Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gageo odds n ends

female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris
Little Whimbrel (Little Curlew) Numenius minutus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
male Black Paradise Flycatcher (Japanese Paradise Flycatcher) Terpsiphone atrocaudata
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys
female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia
male Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
Brambling Coelebs montifringilla
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus
  I'm just sorting through endless masses of images from the past month. I took too many pictures. Here, in no particular order, are a few more highlights of the spring migration on Gageo I witnessed between April 25 and May 12. I'm working on tweaking up my detailed Gageo review.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gageo Island - April 25-May 6

female Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
male Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
female Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
Warbling (Japanese) White-eye Zosterops japonicus
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
female Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane
male Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope Calliope
Rufous-tailed (Swinhoe's) Robin Larvivora sibilans
Here's my first Gageo report, very belated:

Bird News from Matt Poll and Robin Newlin (04/29 - 05/4)
  It’s been an amazing week and a half on Gageo, and it was great to bird with the inimitable Robin Newlin again. I’ve learned a lot from him over the past week, and from my mistakes as well – Gageo in spring can be an overwhelming place fresh off the boat!
  The variety of migrants has been wonderful - 7 species of wagtail and pipit, 8 species of thrush, 7 species of flycatcher, and 10 species of bunting have given us a lot to look at and take in.
  Highlights have come in the form of Black Redstart (one male at the trash tip April 26-28, one female in 1-gu village May 2), White-breasted Waterhen (one at the ravine April 26), Oriental Plover (one in the quarry April 29), Grey-headed Lapwing (two in the fields above the ravine April 29-May 2), and White-shouldered Starling (May 6 in the same fields). Also of note was a female Yellow-bellied Tit seen by Robin Newlin in the fields above the ravine on May 2.
  Personal highlights have included long-awaited Chinese Blackbird (at the ravine May 1) and Black-capped Kingfisher (May 4), and daily views of such species as Siberian RubythroatSiberian Blue RobinNarcissus FlycatcherJapanese Yellow Bunting, and roiling flocks of shreeping and confiding Ashy Minivet
  The weather was rainy when I got here, leading to the largest species count (72) the next day, but since then it’s been unfortunately quite sunny and calm, with relatively few new birds in lately. Hopefully the rains forecast for the end of the week will dump some migrants on this charming little island. Over the past several days I noticed some Grey Heron, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, and Chinese Grosbeak coming in off the sea, and there were some new and exhausted Black-Crowned Night Heron around. Perhaps the strong-flying vanguard of an impending fall of migrants? There was a rufous-tailed feeling to Sunday’s new arrivals, with Rufous-tailed Robin and Tristram’s Bunting being suddenly widespread. 
I’ve been keeping detailed daily counts, and I’ll post these along with any other highlights at the end of my Gageo sojourn.
Species counts April 25-May 5: 48, 72, 64, 54, 47, 58, 50, 50, 42, 62, 57 (Gageo total: 111)

Birdathon - Gageo Island, May 11, 2013

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax looking haggard
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor - a Gageo first?
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus - in winter plumage still
Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis
Black Paradise Flycatcher (Japanese Paradise Flycatcher) Terpsiphone atrocaudata
Red-billed Starling (Silky Starling) Spodiopsar sericeus
Tristram's Bunting Emberiza tristrami
  Trying hard to catch up! Here's my report from the birdathon on May 11th:

