Monday, December 3, 2018

Birding in the yuck – Gangneung, November 25-December 2, 2018

Invisible carcinogens! Yipee!
"The worst of it" (from Misei Misei app - that other app is no good)
Destructo-truck hard at work
The banks on either side were, up until last week, covered with 20-foot high trees, bamboo, and scrub (also, note the colour of the sky compared with the previous image)
Goofing on Seorak-san
Haze hills
Looking down from Ulsan-bowi
Looking up at Ulsan-bowi

Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthera webbiana
Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis
Barn Swallow Hirundo Rustica
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
  Even just a few years ago, air pollution in Korea seemed limited to a few weeks in spring where yellow dust fallout from the Gobi Desert was possible. Well, in 2018, the peninsula is regularly smothered by a dirty lens of yellow-grey coal smut. Apparently a dozen or more coal plants have been built in South Korea in the past several years, and I believe it. Oh, and there’s new coal plant being built just outside of Gangneung, so something to look forward to.
  For those reading this in areas without dangerous levels of suspended particulate matter – don’t take it for granted, please. I was sick exactly once in 2.5 years in Canada before setting off for Gangneung. I haven’t been healthy for more than a day or two here – it’s always a sore throat, congestion, headaches, malaise, dark circles, etc. I built my DIY air purifier a few days ago, and it has made a huge difference in my house. I no longer almost faint when taking a deep breath of concentrated house smog, or have to sleep wearing a mask.
  Checking the smogcast? Wearing a mask every single time I leave the house? A grim new normal. Birding with a mask is interesting, as you have to hold your breath when looking through the bins, lest the expelled breath rising past your eyeballs fog up the eyepieces.
  Also a disgusting new normal was discovering that a productive patch of coastal scrub has been totally wiped out – cleared down to the dirt, for no apparent reason other than keeping a work crew busy. This patch, up to a few days ago, had been a great mix of bamboo, small trees, and tangles of unruly thorn bushes. I was surprised when I found this slice of habitat that felt so wild and 'islandy' on the mainland. This was the spot where I found Long-tailed Rosefinch, Eurasian Wren, Common Pheasant, Siberian Accentor, several skulky bunting species, with finches up high in the bamboo. As I left, the last thing I saw was a female Yellow-throated Bunting perched on a heap of felled bamboo, and I swear it threw me a very palpable look of confused pain. Probably all in my smog-addled head. Should be interesting to see the road get washed into the ocean after the next heavy rains. There are some things I will not miss about this country.
  It feels like Olive-backed Pipits and Eurasian Wrens were fresh in this week, bunching up and jostling for dominance in the best locations. Guessing they will soon disperse, as the Rustic Buntings have – I haven’t seen one in weeks, whereas there were restless clots of them in most rural locations in late October.
  A juvenile Barn Swallow was seen on the river near my house on November 25th. This is very late for this species, so I was surprised to see two juveniles at the same spot on the 29th. Wonder if they’ll stick around this winter, which happens very rarely. Later on, several Saunders’s Gulls were also seen on the river.
  A day-trip up Seorak-san’s Ulsan-bowi rock on December 2nd was notable for being quiet, bird-wise. Some corvids, ‘all the tits,’ and a few Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers was about all that was up there. It was good to see Varied Tits, as I haven’t had any in Gangneung yet. I’ll be returning to a higher peak later this month, in search of mountain specials, such as Asian Rosy Finch, Alpine Accentor, and Spotted Nutcracker.

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