Friday, January 27, 2012

My first birding excursion on Geoje-do, South Korea - January 9, 2012

The view from my roof - that's a salt-water canal

Plenty of reedbeds scattered around

Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Eastern Great Tit Parus minor
Varied Tit Sittiparus varius
Dog treats in my camera bag from now on?  Check.
  I knew my new home on Geoje Island (island is 'do' in Korea, so I live on Geoje-do) was going to be a promising spot for birds when I spotted a Black Kite on the car ride back from Gimhae airport!  That's a Korea first for me, by the way.  I'm living in Gohyeon which is nestled in coastal valley that boasts a fairly wide range of suitable bird habitat.
   Jet-lagged, I woke at 5 a.m. and walked up a mountain, more of a hill, to watch the sun come up.  Seems that's a Korean thing to do.  Actually, a non-Korean friend of mine once climbed up the tallest mountain in South Korea at night, naked.  He went on about how the dawn wind flowed past his genitals like they were wind chimes.  Hippies.  So the birds.  I was sat up at the top, and a bird wave came and checked me out for a while.  Lots of tits.  Then a Roe Deer came whipping past me at a distance of about three feet, followed closely by a formidable-looking dog.  The dog stopped 50 feet beyond me and looked around, having smelled me I guess.  I didn't move an inch, and the dog kept on after the deer.  Time to start packing dog treats in my camera bag I see!
  Overall I was impressed by my new patch, as I passed by a harbour, a salt-water canal, fresh-water streams, low mountains, fallow farm fields, marshy wetlands, and massive reedbeds. 

 I spotted 42 species on this walk, including a number of mainland species that were notably infrequent or absent from my Jeju birding trips, such as Long-tailed Tit, Varied Tit, Coal Tit, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, and Vinous-throated Parrotbill - most part of a vigorous and inquisitive bird wave that enveloped me as I ate breakfast on that mountaintop.  In the hills, I also saw a Japanese White-eye, numerous Yellow-throated Buntings, as well as a Dusky Thrush and a Pale Thrush.  The harbour and streams are home to many hundreds of Spot-billed Ducks, as well as groups of 20-50 Eurasian Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Pochard, Common Goldeneye, and Great Crested Grebe.  I spotted a Black-headed Gull in the harbour with the more common gulls, while a lone Cinereous Vulture soared overhead.  At a quiet spot on a rocky stream, I was pleased to find five Long-billed Plovers.

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