Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chuja-do, April 14-15, 2019

Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
female Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
male Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
(partially leucistic)
"Wryneck Road" down to the southern tip
"Path to Heaven" behind my minbak

  Great to get back to Chuja-do, a medium-small set of bridge-connected islands 2/3 of the way to the mainland from Jeju. I visited a few times back in my Jeju days, but those were day-trips in winter and summer, with just a superficial scouting of the lay of the land, so it was awesome to take a much deeper dive into the fruitful hills, especially in spring.
   At least 30 Streaked Shearwaters were seen from the ferry, which was quite large and had open deck access, so I could freeze my mitts off. Also, a loon sp., a thrush sp., and a Northern Boobook heading north low over the waves.
   I got dropped in the small town of Shinyang 1-Ri in the late afternoon, which I was not expecting, but decided to stay the night to explore the southeast section of the island (I ended up staying three!). I was the only guest in a huge minbak complex on the hill – it all felt very The Shining. The place, like many other facilities in town have that charming ‘brand-new-yet-falling-apart’ vibe going on.
   On a quick recon jaunt, the bushes in the lovely, quiet hills were heavy with birds! The most numerous migrants were Red-flanked Bluetail (120ish), Black-faced Bunting (70+), Brambling (65+), and Stejneger’s Stonechat (30+). Other migrants were seen in single-digit numbers, such as Asian Stubtail, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Narcissus, Blue-and-White, and Asian Brown Flycatchers, as well as Tristram’s and Little Bunting. Black-crowned Night Herons were heard after sundown. Of note, both Brown-eared and Light-vented Bulbuls inhabit the island, with the latter greatly outnumbered by the former.
  A full day in the field on the 15th – my eyebrows are bruised from binocular reps! A thorough circuit of Chuja’s southeastern headland for the entire morning, and some of the post-siesta afternoon. Again, every trail and path from sea-level to the hills was blanketed with Red-flanked Bluetails – easily over 600 were seen throughout the day. This is a well-estimated, if conervative number – there was one or more individual within sight at all times, and I was often flushing one off the trail every few seconds...that's over eight hours in the field. Still plenty of Black-faced Buntings (370+), Bramblings (140+), Stejneger’s Stonechats around the harbour (85+), and Asian Stubtails (40+).
   Also: A Chinese Blackbird was spotted just after dawn, but would not submit to being photographed; seven species of bunting were logged; no woodpeckers seen, but evidence of their existence is around; a Great Crested Grebe in the harbour; a dozen or so Ashy Minivets over the hills; several Dusky Warblers, Red-throated Pipits, and Grey-backed Thrush (I'd forgotten how blue they look in flight!) seen around town. While only one Great Tit was seen, small bands of Yellow-bellied Tits can be found in most corners of mixed hill forest.
  The habitat in and around Sinyang 1-Ri is a welcome example of ‘old school’ island habitat, with a mix of bamboo, conifer and deciduous trees in the hills, scruffy old gardens, small agricultural plots, and overgrown mountain trails. So much birding potential here! Accessible by ferry from both Jeju and the mainland, it’s a wonder more birders haven’t ended up here.

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