Dr. Bernhard Seliger (Birds Korea, Hanns Seidel Foundation Korea)
After heavy snowfall, the snow laying more than one meter high on the Jinburyeong pass, and around 60 cm down to the coast, there was an interesting mix of birdlife along the rivers coming down to the sea, like Ganseong Namcheon (South stream) in Goseong County at the inner-Korean border. A lot of finches, buntings, dozens of wagtails on migration and other birds made the quick survey really fun.
Highlights were certainly five Northern Lapwings in the snow. Also seen were 12 Whooper Swans feeding on the reedy parts of the stream. This stream always had had a large reed bed, which in the summer hosted dozens of Oriental Reed Warblers, Yellow Bitterns, Stejneger’s Stonechats etc. In the last year, the largest part of this reed bed was cleared, like in so many other streams, presumably to ease the waterflow. Literally, the reed was bulldozed away, and later that part became a reservoir-like water, where this time a few dozen ducks – Mallards, Spot-billed ducks, Northern Pintails, Teals, Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers – were swimming, but where no source of food and no cover was present.
In the remaining “untidy” part, birds concentrated, since they could find food there. The place also attracted a large swarm of Far-Eastern Larks, buntings, finches and pipits. It is very important that local governments and water authorities understand better the consequences of their actions on biodiversity.
During our last trips to Goseong in January (with the EAAFP team, see here http://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=24156) and our trip in February (along the inner-Korean border area, see here http://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=24226) we worried that there were almost no Stejneger’s and American Scoters visible, usually a typical winter highlight in Goseong. Our observation was that there seemed to be much more fishing, and also diving for shellfish in the region. On the morning of the fifth also at least 50 fishing boats and three divers were visible from one spot with the naked eye in Daejin bay, and presumably it looks like this all over the coastline down South. This time, a short visit to the Unification observatory directly at the DMZ made it possible to count at least 30 Stejneger’s Scoters on a very limited stretch of coast we could check from the observatory. This might confirm that indeed overfishing, and that is less food and more disturbance, is the reason why the birds cannot be found any more in their former wintering sites near Daejin and Geojin harbor. Who knows? At least, it was good news that on March 8 (after the trip), the Ministry of Fisheries announced a plan to try to curb overfishing, to allow depleted fish resources to build up again. Certainly, this will also positively affect other wildlife, among them birds.