Waves of colder air and strong winds cause a sharp drop in temperature, especially from mid-month onwards when maxima can be as low as 8-10°C. The last of the autumn migrants are joined by huge numbers of wintering waterbirds.
Numbers of Baikal Teal and other duck and geese species continue to build. Swan Geese peak at the Han-Imjin (with several hundred in recent winters) and internationally important concentrations of Whooper Swan arrive at a few key sites. Movements of loons and alcids, most especially Ancient Murrelet, can be impressive along the east coast (though less so in recent winters), and winter raptors also become more widespread, including Eastern Buzzards from the beginning of the month and Cinereous Vultures from month’s end. November also sees a rapid increase in most gull species, with Saunders’s Gull widespread on remaining tidal-flats, and mixed flocks of Heuglin’s, Vega, Mongolian and Slaty-backed Gulls appearing in harbours, especially on the east coast. Arriving winter visitors range in size from the massive to the diminutive. Hooded, then White-naped and Red-crowned Cranes arrive for the winter – the latter two species concentrated mostly in Cheorwon - along with passerines which include Siberian Accentor and Goldrest. Passerines on the move include many late-migrating summer visitors until the second week of the month, when winter species such as Pallas’s Reed Bunting predominate.
In the past decade, November has produced several national first-records including White-capped Redstart (2003), Redwing (2006) and Fujian Niltava (2010).
Igidae, east Busan, November 21
In still-mild and autumnal conditions (with a day of sunshine, light winds and a low of 9C rising to 17C or 18C in the afternoon) another day was spent walking the trails in Igidae. As might be expected, there was much overlap in species and numbers with earlier in the week, though with only one Red-flanked Bluetail, but an increase in Light-vented Bulbul and Grey Bunting (both to five), Brown-eared Bulbul (to 150, including a single flock of 80), and Siberian Accentor, with probably 6+ logged during the day.
Only two of these accentors were seen well, revealing in brief side-by-side views and in the images tremendous differences in plumage saturation. According to Lars Svensson’s Fourth Edition of Identification Guide to European Subspecies, “adults = First years on plumage”, with a complete summer moult in adults; and only worn breeding birds, presumably pre-moult, look paler in e.g. the supercilium, with darker spotting on the breast feathers. According to the same text, north-eastern badia is “somewhat darker on crown than nominate” and “more rufous-tinged on mantle and scapulars”. Brazil’s Birds of East Asia field-guide confusingly illustrates First-years as paler than summer-plumaged adults, while the text adds that badia is “smaller and darker, with richer chestnut mantle, deeper ochre underparts and more strongly rufous flank streaks” than the more southern-breeding nominate subspecies.
Other species of note included a flock of 16 Mandarin Duck (out on the sea), carrying with them a single Baikal Teal and a single hybrid Mallard x Eastern Spot-billed Duck; single White’s Thrush and Yellow-bellied Tit; and heard only, 3-4 Eurasian Bullfinch, and one or two Tristram’s and Black-faced Buntings.
Oddest for the day (and actually a welcome sight to this vegetarian’s eyes!) was a Bull-headed Shrike seen feeding on berries, or much less likely on insects that were on the berries. The bird hung almost upside down bulbul-like to access berry-clumps three times in probably five minutes. Each time, it plucked at and swallowed something, before eventually perching up in the same tree to “cough-up” a large pellet. A quick google search reveals that other shrike species have been recorded eating fruit, especially in times of food shortage (see e.g. http://www.besgroup.org/2014/01/24/tiger-shrike-eats-bridelia-tomentosa-fruit/). However, it appears that there is still likely to be plenty of food available for a Bull-headed Shrike to feed on – with several large insects still on the wing, a small rodent heard, and probably 400 Vinous-throated Parrotbills logged during the day etc. Has anyone seen Bull-headed Shrike feeding on fruit before, and does anyone know the name of the berry-laden plant in the image please? Thank you in advance!
Gangjin Bay, November 20
The Gangjin Bay in the morning with clear and sunny weather was the destination of today's trip. At the end of the bay c. 1200 Whooper Swan, c. 400 Eastern Spot-billed Duck and c. 500 Mallard where scattered all over the sides where the running out tide uncovered the mud. In addition c. 40 Great Egret, c. 30 Little Egret and c. 60 Grey Heron were also seen, of the latter also smaller groups on the adjacent rice fields. Two groups of Common Megranser, 37 in total, were observed, one group swimming/diving bay outwards and one at the bay's end. But only a handful of Black-tailed Gulls and one presumed Mongolian Gull were seen.
Non waterbirds were seen in the fields, reedbeds and other vegetation beside the bay: one female Common Pheasant, a flock of Azure-winged Magpie crossing a road into trees of which only the last 5 individuals were observed, Eurasian Magpie and Brown-eared Bulbul heard and seen everywhere around the bay, in one reed-bed a fock of c. 50 Eurasian Treesparrow and a flock of c. 15 Vinous-throated Parrotbill, two Bull-headed Shrike and 9 Olive-backed Pipit.
A surprise was the appearance of a Band-winged Grasshopper in this late November; the field guide mentions occurrence only between July and October.
Igidae, east Busan, November 11 and 17
Three hours were spent in the local park on the 11th (covering c. 5km of trails) followed by ten hours there on the 17th, covering c. 9km of up-and-down trails. Weather on both dates was sunny, with a light westerly wind (F1-3), rather cooler on the 17th with temperatures at 0730 of c.7°C rising to a high of 14°C during the day. A total of 52 species were logged on the combined dates, including a few interesting records.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. Probably five.
- Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. At least 20 on the 11th and 5 on the 12th, including several birds gaining height on the 11th. Two or three flocks containing 1800+Cormorants flying SW from Oryeok on the 11th were either Temmick’s or Great (or a mix of the two species).
- Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis. One on the 11th.
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Five on the 11th and one on the 17th.
- Black Kite Milvus migrans. One on the 17th.
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus. One on the 11th and one on the 17th.
- Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. About ten on both the 11th and 17th.
- Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. Fifty on the 11th and five on the 17th.
- Vega Gull Larus vegae. Thirty on the 11th and five on the 17th.
- Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Two on the 17th.
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis. 10+ on the 11th; two on the 17th.
- Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos kizuki. Probably ten on both dates.
- White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. One on the 11th and two on the 17th. Yet again, the impression is that these birds are noticeably stronger in the neck and bill than birds seen on Ulleung, with much more white in the upperparts.
- Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. Singles on both dates.
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. One on 11th.
- Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Two on 11th.
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus. Three on the 17th, including one preying on a parrotbill, taken from near the ground at a pre-roost.
- Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius. Three on the 11th and two on the 17th.
- Eurasian Magpie Pica pica. Present on the 11th and probably 25 on the 17th.
- Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos. Four or five on both dates.
- Coal Tit Periparus ater. Probably 10 on the 11th and 30+ on the 17th (with much larger area covered on the latter date).
- Varied Tit Sittiparus varius. Probably ten on the 11th and 30 on the 17th, including one roosting in a street lamp. All birds that were seen well on both dates looked smaller- and blunter-billed than birds on Ulleung; showed clean orange and blue plumage tones, i.e. showed no admixing of rufous-orange into the upperpart blue; showed obvious paler creamy-rufous areas on the head, breast, and in many cases through the central breast and belly; and showed paler cream-rufous “spurs” when seen head-on.
- Marsh Tit Poecile palustris. Two on the 11th and five on the 17th.
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor. Perhaps 30 on the 11th and 75 on the 17th. None gave the Marsh Tit-type call heard on Ulleung earlier in the month.
- Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica. One heard on the 17th.
- Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. Two on the 17th. Personal third record of this species in Busan, with previous records being singles in the Nakdong Estuary and in Igidae.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis. Probably 50 on the 11th and 100 on the 17th, including one group of 27 seen to head south on the latter date.
- Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone. Two on the 11th and three on the 17th.
- Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. 20+ on the 11th and 50+ on the 17th.
- Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana. 30+ on the 11th and >300 on the 17th, including one pre-roost of c. 150 birds.
- Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus. Twenty on the 11th, when seven gained height to depart south before dropping back into cover, and c.30 on the 17th.
- Goldcrest Regulus regulus. Probably 15 on the 11th and 50+ on the 17th.
- Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Three on the 11th and probably 15+ on the 17th, including two birds singing at each other.
- White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea. One on the 17th.
- Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus. Five on the 11th and 8-10 on the 17th.
- Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus. Three or more heard on the 17th.
- Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. Three on the 11th (including one adult male) and perhaps 6-7 on the 17th.
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. Probably ten on the 11th and 17th.
- Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. Two or three present on both dates.
- Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. 10+ on the 17th.
- Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. 5+ heard on the 11th and four (two seen) on the 17th. This species tends to be quite scarce in lowland areas of Busan and is usually absent from this park except during migration.
- Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. One on the 11th.
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Two on the 17th.
- Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Two or three on both dates.
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. Two on the 11th and one on the 17th – reduced numbers since the “beautification” of the open land near SK.
- Brambling Coelebs montifringilla. Probably 30 on the 11th and five on the 17th.
- Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula. Three heard overhead on the 17th.
- Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica. Five or so on the 11th and 17th.
- Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus. Probably 50 on the 11th and 20 on the 17th.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Two heard on the 17th.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. Probably 150 on the 11th and 100 on the 17th, including one moribund first-year with a large mite attached to its orbital eye-ring or eye.
- Grey Bunting Emberiza variabilis. Two to three heard and in the same area, one male and one female seen (both briefly!) on the 17th.
Mokpo Namhang Urban Wetland, November 15
The visit to the site in the morning in "grey" (cloudy and cold) weather showed quite a good number of birds. While the Common Greenshanks have now almost all left the site, the flock of Dunlin which was seen for over two weeks now is still on the site. Black-tailed Gulls are only in very small numbers for the last two week, but the number of Great Cormorant is slowly increasing.
Below today's list:
- Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, c. 30 in total.
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, less than 20 seen.
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha, 100 to 150, c. 30 in area P4; because of low tide in P1 larger groups roosting on floating platforms or swimming in the more "open" water between fishing boats.
- Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, c. 40 in area. P4
- Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, most numerous with c. 200 individuals.
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, c. 20, most roosting on the now infilled area P2.
- Little Egret Egretta garzetta, only one on the tidalflat.
- Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, 19 seen on several platforms. Interesting to observe a scene with 2 individuals fighting over a piece of rope.
- Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus, 2 in area P4 and 5 in area P1 seen.
- Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, the number had dropped to 5.
- Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, only 3 seen.
- Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis, one was moving along with the Dunlins.
- Dunlin Calidris alpina, c. 50 actively feeding in two groups.
- Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris, only 4 seen all morning.
- Taimyr Gull Larus heuglini taimyrensis, one single individual, first seen in area P4, later again in area P1
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis, a group of five in the park area of the pump station.
- Eurasian Magpie Pica pica, all over the place, c. 30 in total.
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor, two seen in a tree.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis, two flying by.
- Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, a flock of c. 20 moving between trees in the park area and bushes and trees in the area P2.
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba lugens, over 20 in total, some in area P1 and P4, but most in the park area.
- Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica, a flock of 17 in one tree.
Ulleung Island, October 31 - November 5
I made a return visit to Ulleung Island to continue assessing migration strategies and to try to improve understanding of Ulleung’s “Big Three”: the Ulleung-endemic takahashii subspecies of White-backed Woodpecker; the globally Near Threatened Black Woodpigeon; and the distinctive Ulleung Varied Tit, described by Kuroda (1927) as an Ulleung-endemic subspecies utsurioensis.
