One of the very best birdwatching months! Cold days and nights (lowest day maxima of ca 12°C) gradually warm through the month (reaching the low 20s°C by month's end), and dry spells interspersed with 1-2 days of heavy rain and stormy conditions produce great birding towards month's end.
Early in the month, late Hooded Crane move through while shorebird numbers and diversity start to build up, with up to 200 000 shorebirds in the Saemangeum area by the end of the month, including up to 60 000 Great Knot, and small numbers of the globally-endangered Nordmann's Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Other Korean specialities, include Chinese Egret from mid-month, and Black-faced Spoonbill in small groups along the west coast. This latter species only has a world population of around 1400! In early April, species like Brown-headed Thrush and Japanese Robin occur regularly in very small numbers in the far southwest and southeast, while mid-April sees the first large passerine arrivals and spring overshoots, with good counts of many species like Blue-and-white, Narcissus and Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, and Tristram's and Yellow-browed Buntings. Late in the month, 100 or more species a day are possible on the outer islands like Heuksan and Gageo in the far south, Eocheong off Gunsan, and Socheong to the northwest.
Highlights in April have included several firsts and many unusual records for Korea, including Caspian Tern in the Nakdong estuary in 2001, Ferruginous Flycatcher and Eurasian Crag Martin on Eocheong Island in 2002, Northern House Martin and Red-breasted Flycatcher on Eocheong in 2003, and a Paddyfield Warbler on Hong Island in 2004.
(The following records are a compilation of our own sightings and records sent in by other observers. As well as being posted on the Birds Korea website(s), selected records are also forwarded to other Korean-language birding websites; records of threatened species are arranged and forwarded to Birdlife International and national authorities when appropriate; flag images and records are passed to bodies responsible for their coordination throughout the flyway; and all records sent to us are used to compile annual reports and to support the evolving understanding of the status of many of Korea’s birds.)
Gangwhado, 30 April
Almost deserted mudflat at Geomam dondae revealed 3 Whimbrel: nearby 1 Wood Sandpiper, a Red-rumped Swallow and a Pale Thrush - all personal spring firsts.
Rice paddies at Gangwha-eup were recieving their first watering of the season, and as such attracted 5 Cattle Egret arrayed in rusted plumes, an Intermediate Egret, Grey Starling and 4 Long-toed Stint - likewise all first birds of the year for me. In addition, 2 each of Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper.
Nakdong, April 29
A few hours at the Nakdong Estuary. The temperature is certainly soaring and the wind in Korea knows no end. There was a great deal of human activity on the estuary today.
Large numbers of Little Terns have arrived as well as a few Common Terns. Shorebirds were present in somewhat miniscule numbers with 3 Terek Sandpipers, 8 Great Knots, 1 Mongolian Plover, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 28 Common Greenshank, and 2 Spotted Greenshank. Around 250 Common Shelducks remain on the marsh as well as moderate numbers of Eurasian Wigeon and Common Teal. Chinese Penduline Tits remain in large numbers with well over 100 encountered. Two male Pallas's Reed Buntings remain as well. Highlight for me today was watching male Fan-tailed Warblers "skylarking" over the grasslands on the Nakdong with a total of 8 encountered.
Songdo, Dongmak, April 29
A late evening visit -warm and muggy conditions - garnered about 8 Black-tailed Godwit on the lagoon, along with three Common Greenshanks. The mudflats held abundant Mongolian and Kentish Plovers, Whimbrels, Red-necked Stints, and Bar-tailed Godwits.
A large flock in the distance appeared to be Great Knots, Dunlin, and Bar-tailed Godwits, but the light made details impossible to see.
Nearer-by, 16 "Eastern" Oystercatchers stood out in a black-and-white bunch. On the small rocky islet also nearby, 10 Grey Herons roosted along with a single Eurasian Spoonbill.
Eocheong Island, April 27
With the forecast rain failing to materialise and the day instead one of very strong and cold westerlies with fog and yellow dust, few birds of note seen. Almost the only new arrivals appeared to be a handful of Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk, a Grey-faced Buzzard, and 2 Kestrel, with best for the day being the White-breasted Waterhen and Black-headed Bunting still.
Eocheong Island, April 26
With continuing clear conditions, lots of departures and rather few arrivals...most numerous still were thrushes, with 9 species logged again (including ca 50 Pale, 40 Dusky and 15 Grey-backed and Brown-headed Thrushes), and buntings, with ca 75 Little and 50 Black-faced, 10 Yellow-browed, 5 Tristram's, 2 Japanese Yellow, and single Chestnut-eared and male Yellow-breasted Buntings.
Best for the day were 2 Wryneck (one giving superb views), single Chinese Blackbird and Blyth's Pipit, a very close (presumed menzbieri) Pechora Pipit, and single Red-throated Flycatcher and Black-naped Oriole (both personal firsts of the spring).
Eocheong Island, April 25
Rain fell for only a couple of hours overnight, clearing by dawn, and being followed by warm sunshine.
