The Sunbird Winter Tour
This was the first winter tour to South Korea by a recognized tour company, Sunbird/Wings. Led by Paul Holt and NM, and organized ("ground agented") in the main by bird researcher/ fellow Wetlands and Birds Korea founder KIM Su-Kyung, the group contained some 14 birders, all of whom were experienced travelers, and most of whom had been on Sunbird tours (with Paul) before. Of course, although tired on arrival, all were hungry to see Baikal Teal and other winter specialties… Wrapped in multiple layers, the group therefore hurriedly headed out of the airport into the waiting bus (leaving one set of baggage to continue on its journey towards an unknown destination….). Expecting an arctic wasteland, all were struck by how modern and developed South Korea has become…and also by how mild it was!
Although many winters can be really severe by December (with night temperatures down to –20C), December 2001 was extraordinarily mild, and our tour started with sunshine and temperatures soaring to a relatively balmy 8c most days (even reaching 14c on ‘sub-tropical’ Jeju on the 11th). Not only unseasonably high temperatures, Jeju island and its magnificent Mt. Halla, also produced the only heavy rain, not snow, of the tour on 11th (made no better by my constant efforts to encourage the group with, "well, this is the wettest part of Korea"). From 13th onwards, temperatures become a little closer to the norm, with e.g. night-time minima below freezing and day time highs of 2-3 C, with significant wind-chill produced by ‘lazy’ winds from 13th onward (i.e. winds that go right through clothing and the birder they contain as they are too lazy to go around…). By the 16th and 17th the weather was again calmer, and sunny, and the thin veneer of snow on the ground at Gwangneung finally allowed some of the group to break in their specially purchased Arctic-resilient snow-boots…
The trip (food especially apart…river snail soup anyone?), was largely a great success, and we recorded ca 160 species in just 12 days, including the much-wanted Black-faced Spoonbill, Swan and Lesser White-fronted Goose, Baikal Teal (with one flock of 265 000 plus an outstanding highlight!), Scaly-sided Merganser, Steller’s Sea Eagle, three species of Crane, Relict and Saunders’s Gulls, Japanese Waxwing, Siberian Accentor and Daurian Jackdaw. Of even greater interest (perhaps) for Korean bird specialists, the combination of very mild temperatures and concentrated expertise also led to the apparently first Korean winter records of Dusky Warbler and Red Knot, as well as highly unexpected Far Eastern Curlew, Red-necked Stint and vagrant Dark-throated Thrushes (the first in a record-breaking series in the winter 2001/2002).
The tour, traveling by rented 25-seater bus, with a domestic flight from Gunsan to Jeju back to Mokpo, covered much of the country, from the colder north-west, to the mild south and south-east, moving through the key birding habitats: tidal-flats, rivers, lakes and rice-fields, mountain forest and the sea coast, as outlined in the table below.
Staying at carefully selected motels near the best birding sites, the itinerary was arranged to cut out waste time and to ensure 2-3 chances of looks at most of the really wanted species (Baikal Teals are fairly nomadic and highly intolerant of disturbance, for example, and can easily be flushed several tens or even hundreds [!], of kilometers from favored areas by photographers or farmers, leaving the best sites deserted). Some small measure of flexibility was therefore built in just in case…. Most traveling took place during evening time, to maximize time in the field, though especially due to extremely heavy traffic "near" Seoul this meant a very late arrival some nights into our motel. However, the road system in Korea is now largely very good, and the distances from north to south are of course much smaller than in neighboring China and Japan (only 450 km, or 5.5 hours by expressway from Seoul to Mokpo), with good service stations and birding stops along the way!
This itinerary, originally developed specially for Sunbird, is being further refined for future WBKbirding tours (http://www.wbkenglish.com, tours), based on increasing data and experience.
