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Birds Korea's Bird News July 2014


Hot (increasingly with overnight minima close to 25°C, and maxima of 35°C) and humid, with occasional storms and heavy rains associated at the beginning of the month with the seasonal rain-front and by the end of the month with typhoons.

Young Japanese and White Wagtails can be found begging food on streams and rivers in the east and southeast. Juvenile Chinese Egrets and Far Eastern Oystercatchers are on northwest tidal-flats, in some areas feeding alongside juvenile Saunders’s and Mongolian Gulls. Black-naped Orioles, Vinous-throated Parrotbills and parties of tits, are found in almost all woodland areas. Towards the end of July the first returning shorebird flocks arrive, with large numbers of Far Eastern and Eurasian Curlews at Ganghwa and the Geum Estuary.

“Southern breeders” in recent years have included Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-breasted Waterhen and Greater Painted Snipe. In 2006 an early typhoon brought Korea’s first Bridled Tern, to Jeju Island.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Tancheon & Seongnae, July 26

The Tan stream, another tributary of the Han River, is rather high due to recent rains. From Suseo-Dong to the mouth at Samseong-Dong (a stretch of about 5km- a fraction of the streams total length), the following seemed of interest:

  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. 58 in total, including a mother with eight juveniles (nr. the Gwangpyeong-ro bridge) and a second mother with four (under the Dogok-ro bridge).
  • Common Merganser Mergus merganser. Two eclipse males (distinguishable from the similar females - according to my field guide - by the great extent of white on the closed wing and also the paler underparts). Both were in moult, lacking primaries, and presumably flightless. Another rare summer record for Seoul.
  • Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. Five. The post-breeding dispersal / return migration starts early (two weeks ago they were nowhere to be seen).

Later on the canal at Seongnae-Dong:

  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Six. It is worth noting that it was here I previously found a family brood on July 8th 2006 (see latest bird news for that date) - which is actually the first known case of breeding for the ROK.
  • Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. Two shyly keeping near cover.
  • Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo. One winging its way over the skyscrapers was a real inner-city record.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, © Tim Edelsten

Common Merganser Mergus merganser, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Nial Moores and Jason Loghry
“The southeast”, July 13

July is widely understood to be the hardest / quietest month for birding here. The weather is often hot and humid, or outright wet in years with a proper rainy season; there is almost no obvious migration; there are almost no accessible large concentrations of birds; there has been a near-absence of “good finds” in July - unlike all 11 other months of the year- unless as a result of typhoons; and finally, although biting insects are obvious, many bird species are shy and in increasingly poor plumage. Despite all these negatives, a day of birding riverside fields and reed-beds, rocky coast and open sea in the southeast (in Gyeongju, Pohang, the Guryongpo Peninsula and near Ulsan; first in rain and fog and then under clearing skies) was full of interest. In all only 46 species were logged, though much times was effectively wasted taking a so-called “Whale Watching Tour” out of Ulsan (more on this in a separate post). However, this low total included many notable species:

  1. Gadwall Anas strepera. Three were found (and photographed) near Pohang. There are very few previous summer-month records of this species in the ROK (though with better coverage this summer, the species has been found in both Seosan and in Seoul in June).
  2. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Four were found near Pohang. Although increasingly regularly- recorded in the summer months in the north and northwest, and also found as an occasional breeder (?) at Upo, this species is scarce in the south at this time of year.
  3. Common Merganser Mergus merganser. One near Pohang. Although a local breeding species in the north of the country, this is perhaps the first summer record in the southeast known to Birds Korea.

  4. Common Merganser Mergus merganser, © Nial Moores

  5. Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas. Probably c. 150 were seen in total, including several small groups off the Guryongpo Peninsula and 117 seen during the so-called “Whale Watching Tour” out from Ulsan, the nation’s whale-eating capital.
  6. Yellow Bittern. Ixobrychus sinensis At least three (two booming males and one female) were seen near Gyeongju.

  7. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis, © Nial Moores

  8. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Around 50 were seen near Pohang. Although easy to separate from Temminck’s Cormorant in non-breeding plumage by the colour of the lower mandible and the shape of the rear of the gular patch, the criteria for separating sinensis and (the perhaps synonymous?) hanedae still seem to be poorly understood. Sinensis, often thought of as the Great Cormorant of the interior of Eurasia (as opposed to the marine-preferential nominate subspecies), is widely believed to be the common subspecies in Korea. It is mapped across Asia by e.g. Newson et al. (2004) - though their study omitted Korea and Japan from their analysis – and by Brazil (2009). Hanedae is less well-known. According to the 7th edition of the Japanese Checklist published by the Ornithological Society of Japan in 2012, only hanedae has been recorded in Japan. Brazil (2009) provides no ID criteria, instead stating that hanedae is “mainly resident” in Japan but “may disperse” and that the “limits” between the two subspecies are “unclear”. Either way, there is evidence of large seasonal movements of Great Cormorants within Japan , where the species is increasing rapidly, and large numbers winter in the Nakdong Estuary in the southeast of Korea, only 200km from mainland Japan. In addition, the species was largely absent in the ROK in summer until the late 1990s, since when it has established several breeding colonies, but only in the northwest. In winter, there appear to be subtle differences in the shape of the gular between some birds when seen side-by-side (either “expected” variation or could this be due to subspecific differences?); and only in a very few areas, like Jeju (where there are several “Japanese-type” taxa), the species can be found regularly in rocky and marine areas. The birds at Pohang were on a river. They were in non-breeding plumage and most were immature. In many respects they looked remarkably similar to hanedae photographed by NM at a breeding colony in Tokyo (in early 2005). Sinesis or hanedae? Informed comments would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, © Nial Moores

    Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, © Nial Moores

    Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and Common Merganser Mergus merganser, © Nial Moores

  10. Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. One was on the Guryongpo Peninsula. Although this species breeds commonly in the northwest and locally elsewhere in the Korean part of the Yellow Sea, it is apparently scarce in the summer months in the southeast.

  11. Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus, © Nial Moores

  12. Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca. One was heard near Gyeongju.
  13. Watercock Gallicrex cinerea. Near Gyeongju, a female Watercock-type was seen as it flew across the track and disappeared into heavy cover.
  14. Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus. The day’s highlight, an adult Grey-headed Lapwing, was found by JL, and photographed by both of us in rice-fields near Gyeongju. This species is a very uncommon migrant through Korea, with very few records in the summer months (<5 in total?). Of note, one was also reported in the Nakdong Estuary in mid-June this year.

  15. Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus, © Nial Moores

  16. Common Redshank Tringa totanus. One, presumably an early-returning migrant, was near Pohang.

  17. Common Redshank Tringa totanus, © Jason Loghry

  18. Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. At least 400+ were noted during the day, including a half-dozen or more superb fresh-plumaged juveniles and large numbers of extremely worn-looking adults.

  19. Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris, © Jason Loghry

    Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris, © Jason Loghry

  20. Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. A worn (sub-) adult was between Ulsan and Busan and was the only non-Black-tailed gull seen during the day. In addition to wear, it had a few coarse nape streaks (hard to see in the images). In this species, nape-streaking appears to be at its coarsest and most extensive in August / September, becoming weaker (and still confined to the nape) during much of the winter.

  21. Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus, © Nial Moores

  22. Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. One in non-breeding plumage off the Guryongpo Peninsula appears to be an exceptional July record away from breeding areas (many / most apparently depart Korean waters between mid-June and October).
  23. Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. JL found a family party on the Guryongpo Peninsula on the 12th. Together, we heard single birds in two additional villages; heard and saw the same family in the same area; saw another perched on roadside wires next to the “known site”; and encountered singles at two more spots from the moving car between Guryongpo and Ulsan. Clearly, the species has already established itself on several offshore islands in the West Sea; it is now colonizing the mainland in the southeast. How many more might there be on islands and along the south coast too?

  24. Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis, © Jason Loghry

    Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis, © Jason Loghry

    Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis, © Jason Loghry

  25. White Wagtail Motacilla alba. In addition to at least two family groups of leucopsis, a single First-summer / Second Calendar-year male lugens was found and photographed on the Guryongpo Peninsula. Although lugens is a common winter visitor and migrant, and has apparently been recorded in the summer in the DPRK, the Birds Korea 2014 Checklist does not acknowledge any summer month records in the ROK. Is it regular here in the summer, perhaps along the Gangwon coast as seems likely, or was this a genuinely exceptional record?

  26. White Wagtail Motacilla alba, © Jason Loghry

Also seen a Tiger Keelback Snake.

Tiger Keelback Snake Rhabdophis tigrinus lateralis, © Jason Loghry

Tiger Keelback Snake Rhabdophis tigrinus lateralis, © Jason Loghry

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Yongjeong Island, July 12

At a construction site for the planned new runway, an opportunistic Saunders's Gull colony has been active recently (via SKS). A parent was photographed feeding a well-grown chick here on July 2nd (OSH).

Today little activity remained, although one adult was fetching and carrying food to the general nesting area, which also circled me once overhead, screaming angrily. I also saw two distant adults on the ground, which may have been tending nests or young.

A Little Tern also flew to and from the breeding area (nests and chicks were reported here a month ago). Also present, a Hobby, a few Zitting Cisticola and a Meadow Bunting.

Yongjeong is losing its last areas of wild habitat to development. Picture A (below) shows the most valuable wetland a year ago: picture B shows the same area today.

Picture A: Wetland, August 2013, © Tim Edelsten

Picture B: The same area, July 2014, © Tim Edelsten

Belated Bird News from Todd Burrows
Sorae Marsh Ecological Park, Incheon, June 1 - 17

During the period of the 1st to the 17th of June 2014 I visited the Sorae Marsh Ecological Park in Incheon almost daily for birdwatching and photography. I had easy access to the park as my wife's parents conveniently live a two minute walk from the East Gate. The park contains a mixture of salt marsh, mudflats, fresh and brackish wetlands providing habitat for a variety of bird species. The main walking/cycling track around the edge of the park is raised above the surrounding mudflats and tidal water enters through a gate on the eastern side. The main track is busy with people at times but the well made tracks through the park exclude bicycles and have minimal foot-traffic. Raised boardwalks provide access across the brackish lagoons and there are plenty of small shelters with seats to have a break. Unfortunately the bird hides are mostly poorly positioned. The Observation Deck within the freshwater wetland sits too low to be of any benefit for birdwatching. Toilets are located at the large three storey visitor centre in the south-western corner of the park. The view from the top deck provides a good outlook over the park and surrounding areas.