In total, 80 species logged, with 8 species of thrush still (including 1 Chinese Blackbird, 15 Brown-headed and 2 Grey Thrushes), 9 species of bunting (including the Black-headed, which started to feed on weeds in the high street), and 4 species of flycatcher. Highlights included 2 Wryneck, the White-breasted Waterhen still, now 2 Chinese Pond Heron, a Blyth's Pipit and a Hume's Leaf Warbler, 2 Chestnut-cheeked Starling and the personal first Daurian Starling (2) and Indian Cuckoo (1) of the spring.
Song Do, April 24
My first Grey Wagtail of the spring greeted me, followed by 2 spodocephala Black-faced Buntings. Surprise of the day was Chestnut-eared Bunting in the scrub, and star performers were a group of ca.10 Chinese Penduline Tits busily moving through the reeds - both first records for me at this site.
150+ Common Greenshank were joined by over 200 Red-necked Stints, 11 Sharp-tailed and 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Redshanks and 13 Black-tailed Godwit, richly dressed in red.This is the first time I've noticed them in the freshwater area, perhaps due to the disturbance on the adjacent mudflat, where the sound of heavy construction now resonates continuously.
Geum River Oh-Seong Mtn and Man-gyeong River Estuary, April 24
In a canal that runs into the Geum tidal flat a Water Rail was briefly in the open. An Oriental Scops Owl was heard calling near a village reservoir where a Falcated Teal lingers. Near the Man-gyeong two different groups of Azure-winged Magpie were seen.
In the estuary a flagged Bar-tailed Godwit was seen: White on the upper right, double yellow on the lower right, and white over blue on the lower left. It was apparently a female.
Heuksan Island, April 24
Highlights included a Tree Pipit in the north of the island (Heuksan's - and Korea's - second record of the year), and a rather unusual female Narcissus-type flycatcher (for more images and a discussion of this and similar previously-seen flycatchers go to An "odd" ficedula).
Eocheong Island, April 24
With clear skies overnight, again many birds seemed to have moved on, and neither the pandoo Blue Rock Thrush nor the Black-headed Bunting were refound during the day.
Best in the rather quiet morning were ca 10 Brown-headed and single Grey Thrushes, 2 Wryneck, the White-breasted Waterhen, single Chinese Pond Heron and Latham's Snipe still. Birds showing some slight increase included Asian Stubtail (15+), Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (5+), and Tristram's (15) and Yellow-browed Buntings (10), while in the afternoon (under increasingly cloudy skies) a Greater Short-toed Lark was the best of new arrivals at the lighthouse.
Eocheong Island, April 23
With clear skies some of yesterday's birds appear to have moved on, being replaced by rather better numbers of warblers (including e.g. over 20 Dusky and 10 Pallas's Warblers around the main village), and still good numbers of buntings (with Little now most numerous, but including single Grey and 2 Yellow Bunting).
New species in included the personal first Pechora Pipit (1), Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (3), Common Rosefinch (1 or 2) and Rufous-tailed Robin (1) of the spring, and a Citrine Wagtail seen briefly, while other species of note included the Black-headed Bunting again seen poorly, the White-breasted Waterhen and still 3 or 4 Chinese Blackbird.
Outstanding highlight of the day, however, was a bird first picked up by Chai Seung-Hoon: "Is it a Blackbird? What is it?" Shiny blue rather than black, it was instead a male Blue Rock Thrush of the subspecies pandoo: presumably a first record of this subspecies for Korea, subtly different in structure and strikingly different in calls and plumage from the very regular philippensis, "Chestnut-bellied Blue Rock Thrush".
Wonbook, Taean Peninsula, April 23
Excellent views (and images!) of Korea's second ever Isabelline Wheatear (with the first being found on Heuksan Island by Park Jong-Gil on May 1st, 2003).
The following are acknowlegements from the Australasian Wader Study Group of reported sightings of banded shorebirds seen in Korea.
A Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris was sighted in a flock of 8000 birds by Nial Moores, Peter Nebel, Jake Maclennan at: Mangyeung Estuary, Gunsan City, Republic of Korea (South Korea) 35deg 52min 0sec N, 126deg 43min 0sec E on 17/04/2005 with flag(s) as follows:
LEFT leg: nothing/unknown on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus, RIGHT leg: yellow flag on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus
This bird was flagged in North-west Australia, approximate co-ordinates 19deg 0min S, 122deg 0min E, which uses the flag combination Yellow, sometime since August 1992.
The resighting was a distance of approximately 6122 km, with a bearing of 5 degrees, from the marking location.
A total of 2 Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica were sighted by Nial Moores, Peter Nebel, Jake Maclennan at: Geum River Estuary, Chungham Province, Republic of Korea (South Korea) 36deg 2min 1sec N, 126deg 44min 0sec E on 17/04/2005 with flag(s) as follows:
LEFT leg: nothing/unknown on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus, RIGHT leg: orange flag on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus
These birds were flagged in Victoria (Australia), approximate co-ordinates 38deg 0min S, 145deg 0min E, which uses the flag combination Orange, sometime since January 1990.
The resighting was a distance of approximately 8445 km, with a bearing of 345 degrees, from the marking location.
The flagged birds were identified as female.
A Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was sighted by Nial Moores, Peter Nebel, Jake Maclennan at: Geum River Estuary, Chungham Province, Republic of Korea (South Korea) 36deg 2min 1sec N, 126deg 44min 0sec E on 17/04/2005 with flag(s) as follows:
LEFT leg: nothing/unknown on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus, RIGHT leg: yellow flag on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus
This bird was flagged in North-west Australia, approximate co-ordinates 19deg 0min S, 122deg 0min E, which uses the flag combination Yellow, sometime since August 1992.
The resighting was a distance of approximately 6141 km, with a bearing of 5 degrees, from the marking location.
The flagged bird was identified as male.
A Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was sighted in a flock of 1500 birds by Nial Moores, Peter Nebel, Jake Maclennan at: Geum River Estuary, Chungham Province, Republic of Korea (South Korea) 36deg 2min 1sec N, 126deg 44min 0sec E on 17/04/2005 with flag(s) as follows:
LEFT leg: white flag on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus, RIGHT leg: nothing/unknown on tibia (upper leg) above nothing/unknown on tarsus
This bird was flagged in the Auckland area, North Island (NZ), approximate co-ordinates 37deg 0min S, 175deg 0min E, which uses the flag combination White, sometime since 22 December 1991.
The resighting was a distance of approximately 9525 km, with a bearing of 323 degrees, from the marking location.
The flagged bird was identified as female.
Eocheong Island, April 22
In bright sunny conditions with a westerly wind, some evidence of a small arrival in the afternoon, with new arrivals including 2 Chinese Pond Heron, a Redshank and a Chinese Grey Shrike (the latter two both first records for Eocheong). Other birds of note included single Narcissus Flycatcher and Wryneck, ca 10 each of Pallas's and Dusky Warblers, one or two Blyth's Pipits and the personal first Oriental Reed Warbler of the spring.
Outstanding highlight for the day was found and photographed by Kim Hyun-tae late in the afternoon: a very confiding and obviously tired Black-headed Bunting. Although the second record for Eocheong Island (with one being present in mid-May 2003), it is only the third record for Korea - the first being on Gageo Island, in November 2000.
Hong Island and Heuksan Island, April 22
Among many migrants, most notable was the abundance of Brown-headed Thrush still, with ca 45 on Hong Island and ca 70 in the northern part of Heuksan Island.
Eocheong Island, April 21
Despite clear and sunny conditions, with moderate westerly winds keeping temperatures well down, 81 species logged for the day.
Numbers of Pale (60) and Brown-headed Thrushes (ca 10) seemed well-down (birds having either moved on or into the deeper cover of the extensive pine and regenerating camellia forest), though Grey-backed (12) and Dusky Thrush (ca 150) have increased (with ca 70 of the latter tumbling from very high up in a clear sky into the forest with an amazing whoosh). Also found in increasing numbers were Little Bunting (30+) and Yellow-browed Warbler (15+: the first day with double numbers of any phylloscopus).
Other species of note included 2 Mandarin Duck in the harbor, 3 new Wryneck, between 2 and 4 Latham's Snipe, 3 Chinese Blackbird, the Blyth's Pipit still, a male Narcissus Flycatcher, the same or another Grey Bunting, and three more personal firsts for spring: an adult White-breasted Waterhen, a female Yellow-breasted Bunting and 4 Chestnut-cheeked Starling.
In addition, 2 Varied Tit are possibly the first for the island.
Incheon-Songdo, April 20
Cool and windy weather at Dongmak's lagoon and mudflats.
High water in the lagoon, and few lingering ducks, but one a brightly coloured Garganey. Nearby were one Gadwall, a few Shovelers, and a dozen Common Teal; also 3 Greenshank. In the reeds and bushes, about a dozen Chinese Penduline Tits, 3 Black-faced Buntings, 8 lingering Dusky Thrush, 1 Siberian Stonechat.
On the flats (where construction work continues), 10 more Greenshank. About 80 Dunlin were within sight, 150 Bar-tailed Godwits, 50 Kentish Plovers, 200 Grey Plovers, abundant Far Eastern Curlew, and 40 Whimbrels. Also 9 Oystercatchers and 10 Saunders's Gulls in their breeding finery.
Eocheong Island, April 20
With heavy overnight rain and very strong westerly winds, anticipation of some kind of fall was rather high.
As it was "only" 73 species were logged, with most numerous again being thrushes, with 100 Pale and at least 45 Brown-headed Thrushes counted (the latter the second highest day count of the species in Korea). In addition, 8+ Grey, and ca 10 each of Grey-backed and White's Thrushes, along with still 2 or 3 Chinese Blackbird.
Other species of note included 2 Wryneck, 2 Latham's Snipe, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 3 Siberian Blue Robin, 3 Asian House Martin, a Greater Short-toed Lark, a Blyth's Pipit, 7 species of bunting (including 2 Grey Bunting: the first record for Eocheong), and the personal first Chestnut-cheeked Starling of the spring.
Mokpo to Heuksan Island (and vice versa), April 19 & 20
78 species total logged on the island. Heavy rain and wind late on the 19th lasted thoughout the night. On the morning of the 20th pipits, snipes, & thrushes were present in fantastic numbers.
