Suncheon Bay, February 12

Birds News by Jason Loghry with Simon Downing and Jack Dryden

I woke up a bit after sunrise, for a quiet wintry walk along the reeds of Suncheon Bay. They were golden and swaying to the soft, cold wind. On this early Sunday morning, the neighbouring village seemed to be fast asleep. Several flocks of Bean Geese and Hooded Cranes bustled across the sky above me, which was wide and blue. I could hear the magnificent sound of their wings as they zipped by. I scanned the rice fields and saw several Oriental Turtle Doves feeding. I could hear a few Penduline Tits moving across the tops of the reeds, but couldn’t see them. A couple of Saunders’s Gulls were around the sandy beach area, as were some gorgeous Northern Lapwings occasionally twisting around in flight, a few Black-headed Gulls, Spot-billed Ducks, and Mallards. There were also Common Mergansers, Little Grebes, and a single Long-billed Plover.

After breakfast, more visitors began to show up at the park and so I retreated to a quieter area of reeds just north of the bay. Along the way, a group of four Hooded Cranes dropped down from the sky to to have a drink of water and perhaps feed along the stream between the reeds. There were also Eurasian Teal and Spot-billed Ducks at roost along the sandy bank. A larger group of a few hundred Hooded Cranes suddenly took to the sky noisily moving to a new rice field. As I watched them silently, I noticed at just a few meters in front of me was a Cinereous Vulture. It was tagged blue, number 10. This means it’s a rehab’ed bird which was tagged last winter in Korea before being released back into the wild.

After observing it for a short time, I continued on a trail through the reeds. I found a viewing point and sat quietly. There I sat, watching and listening carefully for the remaining morning hours. Across the stream, I saw my first ever Penduline Tit ! At first, I could only see one, but then realized there were quite a few feeding on the reeds. From this point on, my smile felt permanent. Common Reed Buntings and Pallas’s Reed Buntings were also feeding through this patch. As I watched and scrutinized, the call of a Black-faced Bunting seemed to get louder, until suddenly it appeared just about a meter away. It seemed curious. It stayed in view for a short time, hanging on the side of a reed, head turning side to side, investigating. Then it disappeared back into the reeds. I wondered if it felt as good as I did.

It was almost lunch time, which meant time for coffee. On the way out, I noticed a large, grey, dark crowned shrike-like bird with white underparts perched on a treetop. The heat caused waves so at that distance it was just too unclear. I scrambled to get closer for a better view, but wasn’t quick enough. I have yet to see a Chinese Grey, so I spent a short time looking around. No luck. I did notice an Eastern Buzzard sitting pleasantly atop a telephone pole. After coffee, Jack Dryden and Simon Downing joined me to watch the Reed Buntings and Penduline Tits. By now, the sky had close to two dozen Cinereous Vultures circling around. On our way out, pleased with our time well-spent, we promised to visit Suncheon Bay together again. We all agree it’s one of our world’s most beautiful places. Get out there soon, if you can !

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus Digiscoped © Jason Loghry/Birds Korea

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