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Birds Korea's Bird News February 2003

(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.)

  1. Have you seen one of the "Key Species" we are collecting data for?

  2. A request for data on sightings of Ruddy Shelducks.

Bird News from Geoff Carey and Jon King
East Coast Gulling Trip, February 26

An adult American Herring Gull Larus (argentatus) smithsonianus found and photographed by King and Carey
just south of Hupo probably consitutes the first fully documented record of this taxon in South Korea. Considered by some to be a distinct species (e.g. Yesou 2002: for more information please refer to our gull ID paper, "The Herring Gull Assemblage"), American Herring Gull has been found with increasing regularity in neighboring Japan (please refer to e.g. the Ujiharas' Gull website), and several very dark individual first winters and paler-mantled adults seen in Korea in recent winters have also been considered by some to have likely been this taxon.
Images of this Hupo individual and of the Thayer's Gull found earlier in the week will be posted on the Birds Korea site in the near-future.

Bird News from Adam Rowlands (Birdwatching Breaks)
Ganghwa, February 25

Male Chinese Nuthatch at Jeundung-sa Temple, along with 2 Pallas's Rosefinch. Also 10 Red-crowned and 1 Hooded Crane on the mudflats.

From the west shore of the Han River, 109 White-naped Crane.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Eulsuk Island, Nakdong, late PM only, February 25

Most interesting was a hybrid aythya, believed Baer's X unknown parent (probably Common Pochard).
In addition, a late evening Northern Bittern, 20+ Chinese Penduline Tit, 6+ Hawfinch, ca 15 Dusky and 1 Naumann's Thrush, and single Olive-backed Pipit, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier.

Bird News from Kim Hyun-tae's website
Eulsuk Island, February 23

White-crowned Sparrow.
Photo © Nakano Yasunori and Masuoka Keizou

News of a first for Korea: an immature White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys - seen at the Nakdong's Eulsuk Island on February 3rd.

This belated news was just received from YAMADA Itsuta: on February 3rd, two Japanese birdwatchers (NAKANO Yasunori and MATSUOKA Keizo) stopped off at Eulsuk Island in the Nakdong estuary on a "sightseeing trip", and much to their delight found and photographed a first winter White-crowned Sparrow! They observed the bird for 15 minutes at close range in good light... This is the second American sparrow recorded in Korea. The other, Savannah Sparrow, was first recorded in 1998 in Korea, amazingly also at the Nakdong estuary, and also in February (see our New Korean Species Paper)!

According to Mark Brazil's The Birds of Japan(1991), there are several records of White-crowned Sparrow from Japan, presumably of the subspecies gambelli, both in winter and during migration was even claimed in Fukuoka in the mid-1990s, only 200 km south of the location of this bird. Such records strongly suggest further records in Korea can be expected.

Bird News from Jon King and Geoff Carey (in Korea, looking at gulls)
Munam harbour, near Sokcho, Kangwon Province, February 23

Highlight was an adult Thayer's Gull. Not listed in Lee, Koo and Park (2000), this species has been reported on a couple of occasions in winter from the NE coast. As it was well-photographed, this might well constitute the first documented record of the species in South Korea (it has proved to be a rare annual winter visitor to neighboring Japan). Also "good numbers" of Glaucous and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Bird News from Tim Allison
Seoul, February 22

A slow week in Seoul, due largely to the weather (cold and rainy) and my reluctance to go out in it!

Waterfowl numbers are generally way down along the Han River at Oksu, with Grebes and Aythya ducks being the notable exceptions. There were 2300+ Tufted Ducks (a sight to behold with their crests flapping in the breeze!), 1200+ Common Pochards, and a Greater Scaup. Also among those were a single Coot and at least 15 Great Crested Grebes. Shovellers were the only other duck with numbers close to their winter peak, with about 400 present between Oksu and Hanyang University, while a Long-billed Plover was present on the sandbars near Hanyang Univ.

Bird News from Adam Rowlands (Birdwatching Breaks)
Joonam, February 20

Greater Spotted Eagle and adult Lesser White-front at Joonam reservoir today, as well as 12 Pacific Swift (the latter are very early indeed).

Bird News from Pete and Susan Combridge
Edited highlights from a short trip, February 13 - 19

Oriental White Stork Ciconia boyciana: One, Gangwa, 13th February, Two, Seosan A, 17th February.

Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis middendorffii: One, Gangwa Island, 13th February. All other Bean Geese seen on this trip apparently serrirostris. In direct comparison with other Beans present, larger and bigger headed with a noticeably longer and more wedge shaped bill (recalling Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus). Orange on bill confined to band behind black nail. Although later noting some variation in bill size of Beans (at Seosan), we never again saw another resembling this bird. Tim Allison tells me that middendorffi are scarce in this part of Korea.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla: Up to three, Seosan A, 18th February.

Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus: One, Gangwa Island 13th & 14th February, One, Seosan A, 18th February.

Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca: Adult, Seosan A, 17th February

Bird News from Nial Moores and Gary and Marlene BABIC
Song Do-Gangwha-Yeongjong airport, February 19

Relict Gull, © Nial Moores

Exceptionally close views of a male Chinese Nuthatch, followed by very prolonged and close scope views of Saunders's (ca 50+) and Relict Gulls (10+), including one adult almost molted into breeding plumage, at Song Do, along with 2 osculans " Eastern" Oystercatchers.

On Ganghwa, a mixed passerine flock contained ca 130 Rustic and 25+ Pallas's Reed Buntings, along with 30 Chinese Penduline Tit. Also, yet another Upland Buzzard, an extremely well-marked adult.

Bird News from Nial Moores and Gary and Marlene BABIC
Gwangneung- Han-Imjin, February 18

Gary and Marlene Babic, moments after seeing a Hazel Hen.
Photo © Nial Moores

Ca 15 Pallas's Rosefinch seen well, 3 Solitary Snipe, 5 Mandarin Duck, 1 Brown Dipper, White-backed Woodpecker, several white-headed Long-tailed Tit and stunning views of a male Hazel Hen were the highlights at Gwangneung. Several Black Woodpecker also heard drumming.

En route to the Imjin, an Upland Buzzard perched next to the road, while on the Han-Imjin further evidence of northward migration provided by only small numbers of Cinereous Vulture present but large numbers of geese (more than 10 000), including probably 300+ Eastern Taiga Bean and 3 Swan Geese, along with 16+ White-naped Crane. Probably 1 000 - 1 500 Mongolian Gull also present along a 5 km stretch of river, with several individuals also seen well inland on the Imjin, north of Dongduncheon.

Bird News from Nial Moores am, plus GB and MB pm
Song Do - Ganghwa, February 17

At Song Do museum, 3 Chinese Nuthatch (one male, one presumed subadult male and one female).

Targeted guiding to fill up the Babic's bird wish list after their 2-week tour in Japan found at least 2 Lesser White-fronted Goose (one first winter, one adult), believed different from the individual of the 14th, in rice-fields at Ganghwa, along with 2+ white-headed Long-tailed Tit and several Siberian Accentor and Naumann's Thrushes.

At Mani San, also 1-2 Treecreeper (apparently a suprisingly scarce winter visitor to South Korea), and 1 Pallas's Rosefinch.

Female Chinese Nuthatch
Photo © Nial Moores

Presumed sub-adult Chinese Nuthatch
Photo © Nial Moores
Bird News from Nial Moores
Song Do, February 16

2 Chinese Nuthatch next to the museum.
Suggestion of spring with mild temperatures and 55 Tundra Bean and 1 Taiga Bean Goose north, along with a female Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk.

Bird News from Nial Moores (and Bob WALTON am)
Song Do, February 15

2+ Chinese Nuthatch in woodland near the municipal museum, with one still in an area of pines next to the tidal-flat.

On the tidal-flat, 14 Relict Gull (10 adults, 1 second-winter and 2 first winters), 56 Saunders's Gull and 1 osculans"Eastern" Oystercatcher.

Yeongjong: 1 Upland Buzzard near the airport, and ca 4 Red-crowned Cranes on the tidal-flats north of the main expressway.

Bird News from Tim ALLISON
Geum River, February 15 & 16

Two surveys were made along the inner estuary and the Barrage Dam Lake. On Sunday (the 16th), I was joined by Pete and Susan Combridge (a British couple touring in Korea) and Jake MacLennan (a Canadian resident in Kunsan).
Saunders' Gull approx. 160; Whooper Swan 130; Swan Goose 45+; serrirostris Bean Goose 2000; White-fronted Goose 5000+; Baikal Teal 250 000+; Northern Lapwing 26; Pied Avocet 2; Eurasian Curlew 17; Common Redshank 1; Common Sandpiper 3; Dunlin approx. 100.

Bird News from Kim SuKyung
Upo Wetland Center, February 15, (for more on Upo, click Upo Wetland

About 2850 Taiga Bean Geese and 70 Whooper Swan feeding actively on the wet mudflat after early "spring rain".

Taiga Bean Geese
Upo Wetland Centre, © UWC

Whooper Swans
Upo Wetland Centre, © UWC

Also, 90 White-naped Crane flying over the Hwawang Mountain (near Upo wetland) at 3 p.m.