Arctic Diver - 2 in breeding plumage, Streaked Shearwater -1, Chinese Pond Heron - 2, Eurasian Spoonbill - 1, White-tailed Sea-Eagle - 2 adults, Osprey - 1, Oriental Honey Buzzard - 1 dark phase, Gray-faced Buzzard - 3, Eurasian ("Eastern") Oystercatcher - 21 from ferry, Wood Sandpiper - 2, Green Sandpiper - 1, Eurasian Woodcock - 1, Common Snipe - approx. 50, Swinhoe's Snipe - 1, Pintail Snipe - 3, Latham's Snipe - 7, easiest snipe by voice, Ancient Murrelet - 3 from ferry, Asian House Martin - 2, Olive-backed Pipit - approx. 1000, EURASIAN TREE PIPIT - 1 with Olive-backed Pipits for comparison, sweet looks and cooperative bird!, Red-throated Pipit - 3, Ashy Minivet - 8 (1 with complete dark cap, possible melanistic?), Red-flanked Bluetail - approx. 80, Siberian Blue Robin - 2 females, Grey Thrush - 5, Pale Thrush - approx. 350, Dusky Thrush - approx. 400, Brown-headed Thrush - a few scattered birds were seen before the rains on the 19th. On the 20th they were literally flocks of them with at least 100+ on the hills above town., Japanese Bush Warbler - approx. 30 singing, Oriental Reed Warbler - 1, Asian Brown Flycatcher - 3, Blue & White Flycatcher - 3 males, Narcissus Flycatcher - 1 male, Tristram's Bunting - 3 males, Little Bunting - approx. 40, Yellow Bunting - 11, Black-faced Bunting - approx. 80, Brambling - 6 nicely in breeding plumage, Japanese Grosbeak - 6 Wow! Totally unexpected find!
Chestnut-cheeked Starling - 6 males in full sunlight are gorgeous!
near Gunsan Airport, April 20
6 Brown-headed Thrush watched well.
Eocheong Island, April 19
In generally overcast and increasingly breezy conditions still fairly small numbers of birds, though with a few quality species and a very small arrival taking place during the day.
Eight species of thrush logged, with 2 or 3 Chinese Blackbird, 5 Brown-headed, 50+ Dusky, single Eye-browed, 3 Grey, ca 2 Grey-backed, 100 Pale and ca 5 White's Thrushes, and the personal first definite Latham's Snipe (1), Yellow Bunting (ca 8), Wryneck (1) and Oriental Cuckoo (1) of the spring.
Gunsan - Eocheong Island, April 18
2 Grey Nightjar over the sea on the ferry crossing, but on the island itself rather few migrants, with most numerous being e.g. Red-flanked Bluetail (ca 50) and Black-faced Bunting (ca 70)., Species of most note included single Chinese Blackbird, Brown-headed Thrush and Long-tailed Shrike, 2 Greater Short-toed Lark and (yet) another "barabensis-type" adult gull (yellow-legged, dark-eyed, with obvious dark subterminal marking and pale tip to bill).
After a week of settled and largely clear weather the forecast is for rain on 19th and 20th...
Suncheon Bay, April 17
Garganey - 4, Kentish Plover - 3, Black-tailed Godwit - 1, Bar-tailed Godwit - approx. 50, Whimbrel - 3, Common Greenshank - 5, Saunders's Gulls - approx. 20, Eurasian Scops-Owl - seen briefly in Suncheon, Bluethroat - 2 great looking males & 1 female, Siberian Stonechat - 3, Grey-backed Thrush - 1 male in Suncheon, Chinese Penduline Tit - approx. 300, Azure-winged Magpie - 15 in Suncheon
Yeongjeong Island, April 17
A look at the island's southern reservoir at high tide, revealed a few Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, an "Eastern" Oystercatcher and a roost of around 2000 Dunlin.
100+ Little Terns hovered and dived over the water, and about 10 Common Greenshank scoured the mud - both spring firsts for me.
5 Chinese Egret were a joy to see, along with a few Great and Little - all in perfect summer make-up.
2 Buff-bellied Pipits seemed to be engaged in a courtship display, and 3 eunomus Dusky Thrushes busily refuelling in the gardens will probably be the last birds of the season.
Buff-bellied Pipit (left),
Yeongjeongdo © Tim Edelsten
Northeastern Seoul, April 17
An evening walk to BulAnSam in Nowongu, Seoul produced 1 Arctic Warbler, a territorial Siberian Stonechat, 1Red-flanked Bluetail, and 1 Jay. The Dusky Thrushes seem to have left their usual haunts, but a Grey-backed Thrush sprang up into a tree and sang beautifully for some time (for the Yanks out there, reminiscent of a Mockingbird that knows some Wood Thrush licks!)
On the way back down the hill, 3 Striated Heron flew over in close formation.
Local woodland, Geum River and single point on Mangyeung, April 17
In woodland, singing Eastern Crowned (2) and Pallas's Leaf Warbler (1), and ca 4 White's Thrush.
At the Geum near the barrage, ca 8 000 shorebirds were comprised largely of an estimated 5 000 + Dunlin and possibly 1 500 Bar-tailed Godwit, including no less than 5 leg-flagged birds in with the ca 600 close enough to check (flags included two orange, one yellow, one white and one female with a white leg-flag and yellow over red on the right tarsus and yellow over light blue on the left).
