Arriving migrants and lingering winter visitors in Goseong (April 23-24, 2022)

Dr. Bernhard Seliger (Hanns-Seidel-Foundation and Birds Korea) with Debora Tydecks-Zhou and Kim Young-Soo (Hanns-Seidel-Foundation Munich and Korea)

A visit of various projects in Goseong brought the possibility for a short, 2 hour, rapid survey on Saturday, and a 3 hour walk on Sunday early morning around Hwajinpo wetland and in some adjacent places (Unification observatory, Geonbongsa temple).

There were still a number of lingering winter visitors, including a small group of Tufted Ducks, single Greater Scaup, Northern Pintail and Common Pochard as well as Coots.

At sea, in the border area between South and North Korea (seen by scope from the Unification Observatory), a small group of Stejneger’s scoters and American scoters. This was surprising, since they were barely visible in Goseong throughout the winter; partly, maybe, as a result of the removal of fences and following increased disturbance near the coastline. In the past, Goseong was the county in Korea where the nearest views of scoters had been possible. Also, larger numbers of Arctic and Pacific loons as well as at least one Yellow-billed loon were present. Though this was not a seabird count (time and skills not allowing for it, alas), in a short period of five minutes in the morning (around 5.15 am) more than 120 Red-breasted Mergansers crossed the view at around 2 kilometers from the coastline from North to South, a constant stream of birds. Presumably, as seen in previous seabird surveys, this indicates that birds roost in large numbers North of the DMZ, in relatively undisturbed waters, while feeding on the Southern side, where aquaculture structure and different ways to treat fish caught by boats might provide much more food.

At Hwajinpo lagoon lake, which had – like many rivers in Gangwon province – a very low water level, with the lakeside becoming a small wetland, a Eurasian Spoonbill as well as a Black-winged Stilt were unexpected visitors. Unfortunately, the increasing construction to make the formerly superb wetland a park similarly to those found in big cities in Korea reduces interesting habitat by and by, with ever increasing space filled with crushed stone and huge places for bicycle riders and (presumably thousands of non-existent) visitors empty of any vegetation. This kind of landscape planning in the name of “ecological restoration” is sad to see and difficult to understand.

Among notable land birds, three probably migrating Chestnut-cheeked starlings and a Russet sparrow at the fence of the DMZ stood out. Goseong is a good place to see different starlings in winter, summer and during migration. Also, Russet sparrow has before be seen near the border.

With all the sorrow about development – just a new motorway is planned to reach up right to the border, and a new huge condominium is planned at Hwajinpo lake, together with the railway station – it remains an interesting place to go to for the time being.

You can find the complete lists of observations here: (April 23, 2022) (April 24, 2022)

Male Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippinensis © Bernhard Seliger
Female Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippinensis © Bernhard Seliger
© Bernhard Seliger
Arctic loon Gavia arctica © Bernhard Seliger
Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus © Bernhard Seliger
The ever-increasing empty and dead space in a “ecological restoration” project, result of a strange and to my opinion outrightly wrong understanding of landscape planning © Bernhard Seliger
Russet sparrow Passer rutilans © Bernhard Seliger

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