Bird News from Kim Woo Soo
Pohang, February 14

Several Russet Sparrows found with Tree Sparrows.
Russet Sparrows are occasionally seen in the Daebo area of Pohang, but it appears that Ulleung Island to the east is THE place to see them in South Korea.

Russet Sparrows with Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
Photo © Kim Woo Soo

Russet Sparrow, © Kim Woo Soo

Bird News from Nial Moores and Bob Walton
Ganghwa and Song Do, February 14

Oriental White Stork, © Nial Moores

A superb day, despite very thick early morning 10+ Pallas's Rosefinch (several adult males), 1 White-headed Long-tailed Tit, 1 Chinese Nuthatch, 2 Upland and 1 Rough-legged Buzzard, 1 Lesser White-fronted Goose in amongst ca 2 000 Greaters and fantastic views of 1 Oriental White Stork all on Gangwha (supported by ca 300 Ruddy Shelduck, and 2 Red-crowned Cranes).

At Song Do 1+ Chinese Nuthatch still, 14 Relict Gulls (13 ads), ca 100 Saunders's Gulls and several "Yellow Sea Gulls".

Bird News from Nial Moores
En-route to Incheon, February 13

3 Western Stock Doves Columba oenas seen in a flock of over 100 Rufous Turtle Doves 15km south of Daejeon constitute probably just the 5th record for Korea.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Nakdong estuary and neighboring woodland, February 12

A rather empty-looking estuary nevertheless still contained 3 White-tailed and 1 Steller's Sea Eagle, 7 Swan Goose and 2 Relict Gull. Neighboring woodland was in many ways even more interesting, with ca 10 Pale Thrush and a mixed bunting flock containing 8-10 Grey (including 3 adult males together), and 3-5 Tristram's Buntings. Grey Bunting is considered a rare winter visitor, while the most northerly wintering Tristram's should be in southern China.

Bird News from "Old Cow" (a nickname)
Hongryu Dong Valley in Chungnam, February 13

1 Brown Dipper actively hunting small fish.

Bird News from Kim Woo Soo
Dogu beach in Pohang, February 12

Adult and immature Glaucous Gulls, © Kim Woo Soo

Ageing of large gulls is not always straightforward, but the dark iris of this immature Glaucous Gull is a sign of a first-year bird. The slight pale tip to the bill is perhaps indicative of first-summer, but the entire plumage looks quite fresh and the wings and tail are not worn enough to suggest that they are over a year old; thus this bird is probably a first-winter moulting into first summer.
The subspecies of Glaucous Gull found in East Asia is "barrovianus". Structurally individuals can resemble Iceland Gull somewhat, being smaller than western forms of Glaucous, smaller-billed, and often noticeably longer-winged, but the "dipped-in-ink" bill colour of first-year birds like this one is diagnostic whatever the taxon involved.

2 Glaucous Gull (Adult and 1st Winter/1st Summer)

1st Winter/1st summer Glaucous Gull, © Kim Woo Soo

Bird News from Kim Woo Soo
Pohang University of science and technology, February 11

Japanese Waxwings, © Kim Woo Soo

Flock of Japanese Waxwing

News from Park Yong Woo (a local newspaper reporter)
Nakdong river in Gumi, February 11

There are now 80 White-naped Crane wintering in Gumi. In other years these rare cranes have just passed through en-route to and from Izumi, and perhaps this flock means that the Gumi area has become a wintering site for these beautiful birds.

Also present were 6,000 Geese(largely Greater White-fronts), 4,000 Ducks of various species, and 40 Whooper Swan.

Bird News from Tim Allison
Gangwha, February 9

The Oriental White Stork continues to be present in the rice fields on the edge of Ganghwa town. In the southeast, there was an Upland Buzzard present near the larger of the 2 Jangheung-ri fishponds. Eight species of Bunting were present, with the following numbers through the southeastern part of the island:
Meadow Bunting approx. 50; Yellow-throated Bunting approx. 20; Rustic Bunting approx. 370; Grey-headed Bunting 4; Little Bunting 3; Lapland Longspur 6; Pallas' Reed Bunting approx. 15; Japanese Reed Bunting 7.

Bird News from Kim SuKyung
Upo Wetland, February 7, (for more on Upo, click Upo Wetland

With a thaw after a period of intense cold, 5 White Spoonbills, 340 Whooper Swan, and 1,500 Taiga Bean Geese returned to Upo wetland.

Bird News from Tim Allison
Mt. Dobong, Bukhansan Nat. Park, February 1

14 Pallas' Rosefinches; 2 White-backed Woodpeckers.

Pallas's Rosefinch, © Tim ALLISON.

Chungnang Stream:
1 Black-crowned Night Heron; 2 Long-billed Plover; 1 Siberian Accentor.