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.)
Suncheon and Mangyeung River, October 30 and 31
A visit to Suncheon Bay was disappointing, with few birds seen and no Hooded Crane (a possible reason was the huge crowds there for the Suncheon Bay Reed Festival, and the helicopter overflying the bay as part of the festivities), while at the Mangyeung there was a large flock of Baikal Teal (some people have suggested that there were 200,000 there in late October/early November), with none seen at the heavily-disturbed Geum.
Socheong, October 26
The morning of the day before the 1pm boat had reduced winds; again, no sense of incoming movement, but buntings ventured out to feed; new species were Little Bunting. A Bull-headed Shrike chattered from my favorite bush on the way to North Point. The return boat over very rough seas had extremely limited outside access and thus no birdwatching.
Socheong, October 25
The day was largely devoid of birds with very strong winds continuing. New birds were a Grey-streaked and a Red-throated Flycatcher, a couple of Skylarks, and, surprisingly (on call and good views) 6 or 8 Japanese White-eyes.
Socheong, October 24
Surprisingly, heavy cloud cover at dawn and rain at about 8:30, with clearing at 10 and then cold strong winds. A Daurian Redstart, a fly-over Bean Goose, a (heard only) flock of Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, and playful Peregrines at North Point, and good conversation with the goatkeepers there gathering their charges after the rain; highlight was learning how to play knuckle-butt with a goat. Middle of the day spent on a very windy ridge waiting for raptors: almost no visible movement beyond the resident accipiters and buteos and 1 or 2 different Honey Buzzards. The afternoon added another Amur Falcon and, in a few wind-sheltered spots, a small flock of Grey-backed Thrushes, 2 Mugimaki Flycatchers, a Pallas’ Warbler and a Chestnut-eared Bunting. A Yellow Wagtail was with the White Wagtails on the beach at evening.
Socheong, October 23
Again, light rain began at 6am. Still no obvious movement. New records were a Common Sandpiper, a Common Kingfisher, a few Siskins, a single (but beautiful) Siberian Rubythroat, 15 or so Meadow Buntings, a single Yellow-legged Buttonquail, a handful of Tristram’s Buntings, a Hobby, a couple of Crested Honey Buzzards, and a Stonechat. Rain ended around noon and strong winds came in around 2, again from the northwest, building in intensity and pushing the heavy cloud cover rapidly over. By nightfall the skies were clear and star-filled but very windy.
Socheong, October 22
Rain started at 6am: light rain and mist through the morning. Few birds in evidence, with no obvious movement into or across the island. Highlights were scattered calling Yellow-browed Warblers and Korean Bush Warblers, a few each of Japanese and Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Goshawks, Peregrines, Common Buzzards and a Kestrel. All these raptors seemed to lingering rather than passing through. I heard a few Dusky Thrushes and flushed 2 different Woodcock; small numbers of buntings included Rustic, Yellow-throated and Black-faced. Other birds (also in very small numbers) were Red-flanked Bluetails, Bramblings, Goldcrests, Olive-backed and Buff-bellied Pipits and a few Swallows. Most unexpected for the day was the discovery of the leavings of a raptor’s meal: feathers of a (presumed) Greater-Spotted Woodpecker (scarce on outer islands). Skies cleared in the afternoon with winds from the northwest; still little apparent movement, with obvious highlight a light passage of 5 Amur Falcons.
Socheong, October 21
The boat got off late because of fog; the crossing was extremely quiet almost the whole way, with about 20 Streaked Shearwaters and 2 Pomarine Jaegers just before Socheong.
Yanggu x river and surrounds, and Misari in Seoul, October 26
I did a brief survey of birds along the river in Yanggu in the early afternoon of October 26. Most abundant were Spot-billed Ducks. There were still a few Mandarin Ducks, Grey Herons and Eastern Great Egrets around. I was surprise to see 2 Siberian Stonechats in the grass moulting into winter plumage, quite late in the year to see them in Yanggu I think. I observed some winter migrants including a Common Buzzard, Mallards, Common Teal and a Rustic Bunting. There were also Green Sandpipers, 4 Common Snipe, 2 Northern Lapwings and a Dunlin present amongst the rocks in the river bed. A flock of about 80 Rooks flew over. I noticed them after I saw one of the Lapwings looking up.
The other surprise was seeing 2 Otters swimming and calling in the early afternoon.
I also saw Pochards and Great Cormorants around Misari as I was leaving Seoul on a bus this morning.
Uiwang, October 26
A quick hour at this inland reservoir revealed 7 Baikal Teal, 2 Northern Lapwing, 3 Siskin and several flocks of Rustic Bunting fresh in.
Otherwise of note, a Spotted Redshank, 12 Dunlin, 2 Mandarin, 1 Common Buzzard, and at least 15 juvenile Little Ringed Plover still. Also 10+ Common Snipe included 1 presumed Swinhoes Snipe, based on larger size, stockier build, and very limited golden bands on overall darker upperparts.
SE River-Seosan-Imjin River, October 22
A long drive back to the airport with several stops on the way, included 100 Swan Goose again at the Han-Imjin, and 2 Black Kite (location unknown), the 162nd species of the trip.
Hwaum-Sa and local rivers, October 21
Several highlights, with Mandarin Duck (8), Long-billed Plover (11), Brown Dipper (4) and Japanese Wagtails (40) all present on local rivers, and Hill Pigeon (4), White's Thrush (1), Dark-throated Thrush (1), White-backed Woodpecker (3), Varied Tit (20), Tristram's (10) and Yellow-browed Buntings (3) apparently all found in the temple grounds and adjacent forest.
Heuksan Island, October 20.
35 Yellow-browed Bunting was a rather good count, while a White-tailed Eagle, a Water Rail and 3 Baillon's Crake were again recorded.
Heuksan Island, October 19
A change of islands...a Water Rail and 3 Baillon's Crake were both good records, as were a Swinhoe's Snipe, 5 Asian House Martin, a Siberian Thrush and rarest in the Korean context, a single Dark-throated Thrush.
Eocheong Island-Ferry, October 18
4 Woodcock, 2 Crested Honey-Buzzard and singles of both Rufous-tailed and Siberian Blue Robins were a few of the highlights on Eocheong, while the ferry back to the mainland produced two more Flesh-footed Shearwater.
Eocheong Island, October 17
An early morning search for thrushes paid off with views of White's Thrush and another Siberian Thrush, while a short pelagic (through the wonderful Yangji Minbak) resulted in good views of Temminck's Cormorant, 400 Streaked and 5 Flesh-footed Shearwaters, as well as 2 Pomarine Jaeger. On Eocheong itself, a White-breasted Waterhen (NM only), a Wryneck and 50 Hawfinch were among the highlights.
Gunsan and Eocheong Island, October 16
Brief views of Eye-browed, Grey-backed, Pale and Siberian Thrushes at Naun-Dong, an extraordinarily tame (and rather early) Daurian Jackdaw, a couple of Chestnut Bunting, and a much more elusive Middendorff's Grasshopper Warbler in Gunsan industrial estate, and a decent crossing to Eocheong, with 3 small whales (pale grey, 3-5 meters in length) sighted, several Finless Porpoise, and both Streaked (420) and Flesh-footed Shearwaters (3). On Eocheong itself, single Upland Buzzard, 3 Siberian Rubythroat, and small numbers of most of the regular mid-autumn migrants.
Seosan Lake A and B, Geum Barrage, and Yubu Island, October 15
Another excellent day, with Chinese Grey Shrike and Cackling Goose (recorded barely annually in Korea) at Seosan; and 6 Spoon-billed Sandpiper and 8 Nordmann's Greenshank at Yubu, along with e.g. 12,000 Dunlin and 300 Broad-billed Sandpiper.
Han-Imjin, Namyang Bay, Seosan Lake A, October 14
Highlights included 300 Swan Goose at the Han-Imjin; single Nordmann's Greenshank at the Kia Tidal-flat and at outer Namyang Bay, where also 3 Chinese Egret and 3 Black-faced Spoonbill; and a wonderful evening flyover of 70,000 Baikal Teal at Seosan.
Songdo, October 19
Seasonal firsts continue with 5 Greater Scaup, a Gadwall, and 9 Tufted Duck suddenly on the lagoon: also a new influx of 30 Common Pochard. An Osprey is a first for this site, which caught a new fish every hour or so and whose only irritation was being dive-bombed by a Eurasian Kestrel and a tense stand-off with the resident Peregrine.