Please note: the spelling system is under revision
in Korea, leading to inconsistencies in spelling within this report and
throughout our website. Generally, places with a "K" should now be spelt
with a "G", "P’ with "B’", "Ch" with "J" and "T" with "D". Where confusion
might arise, we have temporarily maintained an older spelling system (e.g.
retaining Saemankeum, not using the more correct Saemangeum).
|December 6||Yeongjong airport – Han-Imjin River (river, rice-fields). North-west.||Swan Goose: ca 500
Cinereous Vulture: 90
White-naped Crane: 3
|December 7||Ganghwa Island (rice-fields, tidal-flat, woodland edge). North-west,||Red-crowned Crane: 4
Siberian Accentor: 4
Dark-throated Thrush: 3+
|December 8||Song Do tidal-flats – Seosan Lakes
(tidal-flats; massive reclamation lakes and rice-fields). Northwest - west.
|Far Eastern Curlew: 1
Relict Gull: 2
Saunders’s Gull: 643
|December 9||Seosan Lakes
|Oriental White Stork: 3
Steller’s Sea Eagle: 1
Eastern Imperial Eagle: 1
Hooded Crane: 45
|December 10||Geum River: Saemanekum
(Reclamation lake, rice-fields and estuary edge)
|Oriental White Stork: 1
Lesser White-fronted Goose: 2
Daurian Jackdaw : 15
|December 11||Jeju Island (woodland, coastal
lagoons, offshore islands)
|Black-faced Spoonbill: 15
Mandarin Duck: 480
|December 12||Jeju Island am; pm Haenam
(woodland, reclamation lakes, rice-fields)
|Baikal Teal: 265 000 +
White-backed Woodpecker: 1
White’s Thrush: 3
|December 13||Dangjin R.-Suncheon Bay
(small river, tidal-flats, reedbed, rice-fields)
|Long-billed Plover: 3
Hooded Crane: 20+
|December 14||Joonam Reservoirs
(reservoirs, rice-fields, orchards, woodland edge).
|White-naped Crane: 9
Baikal Teal: 15 000
|December 15||Guryongpo area
(rocky seacoast, wood edge)
|Harlequin Duck: 12
Ancient Murrelet: 10
Japanese Wagtail: 2
|December 16||Guryongpo – Andong area
(rocky seacoast, scrubby areas, inland reservoirs and river, woodland edge)
|Scaly-sided Merganser: 7|
|December 17||Gwangneung Arboretum
|Solitary Snipe: 6
Japanese Waxwing: 15
|December 18||Group’s return flight to UK and US.|
Annotated Species List
This list aims both to provide a record our tour’s observations, and an indication of the status of many of these species in Korea in winter, to assist birders in their preparations.
Numbers given are at times different to those recorded
in the nightly Sunbird log held by staff Paul Holt.
Pacific Diver Gavia pacifica Usually the commonest or second commonest diver, with occasionally tens off Guryongpo. Only 1, on 15th at Guryongpo.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis poggei. This pale-eyed subspecies is widespread in Korea, with our peak of 40 recorded on Jeju.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. Relatively widespread, with a peak of at least 30 on the 8th
Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus. A scarce bird in Korea, and only 2 were recorded, both at Seosan.
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. Often found in flocks of several hundred at Guryongpo, we recorded only 50+ there on 15th, with smaller numbers elsewhere.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo haneda/sinensis. Found in both estuarine and coastal areas (e.g. on Jeju) this is a rather local species in Korea, with largest concentrations (2-3000) in the Nakdong estuary. Our peak was only 50+ in the Han River.
Temminck’s Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus. This species is effectively confined to marine habitats, rocky shores and offshore islands. 10 at Guryongpo.
Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus. Often found in smaller numbers than Temminck’s, we recorded 3-4 at Guryongpo.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. A common and widespread species.
Great Egret Egretta alba alba. Recorded most days, with a peak of 40 on the 8th and 14th. The much smaller modesta is much commoner in summer, with only small numbers over-wintering.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Widespread, particularly in the south. Maximum of 5 on 10th and 16th.
Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra. Dark-phase birds (white phase have apparently not yet been reliably recorded in Korea) are common on Jeju and other smaller offshore islands. 9 on the 11th.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax. Reasonably widespread in Korea. 6 incongruously roosting next to frozen fields and ditches on Ganghwa, and 10 at Seosan were the peak counts.
Northern Bittern Botaurus stellaris. Local and scarce in Korea. 1 at Haenam.
Oriental White Stork Cyconia boyciana . One of the group’s main target species. Most years ca 20 winter in Korea (out of a world population of ca 2 500). 3 at Seosan, followed by one flying over the road at the Geum estuary. .
Eurasian Spoonbill Platelea leucorodia. Probably 100 over-winter nationwide, the majority on freshwater habitats. 21 at Seosan, 1+ on Jeju and 3 at Joonam.
