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Birds Korea's Bird News October 2007


Warm (typically between 15-20°C mid-month), with often excellent birding weather: dry, sunny, and relatively calm. Occasional rain, although uncomfortable for birdwatchers, can produce excellent falls. One of the best times to be birding in Korea!

Autumn migration is in full swing, and anything is possible! Black-faced Spoonbill and Chinese Egret are still reasonably widespread. Hooded and White-naped Cranes start moving south into Korea, with several thousand in the DMZ. Huge concentrations of Tundra Beans and Greater White-fronted Geese form at the Han-Imjin and Seosan. The charismatic Baikal Teal arrives in force mid-month, with up to 200 000 at Seosan! Raptor migration is often strong, with Grey-faced Buzzards (day peak of 1 500 on Gageo island), Oriental Honey Buzzards, the occasional eagle (especially Greater Spotted), Northern Hobby, and the odd Amur Falcon.

Shorebirds are still present in good numbers and diversity, with a peak in Nordmann's Greenshank. Visible migration peaks with Olive-backed Pipits becoming very numerous by mid-month along the west coast, plus excellent numbers of buntings and flycatchers. Pale, White's, and small numbers of Dusky Thrushes are also on the move, along with the first of the typical winter passerines, Brambling and Siskin.

(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 Ju Yong-Ki and Chai Seung-Hoon
Yubu Island, October 26

Between ca 15000 and 17000 shorebirds present still (with Dunlin in the majority), including one Spoon-billed Sandpiper still.

Bird News from Robin Newlin
Socheong, October 27 and 28

A quick trip to Socheong sandwiched (unfortunately!) between rain systems and interesting weather. The ferry out was fairly quiet, with only a handful of Streaked Shearwaters and 2 playful adult-type Jaegers, apparently Parasitics. On the island, a day after only a little rain, an autumnal feel despite the warm weather: trees going yellow and auburn, roving flocks of Yellow-throated Buntings, Bramblings, Siskins, Goldcrests and Coal Tits. However, little obvious passage of birds; highlights were 1 Goshawk, 2 each of Eurasian and Japanese Sparrowhawks, a few Common Buzzards and several Peregrines. A distant and very briefly seen falcon dashing behind a hilltop appeared to be an adult male Amur Falcon. The lovely large-eyed, white-headed Long Tailed Tits are still around, but in seemingly reduced numbers. Small numbers of thrushes (Dusky/Naumann's and a Pale) heard but not seen.

A morning walk to the lighthouse was most interesting before light, with a Woodcock flushed from the roadside and then a Short-eared Owl seen flying about and perched--and illuminated briefly by the revolving light from the lighthouse. The lighthouse area was disappointingly quiet, with a small flock of Naumann's Thrushes heading seaward, a couple of Korean Bush Warblers, 2 Far-Eastern Skylarks, a Dusky Warbler, and a Eurasian Nuthatch. The return ferry yielded a dozen Streaked Shearwaters.

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla, Photo © Robin Newlin

Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Barry Heinrich
Yanggu area, October 19, 22, 28

There have been some interesting bird seen around Yanggu in October.
A pair of Barn Swallows were seen on October 19 over the road been the river and rice fields south of town. A Grey Wagtail was seen along the river today.

Bean Geese and White-fronted Geese were seen in small numbers early in the month. Some winter visitors have arrived in small numbres, including Mallards, Common Teal, Common Mergansers, and Eurasian Wigeons were seen in the new dam northwest of town. The first Black-backed Wagtails were seen on October 7. A flock of about 150 Bramblings were seen in Haean Myeon on October 22.

Other interesting winter birds seen include Common Buzzard and Long-tailed Rosefinches. There were Eurasian Skylarks, Buntings and Pipits flying around but I couldn't see them well enough to identify them. Along the river I saw a Northern Lapwing, a Greater Scaup and a Dunlin birds not commonly seen near Yanggu. More common waders included Long-billed Plovers, Green Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers. The first Brown Dipper for the cooler part of the year was seen today as well at one of the weirs.

Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla alba Photo © Barry Heinrich

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Photo © Barry Heinrich

Greater Scaup Aythya marila Photo © Barry Heinrich

Bird News from Ju Yong-Ki
Simpo, Mangyeung, Saemangeum Reclamation Area, October 6

Colour-banded Dunlin, Saemangeum, October 6, © Ju Yong-Gi.

