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.

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