Birds Korea Bird News: a History in Images and Day-reports…

Birds Korea, December 9th 2012

Active in the field and at public meetings, much of what Birds Korea actually does is behind-the-scenes – data analysis, frequent correspondence with domestic experts and overseas conservation organisations, meetings between core members, and of course work on updating our online media.  These online media started with our English-language website (opened in 2004, though containing postings from our earlier time as “WBK-E”) and our Korean-language website (also opened in 2004); and more recently grew with a blog (opened in February 2011), a Facebook page; and now even a Twitter presence. Much of the content on these online media continues to be driven by direct observations of birds and their habitats – both by our members and by others in the region who are willing to share their observations and insights in the public domain.

As the body of information grows, there is a constant need for organisation.  And thanks to Mr. Andreas Kim, the past 22 months of English-language Bird News housed on the blog have now also been added to the archive pages on our English-language website. This makes it much easier to access records and images and to scroll through months and years of bird records:

While we will continue to post the most recent bird sightings on our blog, please do take a leisurely look at this website archive. These pages contain thousands of day-reports and images of species and habitats that stretch from February 2002 all the way to December 2012. They therefore provide a fascinating and perhaps unique insight into more than a decade of change in the ROK – rapid change in habitats and species’ status and, sadly an all too slow growth in the domestic conservation response.

Looking back, the earliest of the patchy archived bird news posts are from 2002, and were originally posted on the website “WBK-E” (or “Wetlands and Birds Korea – in English”). WBK-E was formed in late 2001 by Mr. Charlie Moores and Mr. (now Dr.) Nial Moores to support the internationalisation of the work of Supchi wa Seiduri Chingu. Supchi wa Seiduri Chingu (translated as “Friends of Birds and Wetlands”) was in turn a group earlier co-founded in Busan in 2000, with Dr. Nial Moores an initial proponent and one of its co-founders.  As the need for greater and freer communication with overseas organisations grew (especially in response to the Saemangeum reclamation) two of its staff (Dr. Kim Su-Kyung, now a specialist in Oriental Stork conservation, and Dr. Nial Moores) left that organisation in 2002, and along with Mr. Charlie Moores, Ms. Park Meena and more than a hundred new members and supporters, launched Birds Korea in late 2004.

Bird-wise, 2002 also produced the first national record of Light-vented Bulbul, while a Baer’s Pochard found in February was considered a “support species” to the nation’s first record of Ferruginous Duck. More than a decade on, Light-vented Bulbul now breeds on several islands, and was even found in winter 2012 on the mainland on Geoje and near Pohang. Ferruginous Duck remains rare nationally (though seems to be increasing in eastern China), but the precipitous decline of Baer’s Pochard means it has had to be listed as globally Critically Endangered…

Also in 2002 and then again in 2003, early visits to Eocheong and then Socheong helped to realise these islands’ research and birding potential.   By 2011, over 330 species had been recorded on Socheong, including the nation’s first Yellow-bellied Tit in 2005. The latest addition to that island’s still-growing species list was a Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker – found by Mr. Subjohit Chakladar as recently as October 1st 2012.

In 2006, as the archived records show, the last gaps in the Saemangeum outer sea-wall were being closed – resulting in a massive drop in number of shorebirds supported there and nationally. By 2008, the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (conducted by Birds Korea in partnership with the specialist AWSG, counting shorebirds within Saemangeum and at the neighboring Geum estuary and GomsoBay) had proved the impacts of large-scale reclamation on shorebird populations. This provided the rationale for the listing by BirdLife International of Great Knot as globally Vulnerable.

In 2009, in the same winter as the nation’s first King Eider(s!) and the first regular fishing-boat based seawatching trips off the Gangwon coast, Birds Korea posted a new Checklist. Following the global checklist of the International Ornithological Congress /Union this checklist requires posters to use occasionally still-unfamiliar English names…some apparently much easier to remember than others!  (Please be advised: we plan to post a revised checklist in early 2013, and consistent usage of names from our checklist really does help both with storage and retrieval of important records – Thank you in advance!).

On through until the end of the “noughties”, Relict Gull, another tidal-flat specialist, continued to decline.  Formerly a regular species to find at both the Nakdong Estuary and at Song Do, our archives contain only a single observation of a single Relict Gull at Song Do in January 2009 – as another internationally important tidal-flat is impounded, another species heads towards national extirpation.

Happily, our archived pages do not indicate only decline and loss. Birds Korea (and Supchi wa Seiduri Chingu too!) is still growing and as before remains dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats.  The planned Geum Estuary reclamation was stopped in 2007, and much of the previously-unsurveyed Gomso Bay is now a Ramsar site – with both sites producing recent records of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.  Bird-wise too, in October 2012, there were flocks of the increasing Yellow-bellied Tit on several offshore islands (with three or four even reaching western Japan) and more Light-vented than Brown-eared Bulbul on Gageo Island – further evidence of a changing avifauna.

The winter of 2012 / 2013, when compared to previous winters in our archive, also seems to be holding above-average promise for finding irruptive migrants and making interesting discoveries – perhaps another Arctic Redpoll (recorded in both 2002 and 2009) or even a Pine Grosbeak?  The latter species is still unrecorded in the ROK, but is on the move in both North America and Europe this winter, and has been recorded in the DPRK – though only once, back in November 1959.

Indeed, thanks to more than a decade of archived bird news records online, anyone who wants to can now easily compare recent winters, re-visit old birding sites or simply get a feel for birding in Korea…

To visit this fascinating archive:

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