Friday, March 2, 2012

Epic birding weekend part 2: Seawatching with the master

February 26, 2012, Gureyong-po peninsula, South Korea
The 'Reservoir Dogs' of Korean birding!
By the end of the day, we were all frozen
Epic assemblage of Birds Koreans
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator (female at left, male right)
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume
Raft of Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus wumizusume
Common Gull Larus canus
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus tearing the wing off a dead Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus wumizusume
Mongolian Gull Larus mongolicus
Vega Gull Larus vegae
  After some more predictable Korean logistical snags, Tim and I ended up in in Pohang (an hour north of Busan on Korea's southeast coast) at 2am, with a 5:30am start planned for Sunday.
  I'm not a morning person. I shook it off, and it was a great pleasure to finally meet Dr. Nial Moores, the director of Birds Korea, and most definitely the most knowledgeable birder I've ever met. There were six other birders on the trip (seven birders from six different countries!), and Dr. Moores conducted several in-the-field birding clinics for us, helping us decipher tricky gulls and pelagic species. I am happy to say he helped me push through a lot of the hesitation I typically encounter when trying to ID gulls - they used to make me miserable!
  We spent the day on the Gureyong-po peninsula, and things started off well when we spotted 300+ Russet Sparrows - the largest flock ever recorded in Korea, and a long sought-after lifer for me. Highlights from our extensive seawatching included massive rafts of Ancient Murrelets, and great views of male Harlequin Ducks and Rhinoceros Auklets. Dr. Moores also picked out a Caspian Gull on a beach, a species previously recorded only a handful of times in Korea.
  All told, it was an exhausting but extremely rewarding birding weekend, and I will remember the giddy car rides well. It is sobering to think that the six non-Korean birders that assembled on this trip represented most of the foreign birders in the whole of South Korea. It reinforces my feeling that there are plenty of interesting birds to be found in Korea, but almost no one is looking for them.

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