Wednesday, February 8, 2012

White-bellied Green Pigeon - Looking for love in all the wrong places

female White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii (Jeju Island, March 20, 2010)
female White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii (Jeju Island, March 20, 2010)
female White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii (Jeju Island, March 20, 2010)  
  I count myself lucky for having seen this bird for several reasons.  Firstly - look at it, it's a spectacular bird!  This is the female, the male is similar, with chestnut/maroon scapulars.  The second reason is that it wasn't really supposed to be there.  Depending on who you ask, the species is either accidental, or a scarce migrant to South Korea, with less than 10 records a year here.  Less than five is probably more accurate. 
  The story of this particular bird is a fairly romantic one, or at least it is when I tell it (hopefully I've got my facts straight).  This female was thought to have been blown onto Jeju Island by a weather system a few years back, and ended up in the Halla Arboretum on the island's northern side. Scattered throughout the arboretum are trees with hard green berries that are favoured by the White-bellied Green Pigeon, but are by no means common in Korea.  The female stayed in the arboretum all summer, and presumably returned to southern China in the fall.  The next spring, local birders were surprised and pleased to find that the same bird had returned to the arboretum again, perhaps confused by the presence of its favourite tree.  Sadly, it was waiting for a mate that would never arrive, as a male has never been seen in the arboretum.
  Hearing of this tragic unrequited love story in 2009, I spent more days than I'd like to admit stumbling through the arboretum, neck craned upwards, looking for a relatively immobile green bird in an ocean of green trees.  Another reason I'm lucky to have finally seen it, I suppose.  That year I didn't see the White-bellied Green Pigeon, but I must have hallucinated it a few dozen times in the course of my fruitless wanderings.
  In the spring of 2010, I went back on Green Pigeon patrol, and spent a few more days moping listlessly through the arboretum, my birding spirits waning dramatically.  Then, one fine Saturday, I woke up knowing I would see the vaunted bird.  I again took the long and winding hour-long bus ride over the mountain from south to north, and headed to the arboretum.  Within five minutes, I was standing directly under a pigeon in a tree.  'Oh great, another Oriental Turtle Dove playing cruel games with me,' I thought.  I looked closer.  It was green.  I believe my hands started shaking (twitching, actually), and my brain shut down.  I stared at it blankly for about a minute with a simple grin on my face before I remembered the binoculars and camera that hung around my neck.  Definitely one of my top five birding moments!
  This female didn't return to the arboretum in 2011, and I'd like to think it's because it ran into a handsome male Green Pigeon somewhere, and not a handsome Peregrine...

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Matt teacher. I'm Logan. I saw your pictures. It was wonderful.

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