Other birders present reported seeing an Oriental White Stork fly over in the early morning, as well as a Common Redshank and 2 Marsh Sandpiper still. Apparently they recovered and counted in excess of 100 dead wildfowl from this brackish area in the morning: more lie scattered on the far side. A vet, apparently specialising in avian viruses, was called in and diagnosed an outbreak of botulism, with all typical symptoms showing on the birds, such as paralysis, respiratory failure and inability to fly. The virus is afflicting Dunlin as well as wildfowl such as Shoveler. Given reasons include the unseasonally prolonged warm temperatures, although apparently mass die-offs such as this are common in degraded environments such as this, where a very shallow channel has been artificially created by reclamation in a highly industrial area adjacent to the sewage works.
Otherwise of note, still c.20 Black-faced Spoonbills, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, and an overhead flock of 40 Tundra Bean Goose.
Uiwang, October 18
With rice fields being harvested, a mid-autumnal scene with birds to match. Summer leftovers included a Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen and 6 Little-ringed Plovers.
Migrants include abundant lugens White Wagtails and Black-faced Bunting, with several Green Sandpiper, Yellow-browed Warblers and Common Snipe.
The seasons first Daurian Redstart has appeared: although common breeders in upland areas in summer, they apparently descend to lowland habitats in winter. A Great Cormorant is a first record for this inland reservoir.
Particularly abundant are flocks of Rufous Turtle Dove, which are probably mostly composed of migrants, and numerous Eurasian Magpie, presumably made up largely of juveniles, which are curiously, constantly mobbing every Black-crowned Night and Grey Heron in the area.
Yangyang, Sokcho and Yanggu x wetlands, October 15
I surveyed birds along Namdae Cheon from the coast to Yangyang on Saturday 11 October. It was interesting to see a number of waterbirds had returned to for the winter. Species included Mallards, Common Teal, Baikal Teal, Pintails and a Northern Shoveler. There were numerous Spot-billed Ducks and Mandarin Ducks there as well. The number of Vega Gulls and Black-headed Gulls had also increased substantially. There were still some Grey Herons, Eastern Great Egrets, Little Egrets and Great Cormorants there too. Three Dunlin were seen on the sand bar and a Blue Rock Thrush was using the bridge perlons to take cover. All the birds on the sand bar at the river mouth were disturbed by a Peregrine Falcon..
There was an Osprey flying over the water along the river, and a recreational fisherman flushed a Great Bittern from the long grass around one of the smaller lagoons. Eleven Bean Geese flew along the river.
In Sokcho at Cheongcho Lagoon the number of waterfowl had also increased with the presence of Mallards, Common Teal, Mandarin Ducks and Spot-billed Ducks. There were numerous Grey Herons, and a few Little Egrets and Eastern Great Egrets in the shallow water. Great Cormorants, Black-tailed Gulls and Vega Gulls were seen roosting in the area. A single Great Crested Grebe was seen in the open water. They were disturbed by an Osprey. Along Cheongcho Cheon I saw more ducks and herons, Common Kingfishers and Common Sandpipers.
In Yanggu on Sunday 12 October 2008 I saw some of the winter birds too. These included Common Teal, Mallards, Pochards and a lone Bean Goose. Mandarin Ducks and Spot-billed Ducks were present in fair numbers. An Osprey was seen flying over the new dam, and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk was seen flying to an elevated perch in one of the newly planted pine trees beside the dam. There were fewer Eastern Great Egrets, Grey Herons and Little Egrets present than during the summer months. A pair of Japanese Wagtails were taking advantage of the new boardwalks at the new dam. Common Kingfishers seem to be benefitting from the artificial wetland as well.
Seeing an Osprey in three places in two consecutive days was interesting. Perhaps there is a southern migration of this species at this time of the year.
Songdo, October 12
I decided, upon reflection of the colder weather recently, to give it another go to Songdo. The lagoon area was quite eerie. It was for most of the day void of shore birds. There were numerous Spot-billed Ducks mixed in with Mallards and Northern Shovelers. There was also a female Northern Shoveler which had both its wings in a very awkward position. After flushing her out (accidentally), she swam with both wings under the water. I also came across a Oriental Turtle Dove that was caught in some fishing line connected to a tree limb. Not wanting to leave it in caught upside down position, I climbed the small tree it was caught in and rescued it. The brackish area looked like it had been severely drained. Upon a quick scan, I counted at least a dozen or so lifeless ducks (including a few shorebirds as well). Highlights of the day were 18 Ruddy Shelducks, 1 Common Shelduck, and 2 quite playful Red-necked Stints.