On 31st, I took the morning ferry from Donghae to Ulleung (which proved to rather birdier than the ferry to Pohang) and surveyed Dodong in the afternoon. After overnight rain on the 1st, survey was attempted in the Nari basin, followed by some search effort in the far northeast, along the coast and up to Seokpo. On the 2nd, early morning rain and increasingly strong north-westerlies confined survey to parts of Dodong and Sadong in the less exposed east and southeast, where winds still gusted to F5-6. On the 3rd, winds fell from F5 north-westerlies to F3-4, and survey was attempted again at Nari, and then in Chodong. On the 4th, winds were light (NW F2), and visibility excellent, with temperatures ranging from an early morning 5C, with a light frost, to a high of 14C. Again, survey was conducted in the Nari basin; along the road from Nari to Cheonbu; and then in Hyeonpo. On the 5th, Taewa was surveyed (including for 1km or so upstream of the main road), and then the ferry was taken back to Pohang.
A total of 86 species were logged on Ulleung, with three additional species seen only from the ferry. In all, based on coarse calculations made through the excellent Daftlogic.com website, I surveyed between 5% and 10% of the island: on-foot, surveying along c.35km of roads and tracks and covering probably 370-400ha of forest, forest-edge and open ground well (so perhaps half of the more open areas on the island, but little of the higher-altitude forest in the island’s mountainous interior). I also made some observations from the bus each day (with >40km of coastal road travelled). Several areas were covered only once; others multiple times. All images were taken using a handheld Sony RX100 II through a truly superb Swarovski Optik telescope.
- Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis. One fairly small-billed individual in Hyeonpo on November 4th.
- Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. A total of four present (two in Chodong and singles in Hyeonpo, in the same field as two weeks earlier, and Taewa).
- Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. Eight at Taewa on November 5th.
- Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. One in Nari on the 1st and one in Chodong.
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Small numbers seen in several areas, with highest counts 11+ in Chodong and 12 in Taewa.
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha. Highest count was four in Taewa.
- Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Small numbers seen in several areas, with at least 10 at Taewa the highest count.
- Common Pochard Aythya ferina. One flying around the Nari Basin in dense fog on the 1st.
- Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula. One at Taewa.
- Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. One on the sea on the 4th.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. Widespread and very common, with at least 80 seen in Nari on the 1st (many giving a wide range of squeeks and squeeling calls).
- Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. A total of 91 seen from the ferry on the 31st, including two just off from Ulleung, and 22 seen from the ferry on the 5th (all within c. 50km of Pohang)
- Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis. One seen from the ferry on the 31st, about 15km from Donghae.
- Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis. One at Cheonbu and four in Chodong on the 4th.
- Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. In addition to one at sea on 31st about 50-60km from Donghae, singles in Cheonbu, Hyeonpo and Chodong.
- Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. One at Cheonbu on the 1st.
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Small numbers (1-5) seen daily.
- Western Great Egret Ardea alba alba. Three near Cheonbu on several dates.
- Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus. One on the 5th.
- Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Two in Cheonbu harbor on the 1st: hanedae or sinensis?
- Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. Found along the coast and in several harbours in small numbers.
- Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis. Singles seen on several dates.
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Again, the most numerous raptor with 23 “encounters” during the survey period.
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. One on the 31st.
- Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus. Singles seen on three dates.
- Eurasian Coot Fulica atra. Four in Chodong harbor and one at Taewa.
- Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. One or two in the Nari basin on the 1st.
- Dunlin Calidris alpina. In addition to 12 shorebirds seen about 50km off Donghae which were thought to be this species, one in the stream at Taewa was considered probably the same as the one seen there in late October.
- Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. Five (four adults and one First-winter) were seen moving north off Chodong on the 3rd.
- Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. Only seen from the ferry, with 50+ about 5-10km offshore from Donghae on the 31st.
- Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. The commonest gull, with 700+ on the 4th the highest day count.
- Common Gull Larus canus. One from the ferry on the 31st and one in Chodong on the 3rd.
- Glaucous-winged Gull Larus glaucescens. A First-winter was off Sadong on the 2nd.
- Vega Gull Larus vegae. The commonest large gull, with 600-800 seen in total around the island.
- Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. One in Chodong on the 3rd.
- Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Seen daily in small numbers, with 50+ on the 2nd the highest day count. As always at this time of year, individual variation was extraordinary with both fresh-looking dark juveniles and worn- and bleached-looking First-winters.
- Taimyr Gull Larus heuglini taimyrensis. Seen daily in small numbers, with 5+ the highest day count.
- Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina. At least 42 found by this survey (58-61 if the October 20th-25th survey is included, and if none of the birds were double-counted). This number is rather higher than the numbers found, according to Heritage TV, by "precise survey of Ulleungdo: 35 in 2003; 20 in 2009, and 32 in 2011. Numbers are reducing" (thanks to Tim Edelsten for this information). Considering that: (1) two of the survey dates were affected by strong winds; (2) many are thought to emigrate off the island in winter; and (3) that many suitable-looking areas were not visited, it still seems likely that the island population of this species will be >200, and could even be as many as 400-500 individuals. It is apparent that a proper focused survey would be helpful to establish more fully the global importance of Ulleung to this secretive species.
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis. Small numbers (3-10) seen each day.
- White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. Only three heard and two others seen despite much searching. A more detailed account is provided at: The “Ulleung Woodpecker” Dendrocopos leucotos takahashii
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Between one and three seen daily.
- Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Between one and four seen daily, including one in pursuit of a Black Wood Pigeon, and with perhaps four occupied territories on the island.
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus. Between one and three on several dates.
