1.
- Common Merganser Mergus merganser. 5.
- Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana. 4. Not many birds can make a Grey Heron look small.
- Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia. 6.
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Several.
- Great Egret. Several.
- Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Several.
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. 2.
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. 1. Very crisply marked, almost black and white, with somewhat light structure.
- White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. 1.
- Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius. 2.
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus. 1.
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. 2. One flew in nearby to devour a frog, disappeared, and came back moments later with an enormous mouse.
- Merlin Falco columbarius. 3.
- Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. 1.
- Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. 1.
- Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. 3.
- Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus. 8.
- Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo. 1.
- Little Owl Athene noctua. 2. In widely separate spots.
- Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. 1.
- Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor. 2.
- Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus. About 12.
- Far-Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica. Constantly heard overhead.
- Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana. Small flocks.
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. 2.
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. One flock of about 50.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. 2.
- Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. C. 20, very conservatively (more heard).
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1.
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1.
- Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos kizuki 2.
- Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 2.
- Greater Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1.
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1.
- Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius 1 (heard).
- Varied Tit Poecile varius 2.
- Marsh Tit Poecile palustris 3.
- Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 1.
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor 5.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis 24.
- Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus 8.
- Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana small flock heard.
- Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea 1.
- Dusky/Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni/naumanni 1 (heard).
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2.
- Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 8.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 3.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
- Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 3, all males
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 16
- Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 25+
- Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 21
- Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 1, female
- Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 5
- Little Egret Egretta garzetta 5
- Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1, immature
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1, male
- Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 1
- Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
- Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos kizuki 3
- Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1, male
- Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus 1, female
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 2, pair
- Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius 2
- Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 40+
- Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 16
- Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor 9
- Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudacutus 1
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis 15+
- Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 65+
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2, female
- Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba 30+, including lugens, ocularis, and leucopsis
- Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis 1
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens 5
- Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 15+
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica 2
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 25+
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica 2
Showing elongated, delicate structure and size (in direct comparison with L. crassirostris, L. vegae and L. schistisagus).
Showing brown tone of otherwise fresh-looking primaries.
Showing rump and tail (left) and underwing (right).
Hwaseong, November 23
A full and productive day around Hwaseong’s reclamation area of reeds, channels, lake, scrub—and, unfortunately, ever-increasing industrial construction. Highlights were Korea’s smallest and largest owls, an encouraging number of storks, and evidence of good numbers of mice and the raptors that feed on them.
Gwangneung National Arboretum, November 20
An afternoon only at the Sumeokwan:
Gwangju, November 16
I spent a pleasant, though cold, morning at the Gwangjuho Lake Eco-park in Chunghyo-dong, Gwangju. The water levels have been brought down, exposing a lot of the shoreline, which attracted quite a few wagtails and waterfowl. Thirty-four species were tallied, including: