Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jeju, March 22-23, 2014

Scanning ducks at Seongsan
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides at Hado (very dark facial markings!)
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides at Mara-do (facial marking almost black...ciopsis?!)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Saunders's Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi
Frustrating uselessness at Hado
Mara-do, Jeju, March 22, 2014
  Largely the same feeling today on Mara when compared with last Saturday. The Oriental Plovers were missed, and a few new birds were noted, like Black-crowned Night Heron, Hoopoe, Eurasian Wren, Chinese Grosbeak and Eurasian Siskin. Distressingly, a large orange cat was seen prowling in the woods, the first time I’ve observed this. One can only imagine how many exhausted migrants this cat will kill in the coming weeks and months.

1. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
2. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax; three seen circling before settling in the tallest trees on the island
3. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
4. Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
5. Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
6. Hoopoe Upupa epops
7. Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
8. Great Tit Parus major
9. Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica
10. Barn Swallow Hirundo Rustica
11. Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone
12. Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus
13. Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes; one briefly seen at the edge of the woods
14. Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus
15. Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
16. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
17. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus; 30+ in the village
18. White Wagtail Motacilla alba
19. Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria; a flock of 12+ was restlessly roaming the island
20. Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
21. Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus; one heard
22. Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides; one individual with mostly black (as opposed to brown) head pattern – darkest I’ve seen on Jeju...
23. Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans; 20+ in the woods

Jeju north coast, March 23 (with Mike Balfour)

  Sunday saw calm and warm weather after a windy and smoggy week on Jeju. Definite signs of spring movement noted, with some birds seemingly early. We saw a total of 61 species today, at parks in Jeju City, at Hado, and Seongsan. In Jeju City, a crisp Grey-backed Thrush was a real treat to watch as it perched in a tree. Three Chinese Grosbeaks and plentiful Pale Thrush were also noted in this park.
  Near Seongsan, we stopped to look at gulls, and were surprised to see a Saunders’s Gull in summer plumage gracefully wheeling low to the water (a personal Jeju first). Very high overhead, three Cinereous Vultures circled on a thermal - probably Jeju’s strangely resident vultures.

  At Hado, we were glad to see seemingly healthy numbers and diversity of waterfowl, in spite of disruptive spraying and other showy/dubious AI (bird flu) countermeasures. The Black-faced Spoonbills that regularly overwinter at Hado, however, have stayed away, and some can be found near Seongsan at a far less ideal site located next to a new walking trail. A new viewing platform has been built much closer to the reservoir at Hado, and worryingly, a picnic gazebo – right at the water’s edge.
  Also at Hado, two more relatively dark-faced Meadow Buntings were seen. I’ve seen plenty of Meadow Buntings on Jeju over the years, but never with such dark facial markings. They also seemed to make a more ‘tingy’ insect-like call than I’m used to. How closely related to Japanese Ciopsis Meadow Buntings are Jeju’s Meadow Buntings? Read Dr. Nial Moores’ excellent ID notes here:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mara-do, Jeju, March 15, 2014

Mara Island - the furthest south you are going to get in South Korea without swimming
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus
Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas
1.       Arctic Loon Gavia arctica; 20+ near Sagye harbour
2.       Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas; five from the ferry (early?)
3.       Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus; 90+ near the ferry harbour at Sagye
4.       Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus; two confiding males in partial breeding plumage
5.       Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
6.       Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus; five from the ferry, two in breeding plumage
7.       Eurasian Magpie Pica pica; three individuals around the village
8.       Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica; 15 or more resting in the short grass, ‘chirruping’ quietly, unlike their counterparts nearby on Jeju proper, that were in full song in the fields
9.       Barn Swallow Hirundo Rustica; only one seen over the island
10.   Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone
11.   Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus; 10+ in the small woods at the island’s centre
12.   Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni
13.   Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus
14.   Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
15.   Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
16.   White Wagtail Motacilla alba; two leucopsis
17.   Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi
18.   Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica; eight in the woods

+Belated Seogwipo Bird News
At ‘Redpoll Hill’, a brief sighting of a Yellow-browed Warbler on March 4th was followed by a much better listen/look at three individuals on March 13th. On the same day, a single Goldcrest was seen (my first Goldcrest on Jeju in 3+ years), and several Tristram’s Bunting still. Also, a possible Black Wood Pigeon – a large dark pigeon clacked its wings loudly as it took off, then flew strongly through the canopy. On March 14th, I spotted my first Barn Swallows of the year, just east of town. I watched 30+ swooping over an artificial pond for an enjoyable 20 minutes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Other bits and bobs from the past couple of weeks

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria
Arctic Loon (Black-throated Loon) Gavia arctica
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor
  I've been roaming the hills and coasts of late in an effort to find new habitat. When I lived on Geoje it took me almost a year before I found some great spots, and I'm kicking myself for that. Seogwipo has some decent areas of habitat, but I've found them to be less birdy than they've been in the past. This may be down to increased disturbance due to tourism. Local officials have been chasing the almighty Chinese tourism dollar lately, with developers putting up anything they can, anywhere they can. I constantly find myself driving around saying 'THAT wasn't there two years ago,' about a never-ending series of cafes, hotels, and the construction sites that spawned them. So I'll search higher in the hills, and further down the coast, in the hopes there's some undisturbed habitat left somewhere.

Seogwipo, Jeju, March 1-2, 2014

Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Tristram's Bunting Emberiza tristrami
  There were some unsolved avian riddles, as well as early signs of spring, on a rainy then sunny weekend. On the same hill where a Common Redpoll was seen two weeks ago, I encountered at least six Tristram’s Buntings skulking in the scrub. I’ve never seen Tristram’s in the winter - could they be outlandishly early migrants? Also of note were Japanese Bush Warblers in full song, and almost a dozen Long-tailed Tits (I’m still unsure how to separate trivirgatus and magnus Long-tailed Tits) in a nearby gully. Small groups of Olive-backed Pipits and Grey-capped Greenfinch moved through the woods and forest edge in several spots. 
  In the city, I’ve noticed a group of about a dozen White Wagtails noisily moving from the rooftops to one particular large roadside tree, daily just before dusk over the past week. Do White Wagtails communally roost?
  In a park in town it seems like Mandarin Duck and Spot-billed Duck (small numbers of Spot-billed do spend the summer on Jeju) numbers have thinned out considerably. Another sign of an early spring? Grey Wagtails and Red-flanked Bluetails can also be found in Seogwipo’s parks.