Nial Moores, Birds Korea
Another week in Hwaseong; and another week of spectacles and surprises, with 38 species of shorebird logged!
August 9th to 13th was spent conducting a training workshop for potential site wardens, with the focus on identification, counting and conservation of shorebirds, with 14th and 15th then spent on more formal waterbird survey as part of the Hwaseong Wetlands Project.
The workshop was co-organized with the EAAFP Secretariat and Hwaseong Eco-Foundation, and entailed five half-days each of seminar and fieldwork. Thanks to the wonderful translation skills of Birds Korean Dr Lee Jiwone, we were able to talk in depth about shorebirds’ structural adaptations and ecological requirements; their responses to disturbance; and their movement between different parts of the Hwaseong coast during highest high tides. And then to watch the same things with our own eyes during the fieldwork: flocks of Mongolian Plover roosting close to vegetation, crouching; the curlews and Far Eastern Oystercatchers standing further out, flushed repeatedly – even at some distance – by small aircraft. . For me personally, probably most thrilling was to see how everyone became much more aware of disturbance and of some of the ways to reduce it.
Oustanding birding highlights of workshop fieldwork included enjoying perhaps the first “Double Dowitcher Day” in the ROK, with a breeding plumaged Long-billed Dowitcher watched feeding in the same scope view as two juvenile Asian Dowitcher (both species scarcely recorded annually in the ROK) – all three flanked by an Oriental Stork! Unbeatable – until the discovery of a breeding-plumage Spoon-billed Sandpiper the very next day: absolutely stunning!
The waterbird survey, conducted together with regular survey colleague Jung Hanchul Nim and joined for the 14th, by Workshop Participant Yoon Sora Nim was similarly full of surprises – most of which were great, including meeting up with several Birds Koreans; making a new high count of 325 Black-faced Spoonbill, and finding several small groups of Red-necked Phalarope, a stunning Pectoral Sandpiper, and a Temminck’s Stint. Other surprises were a little more puzzling, including seeing from the car a harrier which was structurally much better for an extremely early Eastern Marsh and not the more expected Pied; and two marsh terns, both presumed to be Whiskered Terns on structure and upperpart patterning, even though one had a head pattern more suggestive of White-winged. Unfortunately, the day’s biggest surprise felt more like a hard punch to the gut for all of us, and a reminder of how far there is still to go. We found that the only area this year with vocalising Greater Painted-snipe has been completely flattened in the last couple of weeks; bulldozed presumably in preparation for planting next year.