- Rook Corvus frugilegus. One in Sadong on the 2nd.
- Coal Tit Periparus ater. Some evidence of immigration during the survey period, with small numbers found in coastal bushes in the northeast, and an apparent increase in numbers island-wide during this short survey period. The highest day count was 25+ on the 4th.
- Varied Tit Sittiparus varius. Although less common than Eastern Great Tit in woodland in the northeast, pairs or small groups were commoner in other parts of the island, and were found in all wooded and park-type areas, with a high day count of 40+ and a total of >150 encountered. As noted in autumn 2013, all individuals showed some suffusion of orange-brown into the blue-grey of the back and mantle. All also showed orangey-suffusion in the paler parts of the head, breast and through the centre of the belly. Birds therefore appeared darker and obviously less clean blue and orange than birds seen on the mainland the same week. In addition, the impression that Ulleung Varied Tits often look quite strong-billed appears to be supported by the historical research of Kuroda (1927), who described this population as an endemic subspecies with a longer bill (15mm along the entire culmen) than populations on the mainland and in Jeju (both 13.5mm along the entire culmen). Is this longer bill a result of lack of competition from Eurasian Nuthatch or Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker?
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor dageletensis. Common and widespread, with 30+ the highest day count.
- Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus. One heard on the 1st and one seen at Cheonpo on the 3rd.
- Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis. Small numbers (5-20) were at Nari and heard passing over the island on several dates.
- Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica intermedia. At least 35 of the 40 skylarks seen and heard in good conditions on the 4th were identified as this taxon. In direct comparison with Eurasian Skylark, they gave harsher calls, appeared smaller, shorter-tailed, shorter-crested, darker and more obviously rust-toned, with cleaner breast bands.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis. Common and widespread, with 50 on the 3rd the highest day count.
- Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone. Two singles were heard.
- Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. Becoming more widespread and obvious during the survey period, with probably 30 on the 4th the highest day count. The most numerous type was “southern” (presumably magnus), with 6-8 “northern” (presumably caudatus) seen on the 4th, when there was also one apparent intergrade.
- Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus. Rather local, with 3-6 logged each day.
- Goldcrest Regulus regulus. Small numbers logged each day, with some evidence of immigration during the survey period and highest day counts of 8 on the 3rd and 10 on the 4th.
- Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Most regular along small streams and on steep forested slopes, with small numbers (5-10) logged each day
- White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus. Twenty-five were in Hyeonpo on the 4th.
- Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. At least one was with the White-cheeked Starling flock in Hyeonpo on the 4th.
- Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus. One was heard on the 4th near Cheonbu.
- Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus. Between three and five on most dates.
- Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. Remarkably scarce, with the high count two (on 31st).
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. Logged each day, with 55 encounters and a highest day count of 15 on the 3rd.
- Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. Small numbers present along the coast only, with 1-5 seen most dates.
- Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri. Two in Nari on all dates and three in Hyeonpo (on the 4th).
- Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans. Ones or twos were found in Dodong (on 31st), Sadong (3rd), Nari (4th) and Taewa (5th).
- Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. The only record was of c.3 heard in sustained overhead flight over the Nari Basin on the 4th.
- Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Between one and four seen on most dates.
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Between two and five seen on most dates (all lugens).
- Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Remarkably scarce, with the highest day count 10+ on the 4th.
- Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus. One on the 1st was the only record.
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. The commonest pipit, with the largest flock 120 (in Nari on the 1st), with additional smaller flocks in e.g. Sadong (30+) and Taewa (10+).
- Brambling Coelebs montifringilla. On 31st, in heavy overcast, a single flock of 380 flew over Dodong, with several smaller groups seen heading southwest. On the 1st, 900-1000 were present, with largest numbers in Nari. Subsequently, numbers fell rapidly, with only 25-30 logged on the four subsequent dates.
- Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. One on the 1st was the only record.
- Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata. One on the 31st, moving south with a flock of Brambling, was the only record.
- Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus. One heard in or over Nari on the 4th was the only record.
- Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus. Although several were seen in Gangwon Province on the 30th, not logged until the 4th, when three were in Nari and one was heard at Hyeonpo.
- Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus. Two in Nari on the 1st; two near Cheonbu on the 3rd; and at least five in the Nari area on the 4th.
- Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica. Between one and three logged each day. Although some vocalisations sound subtly different to some mainland birds (island acoustics? Origin?) , it is unclear why Kuroda (1927) considered this a distinct, Ulleung-endemic subspecies.
- Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. Seven or eight were in Nari and Seokpo on the 1st; and two were in Nari on the 3rd.
- Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus. On 31st, 150 were in Dodong and on 1st, 1,200 were logged in Nari and Seokpo – with flocks watched moving west across the island. Only 15-50 were logged on subsequent dates.
- Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. One in Nari on the 4th was the only record.
- Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla. One seen in Nari on the 4th was the only record.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Seen daily in small numbers, with 5-25 most dates and 40 on the 4th the highest day count.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. Seen daily in small numbers, with 3-10 most dates and 25 on the 4th the highest day count.
- Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala. Remarkably scarce, with one heard on the 1st the only record.
- Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi. One in Nari increasing to six there on the 4th.
- Ochre-rumped Bunting Emberiza yessoensis. One in Nari on the 4th.
- Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus . One on 3rd and two on the 4th.
- Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus. Three were in Nari on the 4th.
Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus, © Nial Moores
Geomun Island, October 24 - 27
I visited Geomundo from 24-27 October. Weather was warm and calm on all but the last day, which was quite windy, cold. The ferry from Yeosu is a fast-ferry with little opportunity for birdwatching. There is plenty of forest habitat and good raptor migration over the ridge.
