Monday, June 6, 2011

"Historical post" - Jeju Island, June 2011

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha
Jens finds his Fairy Pitta, thanks to Youngho
Scrambling through mosquito valley
Exploring a shamanistic site deep in the forest
Dolharubang - one of Jeju's iconic stone grandfathers
An older iteration
Spot the Pacific Reef Egrets
Looking north towards the mainland
Birding lunch of champions - ahlbap

Jens, extremely excited to be eating ahlbap (note the kettle of makkeoli on the table)
Jeju Island, June 5-6 2011
  Several weeks before leaving Jeju (for the first time), I had the pleasure of guiding a visiting Danish birder around Jeju, in his quest for the rarest of avian jewels, a Fairy Pitta. Jens Thalund, one of the best birders in Denmark (in my opinion), is from Esbjerg, a small town I’ve actually visited, so we had a good chuckle about the situational symmetry of that.
  We met up in Seogwipo on the 5th and I scooted him out to a reliable location for Fairy Pittas near an ephemeral forest waterfall…well, reliable until ‘they’ ripped up the woods in order to construct a parking lot (and related infrastructure) large enough to accommodate the endless parade of Chinese tour buses that make the financial wheels of Jeju go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. We sat on boulders in a dry riverbed for several hours, and heard a Fairy Pitta calling, but didn’t end up seeing one. The next day was kinder to us, here’s what I wrote at the time:
  Denmark is a cool place. They dump mayonnaise on pizza, make bleak yet hopeful statues, have a strict etiquette when it comes to sandwich condiments - and let's not forget the singular Tuborg Green. On Friday morning I met up with a Danish birder and we staked out my secret spot for five hours waiting for a Fairy Pitta that didn't show. Then on Saturday we met up with my Korean birding bud Youngho for some valley-climbing birdventures. Well, first we were hijacked and taken to the back room of a museum where we were pressed into service helping a Korean guy sort through some tricky bird IDs for a book he's putting together. He thanked us by taking us out for an awesome lunch and makkeoli. Life is hard.
  The meal was dolsot (hot bowl) ahlbap, which is a solid Korean peasant meal. It even looks healthy. Usually there's an egg mashed in, but in this case there were a bunch of fish eggs dumped in instead (the orange stuff on the rice) - I'll miss ahlbap. Makkeoli is a fizzy, earthy rice alcohol, and you're meant to drink it out of bowls. Some of my classier friends drink it straight from the plastic bleach-looking bottles. Personally, I've never been a big fan, but it's pretty good with lunch, especially when lunch is secretly breakfast. The Danish guy reminded me of Dr. House. He got his Pitta, in a humid valley filled with rude mosquitoes that were after my sweet sweet blood.


What a park should look like
One of my two favoured haunts in Seogwipo
Soaking up the Japanese White-eyes

My other riverside park - I usually had the place to myself in the mornings
The spot where I ran into a Zappey's Flycatcher

Almost stepped on this tiny but dangerous Ussuri Mamushi Pitviper Gloydius blomhoffi
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis
Bulbul vomit
  During my last month on Jeju Island (well, until 2013), I took leisurely, unemployed strolls through my favourite Seogwipo parks, which were, at that time, notable for their ‘wildness’. Green riots of weeds and underbrush lined the riverbanks, home to countless species of flora and fauna. This was in contrast to what has become the norm in Korea these days when it comes to riverbanks – concrete paths topped in rubber matting, trimmed with guardrails – all ecological benefits scraped off and sanitized, in the name of keeping the construction industry going, I suppose.
  I also had an experience with a Jikbakguri - here were my thoughts at the time: 

  This Brown-eared Bulbul perched right outside my window for about 15 minutes, keeping out of the rain. It saw me see it see me, but was smart enough to know that I was on the other side of the window. Another bulbul perched above the original one, and after a while they both opened their bills and puked out some large seeds onto my aircon. How rude. They also shit on it. Bulbulshit. There appears to be a wide assortment of alarming and random stuff on my aircon. It's raining.

(*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: Find more historical posts by clicking on the "Historical posts" tab at the bottom of this post.)