Other shorebirds of note there included 4 Pacific Golden and 3 Mongolian Plover, 5 Terek Sandpiper and 3 Whimbrel. At the Mangyeung, ca 40 grey geese, 10 Spoonbill (probably White), and at least 8 000 Great Knot (including one with a yellow leg flag on the right tibia).
Jeju, April 16 - 18
In what was obviously a good day for shorebirds, 1 Oriental Plover (a rare passage migrant), 10 Oriental Pratincole, and 1 Little Curlew were found. We are waiting for permission to post the excellent photos that were taken...
Taejongdae, Busan, April 16
Japanese Robin - 1 male, Siberian Blue Robin - 1 male, Red-flanked Bluetail - 3 females, White's Thrush, Gray-backed Thrush - 1 female, Gray Thrush - 1 female, Brown-headed Thrush - 3, Korean Bush Warbler - 3 heard, Eastern Crowned Warbler - 2, Grey Bunting - 2
Ganghwa-do, April 16
A visit to southern Ganghwa-do, in the Dongmak and cool, windy conditions.
Thinly scattered shorebirds, mostly on the extensive mudflats: many (200 or more) Dunlin, about 40 Bar-tailed Godwits, abundant Far-eastern Curlew, 1Eurasian Curlew, 3 Terek Sandpiper, 5 Great, 3 Little, 2 Intermediate, and 1 Chinese Egrets. 30 Shelducks. 2 Black-faced Bunting. On a mud/sand bar and diving over a channel, 3 Little Terns.
Heuksan Island-Mokpo, April 16
Continuing warm and sunny, with still very good numbers of e.g. Dusky (120) and Pale Thrushes (50), Red-flanked Bluetail (100+) and Black-faced Bunting (ca 150), and several species of extra note. At the southern end of the island at least 3 crooning Black Woodpigeon, including one seen briefly in flight, with probably 25+ singing Japanese Bush Warbler, 2 Grey Bunting, 2 Grey Thrush and 2 Brown-headed Thrush very much adding to the "Japanese feel", while single Baillon's Crakeand Eye-browed Thrush were both more "continental type" personal firsts of the year.
Other personal spring firsts included Pale-legged Leaf (2) and Dusky Warbler (1), while rarest was another first-summer (2 cy) Black Redstart. At the northern end, the relict patches of wetland still held 3 Chinese Pond Heron and single Citrine Wagtail still, along with a single probable Latham's Snipe.
From the afternoon ferry, best as ca 10 Ancient Murrelet.
Hong Island - Heuksan Island, April 15
Warm and sunny with light to moderate northwesterlies, and around 80 species logged during another very good day.
On Hong Do, among many species of note were single Richard's and 2 Blyth's Pipits, 2 Chinese Blackbird, one Red-billed Starling, 2 Grey and 4 Brown-headed Thrushes, and a Japanese Robin heard singing, while on Heuksan Wood Sandpiper (2), Yellow-browed Warbler (3) and Chinese Pond Heron (3) were all personal firsts of the spring.
Other species of note there included single White-tailed Eagle, 2 more Blyth's Pipit, single Asian House Martin and Brown-headed Thrush, and a male Red-billed Starling. Although a male Citrine Wagtail was the most colourful (and the rarest) bird of the day, even less expected was a flock of 20 Greater Short-toed Lark in small fields above the main harbor --- easily the highest ever count of this scarce migrant nationwide.
Mokpo-Hong Island, April 14
From the ferry only 2 Ancient Murrelet and 2+ Streaked Shearwater, but on Hong Do itself an excellent day's birding, with clear skies, warm temperatures (ca 20C) and only light winds.
Most numerous species were Dusky Thrush (ca 100), Pale Thrush (ca 50), Red-flanked Bluetail (ca 60) and Siberian Stonechat (30+), while the day produced several personal firsts of the year, including Grey Thrush (2), Siberian Blue Robin (1 beautiful male), Siberian Rubythroat (2), Latham's Snipe (1), and Asian House Martin (2).
A long list of national subrarities included stunning views of a House/Little Swift, flying back and forth in front of us; 2 Greater Short-toed Lark; an extremely early Blyth's Pipit, 3 Brown-headed Thrush, possibly 4 Chinese Blackbird, 2 Red-billed Starling and a crooning Black Woodpigeon heard, while rarest for the day was a first summer male Black Redstart, feeding on a compost heap with 1 White's and 1 or 2 Dusky Thrushes, 3 Red-flanked Bluetail, 2 Siberian Stonechat, 2+ Black-faced Bunting, and an Olive-backed Pipit...
Jirisan NP, April 13 and 14
At Jirisan I spent only the evening and morning birding around the Hwaeomsa temple and the trail above it.
In the evening I had two WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKERS about 1 km above the temple and 1 male BLUE & WHITE FLYCATCHER singing at sundown. Pale Thrushes were present in good numbers, many in full song.
In the morning I had the typical woodland species feeding in the temple grounds including 2 more White-backed Woodpeckers, 2 CROWNED WARBLERS, 2 ASIAN STUBTAIL. Along the nearby creek BROWN DIPPERS were present and near the Jirisan Plaza Hotel I had 8 feeding and nest building RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS. They don't waste anytime!