- Great Egret Ardea alba, 11 migrating S on 25th
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, 1 on 25th, 6 on 26th
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis, 2 on 26th
- Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina, 2 on 26th
- Great-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, 1 on 25th, 2 on 26th, 1 on 27th
- Amur Falcon Falco amurensis, 11 on 26th between 10:00 and 11:20 (3 + 5 + 3)
- Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 4 on 26th
- Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, 30 on 25th, flying south
- Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone, common, found every day in suitable habitat
- Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps, 1 on 26th.
- Far Eastern Cisticola Cisticola juncidis, 1 on 26th.
- Goldcrest Regulus regulus, 1 on 27th.
- White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea, 1 on 26th.
- Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus, seems quite common, but exceedingly difficult to get a view. Only seen flying from behind on 25, 26, and 27th.
- Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus, 1 on 25th.
- Brambling Coelebs montifringilla, 1 on 25th, 7 on 27th.
- Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, 1 on 26th.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica, 1 on 24th, 1 on 26th.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans, 1 on 25th, 6 on 26th.
Gageo Island, October 25 - 26
A quick weekend trip to Gageo over calm seas. List of selected birds observed.
- Pomarine Skua - At least 4 skuas observed from the boat from Mokpo .... one of them being close enough to be definitely identified as a Pomarine.
- Long-tailed Shrike - At least 3 birds present in 1-gu.
- Black Drongo - Seen briefly in flight near the garbage dump. A species that is quite rare in fall.
- White-backed Woodpecker - A single bird well observed near the garbage dump.
- Light-vented Bulbul - There are now large flocks of this species consisting of at least 20~30 birds.
- Common Starling - At least 3 birds seen in flight on multiple occasions.
- Styan's Grasshopper Warbler - A single individual poorly seen at the base of the quarry.
- Chestnut Bunting - 2 individuals observed in the terraced fields on the way to the main village down from the quarry.
Ulleung Island and Dongdo (Dokdo), October 20 - 25
This was a short research trip to the heavily-forested, mountainous and isolated Ulleung Island, aiming to improve understanding of migration strategies, both across the East Sea and also across-island. Unfortunately only 2.5 days could be spent in the field. Much of October 20th was spent travelling and only two hours could be spent surveying in Taewa. On 21st, heavy rain, persistent through until the early afternoon, and strong northeasterly winds (apparently leaving the Asian mainland near Vladivostok) restricted fieldwork to only 3 hours at Hyeonpo. More or less full days were then spent in the field on 22nd and especially on the 23rd, with Nari, Cheonbu, Hyeonpo and Taewa surveyed in sunny conditions with light winds on the latter date. Other work commitments meant no fieldwork was conducted on the 24th; and the 25th was comprised only of 8 hours of boat trips and 20-30 minutes in the field on Dongdo in Dokdo (instead of the anticipated 2-3 hours) under clear skies and Force 2-3 westerlies.
In total, only 82-84 species were logged, remarkably with no phylloscopus warblers or flycatchers encountered, and only small numbers of buntings found. Brambling and Eurasian Siskin were the only numerous landbirds. As in 2013, many thanks to the M Motel in Dodong for their kindness and to authorities for permission to visit Dongdo, “Where morning in Korea starts.” A full list follows (all bird images digiscoped with a handheld Sony RX 100 II camera through a truly superb Swaorvski Optik scope):
- Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. One at Hyeonpo on 23rd.
- Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. Probably 120 on the sea off the sheltered southern side of Ulleung on the 21st and 22nd, with only eight there on the 23rd (once winds had lightened) when also c.15 in various stages of moult at Taewa.
- Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. One at Nari and two at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Six at Taewa on the 20th; five in various harbours on the 21st and 22nd; and five in Taewa on the 23rd.
- Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha. At Taewa, four on the 20th; three on the 22nd and two on the 23rd.
- Northern Pintail Anas acuta. One at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Baikal Teal Anas formosa. One male with Mandarins on the sea on the 22nd.
- Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Five to ten each day in the field.
- Common Pochard Aythya ferina. One at Taewa on the 20th and two there on the 23rd.
- American Scoter Melanitta americana. One at Hyeonpo on the 21st and 22nd.
- Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator. Singles on the 20th and 23rd.
- Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. Widespread and numerous, with e.g. probably 75 seen on the 23rd.
- Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. A total of 35 seen from the ferry between Pohang and Ulleung on the 20tt, with four seen in an hour of observation on the 25th on the way back to Pohang. From Ulleung, 70 seen off Taewa on the 20th; three seen off Dodong on the 21st; five off Hyeonpo on the 22nd; none seen on 23rd; and only five seen between Ulleung and Dokdo on the 25th.
- Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis. One in Taewa on the 23rd.
- Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Each day, 2-4 along the coast.
- Western Great Egret Ardea alba alba. Four on the 21st; 19 at Namyang on the 22nd; and one at Hyeonpo on the 23rd.
- Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. Seen in small numbers each day, with 45 off Hyeonpo on the 21st and ten on Dokdo on the 25th the highest counts.
- Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus. One at Hyeonpo on the 21st.
- Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis. At least two on the 22nd and five on the 23rd (including two calling).
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. The most regularly-encountered raptor, with three on 22nd; at least three on the 23rd; and on 25th, two over Sadong Harbour, one at sea about 10km east off Ulleung and at least three (and possibly up to five) on Dokdo.
- Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. One on 21st.
- Eurasian Coot Fulica atra. On 20th, three probables at sea about 30km from Pohang, one definite about 10km off Ulleung and one at Taewa. A flock of about 20 birds on the sea seen very briefly and poorly from a moving bus on the 21st were also thought likely to be this species.
- Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Two at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. One at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Dunlin Calidris alpina. One at Taewa on the 23rd.
- Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. Seen each day of fieldwork, with (only) 13 in open sea between Pohang and Ulleung and c. 1,000 along the coast on Ulleung on 20th; probably 1,500 on the 21st; 1,000 on 22nd; >1,000 on 23rd; and 150 around Dokdo, with 3-5 at sea between Ulleung and there, on the 25th.
