The ‘birdy’ inter-Korean border area – impressions from Goseong (Gangwon), January 16-19

Dr. Bernhard Seliger, Dr. Nial Moores, Minjae Baek

From January 16-19, we conducted a seabird survey in Goseong, organized by Hanns Seidel Foundation Korea, conducted scientifically by Dr. Nial Moores and accompanied by Kim Eo-Jin, the most prolific Korean bird youtuber, better known as “the Korean Birder”. It was a second seabird survey after December 2023, and it followed eight years after an intensive two-year survey period in 2016-2017. The results of these great days have been published here in a different post ( – in Korean). But being in Goseong always is also a chance for some great views of landbirds.

This year saw many eruptions of birds, and on January 18th in the afternoon we encountered 26 Red Crossbill in coastal forests near Geojin. Throughout the survey we saw White-tailed eagles (one of them being an expert in taking up whole fishnets in the sea), one Cinereous Vulture and maybe a Golden Eagle (both on 16th), an Upland Buzzard on 19th, Eastern Buzzards and Eurasian Sparrowhawks. In the morning of the 19th we encountered a Chinese Grey Shrike in one of the wetlands of Hwajinpo, and later another one closer to the Civilian Control Zone (CCZ). This was a particularly interesting observation (already first we saw them in December 2023), since we had not encountered Chinese Grey Shrike in any surveys before.

In the wetlands of Hwajinpo, there were Pallas´s Reed Buntings, Yellow-throated Buntings, one Black-faced Bunting, and a number of other small birds, including Eurasian Wren. On the way to Geonbongsa temple of Goseong, in one valley we saw almost 1500 Grey-capped Greenfinches in 4 swarms, one of them over 500 birds strong. Additionally to the aforementioned birds, there were Eurasian Treecreepers, several kinds of woodpeckers, Long-tailed Rosefinches, Meadow Buntings,  Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Eastern Great Tits, Coal Tits (also a species very abundant this year), Marsh Tits, as well as Daurian Redstarts, all in very decent numbers. Additionally, there were Buff-bellied and Olive-backed Pipits as well as Eurasian Skylarks in various fields.

Going up to Geonbongsa, a famous temple with many large old trees, the winter weather got more severe and in the mountain tops were heavy snowy clouds. This was probably the reason why we had the luck to encounter a Ural Owl sitting on an electricity pole and later moving along the electricity line, probably trying to find a hiding place from heavy snow. Unfortunately, on 19th we had to leave the area to return to Seoul, but probably the snow brought some more interesting visitors from the mountain tops to the lower slopes of the mountains. It is really interesting to see how the “birdiness” (density of bird life) and variety of bird species increases when nearing the Civilian Control Zone and the DMZ, a strong reminder how deeply our landscapes are usually affected by human activity. Seeing many birds, and interesting species, it once again inflamed the love for this beautiful part of Korea, despite all the (unfortunately ongoing) hectic construction in so many places…

You can see a video of the seabird survey at The Korean Birds youtube site: (in Korean)

Pallas´s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi 북방검은머리쑥새 (© Bernhard Seliger)

Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus 물때까치 – This year was the first year in 15 years of surveys, and there were at least two, maybe more birds. (© Nial Moores)

Grey-capped Greenfinches Chloris sinica 방울새 – this flock of more than 500 birds was close to at least three more flocks of several hundred birds in a just one small valley (of Songjeongri); part of the “birdiness” of the region.  (© Bernhard Seliger)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 새매 hunting small birds close to one of the many small streams of the area. (© Bernhard Seliger)

Ural Owl Strix uralensis 긴점박이올빼미. The bird probably came to the lower slopes of the Seorak/ Geumgang mountains due to heavy snowing (© Bernhard Seliger)

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