  Hazy sun and very hot – the long hike to 2-Gu village at midday was probably a bad idea! Some new arrivals like Black-Faced Spoonbill at mossy slab (a Gageo first?), a Black Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Cuckoo, Goldcrest, as well as at least a dozen new Mugimaki Flycatchers on the way to 2-Gu village, a new arrival of Brown Shrikes, and a sizeable group of Yellow Wagtails at 2-Gu cliffs were good signs of migration on Gageo. I recorded 69 species today which was my second highest total on Gageo, and probably a result of yesterday’s drizzle.
1.     Black-faced Spoonbill – 1 at mossy slab (apparently a Gageo first)
2.     Black-crowned Night Heron – 1 exhausted individual near quarry
3.     Chinese Pond Heron – 2 including one still in winter plumage
4.     Eastern Cattle Egret – 8
5.     Grey Heron – 5
6.     Intermediate Egret – 12
7.     Temminck’s Cormorant – 3
8.     Western Osprey – 1 in 1-Gu harbour
9.     Eurasian Sparrowhawk – 1
10.   Peregrine Falcon – 1
11.   Greater Sand Plover -1 at mossy slab
12.   Latham’s Snipe -2 
13.   Marsh Sandpiper – 1 near quarry
14.   Terek Sandpiper – 1
15.   Common Sandpiper – 3
16.   Black-tailed Gull - 6
17.   Black Wood Pigeon – 2 in hills above 1-Gu
18.   Oriental Turtle Dove – 1
19.   Lesser Cuckoo – 1 heard from 1-Gu hills
20.   Common Cuckoo – 1 heard from 1-Gu hills
21.   Oriental Scops Owl – 1 heard from 1-Gu hills
22.   Pacific Swift – 12 +
23.   Oriental Dollarbird – 3
24.   Black-capped Kingfisher – 1 near trash tip
25.   Ashy Minivet – 5
26.   Brown Shrike – 6 spread out around 1-Gu, probably new in
27.   Black (Japanese) Paradise Flycatcher -1 rufous-mantled male just above 1-Gu village
28.   Eurasian Magpie – 3 around 1-Gu village
29.   Japanese Waxwing – 2 at gully
30.   Varied Tit – 1 on the road to 2-Gu
31.   Light-vented Bulbul – 4
32.   Brown-eared Bulbul – 10
33.   Sand Martin -1 in 2-Gu
34.   Barn Swallow – 40+
35.   Red-rumped Swallow – 30+
36.   Japanese Bush Warbler – 8 heard
37.   Asian Stubtail – 1
38.   Dusky Warbler – 1
39.   Yellow-browed Warbler – 6
40.   Pale-legged Leaf Warbler – 4
41.   Eastern Crowned Warbler – 4
42.   Oriental Reed Warbler –4
43.   Japanese White-eye – 6
44.   Goldcrest – 1 at ‘big halfway tree’ on road to 2-Gu
45.   Red-billed Starling – 1
46.   Brown-headed Thrush – 1
47.   Siberian Blue Robin -1
48.   Rufous-tailed Robin – 2
49.   Stejneger’s Stonechat – 2
50.   Blue Rock Thrush – 4
51.   Grey-streaked Flycatcher – 11
52.   Asian Brown Flycatcher – 20+
53.   Yellow-rumped Flycatcher – 2
54.   Narcissus Flycatcher – 7
55.   Mugimaki Flycatcher – perhaps 12 (males and females) on the road to 2-Gu, probably fresh in
56.   Eastern Yellow Wagtail – 40+, including a group of perhaps 30 at 2-Gu village cliffs
57.   Grey Wagtail – 9
58.   White Wagtail – 3
59.   Richard’s Pipit – 4
60.   Olive-backed Pipit – 5
61.   Red-throated Pipit – 2
62.   Brambling – 1 in 2-Gu
63.   Chinese Grosbeak – 7 around gully
64.   Eurasian Siskin – 65+ including one interestingly marked with a bright orange chin
65.   Tristram’s Bunting – 7
66.   Little Bunting – 3 in 2-Gu
67.   Chestnut Bunting – 1 in 2-Gu
68.   Yellow Bunting – 1 in 2-Gu
69.   Black-faced Bunting – 20+

