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Birds Korea's Bird News February 2004


Cold winters mean both temperatures and birding are similar to January, while mild winters are marked by brief spells of rain or sleet, often followed by warmer sunshine, with maximum temperatures rising to 15°C in the southeast.

Many wildfowl are on the move by mid-month, including one or two Baer's Pochard. Tundra Beans, Greater White-fronted and usually Swan Geese can be found at the Han-Imjin. Most Baikal Teal start to depart and by month's end can be difficult to find in southern locations. Rooks and Daurian Jackdaws begin to move back into the Nakdong valley and near Gunsan. February sees the start of crane migration, with Hooded and White-napeds moving into South Korea from Japan. Relict and Saunders's Gull peak at several sites. In the right weather conditions large numbers of Ancient Murrelets and a few Rhinoceros Auklets move north off Guryongpo. At the end of the month the first migrants, such as Far Eastern Curlews, Hoopoes and Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawks start to arrive.

Highlights in February 2001 included a peak count of 143 Relict Gull at Song Do, in 2002, Korea's first Ferruginous Duck, and in 2003 White-crowned Sparrow in Busan, and Thayer's and American Herring Gull on the east coast.

In both 2004 and 2005 highlights included a Pallas's/Great Black-headed Gull (Korea's 3rd and 4th records). 2006 brought South Korea's first confirmed Brunnich's Guillemot, as well as records of Long-billed Dowitcher and Yellow-bellied Tit.

(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.)

Bird News from Jake Mac Lennan and Peter Nebel
Gunsan, Geum River and the Mangyeong River, February 29

Northern Shoveler are increasing in numbers a long the Keum River. Saunders' and a few Kamchatka Gulls were noted. Also a juvenile Eurasian Sparrowhawk was seen being harassed by a Kestrel. In the Okku area we observed our firstGreen Sandpiper of this year. Nine spoonbills were seen at distance one of which I could confirm was a White Spoonbill. In the Okku Reservoir we saw an Arctic Loon well.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Nakdong estuary eastern flank, February 24

In warm spring-like conditions, numbers of geese and duck had fallen considerably, and only gulls (mostly Black-headed and Black-tailed) had increased significantly. With few species of note seen, best birds of the day were a single first-winter Relict Gull, single Eastern Marsh and Hen Harrier, and approximately 220 Black Kite going to roost at Dadaepo - having apparently shifted their main roost this winter from Taejongdae.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten and Barry Heinrich
Gangwha, February 22

(am) rainy/ misty, Warmer than recently, around 10 degrees.

Oriental Greenfinches were in force today: 2 separate flocks of just over a hundred birds in total. A single Pallas' Reed Bunting and Green Sandpiper in the rice paddies, with over 20 each of Bean and White-fronted Geese. 2 Siberian Accentor were also seen.

At the island's southern end, 3 splendid adult Red-crowned Cranes scoured the mudflats, shared with c15 Dunlin, a Ruddy Shelduck, and 120+ Northern Pintail.

SONGDO: (pm)

On the reservoir, 6 Greater Scaup were a surprise, (first time I've seen them here) mixing with 40+ newly-returned Pochard. 8 Goosander had almost completed moulting into breeding plumage. Gull numbers were generally down, only c50 Black-headed, and single figures of Kamchatka, Mongolian and Vega: surprise of the day was a ghostly pale "Iceland Gull".

Bird news From Jake Mac Lennan, Peter Nebel and Jim Levinson
Geum River and Okku area, February 22

Extremely poor weather persisted from the morning into the afternoon with cold rain and wind.

Despite this we had decent views of several Swan Geese at the Keum estuary. White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese were not seen at the Keum to our surprise as one and/or the other have been present there since last October but a large group containing both geese was seen later in rice fields adjacent to the Mangyeong River south of Kunsan. Baikal Teal seem to be split with the majority still in the Keum River but a large group of several thousand birds were seen in the Mangyeong as well. A pair of White Spoonbills were seen there also.

Favorite bird encounter of the day was a Grey-headed Woodpecker that landed in a Gingko tree within a few feet of the car thus not requiring us to go out in the foul weather to view it!

Bird News from Barry Heinrich
Chungju, Dal Cheon, Daejeji and Hoamji, February 20

Weather: sunny, no cloud, almost calm.