Oido/ Namyang Bay, October 12
Surveying extensive ricefields from telegraph wires near Osan, a male Amur Falcon was seen to catch a dragonfly before circling away. Also in the area, numerous Eurasian Kestrel- presumably migrants, and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Olive-backed Pipit are suddenly plentiful,and on nearby waterways, several Green Sandpiper and Common Greenshank: other birds included Black-faced Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler & presumed Far Eastern Lark.
Towards Namyang bay, the seasons first Common Buzzard overhead: on the reclaimed mudflats (now ricefields), 2 Marsh Sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Wood Sandpiper still, with a handful of Common Snipe and 2 Tundra Bean Goose.
High tide on the remnant tidal-flat at Hwaseong revealed 29 Black-faced Spoonbill, 155 Eastern Oystercatcher, 1000+ Dunlin, 850 Eurasian Curlew, c.100 Grey Plover, 20 Red-necked Stint, 30 Mongolian Plover (some still in breeding plumage), c.40 Kentish Plover and 4 Siberian Stonechat nearby.
Songdo, October 11
In cool and bright weather, best perhaps 37 Black-faced Spoonbill trawling the estuary in a feeding flock, with c.20 Saunders's Gull and at least 12 Chinese Egret nearby. Winter visitors have begun to trickle in such 2 Bean Geese, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, and 6 Ruddy Shelduck.
Numbers of winter wildfowl such as Common Teal, Shoveler, Spot-billed duck and Pintail have begun to swell, terrorised briefly by an adult Peregrine, which accounts for the 3 plucked carcasses lying around, however a curious scattering of other dead ducks showed no signs of injury and appeared to have died from starvation, poisoning or some other affliction- at least 2 with drooping wings, appearing unable to fly and another immobile and apparently gasping for air.On the mudflat, passage waders have dissapeared- only a single solitary Black-tailed Godwit remains: instead, c350 Dunlin, 240 Eurasian Curlew and a good scattering of Grey Plover.
In the brackish area a sudden abundance of perhaps 50 Black-faced Bunting: also a windfall of 6 Olive-backed Pipit., still 3 Common Snipe and plentiful Little egret.
Of summer breeders only a few lost-looking juveniles remain- 1 Little Ringed Plover, 2 juv. Common Moorhen, and a quiet young Oriental Reed Warbler, although probably the same flock of Mongolian Gull which nested here is still present, with their first winter birds: also 4 Eastern Yellow Wagtail juveniles still present.
Uiwang, October 6
In a brief half-hour in fading dusk light at the reservoir, a lone Whiskered Tern was plunging after fish-which is a first for this site.
Deokjeok Island, October 5 (am)
Rather cloudy, the morning added 2 Meadow, 4 Black-faced & 1 Yellow-throated Bunting, 3 Chinese Grosbeak, and a Chinese Egret on the rocky beach. Best were close flight views of a Latham's Snipe flushed from a dry,scrubby area of thick grassland. It immediately appeared a touch larger and darker than other snipes, with a very short low scrappy flight back down into cover- making a total of 32 species in this 24hr trip.
Deokjeok Island, October 4 (pm),
A relatively large, inshore, mountainous island developed for tourism, and with precious few patches of natural habitat remaining. Continuing bright and clear weather found it dissapointingly quiet birdwise, although in a shallow coastal freshwater pool I found a clearly exhausted and dishevelled Woodcock and Common Kingfisher. At this patch I almost accidentally stepped on a very large, dark Manchurian Black Water Snake Elaphe Schrenckii which slid off the path, virtually at my feet, and into the water. It was at least 1.5 metres in length and as thick as my wrist: this species is apparently the largest snake in Korea and is also known as the Korean Ratsnake.
A Northern Goshawk and Northern Hobby comprised the day's raptors; migrants included small flocks of Barn Swallow and White Wagtail: also several Siberian Stonechat, 2 Eastern Yellow Wagtail, a handful of Yellow-browed Warbler and an Olive-backed Pipit.
Okksu, October 4
Decided to take a nice morning hike along the stream to Okksu stn. (from the bridge close to Hoegi stn) with my wife. Along the way we saw highlights of a standish Great Egret and a small group of female & eclipsed Baikal Teal with some (f) Falcated Teals. They both were skiddish and moved to different locations without noise or notice. Towards Okksu, located a nice group of Mandarin Ducks and a frantic Common sandpiper.