- Vega Gull Larus vegae. Five on 20th; 20 on 21st; 30 on 22nd; and 100 on the 23rd, including one presumed birulai (round-headed, pale-mantled, yellow-legged, and like all the vegae, with not-yet started / incomplete primary moult.
- Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. One on the 23rd.
- Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Three on 21st and 10+ on 22nd.
- Taimyr Gull Larus heuglini taimyrensis. Two on 22nd.
- Common Tern Sterna hirundo. At least 58 from the ferry off the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 20th.
- Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina. Small numbers seen each day on Ulleung, including on one or more dates in Dodong (single birds); above Dodong (single birds); near Sadong (single birds); south of Taewa (two); in Taewa (3-5); above and in Hyeonpo (2-3); in Cheonbu (single birds); along the road between Cheonbu and Nari (c. 5); and in the Nari basin (2+). Considering this species’ secrecy; high density in good habitat on other islands; potential available habitat; and the limited time spent in the field / limited area covered, it seems likely that the Ulleung population could be as many as 200-500+ individuals (?). If anyone reading this knows of any published survey reports and population estimates for this Ulleung population of Black Wood Pigeon, could you please let us know? Thank you.
- Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis. One seen at sea halfway between Pohang and Ulleung on the 20th; 5-20 seen each day on Ulleung; and two seen on Dokdo, in very limited coverage of that island.
- White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos takahasii. Four were seen in deciduous and mixed woodland along c. 1.5km of road between the Nari basin and Cheonbu on 23rd. Overall impressions of this Ulleung-endemic subspecies include: apparently smaller-billed than nominate (with less intense and persistent pecking heard); less heavily streaked below; and probably less white on the upperparts, with also a perhaps more obviously red vent.
- Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major. One was seen well in Hyeonpo on 23rd: presumably a migrant but from where? Ulleung is about 130km east off the Korean coast; almost twice that distance from the nearest Japanese islands (to the southeast); and c.615km SSW from Vladivostok.
- Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Singles on 22nd and 23rd.
- Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Between two and three seen (most dates) on Ulleung and at least one on Dokdo.
- Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus. Five or six on 23rd.
- Rook Corvus frugilegus. One on the 21st in Hyeonpo; and six in Nari on the 22nd increasing to nine on 23rd, when watched departing to the SE.
- Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos. One (subspecies unknown, but perhaps mandschuricus?) on Dodko on the 25th.
- Coal Tit Periparus ater. Two on 21st, one on 22nd, and 10+ on 23rd.
- Varied Tit Sittiparus varius. Common and widespread on Ulleung, with e.g. 75-100 encountered on 23rd. All that were seen well showed the same suffused and sullied look to the upperparts noted in the species here in November 2013 (noticeably different to birds seen on the mainland in recent weeks).
- Eastern Great Tit Parus minor. Locally common, with up to 50 encountered on 23rd. As noted in 2013, birds here seem to have a slightly different vocal dialect to birds on the mainland (frequently using a Marsh Tit like “tut” call), but otherwise few (if any) obvious plumage differences. Although Ulleung birds are afforded full subspecific status (dageletensis), a comparative study on Eastern Great Tits in Korea by Huh et al. (2009), published in the Korean Journal of Ornithology, found no obvious differences in external characters in birds on Ulleung with birds from other parts of the ROK. However, the paper’s abstract mentions slightly greater tarsus length and total length, and occasional birds in November 2013 especially showed a more obvious yellowish flush to the underparts than is typical of even young Eastern Great Tit on the mainland. It could be argued that these features support the hypothesis that the population on Ulleung might have been influenced by the occasional/ extremely rare arrival of irruptive Northern Great Tits, resulting over time in the expression of diluted hybrid characters.
- Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis. One at Hyeonpo on 21st; and two at Nari on 22nd, increasing to seven or eight on 23rd.
- Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis. Encountered in small numbers daily on Ulleung with a maximum 25 on 23rd. One was also heard on Dodko on 25th.
- Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone. One was heard near Cheonbu on 23rd.
- Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. At least five (of unknown subspecies) were heard but not seen in spite of much searching on 23rd.
- Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella ochotensis. A locustella seen in very inclement conditions in Hyeonpo on 21st was most likely this species.
- Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus. On 23rd, 15-20 were heard (none seen) in woodland between Nari and Cheonbu. Based on calls, all seemed most likely to be japonicus (though one small rapidly-moving flock sounded at distance closer to Chestnut-flanked than to Japanese White-eye).
- Goldcrest Regulus regulus. First noted on 23rd, when three were heard. Two or three were on Dodko on 25th.
- Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Between one and six were heard each day on Ulleung.
- White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus. Three on 22nd; 23 in Hyeonpo on 23rd; and c.15 on Dokdo on 25th.
- Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. Seven were in Hyeonpo on 22nd (but were not seen on 23rd, despite searching the same area).
- Grey Thrush Turdus cardis. Two were seen well from the road between Nari and Cheonbu on 23rd and one was on Dokdo on 25th.
- Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus. One rather odd-looking individual was seen on Dodko on 25th (apart from the face pattern, its plumage looked remarkably like Brown-headed Thrush).
- Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus. Presumably massively overlooked, as birds appeared to be absent until you actually enter forest – which covers most of Ulleung. One was seen on 21st; two on 22nd; 45+ on 24th (including one flock of 35); and on 25th, one was heard coming in off the sea before sunrise, and 1-2 were on Dokdo.
- Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus. On 22nd, 10-15 were at Nari, with 30+ seen there on 23rd (with one flock containing at least one probable Naumann’s Thrush). One was on Dokdo on 25th.
- Bluethroat Luscinia svecica. One was in Hyeonpo on 22nd.
- Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. One on 22nd and two on 23rd.
- Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. Present in small numbers daily, with at least 20 on 23rd the highest day count. One was on Dokdo on 25th.
- Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius. Present in small numbers daily, with 6+ on 23rd the highest day count.
- Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri. Present in small numbers daily, with one on 20th; six in Hyeonpo on 21st; 20 on 22nd; 30 on 23rd; and at least two on Dokdo on 25th.
- Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans. Although believed to be a summer visitor to Ulleung, still fairly widespread, with many birds that were seen well appearing perhaps to be birds of the year (?). At least 50 were in Nari on the 22nd, with one in Hyeonpo and two in Cheonbu. On 23rd, 30+ were seen in the small part of the Nari basin that was surveyed; 2+ were in Cheonbu and 20 were in Taewa.
- Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Two or three were in the stream at Taewa on 20th and 23rd.
- White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Two on 22nd, and five (all lugens) on 23rd. One lugens was on Dokdo on 25th.
- Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Present daily on Ulleung in very small numbers (1-5).
- Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus. Two in Hyeonpo on 21st; five on 22nd; and 4+ on 23rd.
- Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens. Present in small numbers daily, with e.g. 60 on 22nd and 45+ on 23rd the highest counts. At least 2-3 were on Dokdo on 25th.
- Brambling Coelebs montifringilla. Large numbers arrived during the survey period. None were logged on the 20th; 30 were in Hyeonpo on 21st; a conservative 800-1,000 were counted on 22nd; and 850+ were counted on 23rd, with some flocks seen to gain height and cross the mountain ridge to the southwest on 23rd. On 25th, 300-400 were seen at dawn in Sadong harbor, and 100+ were on Dodko.
- Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Two were in Nari on 22nd and one was seen there on 23rd.
- Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria. Five were in Nari on 23rd.
- Eurasian Bullfinch. Pyrrhula pyrrhulawas heard in Nari on 22nd and 1-2 were heard along the Nari-Cheonbu road on 23rd.
- Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica. Small numbers (5-10) were seen each day on Ulleung and 2+ were on Dokdo on 25th.
- Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. At least 5-8 were in Nari on 22nd and 10+ were seen in flight there on 23rd. On Dokdo, four were seen (and very poorly digiscoped) on Dokdo on 25th.
- Arctic Redpoll Acanthis hornemanni. Two probables were seen in Nari on 22nd, both only in flight so views were inadequate to confirm identification. Both appeared strikingly pale (much more so than the still-pale flammea Commons), in flight showing clean-looking vents, broad white-looking rump bands and extensive white on the wings. One gave a series of calls that sounded slower and softer, less nasal than the other redpolls; and one of these pale birds also looked obviously larger than a (presumed) Common Redpoll in direct comparison.
- Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. On 23rd, two calling birds, mixed in a flock of 50 similar-sized high-flying finches, were certainly this species.
- Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus. A large arrival took place on the 21st, with 560 counted moving across a high pass above Hyeonpo in only 30 minutes, with smaller flocks seen along the coastal road from the moving bus. Many of these departed the island or perhaps more likely disappeared into dense forest in the interior of the island, with only 150 counted on 22nd and 100 on 23rd. On 25th, 50+ were seen behind Sadong harbor at dawn, and 50-75 were on Dokdo.
- Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos. One heard in Hyeonpo on 21st and two heard in Nari on 22nd.
- Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata. One was in Nari on 22nd and 23rd.
- Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Not numerous, but still the only “common” bunting, with two in Taewa on 20th; 3+in Hyeongpo on 21st; and 50+ on 22nd and 23rd.
- Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. Two or three on 21st; 5+ on 22nd and 23rd; and at least one on 25th on Dokdo.
- Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala. Remarkably scarce, with two heard on 22nd and one seen on 23rd (a First Calendar-year personata).
- Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi. One or two in Nari on 22nd and one there on 23rd.
Observations (from a few days in November in 2013 and this visit) suggest that in autumn many birds arrive in the northeast of the island, then move southwestward along the western flank of Naribong (with its peak of 816m) and across the Nari basin (caldera) and on southwestwards; with others continuing along the north coast (with its gentle ENE-WSW axis) on to Hyeonpo. Smaller numbers also appear to arrive and move south along the east coast, perhaps when they encounter westerly winds (=headwinds). The species mix, especially when compared with Yellow Sea islands, suggests that at least a few birds reach Ulleung from Japan. However, on the very limited survey effort to date, rather more of these migrants are likely coming from rather further north (perhaps the Russian coast near Vladivostok).
Haenam, October 25
I spent a nice afternoon birding around Gocheonnamho Lake in Haenam County with Peter Hirst. Waterfowl numbers were very low on the lake, with the most common species being Eurasian Wigeon (~300); Common Pochard, Northern Pintail, and Common Teal were also present in small numbers.
The highlight of the day was a Chinese Grey Shrike observed hunting over an expanse of rice field. Other good birds included Bull-headed Shrike (11), Common Kestrel (4), Eastern Buzzard (1), and a flyover of Grey-capped Greenfinch (20-25).
Eocheong Island, October 17 - 24
Friday 24th: Morning spent entirely in the boardwalk and eastern pathways area-Yellow-browed Warblers, Daurian Redstarts, Bramblings and Siskins continued, but in small and quiet numbers. The return boat trip was uneventful.
Finally, outside the Gunsan Train Station, a fare-thee-well mix of heard and/or seen birds: Azure-winged Magpies, Bull-headed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, a Common Pheasant.
