Nesting Black-faced Spoonbills on Yudo, and rice field biodiversity (May 27, 2020)

Bird news from Dr Seliger with Prof Amael Borzëe, Dr Hyun-Ah Choi and Ms Teresa Wellner

Another long day of surveys of birds during the whole day in the Siam wetland and Yudo area, this time with Prof. Amael Borzée, our friend, bird and amphibian specialist, and followed by a night-time survey of Suwon Tree frog.

Our trip coincidenced with the trip of Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho to the CCZ and DMZ. In this trip, the unique value of the area as a potential new UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, due to it’s spectacular nature, was explicitly mentioned. When we arrived in the early afternoon in the Jogang-ri area, we were a little bit suspicious of a group of people discussing the area with the help of a map. Too often, this means plans for redevelopment. Our surprise and joy was great, when they introduced themselves as the head of the local village and some officials from Gimpo who came there to discuss a better preservation of rice fields, with a view to protect the habitat of Black-faced Spoonbill. We jointly discussed the needs for breeding habitat and foraging of the birds and hope we can cooperate fruitfully in the future to preserve this unique and iconic species.

Later, indeed we found, for the first time in our two years of surveys clearly visible, at least two pairs of Black-faced Spoonbills breeding in trees, among the Great Egrets and Grey Herons and away from the overbearing Great Cormorants. Probably, given the places we saw Black-faced Spoonbills foraging around Yudo, there might well be more nests in the dense vegetation.

Other notable observations include:

  • Around 1200 Great Cormorants, with great movement to and from Yudo, so supposedly there would be at least 600 nests on the Island.
  • Three Chinese Pond Herons, a regular summer visitor in the area.
  • Still six Common Greenshanks in the rice fields of Siam wetland. Would they be breeding in the area?
  • A Chinese Sparrowhawk eating a frog it just hunted.
  • Finally, a Water cock…we had expected him in the area, but it was good to finally see him and have a (crappy) record shot.
  • At night, an Oriental Scops Owl.

The amphibian survey, starting at dusk, was disappointing. While there were lots of Japanese Tree Frogs, Golden Pond Frog, Korean Brown Frog, and Bullfrog, our search for Suwon Tree Frog, a rare and threatened frog with a population of maybe only 2000 left in South Korea, and rapidly declining at that, was unsuccessful throughout the survey area. Finally, in a single place closer to Gimpo city we could find some calling and even saw one. Let us hope, joint conservation efforts of national and international actors can still save this frog (which, fortunately, might have a greater population still in the Northern part of Korea…).

A Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus © Bernhard Seliger
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor foraging in the rice-fields. At least two pairs, probably more, are currently breeding on Yudo island © Bernhard Seliger
Obviously Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, but with a curious, slightly yellowish bill-tip © Bernhard Seliger
A Chinese Sparrow-hawk Accipiter soloensis eating his prey, a frog © Bernhard Seliger
Eastern Cattle egret Bubulcus coromandus © Bernhard Seliger
Yudo Island in the Han River Estuary – here, hundreds of Great Cormorants, Great Egrets, Grey Herons and also some Blackfaced Spoonbills breed. In the background the coastline of South Hwanghae province, North Korea. © Bernhard Selige
Finally… the Watercock Gallicrex cinerea, formerly a frequent summer visitor, but today difficult to see © Bernhard Seliger
A Japanese Treefrog Dryophytes japonicus, a frequent, though somewhat declining inhabitant of Korean rice paddies and forests. We were looking for Suwon Treefrog Dryophytes suweonensis, an endangered frog species in Korea – rapid habitat losses through infrastructure development and industrialized agriculture might well lead to a loss of this species in a few years, if not countermeasures to preserve the rice-field habitat are taken. We only managed to hear a few calls of that rare species, alas… ©Amael Borzëe

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