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)

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