Black-faced Spoonbill Platelea minor. Effectively confined to brackish or saltwater wetlands, most (all?) of the world population of this species (a mere 850) breed in the Yellow Sea off Korea, but very few over-winter at just 2-3 sites. We recorded at least 15 at Seongsan Po on Jeju.
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. Peak of 500+ on the 14th at Joonam.
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus (jankowskii). Apparently highly irregular in numbers in Korea. Searching through geese and ducks left little time for checking swans…only 6 were recorded at Joonam.
Swan Goose Anser cygnoides. This fast declining species, wintering mostly in China, now has a population of probably only 30 000. Over 1 000 of these were at the Han 1 week before the tour arrived. About 500 were still present on the 6th. Also, 1 seen well at Seosan on the 9th, and 4 poorly on the Geum.
Taiga Bean Goose Anser (fabalis) middendorffi. Locally distributed, about 6 000 or so winter in Korea. We recorded at least 900 on the 14th at Joonam.
Tundra or Thick-billed Bean Goose Anser (fabalis) serrirostris. Generally probably the most numerous goose in winter in Korea, our group recorded 500 on the Han and about 7 000 in the Seosan area
Pacific Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons frontalis. Very widespread, with ca 15 000 recorded during the 12 days. Peak was 8 000 on the Han-Imjin.
Lesser white-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. Most of the world’s remaining Lesser White-fronts (ca 16 000 –18 0000) winter at one lake complex in China. In Korea, they are a scarce winterer, with probably 10-50 annually. Two at the Geum river, and one probable in Haenam.
Greater Snow Goose Anser caerulescens. Two at Ganghwa.
Black Brant Branta nigricans (orientalis?) A scarce winter visitor to Korea, found regularly at only 2 sites. We had excellent views of 4 on 15th.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea. Widespread and locally numerous in northwest Korea in winter. Peak was 100 at Seosan.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. Probably ca 40 000 overwinter nationwide, with up to 15 000 at Suncheon. With limited time, our peak was only 100+ at Suncheon.
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. Korea is probably the global stronghold for this species, with over 5 000 wintering on Jeju Island alone. Our peak was 480 in one roost, on Jeju, on 11th.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. Widespread in small numbers, especially in the south and south-west. Recorded on 5 dates.
Falcated Duck Anas falcata. Fairly widespread, with a peak of 200 at Joonam on 14th.
Gadwall Anas strepera. Widespread in small numbers, especially in the south and on Jeju, its Korean winter stronghold. Recorded on 4 dates, with a maximum of only 50+ at Seonsan Po, Jeju..
Baikal Teal Anas formosa. Once East Asia’s commonest duck, the population was suspected to have dropped to as low as 40 000 in the 1980s. A massive recent increase, however, now means it is still rare almost everywhere in winter, apart from Korea, where it is now likely the commonest duck species! Seen on 6 dates, with over 200 distantly at Seosan, 20 000 rather closer at the Geum, an incredible (absolute) minimum of 265 000 at Haenam on the 12th. (As a stunned Richard Millington remarked, " if you said to me there were half- a-million in that flock I would not doubt it"), 1 at Suncheon (!) and a further 15 000 at Joonam.
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Widespread and numerous, our peak was 200+ at Seosan.
Mallard Anas platyrynchos Although believed declining, still numerous and very widespread in winter. Peak of 2 000 at Seosan (where more than 50 000 have been recorded).
Spotbill Duck Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha. Very common and widespread, with 500+ at several sites.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta. Abundant on migration (with 50 000+ at Seosan), and common in winter. Our peak was 5 000 at Seosan.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata. Widespread in small numbers. Our peak was ca 150 at the Geum River.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina. Abundant in the north-west at the onset of the deep winter freeze, we recorded only 500 on the Han River.
(Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri. Searched for extensively, and not found, 1-2 appeared at Joonam not long after the group visited the site)
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Reasonably common in the south. Peak of 60 at Suncheon.
Greater Scaup Aythya marila mariloides. Locally abundant along the south coast, only 4 were recorded, at Suncheon.
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus. Local along the rocky east coast, we saw 12 at Guryongpo on 15th.
White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca stejnegri. Locally rather common in the southeast, with up to 2 000 in the Nakdong estuary. Limited time meant our peak was only ca 40 at Guryongpo on 15th.
