Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Southern Peninsular Exploration - Goheung, June 13-14, 2015

Bikin n birdin once more
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Frog-eating Rat Snake (Red-backed Rat Snake/Chinese Garter Snake) Oocatochus rufodorsatus 
Young Barn Swallows Hirundo Rustica
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Varied Tit Sittiparus varius (juvenile - note the grey underparts - brown in adult birds)
 Several satellite-bearing rockets have been launched from Goheung, which has led to it being branded as a silly futuristic rocket-land. That image couldn’t be any further from the truth. Goheung is in fact the most ‘old-fashioned’ bit of mainland Korea I’ve come across. Very little development, and countless valleys filled with stepped rice fields fringed not with concrete ditches, but with wild and overgrown scrub. 
  I forgot to take pictures of the endless miles of pristine reedbeds as we drove by, because I was busy staring in open-mouthed awe. Forget Suncheon Bay, this is where the reeds are. Most of the reeds are inaccessible, for better or worse, but one can only imagine the hordes of sexy bitterns and rails skulking happily within. Did I mention all the mudflats, quiet beaches, mixed mountain forests, and scrubby fields? The habitat on Goheung was mind-blowing. Can’t wait to see what will be found there during migration.
  June is a magical time in Korea - the hills of Goheung were peeping with the sound of newly-fledged juveniles. Young Daurian Redstarts, Common Pheasants, Barn Swallows, Eastern Crowned Warblers, Long-tailed Tits, Varied Tits, Coal Tits, Yellow-throated Buntings, and Tree Sparrows were seen on this trip, in all their clumsy drabness.
  A complete lack of calling cuckoos in the area felt notable – up until last weekend most hilly areas were ringing with the calls of 2-4 species. The first species I heard after pulling in and shutting down was a Black Paradise Flycatcher – good start! Two pairs were heard, as well as at least five Fairy Pittas on the same mountain.
  Some species that I’m not used to seeing in Suncheon included three Little Ringed Plovers pacing a beach and nervously eyeing a menacingly-perched cat, a flyover pair of Mandarin Ducks, several Meadow Buntings, and a pair of Blue Rock Thrush.
  Also noteworthy were a pair of Tiger Shrikes, two Oriental Honey Buzzards, two Striated Herons, dozens of Cattle Egrets in various stages of breeding plumage, two Black-naped Orioles, three Chinese Sparrowhawks, a White’s Thrush whistling all night, and several plump Frog-eating Rat Snakes, which were lurking in rice fields teeming with tadpoles.
  At one point, while hanging out at a nice reedy patch at the base of some hills at dusk, I heard...’something’. There were Brown-eared Bulbuls shrieking away, so the aural waters were fairly muddy, but for one brief and quiet moment, I picked up a distant minivet-like trill coming from the hills that sounded more urgent and shrill than your average Ashy Minivet. I don’t even want to mention the name of the bird I think it most sounded like. Ryukyu Minivet. There, I did it. Or of course, it could have been nothing of the sort.
  In other news, I’m going back to Goheung this weekend.

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