Friday, May 24, 2013

Migration is over

  Well, not really, but my epic month-long birding adventure in the Yellow Sea is. I have a lot to blog about. Soon. Many great birds and greater people encountered, all against the varied backdrops of scenic and far-flung Mokpo, Gageo-do, Gunsan, Yubu-do, Eocheong-do, Seoul, and last but definitely not least Baengnyong-do.
  My eyes are hollow and my body is weary from endless crappy meals, early mornings and unfeasibly long walks, but my heart and mind (and Korea list!) are bursting with happiness and satisfaction.
  I finally got to witness spring migration on the Yellow Sea islands! Cheers.
  Time for a shower.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Korea First: Ryukyu Minivet - Pericrocotus tegimae, Gageo Island, May 9, 2013

Ryukyu Minivet Pericrocotus tegimae
  I spotted this minivet two days ago, and it struck me as different from the presently abundant Ashy Minivets. It turns out it is a male Ryukyu Minivet. This is a noteworthy record because it represents the first confirmed sighting of a Ryukyu Minivet for South Korea.

(2017 Edit: Here is the write-up I was asked to do for a Korean ornithological journal:)

Gageo-do, May 9, 2013
  May 9th, 2013, was mostly rainy on Gageo with moderate southwesterly winds – a good sign after several unproductive birding days, featuring sunny weather and strong southerly winds. ‘New’ birds spotted in 1-Gu that day included five Japanese Waxwings, two of which were seen coming in off the sea from roughly the southwest. Other personal Gageo firsts in 1-Gu that day were a Yellow-throated Bunting and a Red-billed Starling. I spotted a total of 54 species on three circuits of 1-Gu on May 9, compared to just 35 species on May 8.
  In the early afternoon (about 1:30 pm) I was walking through an area of Gageo 1-Gu just south of the main school. This hilly area had been highly productive for birds over the previous two weeks, with a good mix of trees, gardens, scrub and grasses at the edge of town. As I came out from behind a small grove of trees, I saw a minivet as it flew from one tree to another right in front of me, at a distance of about 15 feet. I quickly got a binocular view as it preened and looked around, about nine feet off the ground, just under the treetops. Although I’d seen many Ashy Minivets in the area, this minivet immediately struck me as different. The dark grey head and extensive greyish wash through the breast were the most striking features I noted in the field, and I felt I was possibly looking at a male Ryukyu Minivet.
  I got several quick record shots before it flew off, but unfortunately I didn’t hear it call. Based on the quick view I got, I felt I had something quite interesting, so I went back to my minbak and examined the images. I compared them closely to field guides and internet images of Ryukyu Minivet and Ashy Minivet. I was fairly confident it was a male Ryukyu Minivet, based on the grey breast and the markings on the head – the white line below the eye, relatively narrow white supercilium, and overall dark grey colour on the head, as opposed to light grey on a female Ashy Minivet. After sending the images to Dr. Nial Moores (Director of Birds Korea), as well as Dr. Yusuke Umegaki and Yoshiki Watabe (Japanese bird researchers with field experience of the Ryuku Minivet), they confirmed the bird as a male Ryukyu Minivet, a species which has been expanding its range in recent years.
  While this sighting of the Ryukyu Minivet was the first adequately documented record for the ROK, the species has been previously suspected:
1. Four minivets heard at Geoje Island on June 4th 2002 (Nial Moores, Kim Su-Kyoung) were considered to have possibly been of this species.
2. One presumed individual seen, Geoje Island, June 19th-21st 2003 (Nial Moores)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gageo update

  I have been on lovely little Gageo for two weeks now, and it's been an education! More of a boot camp, really. Spring migration in the Yellow Sea is pretty spectacular!
  I've had about a dozen lifers, and great views of birds that are not normally easy to come by in Korea. I managed to get a report in to Birds Korea, but was unable to get my laptop connected or blogger working on the ancient computer in the post office, so for now you can find it by going to
  I'm hoping to get a lot more stuff up when I hit the mainland on Sunday.
  It's been relatively quiet here for the past week, bird-wise, but tomorrow's rains ought to bring some interesting stuff in!