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Widespread and relatively numerous. Recorded on 7 dates.
Smew Mergus albellus. Rather numerous most winters, forming flocks several hundred strong on favored waters. Peak of 40+ on 16th.
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator. Reasonably numerous along the coast. Recorded on 5 dates.
Scaly-sided Merganser Mergus squamatus. One of the world’s rarest wildfowl, the group finally had great views of a flock of 7 at a site first found by Kim Su-Kyung, thanks to the sharp eyes of Richard Millington and Tony Holcombe, who picked them up from our speeding bus….
Common Merganser Mergus merganser orientalis. Reasonably numerous, recorded most days with a peak of ca 20 on the 15th.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus. 4 on Jeju, where they regularly over-winter, on the 11th.
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus. For those who have birded Japan (where it is very numerous), the Black Kite is mysteriously scarce in South Korea, being largely confined to the SE corner (e.g. 205 in one roost at Taejeongdae, Busan, December 2001). One seen by 2-3 of the group at Seosan.
White-tailed Sea Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Reasonably widespread in winter. Seen by the group on 4 dates, with 1 at the Han River, 1 at Seosan on the 8th, 2 there on the 9th and 1 on the 14th at Joonam.
Stellers’s Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus. Rare, regionally endemic and massive in every respect, this is surely one of the most wanted species for birders around the globe. Regular in winter in Korea in small numbers, probably 10 were present nationwide in 2001/2002. The group saw ‘just’ one, at Seosan, a regular haunt in recent years. Thanks to a very well-appreciated phone call from local birder KIM Hyun-tae ("I am watching a Steller’s Sea Eagle right now!") we sacrificed a few extra minutes of Baikal Teal watching to race around to its favored location, finally getting fantastic views of a sub-adult sat in a rice-field some 50 m from our bus. This individual had apparently flown in for the winter that morning…not surprisingly considered by several to be the bird of the trip.
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus. Banding has shown that at least some of South Korea’s 100-200-500 wintering Cinereous Vultures nest in Mongolia. 90 at Han-Imjin, and one at Gwnagneung.
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus. Seen on 5 dates, with maximum of 8+ at Haenam on 12th.
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus. Scarce in Korea, and recorded on only 2 dates,
Japanese Lesser Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis. Scarce in winter. One on 12th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Typically the commonest winter accipiter. 1 or 2 recorded on 5 dates.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. Widespread and reasonably numerous, especially in the south-west. Recorded on 6 dates, with a maximum of 3 on the 12th.
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo japonicus. Seen on 5 dates, with 3 on 7th the peak.
(Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius. A rather scarce winter visitor to Korea. According to some, identification of dark-phase first year birds can be far from straightforward. At least one bird, seen briefly on the 8th at Seosan, was probably this species, but views were inadequate.)
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca. Probably 10-15 winter nationwide most winters. One seen briefly, en-route to the Steller’s, at Seosan on 9th.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus interstinctus. Seen daily, with a maximum of 7 on the 10th.
Merlin Falco columbarius. Generally uncommon in Korea in winter. Recorded on 4 dates.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus japonicus. A widespread species throughout the year, recently beginning to nest even in Seoul. Recorded on 4 dates, with 3 on the 11th.
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica. Widespread and locally numerous in rice-fields in winter. 3 on 13th at Suncheon.
Common Pheasant Phasanius colchius. This ‘genuine’ pheasant is surprisingly rather abundant in Korea. Recorded on several dates.
Hooded Crane Grus monacha. Although the majority of the world’s ca 9 000 Hooded Cranes migrate through Korea on their way between breeding and wintering areas, less than 200 over-winter, with the majority at Suncheon Bay (peak of 160 in 2001). Our group saw 45 at Seosan and 20+ at Suncheon.
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis. Endangered, with a world population of ca 2 400, about 300 winter in the DMZ, with smaller numbers at Ganghwa and elsewhere. 4 at Ganghwa on 7th.
White-naped Crane Grus vipio. Like the Hooded Crane, the majority of the world’s 6 000 or so White-napeds migrate through Korea into Kyushu. Regular in the DMZ, and at 3-4 other sites nationwide in winter. 3 at the Han-Imjin, 1 at Seosan and excellent views of 9 at Joonam.
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus. Local in winter. 5 at Joonam on 14th.
Common Coot Fulica atra. Widespread. Peak of 200 at Joonam.
