Eurasian Crag Martin: April 29th 2002, Eocheong Island
Nial Moores

Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptygonoprogne) Hirundo rupestris

One, 29th April 2002, Eocheong Island, Gunsan City, Jeollabuk Province. Several experienced observers, including Nick Lethaby.

In heavy overcast, with rain and fog and a strengthening southeasterly wind, large numbers of migrants were arriving on Eocheong Island. One was a large, heavy hirundine, heavily washed through with brown and with an apparently nearly square-ended tail, flying strongly north at between 0800 and 0820. Watched for only 5 seconds through 8x42 Leica binoculars, identification was immediate: Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptygonoprogne) Hirundo rupestris, a species which Nial Moores had seen many of in Spain in the 1970s and 1981. The bird was also seen at the north of the island, about 2 km northeast, at almost the same time by Nick Lethaby from the UK, who also independently identified the bird as Crag Martin. It is not known who saw the bird first.

At about 10:00 the Martin was relocated at the north of the island by Nial Moores and Tony Lancaster and watched intermittently for about 2 minutes at 40-60 m range as it flew along the face of a sea cliff. Structurally (1) it was powerful, with broad wings, and (2) a less flickering flight than e.g. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. It appeared (3) all brown, (4) darker above than below, with (5) a darker throat streaked clearly blackish, and (6) a faintly darker vent. (7) The tail had only a shallow cleft, occasionally appearing deeper, though probably less than seen on most Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus. No white tail spots were seen (though they were looked for), even though the light was sufficient to see white shafts on the primaries. TL also noted (8) contrastingly darker underwing coverts.

The most similar species is Dusky Crag Martin Hirundo concolor, a largely resident hirundine found as close to Korea as Yunnan in SW China. However, Dusky Crag is apparently very much darker overall, with a paler, perhaps more rusty toned, not darker throat (MacKinnon and Phillipps, 2000: Robson 2000).

The Eurasian Crag Martin is not an unexpected addition to the Korean list, as it is largely migratoryand is considered to nest as close to the Korean Peninsula as the Great Wall near Beijing.