Monday, June 6, 2011

"Historical post" - Jeju Island, June 2011

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
Jens finds his Fairy Pitta, thanks to Youngho
Scrambling through mosquito valley
Exploring a shamanistic site deep in the forest
Dolharubang - one of Jeju's iconic stone grandfathers
An older iteration
Spot the Pacific Reef Egrets
Looking north towards the mainland
Birding lunch of champions - ahlbap

Jens, super stoked to be eating ahlbap (note the kettle of makkeoli on the table)
Jeju Island, June 5-6 2011
  Several weeks before leaving Jeju (for the first time), I had the pleasure of guiding a visiting Danish birder around Jeju, in his quest for the rarest of avian jewels, a Fairy Pitta. Jens Thalund, one of the best birders in Denmark (in my opinion), is from Esbjerg, a small town I’ve actually visited, so we had a good chuckle about the situational symmetry of that.
  We met up in Seogwipo on the 5th and I scooted him out to a reliable location for Fairy Pittas near an ephemeral forest waterfall…well, reliable until ‘they’ ripped up the woods in order to construct a parking lot (and related infrastructure) large enough to accommodate the endless parade of Chinese tour buses that make the financial wheels of Jeju go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. We sat on boulders in a dry riverbed for several hours, and heard a Fairy Pitta calling, but didn’t end up seeing one. The next day was kinder to us, here’s what I wrote at the time:
  Denmark is a cool place. They dump mayonnaise on pizza, make bleak yet hopeful statues, have a strict etiquette when it comes to sandwich condiments - and let's not forget the singular Tuborg Green. On Friday morning I met up with a Danish birder and we staked out my secret spot for five hours waiting for a Fairy Pitta that didn't show. Then on Saturday we met up with my Korean birding bud Youngho for some valley-climbing birdventures. Well, first we were hijacked and taken to the back room of a museum where we were pressed into service helping a Korean guy sort through some tricky bird IDs for a book he's putting together. He thanked us by taking us out for an awesome lunch and makkeoli. Life is hard.
  The meal was dolsot (hot bowl) ahlbap, which is a solid Korean peasant meal. It even looks healthy. Usually there's an egg mashed in, but in this case there were a bunch of fish eggs dumped in instead (the orange stuff on the rice) - I'll miss ahlbap. Makkeoli is a fizzy, earthy rice alcohol, and you're meant to drink it out of bowls. Some of my classier friends drink it straight from the plastic bleach-looking bottles. Personally, I've never been a big fan, but it's pretty good with lunch, especially when lunch is secretly breakfast. The Danish guy reminded me of Dr. House. He got his Pitta, in a humid valley filled with rude mosquitoes that were after my sweet sweet blood.


What a park should look like
One of my two favoured haunts in Seogwipo
Soaking up the Japanese White-eyes

My other riverside park - I usually had the place to myself in the mornings
The spot where I ran into a Zappey's Flycatcher

Almost stepped on this tiny but dangerous Ussuri Mamushi Pitviper Gloydius blomhoffi
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis
Bulbul vomit
  During my last month on Jeju Island (well, until 2013), I took leisurely, unemployed strolls through my favourite Seogwipo parks, which were, at that time, notable for their ‘wildness’. Green riots of weeds and underbrush lined the riverbanks, home to countless species of flora and fauna. This was in contrast to what has become the norm in Korea these days when it comes to riverbanks – concrete paths topped in rubber matting, trimmed with guardrails – all ecological benefits scraped off and sanitized, in the name of keeping the construction industry going, I suppose.
  I also had an experience with a Jikbakguri - here were my thoughts at the time: 

  This Brown-eared Bulbul perched right outside my window for about 15 minutes, keeping out of the rain. It saw me see it see me, but was smart enough to know that I was on the other side of the window. Another bulbul perched above the original one, and after a while they both opened their bills and puked out some large seeds onto my aircon. How rude. They also shit on it. Bulbulshit. There appears to be a wide assortment of alarming and random stuff on my aircon. It's raining.

(*Note: This is a “historical post.” Whereas I started birding in Korea in 2005, this blog has only been active since early 2012 - these posts are an attempt to consolidate my early birdventures from the various blogs and websites where they reside, largely from the “Archived Bird News“ section of Birds Korea’s excellent website: Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Historical post" - Jeju Island, May 2011

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
Seogwipo area, Jeju, May 31, 2011
  I finally managed to spot a Fairy Pitta today, in a narrow and quiet valley. It was calling loudly, moving unseen through the treetops for well over an hour before it dropped down onto a lower branch for a few minutes of excellent views. Heard, but not seen in this valley were several vocal Japanese Paradise Flycatchers, as well as Common and Lesser Cuckoos.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes
Black Paradise Flycatcher (Japanese Paradise Flycatcher) Terpsiphone atrocaudata
White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus
Bird News from Matt Poll, Youngho Kim, with David and Heather McDowell, Northeast Jeju, May 21, 2011
  A nice mix of fog and sun, for a full day of showing visiting birders around the island. In an evergreen forest near the northeast coast, we got good looks at a Eurasian Jay, and great close views of a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. Nearby, a Common Cuckoo was seen, while several Lesser Cuckoos were heard only, while three late Upland Buzzards were a surprise circling overhead.
  At Hado, a single Eurasian Wigeon and Black-faced Spoonbill were reminders of the winter. At least two dozen Black-winged Stilts, and two Black-tailed Godwits were also notable at Hado. Nearby, a Chinese Egret was a great treat to watch, as it stalked fish close to the coastal road.
  At the Arboretum it looks like the female White-bellied Green Pigeon has not returned this year, although Youngho spotted a male near the northeast coast about a month ago.

