Monday, February 4, 2019

Alpine Accentors in Seoul, February 2, 2019

Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris erythropygia

Insanely tame birds...
Alpine Accentor habitat
  It was my last chance for Alpine Accentors, maybe ever, and I really did not want to get up early and climb a mountain. More smog, and my knees still throbbed in complaint from the mountain they had endured just 48 hours earlier. Maybe I can sneak it in tomorrow, before the rain…no. Not gonna happen, it’s today or never. So I sucked it up and moped my way up a decent-sized mountain, and it wasn’t easy going. It was an exhausting two-hour slog up to the peak, especially the hectic final stretch, which featured extended sections where I had to pull myself up near-vertical inclines using a metal cord guardrail – it was straight out of TV Batman. I was telling myself to turn around with every creaky-kneed step, but I’m glad I didn’t quit.
  It was crazy windy at the top, and also very crowded with a final bottleneck of hikers trying to get that summit selfie. I loitered just below the peak for about 20 minutes, with no sign of my target bird. With my sweaty clothes starting to freeze up in the brutal winds, I reluctantly turned and started the long failure trek back down, but decided to wait around in the lee of the peak, where folks had gathered to snack and rest.
  Then they appeared. One chunky skylark-sized bird, and then another, materialized atop a boulder several feet above resting hikers. I skidded down to get a closer look, and didn’t need binoculars to see the exquisite lichen-and-granite plumage of a pair of aptly-named Alpine Accentors. They were so close I had to back up to get images! I watched the enigmatic birds feed and leap among the rocks for three minutes, and then it was over. Without warning, the birds flipped over the edge and dropped towards another peak. Guess I got lucky. One helluva species! Thanks to Tim Edelsten for the hot tip about this particular peak.
  The weird post-script is that my legs don’t hurt at all today. I think they’ve levelled up and have become some form of superlegs.

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