There were over 1200 ducks from 12 species and 17 Whooper Swan on Dal Cheon today. The ice coverage is now down to about 20% compared to about 90% 6 days ago. The swans and some of the ducks were using it as a day roost as usual. The number of Common Mergansers (64) was almost double the previous week. Mallard (263) were down by over 600, accounting for the reduction in total duck numbers from last weekend. An observation of interest was a flock of 14 White Wagtail and a Green Sandpiper on a small area of exposed mudflat. A pair of Mandarin Duck were seen in the Nam Han river just downstream from its junction with Dal Cheon.

The ice has gone from Daejeji after being covered by ice since 24 December 2003. Species present included 4 Mallard, 9 Spot-billed Duck, 5 Common Merganser, 3 Smew and a Pochard.

The ice has also gone from Hoamji. The number of ducks has greatly declined now there is no safe day roost for them. On February 14 there were 175 Spot-billed Duck, 14 Common Merganser, 7 Mallard and a Little Grebe: today there were just 25 Spot-billed Duck.

It was interesting to note that Vinous-throated Parrotbill appeared to be spreading out into smaller groups rather than the large flocks seen during the colder parts of winter. Black-billed Magpies were seen carrying sticks to there nests during the last week, time for spring renovations. Oriental Greenfinches were moving around in pairs rather than large flocks.

Some Latest Bird News:

Crane Survey Data: 1,618 total individuals (3 main species)

Red-crowned Crane - total 633 individuals:
Samsulbong in Cheolwon - 367 individuals (date: 17th)
Daemari in Cheolwon - 107 individuals (date: 18-19th)
Kimhwa in Cheolwon - 116 individuals (17th)
Yeoncheon - about 40 individuals (23th by Park seong gun)
Paju - no data
Kimpo - no data
(Also, at least 3 Ganghwa Island (Tim Edelsten and Barry Heinrich, February 22nd).

White-naped Crane - total 802 individuals:
Samsulbong in Cheolwon - 255 individuals (date: 17th)
Daemari in Cheolwon - 328 individuals (date: 18-19th)
Kimhwa in Cheolwon - 89 individuals (17th)
Yeoncheon - about 20 individuals (23th by Park Seong-gun)
Paju - no data
Han estuary - 71 individuals (20th)
Junam reservoir - 39 individuals (27th, by Mo In-ho)

Hooded Crane - 185 individuals:
Daemari in Cheolwon - 1 individuals (18-19th)
Seosan - 4 individuals (17th by Kim Hyun-tae)
Suncheon bay - 180 individuals (18th by Cha In-hwan)

February 17th.

1 Common Rosefinch photographed by Lee Ki-Sup at Seosan: this is the second mid-winter record in recent years known to Birds Korea.

At least 2 Scaly-sided Merganser were also photographed today in Gyeongsannam Province by Yoon Pyeong-Ryeol.

February 16th, Haenam

57 Oriental White Stork were reported in the area by national media; this figure, thehighest (recent?) count ever recorded in South Korea, was however somewhat disputed by Lee Jeong-Sik, who suggested that more likely there were actually between 25 and 31.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Eulsuk "Island", Nakdong Estuary, February 17

In warm spring-like conditions (reaching 15 C), two hours in the field produced obviously reduced numbers of Pochard (only 100 or so still present) and Northern Shoveler, very few raptors (best being only a single Hen Harrier), but good numbers of Buff-bellied Pipit (with at least 100 logged), and single Dusky Thrush and Siberian Accentor.

Best birds of the day, perhaps, were (yet more!) presumed hybrids - this time two individual Tundra Swan, that appeared to show very greatly reduced yellow on the bill. In direct comparison with 20 jankowski/bewickii Tundra, the two individuals appeared slightly longer- and especially thinner-necked from the rear, with slightly heavier more Whooper Swan- like bills. Their bills, however, were largely black, with perhaps half or less of the yellow shown by the other Tundra Swan - though still more yellow than found in typical nominate Tundra Swan Cygnus c.columbianus.

One such individual (presumably one of today's birds) was also seen very briefly by NM in the Nakdong on November 23rd 2003.

Bird News from Barry Heinrich
Chung Ju, February 17

Hoamji had almost no ice on it today and the 163 Spot-billed Duck were spread out all over the lake. I also counted 1 Mallard, and 21 Common Merganser (my highest count at Hoamji).

