Bird News from Nial Moores
A productive day in the field at the Nakdong Estuary, Junam Reservoir and Hwapo Cheon that started overcast with a raw northwesterly wind, clearing by midday. In spite of the Beaufort 3-4 wind, still mild with a minimum of 3C rising to a high of 7 or 8C, and no ice cover.
At the Nakdong Estuary, highlights included probably three Steller’s Sea Eagle (one full adult; one near-adult; and one Third or Fourth Calendar-year), probably five Relict Gull (all First-winters), and 2,200 roosting Taiga Bean Geese.
At Junam, shallows and mud-flats in the main reservoir by late afternoon supported 210 White-naped Crane, a dozen Eurasian Spoonbill, probably 300 Taiga Bean and two Swan Goose, while trees held 400+ roosting Great Cormorant (apparently of subspecies sinensis: more on the cormorant puzzle likely to follow in a separate post).
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia © Nial Moores
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis © Nial Moores
Great Cormorant roost-trees at Junam © Nial Moores
Adjacent fields and orchards held few geese (many perhaps have already moved north in response to the mild conditions and lack of snow cover?) but instead a loose flock of c. 100 Dusky Thrush (often an early spring migrant in the ROK) that also contained half-a-dozen Naumann’s and one Pale Thrush, and a separate flock of 300-400 White-cheeked Starlings with probably a dozen Common Starlings mixed-in.
Junam produced two further non-birding surprises, one pleasant, the other far less so. The first was unexpectedly meeting up with two birders from Gwangju (including the soon-departing Mr Pat Blake: departing from Korea that is!); the other was coming across a banner hanging near to the pumping station, essentially telling local environmentalists to stop using bird conservation as a way of manipulating local people, and to stay away.
As is widely known, Junam has only become a well-known tourist attraction, this jewel in Changwon City’s crown, thanks to the extremely hard work of many of the very same activists who for years surveyed the birds there, led education programs and developed approaches to try to increase benefits (through conservation) for local people. The crane-rich shallows only remain because of one activist who conducted a hunger-strike just to stop the reservoir from being dredged; the agricultural products on sale there are made far more valuable because of the wetland’s positive image and tourist trade. As any visitor can see, many people have benefitted from the wetland’s elevated status, even while habitats there continue to be degraded and activists receive ever-less support. Why is there no banner of thanks for this work?
The last stop of the day was the “meadows” at Hwapo Cheon. The fields here were all but empty – with just a dozen Taiga Beans remaining (quite a contrast to the bird-fest experienced only a week before by JK).
Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis middendorffii © Nial Moores