Eastern Oystercatcher Haematopus (ostralegus) osculans. This distinctive East Asian taxon, with a minimum population of 10 000, winters mainly on the Geum estuary (peak of 5700, January 2000). 1 at Song Do.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Local. Only recorded on 3 dates, with a maximum 5 at Seosan.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola. Locally numerous in winter. Peak of 160 at Song Do.
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus. Fairly widespread on shingle stretches of rivers throughout the south-east and into the south-west. 3 on the Dangjin River, and 3 near Angang on 15th.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus, Numerous on migration (with 5 000 plus at Saemankeum for example), but scarce in winter. 15 on the 11th on Jeju.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata orientalis. Locally fairly numerous. 520 at Song Do on 8th.
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis. Although the world population of this shorebird is only ca 35 000 – 40 000, this is a common migrant in Korea (when e.g. up to 2 000 in the Ganghwa area). Rare in winter, with occasional singles overwintering on the south coast. 1 amongst a large flock of Eurasian Curlews at Song Do, in the far northwest was therefore a very unexpected but welcome surprise.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. Winters in small numbers, especially in the south. 2 on the 15th.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (subsp?). Scarce in winter. 1 at Joonam, and 2 on 15th.
Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria. Contradicting its name, 6 at Gwangneung, with one especially giving incredibly prolonged and close views.
Red Knot Calidris canutus rogersi. Uncommon on migration (with peaks at Saemankeum of only 300, compared to 60 000 Great Knot!). One at Song Do on 8th is believed the first winter record in Korea.
Sanderling Calidris alba. Local. Recorded on 2 dates, with 9 on 12th and again on 16th.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis. A reasonably numerous migrant, this species is very scarce in winter in South Korea, though often claimed mistakenly by local birdwatchers. 5 at Seosan on 8th is probably (one of) the largest mid-winter counts for South Korea.
Dunlin Calidris alpina articola/sakhalina. Although declining rapidly, this is still the commonest wintering shorebird in Korea, with 21 000 nationwide in January 1999 and 13 000 in January 2001. Seen on 4 dates, with a peak of only 150 on both the 9th and 13th.
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris Reasonably widespread and numerous. Peak of 500 at Song Do on 8th.
Kamchatka Gull Larus (canus) kamtschatschensis. Although separation from heinei Common Gull is apparently far from straightforward, Kamchatka Gulls are considered reasonably widespread. Peak of 10 at Song Do on 8th.
Vega Gull Larus vegae. The commonest of the so-called "white-headed" gulls wintering in Korea. Seen almost daily, with 500+ at Guryongpo both days.
Siberian Gull Larus heuglini taimyrensis. Seen on 5 dates, with maximum of 5 on 8th.
Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus. It appears there are possibly two forms of this largely white-headed gull wintering in South Korea. Seen on 6 dates, with 20 the maximum at Song Do.
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. Numerous along the east coast, recorded on only 3 dates, with at least 30 both days at Guryongpo.
Glaucous Gull Larus hyberboreus pallidissimus. 1 on 15th.
Relict Gull Larus relictus. Recent counts in South Korea and in the Bohai Sea (of China) suggests that the majority of the world’s 2 000 – 10 000 Relict Gulls winter in the Yellow Sea, moving southward especially in severe cold. Early tour dates and very mild conditions meant only 2 were seen, at Song Do on the 8th.
Saunders’s Gull Larus saundersi. Believed fast declining, this species was first found nesting in Korea in 1998. Approximately 2 500 of the world’s estimated 7 000 Saunders’s winter in Korea. Recorded on only 2 days, with 643 at Song Do outstanding.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibindus sibiricus. Very common in the south and east. Recorded most days, with significantly more than 1000 recorded on both the 15th and 16th.
Pacific Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla (poliocephalus?). Reasonably common along the east coast. 30+ on 16th.
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus. Occasionally locally abundant in late autumn and late winter (with e.g. 1900+ on December 2 2001 at Guryongpo, flocks also containing at that time 9 Long-billed Murrelets Brachyramphus perdix and 6-10 Least Auklets Aethia pusilla). Disappointingly, only 10 on 15th in the same area.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia. Widespread in major cities.
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia o. orientalis. Very numerous and widespread. Seen daily, with peak of at least 150 on 16th.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. A common summer visitor, though scarce in winter. 1 on 8th and 1 on 15th.