Dr. Richard Lanctot of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that this individual, photographed at Saemangeum on October 6 by Mr. Ju Yong-Ki "was first banded at Barrow, Alaska, on 24 June 2004. This bird was identified as a male based on bill length and his band number is 162116127. He nested successfully in 2004 and 2005 near the same site but has not been seen in Barrow since early July 2005. He was banded at latitude 71.24639 N, and longitude 156.58738 W (datum = NAD83 Alaska time)."

Bird News from Andreas Kim
Mokpo Hadang, October 26

The sunny morning attracted 1 Grey Heron, 5 Great Egret and 7 Little Egret on to the little tidal river end in the apartment area. In addition 1 Common Sandpiper and two Common Greenshank as well as Grey Wagtail could be seen.

Common Greenshank, Photo © Andreas Kim.

Bird News from Jang Yong-chang
Jeju Island, October 25

An Oriental White Stork was observed in Jeju Island again. More details and a picture are here

Bird News from Peter and Angela Nebel
Gunsan Area, October 22-23

On the 20th we found 2 Ospreys and thousands of Baikal Teal on the Mangyeong. On the 21st we saw Penduline Tits, Olive-backed Pipits, Bramblings, and Common Stonechats near the airport. At the Geum we saw 6 Lapwings and 30 Swan Geese. In the Industrial Zone there were a few Barn Swallows still around and the most unusual bird for the day: a Ruddy Shelduck.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni Photo © Peter Nebel

Swan Geese Anser cygnoides Photo © Peter Nebel

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea Photo © Peter Nebel

Bird News from Ju Yong-Ki
Dongjin Estuary, Saemangeum Reclamation Area, October 22

One Oriental Stork found today.

Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana Photos © Ju Yong-Ki

Request for Information

In January 2006, Mr. Kim Shin-Hwan photographed this swan at Seosan, apparently with an all-dark bill. Opinions are actively being sought from observers familiar with the species on whether this is a Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus with a mud-covered bill, or rather perhaps Korea's first Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator.

Photos © Kim Shin-Hwan

Nial Moores wrote (October 18th):
Personally, I regret to say that I believe this is a Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, with either a mud-stained or an aberrant, dark bill colour, and not a Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator. This identification is based mostly on the width of the dark of the lores (the area between the bill and the eye), which seems to be a good way to separate Trumpeter and apparently dark-billed Whooper Swans (as well as Black-faced Spoonbill Platelea minor and White Spoonbill Platelea leucorodia!). In Trumpeter Swan, the fairly wide dark lores extend back towards the eye, so that the eye does not stand out so very obviously. In this bird, the eye stands out clearly, as in Whooper Swan. This is why I believe that the bird is not a Trumpeter Swan. It would be interesting to learn if there are any records of adult Whoopers Swan with genuinely all-dark bills...there are records of Trumpeter and Whooper Swan hybridising in captivity.

Bird News from Park Jong-Gil
Hong Island, September 26

Two images of a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus banded on Hong Island on September 26th, 2007 by the National Parks Migratory Bird Research Centre ( Photographs copyright of Park Jong-Gil/National Parks Migratory Bird Research Centre and used with permission.

This is the second record of Willow Warbler in Korea. The first record was of two together, also on Hong Island, on September 20th, 2006 (see

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, Photos © Park Jong-Gil

Bird News from Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin
Incheon-Socheong Island, October 15

Bright and clear but rather cold, with rough weather reported by the ferry Captain early in the morning. An exceptionally late juvenile Little-ringed Plover (present the past 3 days) and Common Sandpiper on the beach were followed by another Taiga Flycatcher, 4 Richards Pipit , a flock of 25 Goldcrest, 6 Carrion Crow chasing eachother high overhead, & 4 very pale sandy-coloured Meadow Bunting. Just prior to departure a new movement of migrants suddenly became apparent with no less than 16 Asian House Martin, several incoming raptors (which inculded 2 Black Kite), and finally (just before boarding!) excellent views of a juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle, (sporting white trailing wing edges). Relatively quiet on the sea voyage. A Black-legged Kittiwake, c.30 Streaked Shearwater, an unidentified Jaeger and a Great tit keeping up with the boat, made for a trip total of exactly 80 species.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Photo © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Nial Moores and Ju Yong-Ki, and the Thalassa TV Documentary Team
Yubu Island (Geum Estuary), Saemangeum Reclamation Area, October 14

