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: http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Birdnews/BK-BN-Birdnews-archive.shtml. Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mara-do article, April 2011

Researcher banding a Grey (Japanese) Thrush Turdus cardis
Bare bones 'research station'
Researcher banding a Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana

Clots of tourists surge onto Mara-do

 I visited Mara-do on April 9, 2011, and while there, encountered a small research team banding migratory birds. I chatted with them and they let me help out a bit. Their technique differed in a few ways from what I saw at the TCBO last year, I wish I'd paid a bit more attention at the time. Not sure how or why, but I ended up writing a piece on it for a local expat newspaper, which was published a few weeks later. The final product that ended up in The Jeju Weekly strayed a tad from what I’d originally written, I believe, and they did mangle up some bird names. In any case, here’s the piece, for those too lazy to click the link:

Mara Island proves important in study of migratory birds - Korea's southernmost land mass needs to balance development with conservation
  About seven kilometers off Jeju’s southwest coast, as the proverbial crow flies, lies Marado, South Korea’s southernmost bit of real estate. As such, it is an ideal spot to find and study migrating birds. During the spring, waves of exhausted birds coming mostly from Southeast Asia land on tiny Marado, desperate to rest before continuing their journey north to their Siberian breeding grounds.
  Kim Eunmi of the Jeju Wildlife Research Center has been conducting research since 2005 on the migratory birds that use Marado as a stopover. I’ve run into Kim or her researchers several times on Marado, while they were catching birds with large nets, then measuring and putting leg rings on the birds before releasing them. I recently caught up with Kim via email to discuss her research.
  Ringing the birds is an important tool for bird researchers, as it lets them know where certain species that use Jeju as a migratory rest-stop spend their summers breeding as well where they winter down south. The research team on Marado has not only re-confirmed Jeju’s importance as a vital stepping stone for migratory birds, but it has also helped discover several extremely rare or newly-discovered birds for Korea.
  The Blue-winged Pitta, discovered in May 2009, and the Fujian Niltava, found in November 2010, are two important Korean firsts that were found by Kim’s research team on Marado. Other birds rare in a Korean context spotted by the team include the Brown Booby, Pied Wheatear, Rosy Pipit, Japanese Murrelet, Isabelline Wheatear, White-throated Rock Thrush, and the Black Bittern. While some of these rarities are vagrants that lose their way or are pushed north by storms, others may be expanding their range for reasons like habitat loss and climate change. The data provided by the research teams can be important pieces of a bigger picture for bird researchers in the region.
  Kim lists habitat loss as the biggest issue facing migrating birds in Korea and indeed the world. A shameful example of habitat loss can be found on the west coast of mainland Korea. The Saemangeum tidal flat, once an integral stopover point for migrating seabirds, has been “reclaimed” (destroyed) by developers. Habitat loss on a smaller but no less harmful scale is also underway on the heavily tourist-orientated Marado as increasing numbers of tourists and the facilities that service them encroach on the small areas that remain suitable for birds.
  The issue of developers on Jeju tearing up natural habitat to make way for golf courses and tourist trails is a contentious one, as there needs to be a balance struck between profits and conservation. In the meantime, Kim and her small team will continue to sit amongst the dwarf pines on Marado, quietly building up critical data on Jeju’s smallest tourists.