Constantly calling Oriental Reed Warbler were common within dense reeds and it was in these areas that Yellow Bittern were also quite common.  When a bittern entered into the territory of a reed warbler they were more often than not aggressively chased away by the smaller bird. While trying to photograph Yellow Bittern in flight on the 3rd I inadvertently photographed a male Von Schrenck's Bittern. I was to see this species a few more times during my visits including a male on the 9th calling out in the open along a track on the northern side. Common Moorhen were also heard and sometimes seen crossing the tracks in this habitat. A single male Watercock in breeding plumage was a flyover on the 17th.

Migratory shorebirds were not abundant but I did see Common Redshank most days including pairs exhibiting nesting behaviour in various locations. On one occasion a bird landed on a sign 2m in front of me constantly calling. I saw Common Greenshank a few times along with single Common Sandpiper and Far Eastern Curlew on the 13th.

Zitting Cisticola and Vinous-throated Parrotbill were common in the grassland areas and it was here that I regularly heard and sometimes saw Ring-necked Pheasant. Trees are mostly absent in the park but a small patch on the eastern edge almost always had a Common Cuckoo present with up to four chasing each other around and calling in flight on the 14th.

Black-tailed Gull were ever present in the skies above the park with one showing aggression towards a little dog off the leash. A small group of Little Tern made an appearance on the 2nd feeding over the lagoons in the rain.

Great Egret and Grey Heron were commonly seen hunting around the edges of the lagoons and tidal gate along with Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron and the occasional Striated Heron. Black-faced Spoonbill were also seen feeding in these areas a few times with a maximum number of five birds seen together including two dependent young on the 15th. Eastern Spot-billed Duck and Great Cormorant were common on the water with a pair of Little Grebe and a single eclipse male Mandarin Duck on the 10th.

Common Kestrel was the most abundant of the raptors over the park with a Eurasian Hobby making an appearance on most days (I was pleased to get a decent photo of one moving at speed, low over the marsh). Chinese Sparrowhawk was seen on three occasions with one being driven off by a hobby on the 5th.

Other wildlife of interest seen in the park included Siberian Weasel which were easily attracted into view using pishing. I saw them more than once chasing Vinous-throated Parrotbill through the reeds. More disturbing was the discovery of a dead Finless Porpoise washed up by the tide which had severe injuries consistent with being cut by a sharp blade.

Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis, © Todd Burrows

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis, © Todd Burrows

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis, © Todd Burrows

Von Schrenck's Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus, © Todd Burrows

Common Redshank Tringa totanus, © Todd Burrows

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, © Todd Burrows

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, © Todd Burrows

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, © Todd Burrows

Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, © Todd Burrows

Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, © Todd Burrows

Bird News from Nial Moores
East Busan, July 9

A few hours in the field ahead of the first typhoon of the year to reach Kyushu (just across the Korean Strait) found little moving on the sea, with only c. 100 Black-tailed Gull “blogging” and 207 Streaked Shearwater counted in a single scan, most in two feeding rafts. In park and woodland, four families of Daurian Redstart, excellent views of White-backed Woodpecker and, finally, excellent views too of two Black Paradise Flycatcher – including a pair apparently food-carrying and mobbing passing Eurasian Jays.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus, © Nial Moores

Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Nial Moores

Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Nial Moores

Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Nial Moores

Bird News from Jason Loghry
Nakdong Estuary, July 8

After hearing about the Tufted Puffin found at Gochang, and then reading about ENSO-related seabird news in the last few days, I wonder if the ROK is likely to experience any other remarkable seabird sightings in the near future.

Today after a long and heavy thunderstorm, the skies cleared quickly enough to allow for a check at the Nakdong Estuary before sunset. At Myeongji, species observed include Styan's Grasshopper Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Far Eastern Cisticola, Grey-capped Greenfinch, several Barn Swallow (60+), a very distant Swan (likely a Whooper), several Eastern Spot-billed Duck (120+), and a distant calling Eurasian Curlew. After sunset, with just enough light, there was time to check one other favorite patch. Luckily I did. There was one bird in flight I couldn't make out. I watched it for a while and then saw it land nearby. A closer look revealed a personal first, Oriental Pratincole.

Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum, © Jason Loghry

Bird News from Jason Loghry, Charles Knight and Mike Friel
Muju, July 6

Despite a morning of continuous showers, we decided to visit Muju to check out some of its beautiful broad-leaf habitat. On our way, we crossed a bridge at the Namgang near Jinju and found a Western Osprey, making it the third I've seen in less than a month. We stopped and watched as the bird sat perched on a dead tree near the river's edge. Although several fish skipped around just feet away from it, the Osprey sat unmoved and unbothered. (Here's an interesting article about the Osprey by Prof. Robert Newlin at Gwangju News Online: Birds and Bewilderment.)

