Short ecological survey of Yeonpyeong Island, June 9-11

Bird news from Dr. Bernhard Seliger, Dr. Choi Hyun-Ah (Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, Birds Korea)

Yeonpyeong Island is an island (group) in the Korean West Sea (Yellow Sea), 80 km west of Inhceon and 12 km south of the coast of South Hwanghae province, North Korea. The main island is Daeyeonpyeong, with an area of seven km2 and a population of around 1300, and a village Yeonpyeong-ri with a harbour as economic center. Yeongpyeong belongs administratively to Ongjin county, Incheon, as also Baegnyeongdo. Yeonpyeong is known for crab fishery and there is a constant intrusion of illegal Chinese crab fishing boats, which, once chased by the South Korean marine, is retreating to North Korean waters. Soldiers we spoke to say they are not able to stop that – it is a Sisyphus’ work…

            Yeonpyeong island is a rocky island with forests, many of them rather young, a few rice fields (on reclaimed land) and wetlands, a major tidal flat area close to the harbour, a large newly reclaimed area and a few other fields. While the wetland areas show that there is a certain volume of fresh water on the island, there is no freshwater stream on the island. Like in many other places near the border, the government tries to help development by infrastructure projects and tourism projects. Due to the military threat from the North, there is a massive amount of military installations, bunkers etc. But there is also a proliferation of streets, many of them newly built. A large reclamation area will reduce the former tidal flat considerably. 

There were a number of interesting and from an ecological point of view valuable findings during the short suvey:

  • Black-faced Spoonbills (endangered) and Chinese Egrets (vulnerable) were regularly seen on the tidal flats, the BFS also in the rice fields
  • There was a colony of an estimated 8-10.000 Black-tailed Gulls on the rock Kuji-do
  • There was a colony of Great Egrets of around 300 birds
  • Watercock (formerly common, but now in Korea a difficult bird to see) was seen in one of the patches of wetland
  • Crested Honey Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby, Peregrine Falcon and Japanese Sparrowhawk were raptors seen
  • On most coastlines there were Far Eastern Oystercatchers, but no other waders were seen
  • In addition to Great Egret and Chinese Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret, Chinese Pond Heron and Striated Heron were also found
  • At the rocky coastline, most likely Pacific Swifts are breeding
  • Light-vented Bulbul in decent numbers everywhere on the island
Map of Yeonpyeong Island; the uninhabitated rock of Kuji-do is a major breeding habitat for Black-tailed Gulls
Source: Wikipedia
Black-faced Spoonbills Platalea minor in the main rice field area © Bernhard Seliger
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes © Bernhard Seliger
(Eurasian) Far Eastern Oystercatchers Haematopus (ostralegus) osculans © Bernhard Seliger
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo © Bernhard Seliger
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis © Bernhard Seliger
Kuji-do, colony of Black-tailed Gulls Larus crassirostris © Bernhard Seliger
Rocky coast line, where Pacific Swifts Apus pacificus can be seen © Bernhard Seliger

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