A day on Yubu, with excellent light in the afternoon, and great viewing conditions despite a fairly brisk northwesterly wind. In the main tree-belt, a Northern Boobook and 3 Grey-backed Thrush, while overhead a small but steady trickle of pipits and buntings. At high tide, at least 3 Saunders's Gulls with exceptional highlights including between 46 and 50 Nordmann's Greenshank (including one apparently stained, perhaps with oil?, on its underparts), and 11 Spoon-billed Sandpiper still (including 4 fully non-breeding adults, one adult showing a very faint trace of breeding plumage, and 6 juveniles - all showing between 50% and 90% non-breeding plumage). Plumage states suggest that at least 15 Spoon-billed Sandpiper have staged at Yubu this southward migration: the same number as recorded there on September 24th and 25th, 2006.

Other shorebirds included: Dunlin (7500+), Kentish Plover (3080), Grey Plover (2370+), Eastern Oystercatcher (550), Eurasian Curlew (490), Sanderling (310), 250 Mongolian Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper (ca 200), Great Knot (ca 150), Red-necked Stint (ca 100), Far Eastern Curlew (30), Terek Sandpiper (25), Bar-tailed Godwit (5), Common Greenshank (3), Ruddy Turnstone (3), Red Knot (2) and Common Snipe (1 overhead).

Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer with Grey Plover and Saunders's Gull
Photo © Nial Moores

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, Photos © Nial Moores

Bird News from Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin
Incheon-Socheong Island, October 14

Clear and dry, with most migrants clearing out by late afternoon: best for the day was a Yellow-legged Buttonquail (TE) at the lighthouse:(shuffling half-concealed through grass before fluttering by at close range), and a Long-Eared Owl (RN). New blow-ins included 3 Daurian Redstart, an influx of 300 Coal and 70 Great tits, a Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Little Bunting and 3 Goldcrest. The beautiful white-headed Long-tailed Tits have swelled ranks to 100+. 6 Korean Bush Warbler included a presumed juvenile with pale yellowish wash to underparts and light buffish supercilium. Worth a mention was 1 Common Rosefinch, the Pied Harrier, 3 Red-flanked Bluetail,2 Siberian Stonechat, 4 Grey-backed Thrush and at least 1000 more Red-rumped Swallow through.

Long-Eared Owl Asio otus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Coal Tit Periparus ater, Photo © Robin Newlin

Korean Bush Warbler Cettia (canturians) borealis, Photo © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin
Incheon-Socheong Island, October 13

Overcast, becoming cool and clear later. Daybreak at the lighthouse featured a Woodcock en route, a swirling flock of 56 white-headed caudatus (including only 4 magnus) Long-tailed Tit, (which dispersed throughout the day to gorge themselves on seed-heads): 1 Chestnut-cheeked and 1 White-cheeked Starling, a male Black-throated Thrush (TE), 2 Ashy Minivet, 50 brightly plumaged Yellow-browed Warblers, a rather late Zitting Cisticola, c.80 Olive-backed Pipit and at least 300 Brambling. At least 3000 Red-rumped Swallow passed overhead throughout the day in an almost unbroken stream, and c.300 Temminck's Cormorant sat on rocks offshore. Sighted as well were 3 Pallas's, 1 Meadow, 6 Tristram's, 2 Chestnut, 4 Yellow-throated & 100+ Black-faced Bunting; 2 male and 2 female Taiga Flycatchers (different to the preceding days individuals). Among birds of prey, a group of 6 Black Kite, the Pied Harrier & Osprey still, and 6 Kestrel were of note. and a single Asian House Martin.1 Rufous-tailed Robin, 35 Chestnut-flanked White-eye, a Buff-bellied Pipit, 2 Chinese Grosbeak, 2 White's Thrush, 2 Red-flanked Bluetail.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala, Photo © Robin Newlin

Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus, Photo © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Peter and Angela Nebel
October 13

Below the barrage species of interest were an Osprey, a pair of Greater White-Fronted Geese and about 8 Bean Geese. Above the barrage we found about 750 Baikal Teal, a dozen Eurasian Wigeon, and a pair each of Falcated Teal and Pintails.

The most interesting species turned out to be two fresh road-kills on the south side of the river - a Water Rail near the Migratory Bird Observatory, and a Jungle Nightjar near the teal observation booth.