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos kizuki seebohmi. Seen on 3 dates, with maximum of 3 at both Joonam and Gwangneung.,
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. Present in older forest stands throughout Korea. 1 on Jeju and 3 at Gwangneung.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major japonicus? Singles seen on two dates.
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus m2 on 7th and 1 on 14th.
Northern Skylark Alauda arvensis pekinensis/lonnbergi. Widespread in winter. Seen on 5 dates, with maximum of 30 on the 10th, in rice-fields north of Saemankeum.
Japanese Skylark Alauda (gulgula) japonica. Largely confined to the south-east of the peninsula. Approximately 30 seen well at Joonam.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. A common migrant and locally common summer visitor, this species is very local in winter, especially in the south. 1 on 13th and most surprisingly 1 at Gwangneung in the far north on 17th.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis. Occasional in the south in winter. 1 on 14th, 2 on 15th and 1 on 16th.
Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla (alba) lugens. . Common, especially along rocky coasts and artificial shorelines in winter. Recorded on 8 dates, with maximum of 5+ on 11th and 16th.
Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis. This species is a reasonably common resident in suitable habitat throughout the southeast. 2 on 15th and another 2 on 16th.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. A very common migrant (with peak counts of
3 000 on Eocheong Is. in spring and 1000 on Gageo Is. in autumn) OBPs are rather uncommon in winter, being largely confined to the southwest, with smaller numbers in the southeast. Recorded on 5 dates, with 3 on 13th and 3 on 16th the maxima.
Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus. Recorded almost daily, with a high count of 60 in Suncheon on 16th.
Brown-eared Bulbul Ixos amurotis. A common and widespread, highly vocal species. Recorded daily, with at least 30 in one forest area of Jeju the highest count.
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus. The only common shrike species in Korea. Recorded almost daily, with a maximum of 4 on the 7th and 13th.
Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica. A highly irruptive species, occurring generally in 3-4 year cycles. Almost none nationwide in 2000/2001, and only 15 recorded by the group, these in Gwangneung on the 17th.
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii. Local in suitable habitat. 2 seen well at Gwangneung on 17th.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes dauricus. Reasonably widespread. Peak of 5 on 17th.
Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella. South Korea is probably the best country in the world to see this irruptive species in mid-winter. Occasionally very numerous (e.g. in the winter 2001/2002), especially in the east. Recorded on only 3 dates, with 4 on the 7th at Ganghwa the maximum.
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. A common migrant through the southwest in early spring, only small numbers are thinly distributed in winter, especially in the south. Only 2 recorded, both on the 12th.
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus. Seen almost daily, with maximum of 8 on 16th.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitaria philippensis. Although commoner in summer, still locally common on islands and rocky coasts in winter. 1 on Jeju.
White’s Thrush Zoothera dauma. A common nesting species, but local and uncommon in winter. 3 on Jeju on 12th.
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus. Probably South Korea’s commonest breeding thrush, much more local in winter. Up to 25 in total recorded on Jeju.
Naumann’s Thrush Turdus naumanni naumanni. In most winters rather numerous in the NW. In 2001/2002 very scarce. Peak of 5 on Kanghwa.
Dusky Thrush. Turdus naumanni eunomus. Typically numerous, especially in the south, .but extremely scarce in winter 2001/2002, with only 8 recorded on 4 dates.
Dark-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis ruficollis/atrogularis. A vagrant in Korea, with probably less than 5 records prior to 2001. However, Park Jin Young recorded single adult male ruficollis and atrogularis on Gageo Is., in mid-October 2001, marking the start of a significant influx into Korea. On Ganghwa on 7th, at least one adult male ruficollis (seen by 2 or more members of the group), one adult male atrogularis, and one female, presumed first winter atrogularis. Subsequently ca 15-20 recorded nationwide during the winter at various locations, in similar small, mixed groups. Last records of the influx were on Eocheong Is. in April 2002
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus. One of Korea’s most numerous small birds. Recorded almost daily, with about 250 on 14th at Joonam (including 200 in one flock exploding like feathery fireworks out of a single clump of reeds!).
Oriental Bush Warbler Cettia (diphone) cantans. A locally common resident and migrant along the southern coastal fringe and in the southwest islands. One on Jeju.