Moving on, we made our way to Muju. As we arrived, the rain began to fall more steadily. The most impressive of the few birds we were able to see were three Asian Brown Flycatchers, which included a juvenile. We heard Blue-and-white Flycatcher singing near the mountain stream and saw a few Marsh Tit, a few juvenile Varied Tit, and a Eurasian Nuthatch. There were two Pale Thrush observed and one Brown Dipper, which we were able to see towards the end of our walk.

Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, © Jason Loghry

Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, © Jason Loghry

Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, © Jason Loghry

Bird News from Jason Loghry and Charles Knight
Junam Reservoir, July 5

We spent the afternoon watching birds at the main lake of Junam Reservoir on Saturday. The most numerous species observed was Eastern Spot-billed Duck, with 266+ on the lake. There were several Grey HeronGreat Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, and Cattle Egret, some on the lake and some in the rice fields. We scanned almost all of the nearby rice fields in hopes of finding a Watercock, but without any luck. Are there any records of Watercock at Junam? Barn Swallow were observed in flight and the constant ke-ke-bi song of Oriental Reed Warbler could be heard as we scanned through the lotus plants and water lilies.

Highlight of the afternoon might have been the well-showing Western Osprey diving for fish, that is until a closer look revealed a distant Pheasant-tailed Jacana in flight. After watching it land, we then decided to quickly move for better views from a different part of the lake. There we had slightly closer views, and to our surprise, found a second Jacana. We were more surprised to hear singing from one of the Jacanas and then shortly after that the two birds appeared to be mating. It was a short (10 seconds?) yet brilliant moment that I wish I had been able to see more closely. After some wing flapping, the bird on top then flew a short distance away and appeared to be feeding.

Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, © Jason Loghry

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, © Jason Loghry

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Anyangcheon, July 5

The anyang stream is another tributary of the Han river. The shallower upper reaches are bird-rich, having sandbars and reedy islands. The lower 4km has been heavily engineered with concrete banks and is virtually sterile.

From Doksan-dong to the stream-mouth at Yeomchang-dong (12km), the following seems noteworthy:

  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. 34 in total, including yet another brood - of at least four well advanced juveniles, in virtually the exact same spot I noticed a family back in 2008. There are still less than ten known cases of breeding for the ROK.
  • Northern Pintail Anas acuta. One male. There are apparently less than ten previous summer records.
  • Common Merganser Mergus merganser. One eclipse male. This would seem to be  the first July record outside of its rarely-documented breeding range in the far north.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, © Tim Edelsten

Northern Pintail Anas acuta, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Jungnang Rivulet, June 29

As I suspected, it was worth checking this tributary of the Han river, and there was an exceptional array of rarely - oversummering ducks. I took record shots of all but include here only the better pictures as conditions very poor. Walking from Oksu to Eungbong I counted the following:

  • Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. 50+ non breeders, apparently made up of drakes, is a significant midsummer concentration.
  • Gadwall Anas strepera. One male. There are only one or two (?) previous summer records.
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. 68 (51 adults plus a further 17 chicks) must surely be the highest summer concentration thus far recorded in Korea. This number included two families- one mother with a set of 11 ducklings, and another with six, which are rare breeding records.
  • Northern Pintail Anas acuta. A pair. There are less than ten previous summer records.
  • Baikal Teal Anas formosa. A drake, thankfully still in breeding plumage. This is perhaps only the third or fourth (?) summer record for Korea.
  • Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Two males and a female. There are, once again, less than ten previous summer records.
  • Common Pochard Aythya ferina. Five (four males and a female). A very rare summer record and probably the highest number yet recorded in summer.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, © Tim Edelsten

Baikal Teal Anas formosa, © Tim Edelsten

Common Pochard Aythya ferina, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Jason Loghry
Hwapo Wetland, June 21 - 22

On both Saturday and Sunday, I spent a few hours at Hwapo. On Saturday, there was a light rain throughout the afternoon but it was light enough to enjoy a nice and quiet walk around the wetland. In the surrounding rice fields there were Grey Heron, Eastern Great Egret, Little Egret, and Cattle Egret along with a few Spot-billed Duck and Mandarin Duck. At the wetland, Black-naped Oriole were giving their usual cat-like calls, dipping back and forth through the leafy trees. A pair of Brown-eared Bulbul were busy feeding their young. On occasion, Common Cuckoo (3) were singing from both the hillside and the reeds, with one observed singing from a wire on Sunday. Oriental Dollarbird (3) were zipping around hawking insects late into the afternoon, occasionally breaking on a perch. The highlight of both days were the Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, with at least three pairs observed. On Saturday, as the rain drizzled down, I first heard and then found three juveniles at the same tree feeding, with an adult male watching over. Walking along the trail, I caught a glimpse of a female Yellow-rumped exiting a nest box. I had always wondered if the nest boxes around the park were ever used and if so, by what species. Yellow-rumped Flycatchers were singing on both days, and on Sunday I watched a male jet by in pursuit of a Grey-headed Woodpecker. I'm not sure what the Woodpecker had done, but he seemed to be in hot water. Other species seen include Eastern Great Tit, Daurian Redstart, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Large-billed Crow, Barn Swallow, Common Kestrel, Bull-headed Shrike, Oriental Turtle Dove, a large number of Eurasian Tree Sparrow (120+), Vinous-throated Parrotbill, and Oriental Reed Warbler. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the Oriental Stork that was reported at the wetland a week before.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta, © Jason Loghry