Bird News from Nial Moores, Ju Yong-Ki and Yu Sung-Ho
Mangyeung (Airport, Okgu, near Hwapo and Simpo), Saemangeum Reclamation Area, October 12

Continuing survey effort for Spoon-billed Sandpiper, found no SBS, but instead ca 7000 Dunlin, 1840 Grey Plover, 1251 Broad-billed Sandpiper (easily the highest personal day count NM has had of this species in Korea) and further highlights in the form of one Black-faced Spoonbill (3 there in October 13th), ca 45,000 Baikal Teal, a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper and 2 Nordmann's Greenshank.

Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melantoswith Broad-billed Sandpiper and Dunlin
Photo © Nial Moores

Bird News from Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin
Incheon-Socheong Island, October 12

Clear and sunny, very windy. Notable on the sea crossing were 21 White-winged Scoter and a Flesh-footed Shearwater (RN only). Also 19 Bean Geese, a Streaked Shearwater and 1 Pomarine Jaeger. A good day for raptors on the island, with 1 Black Kite, a Pied Harrier, 12 Common Buzzard , a lone dark-phase juvenile Crested Honey Buzzard, 6 Peregrine, 7 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 3 Hobby, 1 Japanese Sparrowhawk, 3 Northern Goshawk, and an Osprey. Most interesting however was a Marsh Harrier overhead, showing mixed features, among them, "The dark eye-stripe should perhaps be enough for WMH, but unlike on most WMH it peters out well before the bill base" (NM). On further scrutiny of the sequence of images, it appears likely this individual is a Western X Eastern Marsh Harrier hybrid. For further consideration of this, please go to:
Other sightings included 4 female Taiga/Red-throated, 1 Mugamaki, and 2 Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, 5 Asian House Martin, 130 Brambling, 9 Siskin,1 Vega Gull, 2 Pale Thrush, & 2 Arctic Warbler.

Western X Eastern Marsh Harrierk, Photo © Tim Edelsten

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, Photo © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Nial Moores, Ju Yong-Ki and Yu Sung-Ho
Simpo, Saemangeum Reclamation Area, October 10 PM

No sign of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper of a few days before. Instead, ca 7000 shorebirds in total - with probably 6000 Dunlin, 450 Mongolian Plover, 300 Kentish Plover and 150 Broad-billed Sandpiper the most numerous.

Bird News from Nial Moores
Eocheong Island, October 9

With moderating winds, 50 species logged. Among several interesting species, 19 Grey-faced Buzzard, single Common Rosefinch, Radde's and Pallas Grasshopper Warblers, five Zitting Cisticola and a very heavily streaked Red-throated Thrush. Biggest miss of the day was another slim phylloscopus seen for only one or two seconds, lacking wingbars, and instead showing a yellow-washed supercilium, matching yellowish underparts and pinkish-brown legs. There are only two confirmed records of Willow Warbler in Korea (both from Hong Island), but based on records in Japan it can be assumed to be rather less of an extreme rarity in Korea than records might suggest.

First year Red-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis, Photo © Nial Moores

Bird News from Nial Moores
Eocheong Island, October 8

An exceptionally poor day with the forecast rain not arriving, and instead only strong northwesterly winds. Only 35 species logged, with best being a distant flock of 16 probable Purple Heron moving southwest early in the morning, and 2 Chestnut-cheeked Starling in the afternoon.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Shiripdae, October 8

Suddenly much cooler weather. Today found 2 skulking Tristram's Bunting, and an even more shy and wary Rufous-tailed Robin hiding in the woodpile, and 2 Mugimaki still. A Blue and White Flycatcher female seemed strikingly similar to the female Narcissus - showing the chestnut upper tail and grey-washed breast, however, differentiated by the clear white throat and unpatterned plain greyish-brown upperparts.

Bird News from Robin Newlin
Incheon/Yongyudo, October 8

A few hours at Yeongjeongdo's seaside flooded rice fields near the "Yongyudo Church" bus stop. On the beach/mudflats, few shorebirds; highlights were a scattering of Common Greenshank, six Dunlin, 1 Kentish Plover, and a Chinese Egret. In the freshwater area, 300 more Greenshank, mostly sleeping in the sun but momentarily flushed by a passing Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Also 7 Spotted Redshank (feeding in their frantic fashion), 1 winter-plumage adult and 2 beautifully blonde juvenile Pacific Golden Plovers, and 1 Common and 1 Wood Sandpiper. 2 Rustic and 1 Chestnut Bunting seen in the scrub, and a few Yellow-browed Warblers heard. From the bus, 3 Black-faced Spoonbills on the mud near the Airport Bridge, a flying Japanese Sparrowhawk and (also flying) the season's first Common Buzzard.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Photo © Robin Newlin

Bird News from Peter and Angela Nebel
Gunsan Area, October 7

Black Kite Milvus migrans, Photo © Peter Nebel

Birds of note were a Black Kite, an Osprey, 5 Chestnut-cheeked Starlings, and several over-flying Chestnut Buntings. At high tide at the Geum several Spotted Redshanks, the usual Common Greenshanks, Dunlin, Red-necked Stint and perhaps 100 Broad-billed Sandpipers were seen.