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus. One heard on 10th in reeds at the Geum River constitutes presumably the first winter record in Korea (a second was found in January 2002 on the south coast)
Goldcrest Regulus regulus subsp. Recorded on 3 dates with a maximum of 5 on 16th and 17th.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus magnus. Fairly numerous in suitable habitat. In severe winters, caudatus subsp. also recorded northern areas.
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus. Locally numerous along south coast in winter. Recorded on 4 dates, with 5 on 9th and 12th the maxima.
Marsh Tit Parus palustris subsp? The Marsh Tit has an extraordinarily disjunct distribution (east Asian populations well-separated from western ones), and in Korea the taxon is very often confused with the much rarer (reliably recorded?) Willow Tit. In Korea this taxon is widespread and fairly common. Maximum of 20 recorded in Gwangneung forest.
Coal Tit Parus ater subspp.? A widespread species, occasionally very numerous in irruption years. Recorded on 4 dates, with 10+ on 17th.
Great Tit Parus major minor. The most common tit species, recorded most days.
Varied Tit Parus varius. Widespread in suitable habitat. Up to 10 in Gwangneung on 17th.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea asiatica. 2+ Gwangneung.
Japanese White-eye Zosterops j. japonica. Reasonably common along the south coast and on south-west islands. 10+ on 12th on Jeju; 2 on 14th.
Meadow Bunting Emberiza c. ciodes. Locally distributed. 3 on Ganghwa on 7th and 3 on 11th on Jeju.
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza f. fucata. Local in winter, but regular near the south coast. Two at Suncheon.
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla. Local in winter. One at Suncheon.
Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica. Typically very numerous in winter, often forming flocks of several tens or even hundreds. Seen most days, with 100+ on the 7th.
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. Korea’s commonest breeding bunting. Also very numerous in winter in suitable habitat. Recorded most days, with 20 on 14th probably the maximum count.
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala. Three subspecies occur on migration in Korea, with at least 2 (nominate and Japan-nesting personata) over-wintering in very small numbers. Nominate form recorded on 5 dates, with 2 on 10th.
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi. Typically rather numerous. Surprisingly, only recorded on 3 dates, with 4 on 10th the maximum.
"Eastern" Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. Typically widespread in small numbers. Singles on 9th and 12th.
Lapland Bunting Calacarius lapponicus, Very numerous in extensive, open winter paddy. At least 250 on 10th was our peak.
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. Occasionally very abundant in winter: rather local in 2001/2002. Only 2 seen, on 16th.
Oriental Greenfinch Carduelis sinica. Common, especially in southern areas. Recorded on 5 dates (with 10 a daily maximum).
Common Siskin Carduelis spinus. Locally numerous. Peak of 200 on 11th.
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra subsp? 2001 was an invasion year. About 25 seen on Jeju.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Local in winter, found especially in the south and southwest. 3+ seen on Jeju.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus saturatus. The commonest small bird in built-up areas. Seen daily, with a maximum of ca 60 on 10th.
Grey Starling Sturnus cineraceus. Rather local in winter. Seen on only 2 dates, with a maximum of 48 on 14th at Joonam.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandti. Rather common in suitable habitat. 3 at Gwangneung.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana. Locally common in wooded hills. 15 at Seosan.
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. Probably the most familiar bird to the average Korean person or visitor to the country. Abundant on all but the most remote offshore islands (and recently introduced onto Jeju, where the population has increased from a handful to several thousand within a few years).
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus. Recorded on 2 dates: 15+, north of Saemankeum on 10th, and 3 on Jeju.
Eastern Rook Corvus frugilegus pastinator. Recorded on 4 dates, with 1 000+ at the Han-Imjin the maximum.
Carrion Crow Corvus corone orientalis. Rather local. Approximately 20-30 at Seosan was the maximum.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos (mandschurius?) Occurring with a wide range of bill sizes and possibly vocalizations, typical large-billed birds were seen well on Jeju. At least one confusing smaller bird also at Seosan on 9th.
Many of these species and sites are contained in our conservation-driven
Birds of South Korea video, described as "fantastic" by Steve Madge,
and "the best birding video I have ever watched", by Bo Beolens, the Fatbirder.
(full review on http://www.fatbirder.com
For more details: http://www.wbkenglish.com
Or Nial Moores, South Korea < firstname.lastname@example.org . Tel: 82 11 9303 1963,