Waves of colder air 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 continue to build, along with geese (many of which move on into China). Swan Geese peak at the Han-Imjin (with 1000-1500 in recent autumns). Common Buzzards and Cinereous Vultures start to arrive for the winter, along with gulls (Saunders's, Siberian, Vega, Mongolian and Slaty-backed are all widespread), Red-crowned, White-naped and Hooded Cranes, and passerines, including Siberian Accentor. Movements of divers and alcids, most especially Ancient Murrelet, can be impressive. Passerines include many late summer visitors until the second week of the month, when winter species, such as Chinese Penduline Tit and Pallas's Reed Bunting start to predominate.
Outstanding national rarities in November have included Black-headed and Ortolan Bunting and Savannah Sparrow on Gageo Island in 2000 and 2001, Demoiselle (2001) and Siberian White Crane in the Nakdong and the Han-Imjin/DMZ (2001) respectively, Korea's first White-capped Water Redstart and Water Pipit in 2003, the country's third and fourth Verditer Flycatchers in 2004, and a Ural Owl photographed at Odaeson National Park in 2005.
(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.)
Changwon, Towol Park, November 30
A White-backed Woodpecker was seen and photographed.
Cheolweon, November 30
Cool and cloudy-sunny weather at Cheolweon. First birds of note were 3 Cinereous Vultures patrolling a mountainside — disquietingly, these turned out to be three-quarters of the day’s total for vultures. Few raptors in general: a few Common Buzzards and Kestrels, a Eurasian Sparrow-hawk and a flash-by Merlin. 1 Chinese Great Grey Shrike surveyed the fields from a wire. Other highlights: relatively small and scattered numbers of White-naped and Red-crowned Cranes, scattered groups of Bean and White-fronted Geese. Other passerines included Yellow-throated and Meadow Buntings, 3 Long-tailed Rosefinches and 5 or 6 Azure-winged Magpies. Perhaps the most newsworthy sighting was a wave of at least 100 Hawfinches along the riverside trees.
Also of note: a neck-banded White-fronted Goose.
Samyook Dae, November 29
A return to Samyook University for a couple of hours in the afternoon found the usual suspects: Varied, Long-tailed, Great and Marsh Tits, a few fly-over Hawfinches, two Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers; highlight was a pair of Grey-capped Woodpeckers.
Hwaseong/Shiwha, November 29
A KWBS members day out, commencing at the Uiwang Nature learning Park- a conservation educational facility and visitor centre on the edge of Uiwang reservoir.
Later at Hwaseong reclamation area, no sign of the Long-tailed Duck seen here on the 27th (which is apparently the first record from the west coast). First up,however, incredibly close views of a Rough-legged Buzzard which banked over the car before hovering for several minutes (sadly no camera!). Best on the water, 2 Smew, 4 Whooper Swan, 1 Greater Scaup, c. 35 Goldeneye, perhaps 80 Falcated Teal, c.40 Black-necked Grebe, a Peregrine, and up to 70 (each) of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Coot, and Wigeon.
On the furthest edges of Shiwha reclamation area, former mudflat is now transformed into a sea of tall grassland, which proved exceptionally good for winter raptors: another 2 Rough-legged Buzzard, and outstanding views of at least 4 Upland Buzzard hanging in strong headwinds overhead.This was closely followed by a juvenile White-tailed Eagle, which was in turn mobbed by a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard: 2 Northern Goshawk startled a Ring-necked Pheasant from the pines, and the day was crowned by first a male, then stunning views of a female Hen Harrier hunting within only a few yards.
Samyook Dae, November 24
A short visit to the campus of Samyook University: winter regulars all around: Eurasian Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Greater Spotted and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers, a Dusky Thrush (heard), a distant Siskin flock flying, a close Common Buzzard flying, a loud cock Pheasant flying, Varied, Great, Marsh and Long-tailed Tits, and a good dozen Hawfinches feasting on berries.