Bird News from Jake Mac Lennan and Peter Nebel
Geum River, Gunsan Airport and the Okku area, February 15

At the Keum River estuary 31 Swan Geese were seen and a single Spotted Redshank. Baikal Teal are in great numbers up river a few kilometers from the dam. The Hankuk Saltpans near Okku had a couple of surprises for us. After a little discussion and observing a bird perching for several minutes then flying we agreed the bird we had been watching was a Chinese Shrike. Continuing on through the old Saltpans we saw a single White Spoonbill.

Reed and Pallas's Reed Buntings were observed at the Keum and Okku respectively. Also worth noting today large groups of corvids are reappearing in the Kunsan area, containing Carrion Crows, Rooks and Daurian Jackdaws.

Bird News from KIM Hyun-tae
Asan Bay, February 13

Single "Red-throated" Thrush, the first report of the year.

News also of record-breaking counts of 25 Oriental White Stork and up to 300 Eurasian Spoonbill in the Haenam area, and a further 5 Oriental White Stork and 39 Eurasian Spoonbill at Seosan.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Eastern Nakdong estuary, February 11

Some rather milder temperatures (reaching ca 14C) and continuing sunshine gave a spring-like feel to the weather - an impression strengthened by increased numbers of Buff-bellied Pipit (ca 50) and lugens White Wagtail (ca 20) feeding along the estuary edge, and slightly higher numbers of Tufted Duck and Common Pochard - with ca 800 of the latter next to the barrage, along with an estimated 1 500 Northern Shoveler. Further species of note included single White-tailed Eagle and Eastern Marsh Harrier, 3 Hen Harrier and 13 Swan Goose still, along with ca 40 Saunders's Gull and 5 Eurasian Spoonbill.

Photo © Nial Moores

In the woodland at Dadapo, a fair spread of typical winter passerines, and probably up to 10 Olive-backed Pipit, but only single Pale Thrush and Red-flanked Bluetail.

Bird of the day was a presumed hybrid aythya which was first noted on January 13th. Seen in flight for the first time, the upperwing showed strong contrast between a white band running across the secondaries, and dusky-washed inner primaries, as in Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis - a species as yet unrecorded on the Korean peninsula.

For a short note with several images of the bird (taken on January 13th), go to "Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis on the Nakdong: a dream half-realised!"

Bird News from Jake MacLennan and Peter Nebel
Geum River, Gunsan Airport and the Okku area, February 8

There was a cold wind near the water but otherwise it was a pleasant day. Good visibility allowed me to count 84 Eurasian Curlew at the Geum Estuary. There were a few Red-breasted Mergansers near the dam itself. At the Kunsan industrial zone we counted 12 Eurasian Oystercatchers. Around the Okku area we saw a Peregrine Falcon.

Black-faced Buntings were near the airport and a single Little Bunting seen beside a fallow rice-field near my home here in Kunsan.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Song Do, February 8

Weather:8 degrees, clear/sunny, tide out. frashwater 50% frozen.

A good range of gulls on offer today, with the regular Black-tailed, Black-headed and Vega predominating, along with a few Mongolian and Kamchatka (Common) Gulls. Around 70 Saunders' Gulls were gracefully patrolling the channel as usual, and the reliable 3 Relict Gulls, including excellent close views of one by the barrage.

Spotbilled Duck were particularly thick on the ground today: 2700 - my highest ever count for this site. A Smew has joined the usual 11 Goosander and 6 Little Grebe on the reservoir, the first time I've seen it here. Similarly, a lone Pochard in the brackish area is the first one I've seen here since the main flock abruptly departed last November.

Bird News from Kim Dae-Hwan
Jungrancheon, Seoul, February 7

A near full-breeding plumaged Great Black-headed/Pallas's Gull (well-photographed) on the Jungracheon in Seoul. Considering its age and location, it is possible that this individual is the same as Korea's first, found in December 2002. It constitutes only the fourth record of the species for the Korean peninsula, with previous records as follows: (1) Third Winter, December 1st-21st, 2002, Han River, Seoul; (2) First Winter, March 17th-19th, 2003, Nakdong Estuary, Busan; (3) First Winter, March 25th, 2003, at sea near Eocheong Island, Gunsan.

Bird News from Jake MacLennan and Peter Nebel
Geum Estuary and Okku area, February 1

Tufted Duck seem to be the dominant duck species in the Geum Estuary during high tide. Several hundred were seen there. Lapwings persist in near by rice fields as well.

On the Man-gyeong side of Gunsan a single Brant was seen as well as a few Baikal Teal and a small group of Eurasian Wigeon.