Korea is absolutely beautiful right now with all the blooming flowers and the excitement of migration...
Taejongdae, Busan, April 12
Salivating over Nial's bird list from Taejongdae I made a run to Busan in search of migrants.
Upon entering the park I checked around the memorial and immediately found 8 BLACK-FACED BUNTING feeding in a nearby small garden. Also present were several PALE THRUSH. Excited by the bird movement I moved to the "fast food" area and found more Pale Thrush and had nice looks at a female GREY THRUSH.
Excited by a lifebird I pushed on to the small creek the runs behind the lower temple. On the way I came across two ASIAN STUBTAILS. Behind the temple I found large flocks of birds moving along the creek and in the trees above. Birds were literally everywhere! It was great. There were so many thrushes and buntings tossing leaves it sounded like people were walking through the forest. Birds were as follows: approx. 25 Pale Thrush, 3 GREY THRUSH (2 males, 1 female), 1 WHITE'S THRUSH, 4 JAPANESE ROBIN (3 male, 1 female), 3 NARCISSUS FLYCATCHER (3 males), 5 GOLDCREST, 2 Asian Stubtail, 12-15 CROWNED WARBLERS, 1 PALE-LEGGED WARBLER, BLUE & WHITE FLYCATCHER (1 male), 1 BROWN FLYCATCHER, and 3 GREY BUNTINGS.
A wonderful day!
Nakdong, April 11
Two hours in the afternoon birding along the eastern flank of the Nakdong with one hour in woodland at Dadapo.
The estuary produced few surprises, with only one Saunders's Gull, 5 Falcated Duck and 4 Whooper Swan remaining from the winter and 30 Barn Swallow suggesting spring. The only shorebirds found were a mixed flock of ca 60 Far Eastern and Eurasian Curlew, and most numerous species by far was Black-headed Gull, with an estimated 6 000 +. Raptors there included single Common Buzzard, Osprey, Hen Harrier and Kestrel and ca 5 Black Kite.
In woodland at Dadapo at least 30 Pale Thrush in one small area (the flock also containing a single White's Thrush and the personal first Grey-backed and Brown-headed Thrushes of the spring), along with single Grey Bunting, Brown Flycatcher and Eastern Crowned Warbler.
Gunsan ferry to Eochong Island, April 9 - 11
On the ferry to Eo-cheong Do rain and wind made viewing birds challenging. Nonetheless, I did note one Streaked Shearwater.
After lunch we walked to the light-house. Pale Thrush were perhaps the most abundant thrush, although many eunomus, a few naumanni Dusky and several Scaly Thrushes were encountered, too. There were quite a few Olive-backed and Buff-bellied Pipits. Black-faced Buntings were the most numerous bunting. A single Little Bunting was seen, too.The most abundant bird was the Barn Swallow: easily over a thousand island wide. During bad weather groups of 100-200 were counted under the eaves of roofs in a few locations. On the west side of the island an Asian Brown Flycatcher was watched for several minutes. A Pacific Swift flew over. In the village reservoir a macronyx Yellow Wagtail was seen. Just before dinner a few Sanderlings as well as a few other shore birds such as Red-necked Stints and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were on the beach.
Eochong Island, April 10
The morning was particularly discouraging. High wind and seas stranded us on the island and the rain made birding very uncomfortable.
By about 11 a.m. the weather allowed us to venture out again. We wandered through the meadows and spotted a Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk. At the edge of a meadow a Striated Heron flew into cover. Barn Swallows zipped around every field, many were cluttered dead and dying on the ground where they had roosted though the stormy weather. In the evening before the light faded a Chinese Blackbird in the company of a Grey Thrush was observed. In the canal next to the island's clinic a single male Siberian Blue Robin was seen.
Eochong Island, April 11
In the morning on the slopes west of the village two Long-tailed Shrikes were seen. Just before the ferry came to take us back to Kunsan a couple of Chinese Grosbeak were seen in the trees near the elementary school and a Hoopoe was flushed from the field east of the reservoir.
Yeongjeongdo, April 10
The islands north-eastern mudflats at Yongyudo revealed several Barn Swallows sweeping over the lake, with a pair of "amorous" Hoopoes nearby. A rose- breasted Mongolian Plover scuttled to and fro on the mud, as well as 3 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers - all personal first birds of the season.
Far -eastern Curlews dominated the estuary, with a handful of Eurasian thrown in: also 11 "Eastern" Oystercatcher, a few Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, and excellent views of 3 Great Knot, sporting chestnut-backed breeding feathers.
Winter hangovers included 5 Grey Plover, 3 Dunlin, and oddly, 3 late Red-Breasted Mergansers floating further out - the first I have noticed in the Seoul vicinity.
Best of the day however, another early bird - a Chinese Egret on the lake, in splendid summer finery.
Taejongdae, Busan, April 10
With heavy overcast, low cloud, periods of rain and strong winds, some downed migrants were only to be expected. Although numbers were low, a range of very good species were seen.