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis, © Jason Loghry

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis, © Jason Loghry

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis, © Jason Loghry

Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Jason Loghry

Bird News from Robin Newlin
Northeast Sites, June 19

The need to change trains at Maseok was serendipitous: a Ruddy Kingfisher first heard then seen (!) from the subway platform when it flew across the green village valley.

At the Eastern Tawny Owl site, the 3 youngsters (hard not to call them the 3 Mouseketeers) showed well, if in very dim, shady, early morning light. They seem to be flourishing: staying close together but one or the other sometimes venturing a little away to explore. All three fly now, with varying confidence.

Also in the area: 4 Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, 2 Oriental Dollarbirds, an Eastern Crowned Warbler (heard only), various Black-naped Orioles, Pygmy and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Spot-billed Duck with young, a Striated Heron, 2 Grey Herons,, a Eurasian Hobby, a White Wagtail (heard), some Vinous-throated Parrotbills, calling Common and Indian Cuckoos, and several Eurasian Nuthatches. A resident (non-native) Peacock gave spectacular visual and vocal displays. Chipmunks everywhere, and Red Squirrels, watched intently by the owls.

Eastern Tawny Owl Strix nivicolum, © Robin Newlin

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Robin Newlin

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha, © Robin Newlin

Indian Peacock Pavo cristatus, © Robin Newlin

Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris coreae, © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Nial Moores and Jason Loghry
Busan, June 14

Some leisurely-paced birding in Busan from 5AM to ~5PM covered a range of habitats (forest, tidal-flats and freshwater wetland) and produced several excellent records. Nothing as rare as e.g. Asian Koel was found (even though a female was apparently taken into care earlier this month in Busan after being attacked by a cat: making it a record-breaking three Koels found in the ROK at the start of the month).

However, a large black shape in the canopy shortly after dawn revealed itself to be a Black Woodpigeon - an exceptional mainland record, especially in June. At the same site, we also found White-backed Woodpecker, Northern Boobook, both Pale and Grey-backed Thrushes, three singing Black Paradise Flycatcher (at least two of which seemed to be paired up), single singing Common Cuckoo, Eastern Crowned Warbler (first young fledglings of which were found here 10+ days before) and Blue-and-white Flycatcher, as well as several family parties of Eastern Great and Long-tailed Tits (with all juveniles seen having dark lores) and Grey-headed Woodpeckers.

At the Nakdong Estuary, further species of note included a brief song-phrase given by a distantly singing Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler (heard by NM only), a Chinese Egret, four spoonbills (of which at last two and probably all four were Black-faced Spoonbill), Black Kite and a Western Osprey – a species with very few summer- month records in the ROK.

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus, © Nial Moores

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Songdo Lagoon, June 14

Birds of most interest today at the reservoir included:

  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Nine drakes is a very high summer concentration.
  • Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. One male. There appears to be very few previous midsummer (ie mid June to mid-July) records.
  • Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. Some 22 fledglings have already emerged. I also counted at least 21 nests and 107 adults. One of the adults had very extensive yellow marking on the cere.
  • Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. One photographed.
  • Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. Within view, 63 adults,  three second calendar-year birds, 23 chicks and fledglings (at various stages of development), and  five nests with sitting adults.
  • Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. One still singing, close by.

Eurasian Teal Anas crecca (front left), © Tim Edelsten

Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, © Tim Edelsten

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Nial Moores with Gil Langfield
Various Locations, June 4 - 9

A quick birding trip to a few top sites (Yeongjong Island on 4th; Baekryeong Island from 4th PM to 6th; Seosan and Hwaum Temple on 7th; Goseong County on 8th; and several stops in Hwacheon County and Imjingak on 9th) led to a grand total of at least 146 bird species logged.  Although a few species were heard only (especially by NM), there were also quite a few well-seen species of note, including several unseasonally late migrants and over-summering species, a few notable breeders, and a couple of outstanding end-of-spring highlights (most especially a Lesser Coucal on the 6th).

