Migratory birds on Yongjeong Island, May 2nd, 2020

Birds news from Dr. Bernhard Seliger (Hanns Seidel Foundation and Birds Korea lifetime member)

Yongjeong Island hosts the airport of Incheon (Seoul), one of the busiest airports in the world, with around 70 million passengers in 2019. The island is also part of one of the most precious eco-systems of Korea, the Yellow Sea tidal flat area, but clearly, heavy traffic means that birds largely disappeared from many areas and ongoing reclamation projects reduce valuable remaining areas year by year. This year, however, due to the tragic Covid-19 pandemic, things have been a little different. The day at Yongjeongdo was incredibly calm, compared to the usual airport noise, with only one plane and hour or so. And birds, it seems, came soon back to Yongjeongdo.

The morning was spent in a valley between Unnam-dong in the East and Unseo-dong in the West, encircled by motorways 110 and 130. It is a lovely valley, with nice small pond-like wetlands, very convenient old concrete ways long neglected and not used any more through bushy and forested hills, and, unfortunately, lots and lots of trash and garbage brought here for generations, I guess, to save costs. If the city of Incheon could decide to clean it, probably it would be a lovely spot to be, for birds and people alike. The valley showed the typical variety of South Korean forest birds, with three kinds of woodpeckers (Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker), lots of tits (Great, Marsh, and Varied Tits plus Long-tailed Tits) and warblers (Yellow-browed, Eastern Crowned and Dusky), Oriental Dollarbirds (seemingly just arrived), Korean Bush Warbler, Grey-backed Thrushes, Bull-headed Shrikes, Azure-winged Magpies, Large-billed crows, Oriental Magpies, Eurasian Jays, Grey-capped Greenfinches, Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Kestrel, Rufuous-tailed Robins, abundant Common Pheasants and other species, plus overflying ducks, egrets, herons and others.

The afternoon was spent just in view of the airport, along the seaside road, where a long-stretched wetland was populated by at least 12 Black-winged Stilts, Common Redshanks, Common Greenshanks, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plovers, at least one Eurasian Spoonbill, 15 Black-faced Spoonbills, eight Far Eastern Oystercatchers, Saunders’s Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Black-tailed Gulls and Mongolian Gulls, White Wagtails, Grey Wagtails, herons, egrets etc. In the surrounding large reedbed areas, at least one Japanese Quail (unfortunately, too unexpected and fast to be able to make a photo) just at the wayside of a dirt track beside the reed area, and dozens of Pallas’s Reed Buntings, Zitting Cisticolas, Eurasian Whimbrels and Little Ringed Plovers – the last probably breeding somewhere on the sandy stretches – dozens of pairs of Far Eastern Skylarks, a Common Kestrel, pheasants, and others. The calmness and peace of the afternoon was certainly deceptive – once, as we all hope, Covid-19 is past, it will be lost. More depressing, already here and there were the familiar red-and-white boulders and the large billboard signs indicating more construction and more buildings. If you want to see the area, best to visit rather soon…

Many small wetlands and ponds in the area teeming with frogs. © Bernhard Seliger
Unfortunately, garbage everywhere…© Bernhard Seliger
Female Bullheaded Shrike Lanius Bucephalus © Bernhard Seliger
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum © Bernhard Seliger
Common Redshank Tringa toetanus (left) and female Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus © Bernhard Seliger
Male Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus © Bernhard Seliger
The wetland in front of the airport (in the back on the left you can see the control tower of the airport). © Bernhard Seliger
Saunders’s Gull Larus saundersi © Bernhard Seliger
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea Leucorodia © Bernhard Seliger

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