Species of note included ca 7 Siberian Stonechat, single personata and spodocephala Black-faced Bunting and the personal first ocularis White Wagtail of the year just outside of the park. In the park itself, ca 4 Grey Bunting (including excellent views of a female), a single Pacific Swift, the personal first Brown (1), Blue-and-white (3 males) and Narcissus Flycatchers (3 males) of the spring; the personal first confirmed Korean Bush (1) and the first Eastern Crowned Warblers (4) of the spring; and the personal first Japanese Robin -- with three of the latter seen well, including one bird singing weakly.
In addition, ca 5 Black Kite, 1 Osprey, 2 or 3 Asian Stubtail and ca 20 Pale Thrush were logged, while most unexpected considering the very early date was a minivet (either Ashy or perhaps less likely a Ryukyu?) heard calling as it flew off in to the low cloud.
Upo Ramsar Site, April 9
Sidra Blake and I just returned from a very wet weekend at Upo Marshes. On Saturday (4/9/05) the weather was great for birding with no wind and overcast sky keeping birds active through the day. It rained through the night and the morning on Sunday. Water levels increased dramatically overnight reducing available mud flats.
Besides the birds we also encountered several squirrels with ear tufts, two of the native short stocky deer, Fire-bellied Toads, American Bullfrogs, a frog similar to leopard frog, and swallowtail butterflies.
The birding highlights are as follows:
Eurasian Spoonbills - 3 on Upo Marsh, Bean Geese - 25 still remaining with both subspecies present, Mandarin Duck - 1 female, Garganey - 8 most on the smaller outer marshes, Wood Sandpiper - 2, Green Sandpiper - 3, Spotted Redshank - 15, Black-winged Stilt - 3 on Upo, Eurasian Scops-Owl - one heard calling on the east end of Upo just after sunset, Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2, Grey-headed Woodpecker - especially vocal this weekend, Pacific Swift - several feeding in among large flock of Barn Swallows, Hoopoe - 1 flying high over Upo on Sunday, Chinese Grosbeak - 4 at Upo marsh and a flock of 13 at the bus stop to the north east of Upo marsh
Jeju, April 8
1 White-bellied Green Pigeon
Rare in South Korea, there have been just the following previous records:
- 1 captured Bukjeju Gun, Jeju, 10th April, 1977
- 1 captured Hanlim Eup, Jeju, 1989
- 1 captured Daejeon, 10th December, 1989
- 1 captured Taejongdae, Busan, 1st January, 1992
- 1 observed by Jung Ok Sik, Somaemul island, Tongyoung, South Sea, 5th May, 1998
- 4 observed by Kim Su Man, Dok Island, East Sea, October, 1992
- 1 observed by Lee Jeong Gwan, Cheonripo Beach, December 24 2004 - January 2005,
(Information from Park Jin Young, 2002 Current status and distribution of birds in Korea. Ph.D. thesis of Kyunghee University and Birds Korea's January 2005 Latest Birds News.)
Busan - Nakdong Estuary, April 8
Greater White-fronted Goose - 2, American Wigeon - 1 drake with Eurasian Wigeon, Black Kite - 1, Little Ringed Plover - 12, Kentish Plover - 8, Bar-tailed Godwit - 1, Common Redshank - 2, Common Greenshank - 1, Common Snipe - 4, Common Kingfisher - 1, Chinese Penduline Tit - 12, Little Bunting - 6, most in full song, Black-faced Bunting - 20, Gray Bunting - 3, great looks at a male!, Pallas's Reed Bunting - 13, Common Reed Bunting - 2
Black Kite - 2, Gray Wagtail - 2, White's Thrush - 1, Pale Thrush - 4
Joonam Reservoir, April 7
Not much happening at Junam these days. Unless you love coots, shovelers, or being barked at by dogs I'd focus elsewhere.
Bean Goose - 8, Falcated Teal - 30, Common Kingfisher - 3, Black-faced Bunting - 3
Cheonsu Bay, April 7
Several banded Bar-tailed Godwits found and photographed, including one female with a white ring on the right tibia, and yellow above blue rings on both tarsi.
Taejongdae, Busan, April 7
With overcast and spots of rain on the 6th, and fog banks with moderate westerlies on the 7th, conditions seemed promising. Although migrants were present in only fairly small numbers, increased evidence of spring arrivals with e.g 9 Grey Heron, 11 Common Teal, 8 Grey Wagtail, 2 Blue Rock Thrush and 8 Barn Swallow, along with 1 Pacific Reef Egret heading east at sea.
Birds of most note included 4 personata Black-faced Bunting, at least 5 Grey Bunting (the third year in a row this species has been found here in early April), 9+ Pale Thrush, and 2 Grey-faced Buzzard (the personal first of the spring). Oddest record was a presumed Arctic Warbler heard calling and seen very poorly in flight only as it moved through the canopy with a group of Japanese White-eye: although a very common migrant in Korea, it is extremely unusual here in April, typically arriving only in the first week of May and peaking in numbers in the last third of May.
Jeju, April 5
2 Chinese Egret (the first report of this species this year known to Birds Korea)
Heuksan Island, April 5
Sidra Blake and I just returned from Heuksan-Do. The seas were rough on the way out and I spent a majority of my time face down in a bucket. Luckily I did manage a few minutes at the window looking for seabirds...
