Trip Report: Eocheong Island, May 2018

A Photo-Filled Trip Report by Bo L. Christiansen and Eva F. Henriksen

Spring…perhaps the best season of the year, when almost every birder is thinking about which island to bird. There are a quite a few to choose from – each with their own special attraction: the remote and mountainous Gageo, very hard work with small numbers of birds – many Japan-bound – but more than a fair share of national firsts and rare migrants; or Socheong, with its undulating hills and narrow-neck watch-points and long list of amazing finds over the years, including the only Korean records still of Godlewski’s Bunting arriving from the north, Grey-sided Thrush from the northwest and Ashy Woodswallow and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher from the deep south; or Baekryeong, my personal favourite in recent years in spite of its large size; or Weiyeon; or Heuksan and Hong and Mara in the far southwest; and what about Eocheong, off from Gunsan, with most of the best birds concentrated in the centre of an already small and workable island?

I first went to Eocheong back in April 2002, with the very first bird seen a male Grey Thrush flying over the harbour, followed in the next two hours by the national second Himalayan Swiftlet. The next day, I enjoyed great views of a singing adult male Red-throated Thrush, and over the next couple of weeks, Korea’s first Crag Martin and Ferruginous Flycatcher too! That was the Spring that Eocheong got the well-deserved nickname, “Magic Island”.

As elsewhere there are fewer birds now than a couple of decades ago – even on Magic Island – but still the spring birding can be superb, with often excellent views of tired migrants freshly arrived after crossing the Yellow Sea. Highlights on Eocheong last spring included a stunning Rufous-bellied Woodpecker (perhaps only the 10th or so Korean record in recent years) and rarer still in the Korean context, a Booted Warbler

Booted Warbler Iduna caligata, Magic Island, May 2018 © Bo L. Christiansen and Eva F. Henriksen

For a taster of things likely to come over the coming two months, please check out the stunning images and text in this trip report by Bo L. Christiansen and Eva F. Henriksen. Many thanks indeed both for sharing your spring Eocheong highlights with Birds Korea!

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