Striated Heron Butorides striata
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola
Mara-do and southwest coast, Jeju Island, May 14, 2011
A great day of birding on the Southwest coast of Jeju, on a sunny and warm day, with close to 70 species seen.
  On Mara-do, a dozen Little Buntings, as well as male Yellow-breasted, and Chestnut Buntings were hopping around at the top of a grassy cliff. A small cluster of pine trees at the centre of the island was teeming with Asian Brown Flycatchers, Yellow-browed, and Eastern Crowned Warblers. Single examples of Dusky Warbler, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Reed Warbler, Black-naped Oriole, Richard’s Pipit, and Long-tailed Shrike were seen, as well as two Brown Shrikes, and clouds of Pacific Swifts.
  On the ferry ride back, two unmistakable Japanese Murrelets bobbed past the ferry at a distance of about 20 feet. Of course, my camera was safely (and hopelessly) stuffed inside my windbreaker so as to protect it from spray from the bow, and I couldn’t get it out in time to snap a picture.
  I happily lost my way in the farm roads of Mureung, and ended up driving past a Black Drongo that had dropped down from a power line to feed next to the road. On a small wooded hill on the southwest coast I spotted a Mugimaki Flycatcher, several Eye-browed Thrush, and two impressive Broad-billed Rollers. At least two dozen Black-winged Stilts and several Mongolian Plovers were seen at various points along the west coast, and I saw a Red-billed Starling perched on a balcony on a rooftop on the way back.
  Back in Seogwipo, a pair of Striated Herons seemed to be engaging in a courtship chase in a riverside park, while in another nearby park, the lone resident Striated was intently hunting on a small stream, where I photographed it earlier in the week.

(*Note: This is a “historical post.” Whereas I started birding in Korea in 2005, this blog has only been active since early 2012 - these posts are an attempt to consolidate my early birdventures from the various blogs and websites where they reside, largely from the “Archived Bird News“ section of Birds Korea’s excellent website: Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Historical post" - Jeju Island, April 2011

Looking east towards Sanbangsan, Halla Mountain hovers behind
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos
White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis with White-cheeked Starlings Sturnus cineraceus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
Southwest Jeju Island, April 26, 2011
  An early morning drive to the southwest coast produced some interesting spring birds, with 73 species seen today. Black-winged Stilts have arrived, with a total of a dozen seen at several different locations. Wood Sandpipers are also in evidence on Jeju with about 50 seen, in a wide range of wetland habitats. A dozen Whimbrels, and a similar number of Marsh Sandpipers were seen scattered along the coast and flooded fields. Cattle Egrets have returned to Jeju in force, and several Black-throated Loon still remain off the coast. A few hundred winter ducks linger still at the Yongsu reservoir.
  On a wooded hill on the southwest coast, perhaps a dozen Grey (Japanese) Thrush were heard, but proved very elusive to see. A half-dozen vocal Eastern Crowned and Arctic Warblers were seen, along with an Asian Stubtail. Also on this hill were several Narcissus and Asian Brown Flycatchers, and a Chinese Pond Heron. Best of the day was a White-shouldered Starling found with a murmuration of about 50 White-cheeked Starlings.
  A farmer’s field near Seogwipo held several Yellow Buntings. In a nearby park, several Tristram’s Buntings and a White-backed Woodpecker were seen. Still no Flycatchers or migrating Thrushes seen in Seogwipo yet.

Mara Island
The Mara ferry
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
female Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus
Korean Bush Warbler Horornis borealis
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Mara Island, April 16, 2011
  Some interesting birds on Mara-do, Korea’s southernmost point, on a hot day made hazy with yellow dust from China. A dozen Siberian Stonechats, several Eurasian Siskins, at least two dozen Brambling, seven Red-throated Pipits, a female Grey-backed Thrush, and handfuls of Grey (Japanese) Thrush, Little Bunting, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Narcissus Flycatcher, Far Eastern Cisticola, and Red-flanked Bluetail were the highlights.
  At Yongsu reservoir, a Pacific Golden Plover, several Falcated Teal and Pochard, and good numbers still of Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Spot-billed Duck, and Coot, with about 50-100 of each seen.
  It’s been pretty quiet still in Seogwipo parks this month, with birds such as Brown-headed Thrush, Ashy Minivet, Yellow-browed Bunting, Narcissus, Blue-and-White, and Asian Brown Flycatchers yet to arrive. For the past two years, these birds have been relatively easy to find in several Seogwipo parks starting in mid-April.
  In a Seogwipo farmer’s field, Eastern Yellow Wagtails, Red-throated Pipits, and Siberian Stonechats are good signs of spring.

(*Note: This is a “historical post.” Whereas I started birding in Korea in 2005, this blog has only been active since early 2012 - these posts are an attempt to consolidate my early birdventures from the various blogs and websites where they reside, largely from the “Archived Bird News“ section of Birds Korea’s excellent website: Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)