Streaked Shearwater - 1 from ferry, Temminck's Cormorant - 7 on Heuksan, Ruddy Shelduck - 9 from the train near Deungyang station, White-tailed Sea Eagle - 1 stunning adult on small reservoir west of ferry terminal on Heuksan, Upland Buzzard - 1 Heuksan, Peregrine Falcon - 1 Heuksan, Little-ringed Plover - 1 Heuksan, Eurasian Woodcock - 2 Heuksan, Glaucous Gull - 1st year bird on Heuksan, Ancient Murrelet - 2 from the ferry, Collared Scops Owl - calling on Heuksan, Siberian Stonechat - approx. 30 mostly male on Heuksan, White's Thrush - Heuksan and Mokpo, Pale Thrush - Heuksan and Mokpo, Japanese Bush Warbler - many singing on Heuksan and in the Mokpo region, Rook - 1 on Heuksan
Songdo, April 5
The new sea wall has advanced rapidly, now extending about halfway across this prime, vast mudflat. Songdo may no longer be viable for thousands of shorebirds within weeks, if not days.
(Tim has written a heartfelt report on this final act of destruction at Song Do. Go to Song Do - Another internationally-important tidal-flat reclaimed...)
Possibly my most spectacular, yet saddest day at Songdo. The birds were outstanding: roughly 3000 Dunlin, many in black-bellied breeding plumage, covered the ground at high tide, along with 200+ Grey Plover and ca.60 "Eastern" Oystercatcher - my highest ever counts for each at this prized site. Also up to 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, some sporting rich red underparts, mingled amongst them.
The years first group of 8 Great Knot, around 20 Spotted Redshank, and a handful of summer-marked Red-necked Stint have just arrived.
Around 10 Taimyr and 2 Vega Gulls were in with a surprisingly large gathering (ca.150) of Mongolian Gulls.
Bul Am San (Northeast Seoul), April 5
A subspecies afternoon...
A quick walk through some wooded and brushy areas produced 1 spodocephela Black-faced Bunting, 5 Dusky Thrushes, both eunomus (3) and naumanni (the other 2).
Great and Varied Tits seemed even more active than normal, Great Spotted and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers called from hidden places, and 4 Eurasian Jays were not hidden at all.
Taejongdae, Busan, April 4
Despite warm sunshine (with a high of ca 17C) only a very few migrants to be seen. Only birds of note included a Hoopoe (scarce in Busan), 4 personata Black-faced Bunting, 5+ Olive-backed Pipit, 2 Japanese Bush Warbler, ca 5 Pale Thrush and an Asian Stubtail, personal first of the year, heard singing briefly.
Songdo, April 3
At Inpia mudflat, a brand new sea wall is now jutting out at the far end: a terribly depressing sight, as this will soon seal the fate of the most productive and last remaining inter- tidal area.
The reservoir held the first newly arrived modesta Great Egret, resplendent in flowing hind plumes, as well as 2 Olive-backed Pipit. The calls of Oriental Greenfinches ring from every evergreen, and Grey Herons are everywhere. The channel and aamdo mudflat was blessed with plentiful Kentish Plover, also freshly arrived.
Abundant Far Eastern Curlew now vastly outnumber Eurasian Curlew here, also numerous Kentish, many Little Ringed, 70 Grey Plover within view, as well as ca 20 "Eastern" Oystercatcher. Up to 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Little Egret, 4 alba Great Egret are the first birds of the year. Likewise, 6 Great Cormorants (sporting splendid white cheeks and thighs) now grace the estuary.
About 80 Saunders's Gull persist,with a few remnant winter ducks and Mongolian Gulls, etc.
The lagoon held relatively good numbers of Gadwall and Tufted Duck (most I've seen here), as well as one late Dusky Thrush.
Seosan Lake B, April 1
Both adult breeding-plumaged Caspian Tern (2) and single Pallas's Gull present and photographed, constituting about the 8th and 6th national records respectively. Apparently neither species were present on April 2.
Incheon, Songdo, April 2
2 Garganey in the freshwater lagoon at Dongmak. About 30 Common Shelduck, a few Pintails, 60 Pochard, 6 Tufted Duck. About a dozen Far Eastern Curlew and 8 Little Ringed Plover. 5 Olive-backed Pipits, 1 Dusky Thrush, 1 Grey Starling, 1 Siberian Stonechat, about a dozen Vinous-throated Parrotbills (busy with nesting materials) and about 10 Daurian Redstarts.
On the mudflats beyond the lagoon: abundant Far Eastern Curlew, smaller numbers (roughly 30) of Eurasian Curlews. Many more (at least 50) Little Ringed Plovers, on the flats and even on a wide gravel parking area. 10 Kentish Plovers in summer plumage. 1 spring-feathered Dunlin, and 1 winter Grey Plover. A very distant group (20-25) of probable Black-tailed Godwits - stretching birds showed the characteristic and distinctive wing pattern.
Dobongsan, April 1
A late afternoon visit to Dobongsan on April Fool's day produced no early spring migrants, but a good selection of common resident and lingering winter birds: Great Spotted Woodpecker: three pairs in different locations. 2 pairs of Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, and one single bird. About a dozen Yellow-throated Bunting, and 3 Rustic Buntings. 3 Eurasian Nuthatches, and scattered Great, Marsh, and Varied Tits.