Birds in Goseong, February 10 and 11, 2020

Bird News by Dr. Bernhard Seliger with Mr Kim Young-Soo

Goseong, a divided county at the East Coast and the northernmost county of South Korea, has all the charm and interesting features of a border county, but at the same time suffers, due to its beautiful combination of sea, lagoon lakes and mountains from even more development than elsewhere. This means that every time one checks favorite spots there, another one has been degraded. Currently, this is particularly true for Ganseong (capital of the county; the city Goseong itself is in the Northern part) Namcheon (South stream). Once a wonderful combination of reed area, stream and sea, the extension of an apartment area in the West, the building of a huge new bridge close to the sea (ready since two years, but not yet connected to another huge road quite unnecessary, given the excellent road just a few hundred meters West) and now the clearing of much of the reed area, where once Eurasian otters wintered, is sad to see.

Once a wonderful area of reeds, where many waterbirds wintered and bred in summer, not it is degraded beyond recognition… © Bernhard Seliger

The symbol bird of Goseong once were the swans wintering on the lagoons, in particular Mute Swans. Today, they are largely gone, but there are…plastic swans!

Plastic Swans at Songjiho © Bernhard Seliger

In this survey, we only saw four Whooper Swans at the aforementioned degraded Namcheon.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus © Bernhard Seliger

Other results of the short survey:

– As well Hwajinpo lagoon lake as Songjiho lagoon lake were almost empty of birds, with Common Mergansers and Eurasian Coots plus Great Cormorants the most frequently counted. Consequently, only one White-tailed Sea Eagle was recorded. One of the reasons might be the current mild temperatures.

– Only 11 American Scoters were seen in Daejin beach area, and no Stejneger’s Scoters.

– 14 Red-billed Starlings were seen in Daejin, where they have been previously recorded.

Red-billed Starlings Spodiopsar sericeus © Bernhard Seliger

8 Harlequin Ducks were seen in Ajajin beach, which also offered excellent views of Black-legged Kittiwakes.

Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla © Bernhard Seliger

Once again, the survey showed the close connection of North and South Goseong, and indeed Korea, in the daily migratory pattern of Cormorants: In the morning at Daejin beach, in the short time of maybe 15 minutes at least 565 cormorants (presumably, mostly Temminck’s and Great Cormorants) flew Southwards, from roosting areas in the DMZ (Haekumgang) to feeding grounds further South. Later, a group of 1100 cormorants was seen shortly dipping into Hwajinpo, presumably for washing off salt water, before taking off again.

Final note: The loss and degradation of habitat is deplorable, but one should go further and try to work on improvements, wherever possible. One of the aims of this trip was a talk with the Environmental Department of Goseong County with a proposal to install frog ladders in particularly steep trenches. The design of these (cheap and easily reproduceble) frog ladders has been recently brought here by their inventor, Trevor Rose of the Herpetological Society of the United Kingdom, invited by Dr. Nial Moores of Birds Korea. Hopefully, a positive decision by the county will bring frog ladders also to the wetlands around Hwajinpo and Songjiho in Goseong and create new eco-corridors for amphibians, reptiles and small mammals.

A group of 1100 cormorants landed shortly in Hwajinpo lagoon, presumably to clean before taking off again after a few minutes.

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