Andong Subsiduary Dam and Sculpture Park, November 23
Photo © Barry Heinrich
I surveyed the birds along Andong subsiduary dam on the morning of November 23. I saw 32 species. Water birds included Spot-billed Ducks, Mallards, Common Mergansers, Mandarin Ducks, Little Grebes, a Smew and Grey Herons. Some groups of Common Mergansers were seen flying upstream over Andong Dam. There were 27 Long-billed Plovers and White Wagtails near the Moonlight Bridge carpark. Hawfinches and Daurian Redstarts were among the birds I saw at the sculpture park.
Paldang, November 23
A beautifully misty but very cold early morning along this stretch of the Han river in Eastern Seoul revealed a juvenile White-tailed Eagle and 2 clashing Common Buzzard. In the "rapids", perhaps 200 diving Goldeneye: nearby 8 Wigeon and still building numbers of Common Pochard and Goosander. Otherwise, 84 Whooper Swan, 40+ Tufted Duck, 40 Great Cormorant & c. 15 Great Crested Grebe.
*At Shiripdae (pm), best a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Grey-headed Woodpecker and several Varied Tit (making woodpecker-like sounds while hammering nuts on branches).
Anyangcheon, November 22
Northern Shoveler and Common Teal along my local stretch of river in Seoul are still in varying stages of moult, although apparently Mallard are all in fresh plumage already.
Oksu-Eungbong, November 16
Very few wildfowl along this stretch. The confluence (favored area for diving ducks) is being dredged, and more vegetation is being removed along the banks.
Nevertheless 21 Tufted Duck, 11 Gadwall, and small numbers of Shoveler, Pintail, Common Teal, Mallard, Goosander (seen by JB), several Great Cormorant and 1 Common Buzzard.
Eocheong Island, and ferry back to Gunsan, November 8
With fair weather and light to moderate westerlies, some increase in numbers and diversity, with c 7 Siberian Accentor, 4 Red Crossbill, 2 Chestnut Bunting, and a juvenile Northern Goshawk all apparently new in. Other species of interest included the single Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mugimaki, Red-throated/Taiga Flycatcher and Hume's Leaf Warbler and one Red-billed Starling still. From the ferry, >615 Black-tailed Gull between Eocheong and Yeon Do, a single Great Crested Grebe, but no other species of note.
Female-type Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata, Eocheong Island, November 6th-8th.
A thread on the Birds Korea English-language Forum discusses bill coloration of female Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, with the observation that some aviculturalists in Europe apparently believe that female Mandarins from Korea can have reddish bills (while typical females have a greyer bill). Two Mandarin photographed side by side at Eocheong Island on November 6th and 7th show very different bare parts coloration: one, grey-billed, is apparently a typical female; the other (warmer-toned, with a reddish bill and bright, orangey leg colour) is more puzzling. Can some first winter males have red bills and such a female type plumage as late as November, or is this rather a red-billed female? Opinions on ageing and bare parts coloration of Mandarins most welcome.
Photo © Nial Moores
Bulamsan, Seoul, November 8
At the summit of Bul-amsan (508m), 4 Alpine Accentor moved restlessly along an inaccesible crag (unfortunately out of camera range)- quite happy to feed alongside a group of Large-billed Crows, which surprisingly were seen to gorge themselves on red berries.
Nearby also 2 Siskin, a Grey-headed Woodpecker and a party of Long-tailed Tit.
SE River-Geum Estuary (5th) - Gunsan/Eocheong Island (6th and 7th), November 5-7
In total, some 116 species recorded in 2.5 days of birding, including 4 thrush species, 6 warbler species and 9 species of bunting.
Selected highlights included:
Chinese Egret: One (very late record) at the Geum Estuary (5th).
Black-faced Spoonbill: Three, with 2 Eurasian Spoonbill, at the Geum Estuary (5th).
Swan Goose: 70 at the Geum Estuary (5th): a rather high count for this locality.
Mandarin Duck: 5 on Eocheong on the 6th, and 2 on the 7th (including one red-billed female-type plumaged bird).
Baikal Teal: c. 130,000 (plus) at the Geum on the 5th, showing excellently well in the evening.
Eastern Oystercatcher: 40 at Shellfish harbor, the Geum Estuary (5th) and 25 on the Yubu shoreline from the ferry (6th).
