Sunday, February 17, 2019

Boat-birding south of the North – Daejin, February 16, 2019

Yellow-billed Loon Gavia adamsii
Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo
Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata
Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata
a tangle of Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus
Black Scoter Melanitta americana
Tim and I scan the port side
(Photo © Leslie Hurteau)

All smiles heading back into Daejin

Within sight of the North Korean coastline
Yeongnang Lake, Sokcho
  When I knew I was going to be living in Gangneung, on Korea's lovely northeast coast, I had visions of going on pelagic boat trips every weekend in winter. Well, it’s mid-February, and I’ve only just done my first of the season. Maybe my last, ha ha.
  After bussing it up to Sokcho mid-morning, I had an hour to kill there, so I wandered over to Yeongnang Lake, which was thoroughly unbirdy. I then rendezvoused with two birders that had come out from Seoul by car, and we made the drive up to Daejin (Hwajin-po) for a hearty samgyeopsal lunch with the rest of the pelagic squad, a group from Birding Corea. I would soon regret partaking of that heavy, greasy fare.
  We chugged out to within sight of the North Korean coastline in a cramped fishing scow, in fresh weather and undulating seas. About 20 minutes in, as the boat pitched and wallowed in the swell, I felt a tennis ball of lunch rising in my throat. I edged back towards the stern, and when all lenses were pointed off the bow, I loosed a stealthy salvo of puke over the side – no one noticed at the time, so my secret is safe, har har. The old captain caught me though, but his only reaction was a stoic nod (of approval?).
  My brains were honestly a bit poached after that. I wasn’t scanning the sea as much as I should have, I called out the wrong birds, mixed up species names, and couldn’t recall what the face of a clock looked like, for that matter. Ah well, I like to boast that I learn from my mistakes, so I did a whole lot of learning on that boat!
  The rock star bird of the trip was a confiding Yellow-billed Loon that gave close views for several minutes. Alcid diversity was relatively low, with plentiful lines of Ancient Murrelets (in varying plumage schemes), several Rhinoceros Auklets, and a flyby Spectacled Guillemot as the boat headed back into the harbour. I’ll never tire of watching chubby Ancient Murrelets skipping across the water like stones as they try to get airborne. I was hoping for some murres, or something crazier, but I guess it’s a reflection of the quiet sort of winter it’s been, birds-wise...too warm. Other highlights included some Harlequin Ducks and Black Scoters.
  Unfortunately there wasn't time to check out the lighthouse at Daejin for sexy passerines, maybe next time. All in all, it was a grand day out – always rewarding to meet new birders in Korea and compare notes. There are definitely times when I feel like the only birder in the world out here, for better or worse.


  1. Hello, Matt. I know that this post is a year old, but perhaps you still check the comments. I enjoyed reading this post. I was wondering how you went about getting the boat for birding in Daejin. What company did you use? Do they have a website? How much did it cost for one person? Any information you could provide would be helpful. Thank you.

  2. Hi Aaron. There is no company or website for the boat, it's just a guy with a boat, heh. That being said, they need a special permit to take out passengers, so there aren't many that do that, and you need to bring your passport and ARC and fill out a form. You can email me for more details, cheers,
    mattpoll24 at gmail dot com