Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hill Pigeon

Cheonansa Temple
Grey-rumped Loghry
Hills near Jirisan
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestri
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestri - flashing the diagnostic white subterminal band
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestri
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestri
  Loghry came up last weekend on short notice, so we birded the heck out of Saturday.  We hit Suncheon Bay hard in the morning, then impulsively decided to head an hour north to Cheonansa Temple - the only reliable place in South Korea to see the elusive Hill Pigeon.  We both had never seen one yet, with Loghry having dipped at Cheonansa before.  
  The temple was in a peaceful little spot perched in a quiet valley, echoing with the sounds of typical forest birds for this time of year.  We wandered around for about 10 minutes before we both froze at the sight of a grey blob perched under the eaves of a temple building.  Hill Pig!  Yeah, I call Hill Pigeons 'Hill Pigs' now, in an attempt to be cool.  When I see a Tree Sparrow, I just make a quick 'Trssp!' sound, because I don't want to be seen to make the effort to say the bird's actual name.
  Back to the Hill Pigs.  Yes, I know they may look very much like your average everyday city-type crumb-eating pigeons, but I assure they are so much more.  We saw only three on the day, and the maximum seen at that site is perhaps 18.  Which is 18 more Hill Pigeons than you're likely to ever see in Korea.  I believe they used to be much more widespread, but, like many species in this country, are having a hard time dealing with the voracious development that is steadily chewing up and shitting out the remaining wild and natural parts of Korea.  See all the birds now before they're gone.  Quick quick!
  A serene bird, the Hill Pigeons seemed to watch us back, sizing us up.  The white subterminal band on the tail is the giveaway, but after having stared at the field guides for years I was unprepared for the overall crisp elegance of the bird in the field.  From the gentle gradient of the maroon breast markings, to the clean metallic grey basecoat, the bird stands out.  Hill Pig!

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