Long-billed Plover: Two at SE River (5th).
Mongolian Plover: c5 at Shellfish, Geum estuary still (5th).
Terek Sandpiper: 1 at Shellfish still (5th);
Far Eastern Curlew: c 15 at Shellfish still (5th).
Saunders's Gull: 10 at Shellfish (5th), and 10+ on Yubu from the ferry (6th).
Relict Gull: one Second-summer type at the Geum Barrage is an exceptional record in a number of ways - being extremely early, at an unusual location, and in an especially interesting plumage (with heavy hind-nape streaking, worn primaries, and a very small dark patch on the tertials).
Upland Buzzard: One, Eocheong Island (6th).
White-backed Woodpecker: One female watched well, Naun-Dong, Gunsan (6th).
Red-flanked Bluetail: Only 5+ on 6th and 2 on 7th on Eocheong: disappointing numbers of a usually numerous migrant.
Plumbeous Water Redstart: One male at the usual site, SE River (5th).
Mugimaki: One, Eocheong Island (7th).
Red-throated Flycatcher: One, Eocheong Island (7th).
Hume's Leaf Warbler: One, Eocheong Island (7th).
Japanese White-eye: At least one simplex in with 5+ nominate japonica at Naun-Dong, Gunsan (6th).
Chestnut-eared Bunting: Two on Eocheong (6th).
Pallas's Reed Bunting: One on Eocheong (6th and 7th).
Lapland Bunting: One heard on Eocheong (7th), possibly a first record there (as no previous coverage in November).
Common Rosefinch: One, Eocheong (6th).
Long-tailed Rosefinch: One, Eocheong Island (6th).
Red-billed Starling: Two, Eocheong Island (7th PM: NM only).
Seosan, November 3
Scanning through photos of 2 separate geese flocks taken at Seosan on November 2, Dr. Shim Kyu-Sik identified 2 Lesser White-fronted Geese (1 adult and 1 juvenile). The juvenile shows a somewhat fainter eye-ring and much reduced white on the forehead.
Seosan, November 2
The morning began with close views of a Great Bittern lurking between reeds, which froze into camouflage posture despite being out in the open. Nearby, the seasons first Goldeneye (1) & Goosander/ Common Merganser (1), as well as 28 Eurasian Spoonbill and 5 Whooper Swan. Large flocks of Tundra Bean & Greater White-fronted Geese were complimented by 2 Snow Goose.
It should be noted that the lakes area has been subdivided and sold into smaller separate holdings, and there is now much increased through- traffic causing frequent disturbance to birds. Some farmers have concreted their irrigation dithes and removed the former overgrown field boundaries, and the site formerly used by Crested Lark is now a deserted garbage dump. On a more positive note however, a subsidised area of ricefield has been left unharvested to provide food for the Geese, and significant areas of habitat and a diverse birdlife still remains.
Raptors through the day comprised 5 Common and 1 Upland Buzzard, 3 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, an Osprey and 2 Northern Harrier. One of the Common Buzzards was seen to hover very well and for extended periods over a water ditch. Other treats included 2 separate flocks of Azure-winged Magpie, and 2 Chinese Grey Shrike. A Water Rail (TE) was seen to vanish in a split second, apparently by submerging.
Also, 2 roosting Eurasian Eagle-Owl in the pines and perhaps 2000+ Baikal Teal flighting out at dusk.
Otherwise notable was a Yellow-browed Warbler, several Siberian Stonechat, 2 Common and 3 Spotted Redshank still, several flocks of Brambling, a Common Kingfisher & 2 Common Snipe, 2 Ruddy Shelduck, many Buff-bellied Pipit and Eurasian /Far Eastern Skylark, as well as commoners such as Little Grebe and Common Greenshank.
Non-avian sightings were of 2 Korean Water Deer and 1 Tiger Keelback Snake (roadkill).
Undoubted highlight came in late afternoon when a probable Bar-headed Goose was found (and seen by Robin Newlin only) amongst a large mixed geese flock. Although fieldmarks suggest a juvenile, a hybrid cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately the bird flushed quickly and could not be relocated or seen by other observers.