Sunday, January 27, 2019

Wrapping up the Jan – Gangneung, January 19-27, 2019

White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus
Far Eastern Skylark Alauda japonica (Count 'em!)
The ghost of a window strike
Raccoon Dog Nyctereutes procyonoides
(with mange on its hindquarters)
My stretch of the Namdaechon, on a lovely fresh morning
The fields of birdlessness
Beach-view caravans!
  On the 20th, a day with grand plans ended up feeling bird-quiet, in spite of tallying 55 species. I started up the coast at Sacheon and walked back to Gyeongpo Lake, then west from there. Nothing out of the ordinary, although a 100+ Rustic Bunting flock north of town was a nice sight. A blustry morning gave way to smog in the arvo.
  The whole town smelled of shit on the 23rd, and was smoggy as per usual. Halfway down the river, a Eurasian Bittern was spotted hiding from a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam of photographer vehicles, while a restless White-tailed Sea Eagle worked the sandbars nearby.
  Three days later, I embarked on my 70th birding session since arriving in Gangneung in mid-October. It was a lovely morning for a ‘big circuit’ of river and lake, with no smog, and a respectable skiff of snow on the ground. I’ve found birds act differently after a snow in certain spots in Korea – desperate, hungrier maybe. Perhaps the prey birds have their camouflage nullified by the snow, and the predators make the most of it.
  The Chinese Grosbeak flock was in place at their regular mid-river spot. Usually numbering about a dozen birds, it had swelled to 20, about two-thirds of which were males.
  Just as I was grumbling to myself about how I’d only seen Meadow Buntings once (way back in late October, north of town) in Gangneung, I heard a weak series of tsips in some scrub near the lake. Six Meadow Buntings! Booyeah! Maybe next time I’ll grumble to myself about Ryukyu Robins, heh heh. I ended up also tallying Little, Black-faced, Pallas’s Reed, and Yellow-throated (but no Rustic) Buntings, in thin numbers.
  Shortly after that, my presence triggered a large flight of Far Eastern Skylarks in the fields, which conservatively numbered 110. A mangy Raccoon Dog was then seen shambling along in an agricultural ditch. Every Raccoon Dog I’ve seen in Gangneung has been afflicted with mange to some degree.
  Where the fields surrender to apartment canyons, a sighting of the same crafty Northern Goshawk from a few weeks ago, again on stakeout in the same spot in a wide agricultural canal. The day ended with 57 species, seven of which were gulls.
  On the 27th, a trek through the fields that lie uncomfortably close to the airbase. I’ve seen interesting birds there in the past (Amur Falcon, Daurian Jackdaw, Common Starling, Pin-tailed Snipe), but it was super duper quiet.
  Tomorrow I’m up into the hills, and there are plans afoot for a grand vacation trip west, into the Monstropolis.

  In other news, remember that time I saw a Black Woodpecker? That was rad.

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