Although a highly enjoyable trip (with many great birds, some still-beautiful landscapes, and time in the field shared with Dr. Shim Kyu-Sik and Mr. Lee Yong-Sang on 4th to 6th and with Mr. Mike Friel on the 8th), there was nonetheless daily evidence that the present development model remains ecologically unsustainable. In only six days, we witnessed and photographed bird-shooting near the international airport at Yeongjong (and the killing of a cormorant and apparently of a globally Vulnerable Chinese Egret); ongoing reclamation on the north side of Yeongjong; road and bridge building at Seosan (including close to the Von Schrenck’s site); more road construction materials set-ready in the Hwadong Wetland on Baekryeong (despite multiple formal objections already to this unnecessary road); and the clearing of vegetation and cutting of trees around a patch of woodland in Hwacheon County (Gangwon Province), an area which is supposed to be specially-protected for breeding birds (requiring Birds Korea to send yet another letter of concern to a local government body).

The fifty most notable bird species during the trip were:

  1. Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. Three at Seosan on the 7th.
  2. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. Two in the Hwadong Wetland, Baekryeong, on the 6th. The species is listed as W2 in the 2014 Birds Korea Checklist (suggesting there are no records in the summer months). However, one was seen at Seosan on June 24th 2005 and three were seen in Saemangeum in early August 2013, suggesting occasional oversummering.
  3. Gadwall Anas strepera. A male and a female were at Seosan on the 7th. The 2014 Birds Korea Checklist lists this species as W3 (i.e. as unrecorded in summer).
  4. Falcated Duck Anas falcata. NT. One was at Seosan on the 7th.
  5. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. Six were at Seosan on the 7th: an exceptional concentration for the summer months

  6. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, © Nial Moores

  7. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata. One or two at Seosan on the 7th. There are fewer than ten previous records in the summer months known to Birds Korea.
  8. Common Pochard Aythya ferina. Two males were at Seosan on the 7th. There are fewer than ten previous records in the summer months known to Birds Korea.
  9. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula. One at Seosan on the 7th. There are fewer than ten previous records in the summer months known to Birds Korea.
  10. Pacific Loon Gavia pacifica. One in flight, tentatively assigned to this species, was seen at close range from the ferry between Incheon and Baekryeong on the 8th. This individual was fully-winged and in non-breeding plumage. There are no records of this species in the summer months known to Birds Korea.
  11. Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris. Two were seen from the ferry off Daecheong Island on the 4th.
  12. Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. EN. At least 35 were feeding along the tide-edge at Yeongjong on the 4th; and six or seven adults and one very young chick were seen on Baekryeong on the 5th and 6th.
  13. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis. Three were in the Hwadong Wetland on Baekryeong on the 5th with one seen there on the 6th; and 5+ were seen at Seosan on the 7th.

  14. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis, © Nial Moores

  15. Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus. One male was well-seen at Seosan on the 7th.
  16. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes. VU. Four were seen on Baekryeong and at least six were seen at Yeongjong on the 4th, with one additional bird apparently shot dead at the lagoon northwest of the airport. The species is supposed to be a protected National Natural Monument. Approaches will be made by Birds Korea to determine the legality of shooting protected species during the summer months near Incheon International Airport.
  17. Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca. Two were heard, but not seen, in the Hwadong Wetland on the 5th, with one still there on the 6th.
  18. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. Thirty were at Seosan on the 7th. However, none were seen at or near the nest, perhaps because water levels are being held unusually high?
  19. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius. Seen at several locations, with one actively performing its “broken-wing-distraction” display on Baekryeong on the 4th.

  20. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, © Nial Moores

  21. Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus. One, perhaps a male, was in the Hwadong Wetland on the 6th. This is presumably the first record of this rare southern overshoot in Ongjin County.

  22. Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, © Shim Kyu-Sik

  23. Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi VU. Ten on the tidal-flat at Yeongjong on the 4th included one First-summer.
  24. Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris. Large numbers of chicks (>500) were seen at the main colony.

  25. Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris, © Nial Moores

  26. Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. Successful breeding on Baekryeong was confirmed with three chicks begging an adult and half-a-dozen other sitting birds seen.

  27. Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus, © Nial Moores

    Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus, © Nial Moores

  28. Little Tern Sternula albifrons. Only small numbers (10-20) were seen at Yeongjong and Seosan – with exceptionally high-water levels on Lake A at Seosan meaning only a very small area of the islands were available for nesting birds.
  29. Common Tern Sterna hirundo. Ten were seen from the ferry between Socheong and Incheon on the 6th.
  30. Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. Two were seen from the ferry about 20km south from Socheong on the 4th.
  31. Video and sound-recording

    Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis. One (presumably a Second calendar-year) was seen and heard excellently on Baekryeong Island on the 6th (NM, GL, SKS and LYS). At first it was heard singing from deep inside a bush, before climbing up on a dead tree to sun itself and continue singing. No playback was used – just patience. This is believed to be only the fourth record for Korea, with the first a corpse found on June 9th 2005 near Gunsan; the second photographed on May 1st 2006 on Weiyeon Island; and the third, one photographed on Jeju Island on June 6th 2010.

