Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Historical post" - Ilsan and Deokjeok-do, May 2008

left: Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica  middle: Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta  right: Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia
left: Tristram's Bunting Emberiza tristrami  right: Chestnut Bunting Emberiza rutila
left: Rufous-tailed Robin Luscinia sibilans  right: Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
My secret little patch on the mountain, great for migrants
 Jeongbalsan, Ilsan, May 10, 2008
  The steady trickle of migrants and visitors to my ‘secret quiet forest edge’ on Jeongbalsan continues. Asian Brown Flycatchers are the most abundant species of late, with about a dozen seen, and many others heard. Two Grey-streaked, several female Mugimaki, a male Blue-and-white, and two male Yellow-rumped Flycatchers were also seen busily feeding. Yellow-browed Warblers were also present in strong and vocal numbers, and several Asian Stubtail were heard but not seen. Three Rufous-tailed Robins were seen, and several others were heard. A male Chestnut Bunting was seen near some Tristram's and Black-faced Buntings. Black-naped Orioles have returned to Jeongbalsan, mewling loudly from the treetops. Also seen was a Brown Shrike and an Eyebrowed Thrush.

2012 thoughts: This was my last birding session in Ilsan before I left for Australia. I thought I was never coming back to Korea, but I was wrong! I got to my spot, sat on a log, and waited about 15 minutes. I was soon surrounded by some great migrating buntings and flycatchers, and the Rufous-tailed Robins and Brown Shrike were a nice surprise.

left: Chestnut-cheeked Starling Sturnus philippensis  right: Korean Bush Warbler Horornis borealis (formerly 'Cettia canturians borealis')
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
left: Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla  right: Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Deokjeok generations
The old lady in the hills - there's a chapter about her in my book, which, sigh, will come out one day

Her neighbourhood
Bijonbong Mountain, seen from Soppo-ri
 Deokjeok-do, May 3-5, 2008
  A weekend of mixed rain and sun on Deokjeok-do. The highlight was watching a male Chestnut-cheeked Starling that appeared to be catching insects from its perch on an antenna for 20 minutes, right outside the window of the minbak that I was staying in. At least a dozen Yellow-throated Buntings were mingling with a similar number of Tristram’s and Black-faced Buntings. Several Korean Bush Warblers sang loudly from hidden perches the whole weekend. At one point one defended its perch from an Olive-backed Pipit
  A Eurasian Hobby was harassing a large flock of Barn Swallows. Ten Cattle Egrets followed a tractor as it plowed a rice field, while several Little Buntings fed at the edge of the same field. Also seen were a dozen Chinese Grosbeaks, a Common Kingfisher, a Black-naped Oriole, abundant Grey Wagtails, a male Chinese Sparrowhawk, a Little Egret, and several Blue Rock Thrushes engaging in courtship displays. The only shorebirds seen were four Eastern Oystercachers.

Hindsight from 2012Another weekend of solid birding on Deokjeok island! One of my favourite moments came when I was up in the hills, sitting on a concrete ledge for 30 minutes, trying to decipher a noisy and furtive bird. An old Korean lady watched me from a distance for a while, then came over and offered me some hard candy that was possibly older than she was. I showed her some pictures of the birds I’d seen that day, and we had a lovely non-conversation about birds for about ten minutes.
  My highlight was the Chestnut-cheeked Starling right outside my window. My girlfriend at the time was actually the one who spotted it and alerted me, and she never let me hear the end of it! Watching Cattle Egrets at close range as the sun went down was another one of those great birding moments. Deokjeok-do, about a 45-minute ferry-ride west of Incheon, clearly has some good migrants moving through in the spring and fall. However, as with most great birding spots in Korea, it looks like rampant development is steadily encroaching on the suitable habitat, with a wide array of construction projects underway in various parts of the island.

Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Jeongbalsan, Ilsan, May 1, 2008
  I have been taking advantage of long lunch breaks and great weather to observe a steady trickle of great migrants and visitors on a quiet area of Jeongbalsan this week. There is a great mix of grass, reeds, scrub, forest edges, drainage ditches, and a variety of trees in this area. Many of the birds were only observed on one day only.
  At least a dozen Asian Brown Flycatchers called high in the treetops. Startling to watch was a female Common Kestrel in the process of making a kill – it appeared to be a passerine with some yellow plumage, perhaps a Black-faced Bunting. A pair of mating Grey-headed Woodpeckers was seen, and many others were heard calling noisily in the forest. Many vocal and active Common Pheasants were seen and heard at the forest’s edge. A mystery owl was seen perched in a tree. Highlight for the day was an unmistakable male Siberian Thrush, seen briefly skulking at the forest’s edge.

Notes from 2012: Catching the Kestrel in the process of making a kill was an intense experience. I was only 20 feet away, crouching behind a small ridge, observing some buntings. Something blacked out the sun for a second, and then ‘Poof!’, a flurry of feathers and wings. That got my heart beating!
  My encounter with the Siberian Thrush rates highly on my list of photographic failures. I was sauntering around the forest edge, and came around a bend when I literally almost stepped on a stunning male Siberian Thrush (another lifer!). It scuttled a few feet away from me, and we looked at each other for about six slow-motion seconds. I slowly raised my camera, took a picture, and it flew off into the woods. The lighting was perfect, with the sun at my back, and the range was ideal for an excellent picture. Of course, I was so nervous, I basically forgot to focus. I got a great shot of a black blob with a white smudge of an eyebrow. Argh.

(*Note: This is a “historical post.” Whereas I started birding in Korea in 2005, this blog has only been active since early 2012 - these posts are an attempt to consolidate my early birdventures from the various blogs and websites where they reside, largely from the “Archived Bird News“ section of Birds Korea’s excellent website: Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.
  For this post, most of images are lamentably poor-resolution screensaves, as many of the original photo files were lost in the infamous computer crash of 2011.)