Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Gageo Island, April 30, 2019

Little Whimbrel Numenius minutus
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa melanuroides
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys

Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica
  Still cold and blustery in the early morning, but by late morning the sun finally returned. With the sun came the insects, and a redoubling of avian activity – wagtails cavorting with grasshoppers, buntings dogfighting with moths, and flycatchers...flycatching. I’ve noticed that Stejneger’s Stonechats are adept at finding caterpillars, which sustained them even during the cold snap – I haven’t seen any dead stonechats yet.
  I logged 88 species over eight hours, with seven new species noted: a breeding-plumaged Little Grebe in the harbour, a probable Ruddy-breasted Crake (quick views in a ditch near the dump, all clues point to this species), two Black-tailed Godwits at the mossy slab and another in 2-Gu, two Oriental Scops Owls calling from the hills on the way to 2-Gu, two quick looks at a lark that was possibly a Greater Short-toed Lark, a Mugimaki Flycatcher (love that name) near the power plant, and two Grey-capped Greenfinch at the pass.
  Nothing crazy in 2-Gu, besides an interesting variety of turdus thrushes, and loads of the most predominant migrants seen throughout my sojourn on Gageo – Olive-backed Pipits and Black-faced Buntings.
  Other interesting sights included four Striated Herons, at least four restless Chinese Pond Herons on the road up to the pass, three Japanese Quail in 2-Gu, a Little Whimbrel still around the dump, and an Oriental Dollarbird on the road to 2-Gu.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Gageo Island, April 29, 2019

White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 
Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
  More cold and wet weather overnight, so more dead birds littering Gageo-do. Unfortunately, one of the Taiga Flycatchers was found dead near the power plant, having succumbed to the cold and resultant lack of available insects. I saw it in the same area yesterday, lethargically searching for food. Many of the birds I saw along the trails today seemed similarly punch-drunk and not as wary as they need to be.
  With the rains and south-easterly winds, there was a clear-out of many of the birds that have been stuck in town for the past week, without much in the way of arrivals. The three new species noted around 1-Gu in the morning were two Little Whimbrels, a Rufous-tailed Robin, and a White-cheeked Starling. The Little Whimbrels, like their ‘full-sized’ cousin yesterday, were wandering around in the parking lot for the new quarry, perhaps wondering what had happened to the weedy gravel field they favoured in the old configuration of the quarry.
  The heavy rains began in earnest at about 10 a.m., forcing me to retreat inside for the day. I managed to get out briefly in the late afternoon for a quick rain recon, and found some new shorebirds at the mossy slab – four Terek Sandpipers, six Grey-tailed Tattlers, and a Mongolian Plover. Tomorrow promises no rain – maybe the larks and the Black Redstarts will show up?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Gageo Island, April 28, 2019

Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
male Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
  Dawn was grim, both weather-wise, and with the body count along the streets and trails of 1-Gu. Another cold night killed off a lot of migrants, many of which show up on Gageo exhausted, and with little fat stores. The inclement weather meant there were no flying insects to feed the birds, nor sun to warm them, which led to distressing scenes of dozens of dead and dying birds in some places. I know this is part of migration, but it hurt my sensitive heart to see birds immobile on the trail, heads tucked under their wings, surrendering to the elements and waiting to complete the final journey.
  I decided to check out the road to 3-Gu to see what was up there. At a small forest edge clearing, three doves flushed across the road – two Oriental Turtle Doves, and a smaller dove that was notable for the bold, solid colours and 'geometric' patterns on its upperparts. Red Turtle Dove! It split from the other two doves and dropped onto the slope next to the road. I managed to get a headless record shot of the bird as it sheltered from the stiff winds and rain, before it dissolved into the undergrowth.
  Also on this steep and winding road were a Eurasian Wryneck, at least 100 Tristram’s Buntings, and a personal first Oriental Dollarbird of spring.
  There was more shorebird variety around the mossy slab, including a Whimbrel that was wandering around the parking lot to the new and improved quarry, taking shelter under a truck at one point. The day's total was 84 species, my highest tally of spring so far. Tomorrow could be interesting, with rain and wind supposedly coming out of the south.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Gageo Island, April 27, 2019

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
  I was feeling groggy this morning, so what better way to wake up with an adrenal spine-shock than almost tripping over a Bluethroat at dawn, ten feet from the front door of my minbak. If I could bottle that feeling, I’d be set for life. Get your bottled Bluethroat at dawn here! Line up, make an orderly line!
  Siberian Blue Robins and Siberian Rubythroats continue at the edges of town, and another Common Rosefinch was seen at the top to the gully. There was the feeling of clear-out in the afternoon, and the lion's share of the swallows have moved on. Fingers crossed Monday’s forecast southerly winds change things up a bit here.

Gageo Island, April 26, 2019

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii
Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
Heat-seeking hirundine heap
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
  My knees were effed today – felt like my legs were slightly different lengths. In spite of crisp northerly winds, birds were moving to where they need to go, with noticeable turnover today, and 81 species logged. It was quite fresh at dawn, with temperatures hovering in the low single digits.
  The cold snap unfortunately resulted in quite a few dead birds, mostly Red-rumped Swallows. I’ve been finding dead birds every day, as I have in past springs, and it reminded me of the hugeness of what migration is, and why I want to be here to witness it. These birds travel massive distances twice a year, running the gauntlet of innumerable fatal threats, just to push their blood into the future. It’s a big deal.
  Notable at the mossy slab today were a Striated Heron, a Chinese Pond Heron, two Pacific Golden Plovers, a Kentish Plover, four Long-toed Stints, a Curlew Sandpiper, a Common Greenshank, and four Wood Sandpipers (two of which decided that Gageo was a good place to copulate). There were two probable Pintail Snipes and a Brown Shrike (singing a Bluethroat-like remix of mimicry) above the quarry.
  Other highlights included a Northern House Martin, two female Citrine Wagtails near the dump and a male on the other side of town, several Richard’s and Blyth’s Pipits (ten species of pipits and wagtails on the day), two male Taiga Flycatchers (with differing intensities of throat colouration) on the west side of 1-Gu, a first Grey-sided Flycatcher of the spring, and ten species of buntings. Several Oriental Turtle Doves have been seen every day – I don’t seem to recall seeing them on Gageo on 2013, but I’ll have to check my notes.
  The day ended with some late afternoon sunshine, which probably saved the lives of some swallows – there were disorderly, exhausted ranks of hirundines sunning themselves on every available horizontal surface in town.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Three shades of Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis tschutschensis (or…similima?)
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis macronyx
   All three 'common' subspecies were kicking around Gageo today.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Gageo Island, April 25, 2019

female Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
Black Wood Pigeon Columba janthina
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 
The sad fate of a Tsushima Smooth Skink Scincella vandenburghi
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica

  Bored with the same old birds in 1-Gu, I undertook the long walk to 2-Gu in the morning. As opposed to last week, when I had to drag my dead ass all the way up the hill, huffing and clutching my heart, I zipped up with no problem this time – once again, my legs have evolved into super-legs. No doubt my knees will be effed next week.
  It seemed that, in spite of the winds blowing from precisely the wrong direction, there was a decent arrival of new birds in the night. The cuckoos are back! After cresting the top of the steep switchback road out of 1-Gu, I first heard the eerie “Poo-poo poo-poo poo-poo” of the Oriental Cuckoo, followed shortly after by the Indian Cuckoo’s “Woop-woop-WOOP-wup.”
  At least eight Black Wood Pigeons were seen or heard on the road to 2-Gu, including one perching on a wire like some common city pigeon. The indignity.
  Not many birds recorded in Hangri Village itself, as the fog was so thick that effective visibility was often only at about 20 feet or so. A Brown-headed Thrush and a Chinese Blackbird were notable in the old stone-walled gardens, which are tended by some of the less than dozen or so elderly inhabitants of what is surely one of the most remote and archaic settlements in South Korea.
  On the way back, two more Common Rosefinch, and the beginning of the surge in the Olive-backed Pipits (400+) and Black-faced Buntings (at least 850). The latter species were everywhere, especially when I did an afternoon circuit of 1-Gu – there were several flushing from the trail at all times, from the quarry all the way up and around “Little Hokkaido” and into the upper village, with many more overhead, and many seen coming in off the sea. A noticeable arrival of Little Buntings (150+) was mixed in, and several more Yellow, Tristram’s, Yellow-browed, and Yellow-throated Buntings kicking around town, as well as single Chestnut and Chestnut-eared Buntings.
  A Common Kingfisher in the harbour still, and an uptick in Siberian Rubythroat (9) and Siberian Blue Robin (4) numbers. More White Wagtails noted too, with nine species of pipits and wagtails for the day including several Eastern Yellow Wagtails (both tschutschensis and taivana), a Richard’s Pipit, and a Citrine Wagtail.
  There was a huge influx of hirundines towards dusk, mostly Red-rumped Swallows, with at least 750, but possibly twice that number fluttering over town, or perched – I noticed that every wire in town was heavy with swallows as the skies darkened.
  The 68th and final species for the day was seen well after sunset, when I poked my head out of the bathroom window to spy on the hundreds of chattering swallows on the wires and came nose to bill with a Sand Martin, less than a foot away.

Gageo Island, April 23-24, 2019

Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus
Barn Swallow Hirundo Rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 
female Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope
male Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope
April 23, 2019
  A rainy day, but still with a species count in the mid-50s. A dawn foray was aborted after 45 minutes of heavy downpour that threatened to defeat the ad-hoc protective gear on my optics. The rain ebbed towards mid-day, allowing for two circuits of 1-Gu.
  Most of the birds of note continue, with seemingly little turnover. The winds were blowing out of the southeast for most of the day – still waiting on those southerlies. Tomorrow perhaps?
  “New” birds recorded in 1-Gu have most likely been around, but I hadn’t gotten around to seeing them yet. These include: a Japanese Quail above the quarry; a Wood Sandpiper on the mossy slab; several Asian House Martins; a skulky Eyebrowed Thrush; a Pale-legged (Or…Sakhalin?) Leaf Warbler; and a Rustic Bunting – the 11th bunting species I’ve logged on Gageo Island since arriving last week.

April 24, 2019
  The winds overnight were pumping up from the south until Jeju, where they took a sharp left hook, sweeping over Gageo from the east. My fingers were crossed as I headed out into Gageo’s harbor in the foggy dawn. By dawn, the winds were coming in from the west. Where are those southerlies? Way more Barn Swallows around today, with several hundred on patrol low over town. Some new arrivals around the mossy slab had me excited for turnover – three Black-winged Stilts, a Common Sandpiper, and a Chinese Pond Heron. Unfortunately, apart from these stronger-flying species, there were no new passerines around 1-Gu.
  Looking at the wind forecasts, seems like I’m in for much more of the same. Makes it kinda hard to wake up before dawn every day when I know I’m just going to see the same feathered faces. But I’m on Gageo in spring, so I ain’t complaining.
  In the afternoon, a noticeable uptick in Olive-backed Pipit numbers – with at least a hundred in 1-Gu, and several hundred in 3-Gu, in the north of the island. Also near the 3-Gu lighthouse were several Siberian Rubythroats and Siberian Blue Robins.
  A few more Yellow Buntings around, as well as a Common Kingfisher and another Common Rosefinch were seen in 1-Gu towards dusk.