Bird News from Johan Kok
Since I first read about Hwapo Cheon on the Birds Korea blog I have been excited about visiting this wetland. I took some time off on Saturday and headed out to Hwapo Cheon with my wife. What a fantastic experience. The birds were out in force with large numbers of Bean Geese and Greater White–fronted Geese in the rice fields upon our arrival. They were everywhere all day long, flying overhead, feeding in the rice fields and resting on the water.
We started our walk with sightings of most of the common species like Large–billed Crow, Brown–eared Bulbul, Yellow–throated Bunting, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Oriental Turtle Dove, Eurasian Magpie and Daurian Redstart. A lone Eastern Buzzard kept a watchful eye from near the railway line just as we had our first view of a Cinereous Vulture flying low across the wetland behind the visitor center and landing on an open patch in the reeds.
A walk along the wetland revealed large numbers of geese and ducks. I scanned through what was mostly Mallard and managed to locate a single male Baikal Teal. I only had brief views and managed to snap a distant photo, but I was very happy none the less. We saw a good number of ducks throughout the day including Mallard, Gadwall, Common Shelduck, Eastern Spot–billed Duck, Northern Pintail and Falcated Duck as well as two Whooper Swan.
The list of birds kept growing and we added Great–spotted Woodpecker, Common Pheasant, Grey Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Brambling and White Wagtail. The spectacular sight of circling vultures came as the air heated up and the Cinereous Vultures started to take flight. The numbers in the air kept growing and at one point I counted 27. We had great views of the geese and vultures as they flew low overhead while we walked near the visitor center.
We left early in the afternoon with the plan to visit the Nakdong estuary at Eulsok-do. This turned out to be a bit ambitious and we did not manage to get any further than the Eco-center and its immediate area, before time forced us to return to Ulsan. We still managed to spot a variety of birds including Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Widgeon, Whooper Swan and distant views of two probable Eurasian Spoonbills resting on one leg with their heads tucked away under their wings.