Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow birding on Geoje



Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica
  A heavy snowfall overnight painted a bright new landscape around my local patch, and there was plenty of interesting bird activity, with close to 60 species seen.  I saw a few personal Geoje firsts, some unexpected birds, and a lot of the birds seemed to be acting edgy and strange because of the snow.  ‘Hungrier’ all of a sudden, maybe.  I was stunned to see a Bull-headed Shrike locked in a life-or-death dogfight with a bite-sized Eurasian Wren, and they flew around me at close range before vanishing behind a group of trees.  Also acting uncharacteristically aggressive was a reddish Eastern Buzzard that was actively cruising the fields at low level, perhaps taking advantage of how visible small birds were against the snow.
  Most of the action was going on in a scrubby/reedy corner of a large set of fields.  Two Little Buntings (a personal Geoje first) were confiding in a ditch, while a Far Eastern Cisticola and Pallas’s Reed Bunting were a lot less open, skulking in the reeds.  A group of 25 Skylarks, not usually seen on this side of the island, shimmered nervously through the fields as a Northen Goshawk, Eastern Buzzard, and Eurasian Kestrel took turns making low passes over the field.  Also in the fields, a flock of close to 30 Chinese Penduline Tits, dozens of Buff-bellied and Olive-backed Pipits, and perhaps six Common Snipe.
  On the mountain trails, several Hawfinch (also a personal Geoje first), a confiding male Red-flanked Bluetail and later at least a half-dozen females.  I also ran into the resident small flock of Eurasian Bullfinch, made up of five females, a male rosacea, and a male ‘griseiventris-type’, which I photographed earlier in the week.
  The nearby canals and especially the harbour were teeming with winter bird activity.  Common and Black-headed Gulls outnumbered Black-tailed Gulls where the canal meets the harbour, and at least a hundred Great Crested Grebe formed loose rafts further out.  Also on the harbour, about 60 Common Pochard, and a handful of Greater Scaup, Tufted Duck, and Common Goldeneye.

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