  32. Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis, © Lee Yong-sang

    Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis, © Lee Yong-sang

    Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis, © Nial Moores

  33. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus. One was heard very briefly again on Baekryeong on June 4th (NM and GL only). This is presumed to be the same one that was heard briefly in the same area in late May. With a male photographed in Okgye on the east coast of Gangwon Province in early June, this means that (at least!) two Koel were present in Korea in early June.
  34. Eurasian Eagle-owl Bubo bubo. One was still present at the regular site near Jeongkok on the 9th.
  35. Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda. Seven were heard (with perhaps as many as three glimpsed) in Goseong on the 8th and three were heard in Hwacheon County on the 9th, with two of these seen well in flight several times. Based on behavior it seems likely that a pair was nesting in trees affected by construction (see introductory paragraphs).
  36. Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus. A total of 25-30 were seen on Baekryeong (with 20+ on the 5th), presumably including a mix of migrants and birds intending to breed; and two pairs were present in Hwacheon County with one also seen in Imjingak on the 9th.

  37. Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus, © Nial Moores

  38. Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus. Four were seen on Baekryeong Island on the 4th (SJS and LSY only).
  39. Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata. NT. A pair was seen well in Goseong County on the 8th (thanks to MF); and a Second calendar-year male (presumably this species) was seen briefly and digiscoped very poorly on the 9th, in Hwacheon County, some distance from the “protected area”, as it moved rapidly up-valley. Although this individual showed multiple features suggesting Asian Paradise T. paradisi incei (including narrow blue eye-ring; contrast between black head and dark grey-black breast; bright rufous on the wing and rufous-purple on the mantle), pure Asian Paradise are believed to show all rufous-tails and pale grey breasts in all plumages.

  40. Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Nial Moores

    Black Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Nial Moores

  41. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. A flock of 10+ juveniles was seen on Baekryeong Island on the 5th (NM, GL, SKS, LYS). Although believed to be resident on Baekryeong, with pairs in several parts of the island in May in both 2013 and 2014, this constitutes the first breeding record of (presumed caudatus) white-headed Long-tailed Tit in the ROK known to Birds Korea. Identification as caudatus (and not magnus) was based on: apparent presence of a white-headed adult with this group (glimpsed by NM); calls, which were typical of white-headed birds; and the white lores and strikingly broad and white central crown shown by all the juveniles.

  42. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, © Lee Yong-sang

    Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, © Lee Yong-sang

  43. Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi. One late migrant was heard on Baekryeong on the 5th.
  44. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus. One or two migrants were heard on Baekryeong on the 5th: an exceptionally late date for spring migrants.
  45. Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus. Marginally the commoner of the “Arctic warblers” on Baekryeong, with 6+ heard calling and singing (most on the 5th), with only 3-4 Arctic Warblers P. borealis noted during the same period. Sound recording:

  46. Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus, © Lee Yong-sang

  47. Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes. In addition to one seen on Baekryeong on the 5th (presumed to be a late migrant) several were heard singing in Hwacheon County and one adult was seen food-carrying with two accompanying short-tailed fledglings on the 9th.
  48. Manchurian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus tangorum. VU. One long-tailed and ginger-washed small acrocephalus seen poorly by NM, SKS, GL and LYS on Baekryeong on the 6th was presumed (by NM at least!) to be this species.
  49. Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon. One on Baekryeong on the 4th (NM only).
  50. Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata. Probably five were heard on Baekryeong on the 5th.
  51. Far Eastern Cisticola Cisticola (juncidis) brunniceps. One was heard singing on Baekryeong on the 6th.
  52. Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus. Three heard and seen in flight on the 5th and two well seen on the 6th on Baekryeong are unexpectedly late records.
  53. Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus. A pair was seen on Baekryeong on the 6th.
  54. Chinese Blackbird Turdus merula mandarinus. A male and female were seen on Baekryeong between the 4th and 6th, with a female seen food-carrying, indicating nesting. Apparently the species was reported nesting on the island in 2013.
  55. Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii. Several seen on the river at Hwaum Temple, including at least two well-developed begging juveniles.

  56. Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, © Nial Moores

    Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, © Nial Moores

    Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, © Nial Moores

    Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii, © Nial Moores

  57. Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans. A pair was seen on Baekryeong on the 5th.

  58. Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans, © Nial Moores

  59. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus. One seen well in song on Baekryeong on the 5th was the only record.
  60. Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi. One on Baekryeong on the 5th is a rather late record.
  61. Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi. One at Seosan on the 7th (NM only) is a late record.
  62. Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra. Several were heard on Baekryeong on the 5th and 6th.
  63. Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola. Endangered. One well-seen at Seosan on the 7th is a rather late record.

