Bernhard Seliger (with Johann and Joseph Seliger)
During Easter holiday, we took a family trip with some casual birding to Gangneung and from there to Ulleung Island and Dokdo. The first two days in Gangneung (April 6th-7th) were rainy and stormy (in fact, the ferry did not leave until Wednesday), extending our holiday by one day.
On Gangneung’s Gyeongpo, a large former lagoon (which has lost two thirds of its original area in the course of the last century), hundreds of ducks: Mallard, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Tufted Duck, a Greater Scaup, plus Common Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Eurasian Coot and Grey Heron. In a wetland inland from there, close to the beautiful Songgyeochang (a large traditional hanoak-style building), in a small artificial pool around twenty Mandarin Duck roosted.
In the larger wetland beyond, again ducks, in particular Eurasian Wigeon, hundreds of Barn Swallow hunting low over the water, and a few waders (mostly too far to identify them clearly), among them a lone Northern Lapwing plus lots of smaller birds including buntings, in particular Rustic Bunting, and Grey-capped Greenfinch in abundance, White-cheeked Starling, White Wagtail and a Dusky Thrush.
In and around the harbor of Gangneung, we saw the ubiquitous Black-tailed Gull, more Common Merganser and Great Crested Grebe, and additionally a lone Arctic Loon.
After a quite rough crossing to Ulleung Island on April 8th, in Dodong harbour in much better weather, a lone male Harlequin Duck was seen among more cormorants and, in particular, Black-tailed Gull. Also, on the break-wall a Blue Rock Thrush rested. In the hills over-towering Dodong, we saw our first Black Wood Pigeon, the first of around ~10 that we saw on the island, without in particular looking for them.
On April 9th, in beautiful weather, we climbed Song-Il Bong (986 m, the highest peak on Ulleung Island) from Chusan, our base, through Nari basin, a way which on the upper part was still partly covered with slowly-melting winter snow. In the valley, lots of small birds, among them wagtails, Daurian Redstart, Brown-eared Bulbul, buntings and tits were singing. Nari basin, a wide valley and the only rather flat place on the island, is famous for special traditional houses protected by an extra-layer of straw against the heavy snowfall of winter, and its special mountain herbs cultivated everywhere. In areas away from Nari basin, due to the steep mountains the use of equipment is quite restricted and in many places small monorails perform work elsewhere done by tractors. Recently, more building activity has started here as elsewhere on the island, and prices for land approach those in Seoul. Heavy machinery was working in many places, and new concrete walls and engineered stone gardens in many places intrude into the natural landscape, without adding to its beauty…
The famous beech wood in Nari basin had a number of small birds, among them Varied Tit of the local subspecies and a “white-headed” Long-tailed Tit. Climbing up, at the small stream coming from the top, we saw a beautiful Japanese Robin. Further up, on the ridge, we saw a takahasii White-backed Woodpecker, like the Varied Tit a subspecies that is unique to Ulleung Island.
Down on the way to Dodong harbor, the last, already inhabited area with some large pines had a number of Black Wood Pigeon. Also, in several places the characteristic song of the Japanese Bush Warbler (or perhaps Korean Bush Warbler?) could be heard, and many other small birds, among them a presumed Eastern Yellow Wagtail were seen.
Finally, the last day (April 10th) brought us to Cheodong harbor and from there to Dokdo. In Cheodong harbor, a few Eurasian Teal, more Eurasian Wigeon and Eurasian Coot competed with hundreds of Black-tailed Gull for food thrown by the visitors to Dokdo. Dokdo itself was equally populated by Black-tailed Gull, plus a few smaller birds like wagtails and Daurian Redstart, but unfortunately the kind of trip (with hundreds of visitors together on a small pier for a very short period of time, most waving flags and singing songs) was not really helpful to see more of the interesting birds of Dokdo.