Thursday 23th: A Siskin flock, a few Black-faced Buntings, and some Bramblings at the quarry in the early morning, but overall a sense of few birds. At the boardwalk, however, a flash of blue and a jolt of excitement: a Verditer Flycatcher, working the sunlit bushes on the rocky slopes. At the reservoir some hours later: 2 Baikal Teal along with several Mandarin Ducks. Back at the boardwalk, no sign of the Verditer, but an Arctic Warbler calling, a few Yellow-browed Warblers, a Red-flanked Bluetail., and an Asian Brown Flycatcher.
Wednesday 22th: Rain ended, replaced by brisk northeasterly winds, and little evidence of any significant fall of birds. A single Japanese Reed Bunting and a small flock of Siskins at the quarry and Green Sandpiper at the reservoir. 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawks. Good conversation with the driver of an enormous bulldozer (!) on why there are so few swallows any more. Later, wind-sheltered, sunny spots on the leeward side of the island near the lighthouse yielded a Varied Tit, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Taiga Flycatcher and 2 Goldcrests. Overhead, a Japanese Sparrowhawk. A small kettle of 4 Eastern Buzzards held one Upland Buzzard. A Goshawk bullied past. Back at the village, now two Northern Lapwings, a Eurasian Kingfisher and an Asian Brown Flycatcher.
Tuesday 21th: Rain, mostly heavy, all day. On occasional circuits: an Oriental Reed Warbler. Siskins and Bramblings apparent in small flocks, and c. 70 Barn Swallows. Scattered Black-faced Buntings, Yellow-throated Buntings and several Yellow Wagtails in evidence despite the downpour. A flock of 8 Mandarin Ducks winging over the harbor.
Monday 20th.: In morning intermittent light rain at the reservoir, some real excitement: a possible Jack Snipe. Précis of the main points: bird very briefly seen, flushed at very close range in good light, flying away from me. I did not get binoculars on it before it dropped over an embankment. The bird was tiny; size and structure seemed roughly like (and maybe smaller than) a Common Sandpiper. Flight was straight (arching smoothly up and then down), steady (e.g. no teetering, zigzagging, wandering), and quick. Overall the bird seemed dark: grey-toned and black-light lines (“braces”) on back (these seen very briefly), white trailing edge to secondaries, impression of white edges to sides of tail, (these last two points a millisecond longer). Tail appeared not wide and flared, snipe-style, but rather narrow and tapered: i.e., the proverbial “wedge shape.” I did not see any leg/feet protrusion. Wings did not appear as long or as pointed as a typical snipe. I saw the back of the head (roughly concolorous with back) but not the beak. Call was recognizably snipe-like, somewhat like a Common Snipe but very soft, quick and low, in a rapid four-syllable burst-2 short followed by two shorter notes in quick succession. The bird flew perhaps 50 yards up a heavily vegetated embankment but arced over a hedge of dense vines just before I could get the optics on target. I searched the area but much of the vegetation was impractically tall and dense. Several return walks about the pond verge were fruitless. The call “voice” sounded very similar to online recordings of single note Jack Snipe alarm calls, but I have not encountered a recording that duplicates the 4-note sequence I heard. I have no previous experience with the species, and repeat that the views I had were brief.
Later in the day, on and off in the on-and off rain: a very welcome Yellow-breasted Bunting. A few Yellow Wagtails. 2 Pallas’ Reed Buntings - one near the quarry and one near the minbak. A late-for-season Hobby appeared at dusk. On the east side of the island, suddenly a few moments of flocks of Bramblings flying in off the ocean and into the interior. A small flock of Siskins. Heard only at the same time: Bohemian Waxwings. On the beach as light faded, a Northern Lapwing.
Sunday 19th: A large snipe flushed in poor early morning light-no call to help with id. Little apparent wing pattern-perhaps a Swinhoe’s Snipe-but light was still poor. Later near the school, a small group of Chinese Grosbeaks. On the afternoon walk to the lighthouse, a tiny wetland produced a flushed crake-markedly large size, sense of powerful flight, coloration and glimpse of undertail coverts all suggest a Band-bellied Crake. Unfortunately, I did not see the head or beak. Over the hill, a small bird “band”-along with a few Yellow-browed Warblers, a single Pallas’ Leaf Warbler and a group of about seven Chestnut-flanked Whiteyes. A single chuckle from a thrush, probably a Dusky Thrush. Increasing cloud cover as the day wore on. Near the harbor in the evening, a single Pechora Pipit. Invisibly chekking from a shrub, an apparent Japanese Bush Warbler. With increasingly overcast skies, an influx of Barn Swallows: maybe 50 over the village.
Rain began in the early hours of the night.
Saturday 18th: A Watercock flushed and poorly seen in dense cover. Single Chestnut and Chestnut-eared Buntings. Near the minbak, a loudly peeping Chinese Penduline Tit. Circling the village, a White-fronted Goose. Heard, at times very briefly, Arctic and Two-barred Greenish Warblers. Four or so Bramblings.
Friday 17th: The boat trip was uneventful, relieved by a few Barn Swallows. On the island: a few more of these and 2 Red-rumped Swallows overhead. Birds seemed very scarce: one or two calling Yellow-browed Warblers, rather more but still few Rustic and Black-faced Buntings, single digits of Olive-backed and (heard) Buff-bellied and Richard’s Pipits. Also: 2 Peregrine Falcons, 2 Stenjeger’s Stonechats, a Chinese Sparrowhawk, a couple of Kestrels, an Eastern Buzzard, several Bull-headed Shrikes, invisibly calling Great Tits, ubiquitous Brown-eared Bulbuls, a hen Mandarin Duck on the reservoir, a few Grey Herons, 3 Little Grebes, and 2 Mallards. Above the quarry: an all-too brief glimpse of an apparent locustella, possibly a Middendorf’s Warbler. Nearby, 2 Far-eastern Skylarks, a Dusky Warbler, a Daurian Redstart, a few Blue Rock Thrushes and several Great Spotted Woodpeckers.