In addition, we enjoyed excellent views of an Amur Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus at Seosan on the 7th.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten & Robin Newlin
Namhansan, June 7

33 species is not a bad total for a wooded mountainside in Korea on a summer afternoon. The area is blessed with large tracts of broadleaved forest at relatively high altitude (460m). The evening orchestra of birdsong toward dusk was especially enjoyable, with invigorating clean fresh air and almost no competing human background noise. A full list below:

  1. Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus.
  2. Rufous Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis.
  3. Rufous Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx hyperthrus. One seen and heard singing.
  4. Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus. Three or four singing, at times simultaneously, demonstrated a remarkable amount of individual variation in terms of pitch.
  5. Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus optatus. Three or four singing.
  6. Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. One or two.
  7. Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis.
  8. Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopus kizuki.
  9. White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopus leucotus.
  10. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major.
  11. Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus.
  12. Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo.
  13. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis.
  14. Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius.
  15. Eurasian Magpie Pica pica.
  16. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchus.
  17. Coal Tit Periparus ater. One seen well. This species seems to be quite difficult to find in summer.
  1. Varied Tit Sittiparus varius. One or two families with fledglings.
  2. Marsh Tit Poecile palustris.
  3. Eastern Great Tit  Marus minor.
  4. Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis.
  5. Asian Stubtail Urosphena squamiceps. Fairly common, often giving a monotonous tutting alarm call at the presence of e.g.chipmunks or feral cats.
  6. Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus. Common on the mountain.
  7. Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus. Two or more heard. This is apparently the only regular site for them in Gyeonggi Province.
  8. Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europea. There is a notably high concentration at Namhansan.
  9. Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum.
  10. Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus.
  11. Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane. One heard. The song is absolutely beautiful.
  12. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula xanthopygia. A male seen briefly (and poorly photographed).
  13. Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus.
  14. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus.
  15. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea.
  16. Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. Common and vocal.

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea, © Tim Edelsten

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea, © Robin Newlin

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
DaeIjak Island, June 4

In just an hour or so of very casual birding, only the resident/ summer breeding species in evidence with e.g. several Korean Bush Warbler, a Chinese Sparrowhawk, two Blue Rock Thrush, Black-naped Oriole, Common Pheasant, Brown-eared Bulbul, 7 Far Eastern Oystercatcher, Rufous Turtle Dove, Temminck's Cormorant, Eastern Great Tit, Korean Magpie, and abundant Black-tailed Gull.

Sunning itself on a forest path, a Tsushima Smooth Skink - a creature which I have also previously seen on Gageo and Socheong islands.

DaeIjak Island, © Tim Edelsten

Far Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus osculans, © Tim Edelsten

Tsushima Smooth Skink Scincella vandenburghi, © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Subhojit Chakladar
North Han River, June 4

Early morning (well ... 8:30am is not so early actually) at a popular tourist resort with Robin Newlin, who showed me the juvenile Northern Scops Owl. The fledgling was getting attention of all the birders and seemed rather curious about the Large-billed Crows, turning its head from time to time. Birds of note for the morning are in a separate report by RN. Slowly scanning the trees from the other species of owls spotted at the same spot previously, I also found a pair of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, constantly on the move with insects in their beaks, indicating possible nesting sites close by. Also spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker hopping thrush-like on the ground. I also heard distant calls of a Eurasian Cuckoo while walking on the trail right next to the river.

Later in the day, I also tried out a habitat a few miles away that seemed promising on the map. Next to another popular tourist spot (and a camping site), it didn't have many birds. Of note was the almost constant call of an Indian Cuckoo which remained invisible. There was a very vocal and visible Blue-and-White Flycatcher along with multiple Asian Stubtails, whose alarm calls echoed throughout the forest. Apart from that, there was an Eurasian Jay and a pair of very endearing Chipmunks.

Bird News from Robin Newlin
North Han River, June 4

A morning trip to a popular resort area collared a juvenile Northern Scops Owl, Grey-headed and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Black-naped Orioles, Great, Marsh, and Long-tailed Tits, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Eurasian Nuthatches and several Dollarbirds.

Northern Scops Owl Otus semitorques, © Robin Newlin

Northern Scops Owl Otus semitorques, © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Matt Poll
Seogwipo, Jeju, June 1

At a relatively undisturbed (yet) spot near town, three individual Fairy Pittas (or maybe two pairs) called from the treetops, mostly unseen. One of them had a strange three-note call

, instead of the more familiar two-note call. Two Northern Boobook called from nearby, but remained frustratingly out of sight. It was hard to hear other birds at times over the manic refrain of the Common and Lesser Cuckoos. A pair each of secretive Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and Yellow-throated Bunting fed busily and appeared to be bringing food back to nests. Great, Long-tailed, and Varied Tits (including some interesting grey-bellied juveniles) were also seen, as well as a White-backed Woodpecker. At least three pairs of Japanese Paradise Flycatchers were active and vocal along the trail, giving some good views. Elsewhere around Seogwipo, I’ve found a further four pairs on different stream beds.

Back in town, a Striated Heron (perhaps the same individual that has been overwintering in this park) paced the bank of a stream in a park. Last week in the same park I saw a pair of Asian Brown Flycatchers that were acting like there was maybe a nest nearby.

Last night I heard a Fairy Pitta calling from the stream behind my apartment at about 2 a.m. It was heading north towards Halla Mountain. I heard a similar late-night phenomenon on June 6th of last year – is this stream a nocturnal highway for fresh-in Fairy Pittas?

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, © Mathew Poll

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha, © Mathew Poll

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, © Mathew Poll

Varied Tit Poecile varius, © Mathew Poll

Varied Tit Poecile varius, © Mathew Poll

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Mathew Poll

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, © Mathew Poll

Striated Heron Butorides striata, © Mathew Poll