Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"Historical post" - Birding Korea 2007: A Year of Transitions

Muui Island - we'd rent one of those shacks for about 10$ a night
Relaxing on Muui-do after seeing my first Blue Rock Thrush
Muui-do antics
A refreshing OB (Old Bastard) and Galbi on Muui-do
We ended up hanging out with these Coast Guard hovercraft dudes on Muui-do
Sundown on Muui
Looking into North Korea (and the largest flag in the world) on a trip to the DMZ
South Korean soldiers stare down North Korea (which begins at the sand) Panmunjom, August 2007
The DMZ is an intense place - North Korean soldiers, not birding
A common sight on mountains near Seoul
Pointing at...
...a sunburst over Seoul, November 2007
Looking down on Daejeon after a hike, November 2007
Ajummas harvesting seafood on Deokjeok-do
  2007 was the year that saw me get much more serious about birding in Korea, on every front. I was living in the monstropolis of Ilsan, west of Seoul, after a failed six-month experiment in Taiwan. My birding efforts were rewarded with 35 new species that year, mostly a process of rounding out the commoner Korean species.
  I started scoping out the two main islands of habitat in the area, Jeongbalsan (a relatively small mountain with a few nice quiet spots), and Lake Park, which held a surprising variety of birds in spite of being a manicured and busy park. I got a better understanding of Korea’s common woodland bird species on my many pre- and post-work ramblings.
  That year, I also expanded my birding horizons beyond Ilsan. My love affair with Deokjeok Island continued, and I began to do more birding than socializing on my regular trips there. New species that revealed themselves to me on Deokjeok-do included Black-faced Spoonbill, Eurasian Jay, Olive-backed Pipit, Pacific Swift, Northern Goshawk, and Pale Thrush (on a May 5-6 trip). No doubt I missed out on many other great migrants that I failed to ID or just didn’t know how to look for. On and early September trip I was woken up in my tent on the beach by the cheerful whinnying of my first Whimbrel, a fond memory.
  I also visited Muui-do several times, a small island near Incheon airport. In early July, I spotted my first Blue Rock Thrush, Little Ringed Plover and Oriental Greenfinch there.
  Another regular weekend destination was Gangchon, east of Seoul. On trip there in late March, I encountered my first Mandarin Duck, Japanese Wagtail, Common Shelduck, Brown Dipper, and Rustic Bunting. I brought my crappy little bins along with me everywhere, and the birds followed - on hikes in and around Seoul, and trips to Paju, Daejeon, Busan, and Yangyeon, among other spots.
  The year was also one of transition for me, on the Korean birding front. I had been using crappy Taiwanese opera glasses (like looking through a straw with Vaseline on your eyeballs), but I finally picked up some Bushnells, a significant step up. I can see!
  I finally gave up on trying to snap pics of birds with my small point-and-shoot camera (then trying to decipher the resultant pixel blobs) and borrowed a Canon Powershot when I went birding, which took appreciably better pictures. I finally got a DSLR camera at the very end of the year, just before returning to Canada for Christmas, my first trip home in 2.5 years. Time flies on the peninsula.
  The transition also occurred on the networking side of things. I went from silently following the Birds Korea bird news to interacting with the members on the message boards (why were they discontinued?) and exchanging emails with them, asking for advice about birding and gear. I also started learning more about the conservation story in Korea, by closely reading bird news and other articles on the Birds Korea website, and discovering which birds (and habitats) were rare, and why.

(*Note: This is a “historical post.” Whereas I started birding in Korea in 2005, this blog has only been active since early 2012 - these posts are an attempt to consolidate my early birdventures from the various blogs and websites where they reside, largely from the “Archived Bird News“ section of Birds Korea’s excellent website: http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Birdnews/BK-BN-Birdnews-archive.shtml. Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)