Standing: Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Flying: Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, Photo © Peter Nebel

Bird News from Nial Moores
Ferry-Eocheong Island, October 7

Very quiet sea-crossing, with best being 2 Streaked Shearwater, and apart from a decent range of raptors, few birds on Eocheong itself. Best were ca 16 Crested Honey Buzzard, 3 Grey-faced Buzzard, a cracking adult female Amur Falcon (feeding with 2 Eurasian Kestrel and 3 or 4 Northern Hobby), 2 Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk and an Osprey. Other birds of note included a male Chestnut-cheeked Starling, 2 Zitting Cisticola and an extremely late Broad-billed Roller.

Bird News from Park Jong-Gil
Hong Island, September

Belated news received of a Willow Warbler banded by the National Parks Migratory Bird Research Centre on September 26th, presumably the second national record, with the first involving two Willow Warbler also on Hong Island, on September 20, 2006 (see November 2006 Latest News Archive). More details and images to be posted later.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten & Robin Newlin
Seoul, October 5

At Shiripdae, 2 Mugimaki and 3 Olive-backed Pipits are new in. Also 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Asian Stubtail, 1 Asian Brown Flycatcher, a Scaly Thrush, Varied & Marsh Tits, Grey-headed and Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers. At Guri on the Han river, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, single Coot, and a spectacular display of fishing by an Osprey, which eventually departed clutching its prey after repeated dives and plunges into the water.

Bird News from Ju Yong-Ki
Simpo (Saemangeum), October 5

One Spoon-billed Sandpiper found among other assorted shorebirds.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Eocheong Island, October 3

A Pallas's Leaf Warbler was followed by 2 Ashy Minivet in the morning.The Japanese White-eye flock appears to have increased to around 35. Birds over the past 3 days not seen by me (but reported/photographed by visiting birder Kim Hwa Jeong) include 2 Great-Spotted Woodpecker, a Zitting Cisticola, 3 Pheasant, 1 Blue and White Flycatcher, and a Chinese Grey Shrike (Oct 1st). The return sea crossing was eerilly quiet, save for 2 Common Tern. There has been a noticeable lack of seabirds recently along this area of the Yellow sea.

Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus, Photo © Tim Edelsten

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Eocheong Island, October 2

Sunny and clear: at the quarry I had excellent views of a 2 female Bluethroat. It seems quite unlikely to have involved the same individual, as the second bird was in an entirely different section, about 400 yards distant. Also today a Richard's Pipit, 2 simillima Yellow Wagtails, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, 14 Black-faced, 3 Yellow-browed & 1 Yellow-breasted Bunting, 2 Peregrine, a male and female Japanese lesser Sparrowhawk, 2 Yellow-browed warbler, a juv. Black-crowned Night Heron and 1 Crested Honey Buzzard. Surprise of the day was almost stepping on an Asian/Japanese keelback snake (Amphiesma vibakari) near the chicken run. A shiny, purplish-tinged slate-grey colour all over, with a yellow chin, about 1.5ft in length.

Bird News from Tim Edelsten
Eocheong Island, October 1

Overcast with skies clearing to sunshine by late afternoon. Clear signs of some movement with c.40 Barn Swallow passing through in the morning, followed by a flock of 18 Japanese White-eye descending, later found seen feeding on seed heads. The day added a male Bluethroat, taivana Yellow Wagtail, single Osprey, juv. Striated Heron, Common Teal, Pintail, 2 Crested Honey Buzzard, 1 Olive-backed Pipit, 2 Little and 1 Eurasian Cuckoo, 1 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, and the Forest Wagtail still. A Siberian Stonechat showed a typical rosy pink wash on the underparts, far lighter in shade than an individual seen on Sept29th, which was suffused with a solid, deep red. Passerines are extremely wary and in deep cover, presumably due to several Northern Hobby overhead and at least 3 hungry families of Bull-headed shrikes.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica, Photo © Tim Edelsten