Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bar-headed Goose!

Goose grounds
Getting his goose
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis (male)
Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis (female)
  Ok I know I just wrote about how twitching is a waste of time (something a dipper would say), go bird your patch blah blah - but it's ok if the twitch is in your patch...right? Got the news on Friday from Tim that Korea's second (or is it?) Bar-headed Goose had turned up in nearby Hadong, so of course on Saturday morning that's where I was. Dr. Moores, Jason, and Ha Jeong Moon also showed up, and we had a nice long look at the goose, while debating its possible origins. We then hit my patch in Suncheon to look for some interesting typhoon-blown terns (Gull-billed, Whiskered) I'd spotted recently. More on them in an upcoming post. We didn't see any terns, but ended up spending time with some lovely Yellow Bitterns, as well as a surprise pair of Greater Painted Snipes. Read the proper reports here: 
Jason's trip report 
Dr.Moores on Bar-headed Geese
  In other news, my obsessive quest for the mythical Watercock (ha ha) continues... 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Double-dipping Part 1 AKA Just Stick to Your Patch

Ferry to Nami Island
Tim, birding
Black Woodpecker holes...minus the Black Woodpeckers
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus Canus
Young Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos, begging
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
  Lured by the tantalizing prospect of potentially seeing five lifers (Ruddy Kingfisher, Black Woodpecker, Northern Boobook Owl, Eastern Tawny Owl, and Northern Scops Owl), I hauled my tired carcass up to Gapyeong, via Seoul, in the ungodly wee hours of June 27th. Just outside of town lies Nami Island, a lenticular wooded spot that is clogged with selfie-stick-wielding tourists. For some reason, the five aforementioned species, which are local and hard to see in Korea, regularly summer on the busy island.
  A key factor that contributed to my decision to brave the logistical morass that is Seoul was the prospect of meeting up with fellow Birds Koreans and all-around good eggs Tim and Subho. Seeing Tim again was a treat, and we had a grand old time bantering about birds, Koreans, and everything in between.
  The first sign of trouble on Nami was the conspicuous lack of Korean birding paparazzi. The rare and twitchable birds of Nami are like honey to the swarms of camouflaged Korean guys with massive lenses, no binoculars, and often questionable fieldcraft/ethics. We wandered through the gaudy crowds for hours in a vain effort to spot one of the island's rarities, but the grim reality was evident fairly soon on - I'd waited perhaps one or two weeks too long to head up there, and the young birds had apparently already fledged and left the island.
  Not wanting to admit defeat, I told Subho to stay home, said my goodbyes to Tim, and got a room in dumpy and unfriendly Gapyeong. I was up before dawn on the 28th, and headed up a promising mountain in the hopes of running into a Ruddy Kingfisher. Awesome dawn chorus, but nothing crazy. I then made my way back through Seoul and headed home.
  What's the moral of this tale of woe? Don't twitch. Stay home and explore your own patch. Visit promising spots repeatedly, even if there are no interesting birds on a given day. Look at Google Earth, and think like a bird. Every spot has interesting birds moving through it at some point. Go find them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Breeding Ashy Minivet update

female Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus (Gageo Island, May 2013)
  It would seem that my weekend sighting of juvenile (therefore a breeding record) Ashy Minivets is potentially not the first Korean summer/breeding record for the ROK - but it is at least the most recent, and at best "the first adequately-documented breeding record for the whole of the Korean peninsula!" Details, and plenty of them, can be found in the comments section under the report on the Birds Korea blog:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Return to Goheung, July 4-5, 2015 (Rare South Korean summer/breeding record for Ashy Minivet!)

Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata
juvenile Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
juvenile Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
  A return trip to Goheung has once more yielded some very interesting birds. Goheung is rich in a variety of habitats, ranging from mixed mountain forests, tidal mudflats, small sandy beaches, vast tracts of scrub-fringed rice fields, weedy reservoirs, and impressive stretches of reedbeds.
  The undoubted highlight of the trip was found after a 45-minute hike up a quiet mountain trail, amidst mixed deciduous/coniferous forest. The distinct trill of Ashy Minivets rang across a valley, and a dramatic scene was soon witnessed in glimpses through the dense foliage. Two Eurasian Jays seemed to be harrying at least two juvenile Ashy Minivets, while one, more probably two, adult birds flew back and forth repeatedly, calling urgently.
  This is apparently the first summer/breeding record for the ROK for close to 20 years. The call of the juvenile birds was weaker yet more urgent than that of the adults, which may explain the strange ‘minivet-like’ call I heard coming from a nearby valley on June 13th. This encounter brought to mind several Ashy Minivets heard calling on a mountain near downtown Suncheon on June 7th. Were these birds late migrants, or perhaps something else?
  Earlier in the day, while driving through a small town, a Black-capped Kingfisher was seen casually perched on wires by the side of the road. It eventually flew down to a wooded area near some rice fields. I had forgotten what large and impressive birds they were!
  As when I visited on June 13-14, the mountains were bustling with juveniles – young Great, Varied, Long-tailed, and Coal Tits, Eastern Crowned Warblers, Yellow-throated Buntings, and Pale Thrushes were all seen trying out fresh wings and skills. Two pairs of Black Paradise Flycatcher, and at least five Fairy Pittas were heard in the hills on that earlier trip, but not on this more recent visit. A tiny Ussuri Mamushi Pitviper was also seen along the mountain trail. At lower elevations, it was great to see seemingly very healthy summer populations of Chinese Sparrowhawk, Striated Heron, Black-naped Oriole, Oriental Dollarbird, Little Ringed Plover, and Meadow Bunting. Goheung is an exciting and special place to go birding – I will try to return as often as possible, as there is so much great habitat and potential there.