Dr. Hyun-Ah Choi, Dr. Bernhard Seliger (both Hanns Seidel Foundation, Birds Korea), and Eunjeong Lee, Eunjeong Kim, Insook Jeon, Donguk Han (EcoKorea), Maddie Joyce (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Thanks to EcoKorea we were able to enter the CCZ in the Siam wetland and Yudo area despite the current heightened awareness due to the recent drone incursion crisis. Along the Han River, from one place alone which we could easily access – relatively far from the actual inter-Korean border area – we counted around 270 Common Merganser. Presumably, there must have been hundreds or thousands more along the whole river.
Geese were heavily concentrated where they are fed, in two adjacent paddies in Siam, where at least 4000 geese (around 1500 Greater White-Fronted Geese and 2500 Tundra Bean Geese) flocked together, with several hundred ducks mixing in or sitting beside the fields on the river. It becomes repetitive to say, but these great concentrations of birds, spectacular as they might seem to watch, are from a conservation point of view not a good development. And, to kind of prove the point, just adjacent to the feeding area another great project of putting trenches into more concrete has been started, further dissecting the landscape and destroying natural migratory paths for amphibia, reptiles and small mammals.
On Yudo islet, breeding preparations have not yet begun, so only two White-tailed Eagles were seen on the islands, plus a few Large-billed crows.
The best observations of the day were a Chinese Grey Shrike sitting on a wire; they are more or less regular winter visitors in the area, but in very small numbers (never saw more than one either on the Siam or Yudo sight in five years of observations) as well as a Merlin. There was one larger flock of Rustic Buntings (55+), and buntings could be seen or heard in quite a few places. Besides, certainly the cold weather makes January the winter month with the least observations in the area.
The complete bird list can be found here: https://ebird.org/tripreport/104756
Feeding time – essentially, 4000 geese flock to two paddies only, where they are artificially fed (© Bernhard Seliger)
Just opposite the giant bird feeder – more construction aimed at improving agriculture, but also reducing biodiversity and cutting off habitat connections (© Bernhard Seliger)
Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) (© Bernhard Seliger)
Merlin (Falco columbarius) (© Bernhard Seliger)
White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) (© Bernhard Seliger)
Yudo islet, a major breeding colony of Great Cormorants, plus Black-faced Spoonbills, egrets and herons, is still in mid-winter calm; two lonely White-tailed eagles and a few Large-billed crows were the only inhabitants for now. Soon, this will change with weather conditions…(© Bernhard Seliger)
Feeding Rustic Buntings (Emberiza rustica). For these birds, as for so many other bird species, patches of unused grasslands and untidy corners of fields are very important for feeding, but these are the corners disappearing when landscape is streamlined. (© Bernhard Seliger)