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A Report from

South Korea, May 2007,

Nick Allen

(or Hankookeso tamjo hagi)


I visited South Korea for just over a fortnight in May 2007 with my fiancée Hyeza, with the intention of meeting some of her family and seeing some of the country, not primarily for birdwatching. In fact, birdwatching came a definite third. Hyeza and I reside on the edge of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, though neither of us were born in that country, Hyeza having lived most of her life in Daejeon and Seoul, and I near Sheffield, on the edge of the Peak District National Park in the northern Midlands/South Yorkshire area of England. The following notes will hopefully add to the relative dearth of information on birding sites in Korea in spring.

Hyeza and I chose spring to visit as this is a time (along with autumn) of relatively benign weather. Winters are extremely cold, with mornings still freezing until early May. Summers are steamily hot and wet, and so just as uncomfortable as winter. There is also the added advantage that birds are supposedly on the move through the area in spring and autumn, adding greater diversity to the avifauna at those seasons.

However, I saw precious little evidence of migrants, and was a bit disappointed that the birds weren’t exactly singing their hearts out. It seemed that either summer visitors are either naturally thin on the ground or they hadn’t arrived at the time of my visit. The vast majority of winter visitors don’t seem to linger either, as I saw very few of these – a visit before March is obviously necessary to see any number of these. It was almost as though the forests were drawing breath before the onslaught of spring – either that or they were breathing their last, like the New Zealand ones.

Having said the above, however, the forests were very pretty in their pale new green leaf. We had missed the last of the cherry blossom by a couple of weeks, but the azaleas were in full bloom. Some things that surprised me about the forests was all that leaf litter but almost no thrushes, and the forest buntings when I was more used to this family being open country birds in the UK/NZ.

Books and other info sources

We took the Lonely Planet guide to Korea – not that Hyeza needed it, but I found it fairly useful. The only decent maps (apart from in the above guide) I could find were only in Korean (Hangeul), requiring some knowledge of this language and its alphabet. Bizarrely the road map to the whole country that I bought in Seoul features a cover picture of a very British-looking dual carriageway. Tourist offices were invariably helpful and provided tourist maps in English if asked. Googling the places you are interested in can bring useful results, or search/surf

Western tourism to Korea seems still to be in its infancy, with few non-Asians seen over our stay. Japanese and Chinese visitors were more common. Korean tourists were common in many parts of the country. In my eyes restricting factors to growth are the extremely limited number of English-speakers (Korean in my experience is difficult to learn as it is so different to western languages – I’m also getting a bit old to pick things up quickly), the lack of credit/debit card payment options at many shops/transport outlets, and the difficulty of following Korean language signs.

The only field guide covering the country is A Field Guide to the Birds of Korea by Woo-Shin Lee, Tae-Hoe Koo and Jin-Young Park. This is a fairly basic but adequate guide to the birds you are likely to see on the mainland of the country. If heading onto the offshore islands additional guides to the surrounding parts of East Asia would probably be an advantage. The book is supposedly out of print now so hopefully an updated and enlarged edition will appear soon. The maps in the guide could certainly be improved by focussing on just Korea. Some of the maps cover the whole hemisphere, or more – useless for working out where the bird is likely to be seen in Korea and totally bizarre! Perhaps the book could come with a magnifying glass so the multitude of maps covering the whole of East Asia could be read without damage to the reader’s eyesight. Given recent sightings/birding effort some of the status descriptions (e.g. rare, scarce) are a little out.

I found the set of Japanese bird recordings useful for learning calls/songs before my visit – the set covering 420 species. These recordings were almost entirely of a good quality with few instances of extraneous noises or other species. A more restricted set of Korean recordings at least used to be available on the web as rather compressed MP3 files, but sounded fairly tinny (I obtained them from a friend with a world-wide archive of bird sounds).

A guide to the mammal fauna is available on the web in Wikipedia, with photos of the larger species, but not small things like mice/rats/bats. A guide to the reptiles and amphibians is also available on the web (Google reptiles Korea) with photos and scientific/English names, but the rest of the text in Korean. Likewise there is a web guide to butterflies, mostly in Korean/Japanese. All were found using Google.

I must thank those who went before and posted trip reports on the net, especially Tyler Hicks for his detailed report of southern South Korea – good on you! The Birds Korea site has to be the first port-of-call for anyone seeking info on visiting Korea and watching birds. Surfbirds and Fat Birder are also good sites to search. Unfortunately the reports focussing on offshore islands, or at other times of the year were of fairly limited use to me. The offshore islands really seem to be a different world to mainland Korea, bird-wise at least, and Korea in spring is certainly a different place to that in winter.


I found South Korea to be a very safe country and never really felt threatened. Of course, though, Hyeza knew which areas to avoid, mentioning Itaewon and the areas around Dongdaemun and Namdaemun in Seoul as less safe locales, especially at night. Despite the huge expanses of high-rise impersonal concrete suburbs there is very little evidence of vandalism, and parents seem quite content to let their children play in nearby parks well after dark. This is probably a result of at least most apartments being privately-owned and having night watchmen. Most Koreans seem to be in gainful employment and teens seem to have too much to do than hang out menacingly on street corners. Hyeza and I got a few funny looks from some people, especially the older generation, but that may have been because a mixed westerner/Korean couple isn’t that common a sight, especially holding hands (this behaviour would have been seen as disrespectful a decade or so ago).

The subway systems are very safe and busy well into the night (with people heading home after working late – long hours are often worked – or after post-work maekju/soju). We saw a small number of drunks, but they were all benign. Small numbers of down-and-outers use the subway for sleeping. Police in the subway system apparently quickly sort out any minor problems.

As for dangerous animals, there are a number of venomous snakes, but I didn’t see any reptiles, and they might be more of a summer problem. Snakes are apparently fairly scarce after being hunted actively a number of years ago. Large carnivorous animals are extremely rare in Korea and so don’t pose a threat.

Malaria is present in the area near the DMZ (including Ganghwa-do), and could pose a threat in the warmer months. There are also occasional outbreaks of the even potentially more deadly Japanese encephalitis in the south west of the country – again in the warmer months. If visiting these areas contact your doctor well before you leave. I was inoculated against cholera, typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B before departure and was given information on rabies treatment. I did wonder how necessary most of these are (except perhaps hepatitis A) for careful visitors staying in the more civilised parts of the country, but guessed it would be better to be safe than sorry.


The public transport system is so good, and the roads full of aggressive car drivers that it would be a bit silly to hire a car while visiting mainland Korea. Car parking in cities, and navigating the maze of un-named roads in the suburbs are other major headaches. The subway systems in the cities that possess them offer a fast and frequent service. I was particularly impressed by the Seoul Subway, with headways sometimes down to a couple of minutes. In most instances on my journeys signs were in Korean and English, with announcements in both these languages (and sometimes Chinese/Japanese) where public address equipment was fitted. It was even possible to learn a bird call, as interchange announcements were preceded by the song of the Korean Bush Warbler.

One major problem was a lack of lifts/elevators in the subway systems meaning it was a bit of a struggle up and down steps with heavy luggage. Ticket machines tend only to take low denomination notes and coins, but then fares are low. If staying more than a few days a multi-trip card would soon pay for itself. The number of exits from the stations made for a bit of a maze – look out for the ‘local area maps’ to navigate by. Hyeza had to ask for directions on numerous occasions, however. I’m not sure how easy this would be for a non-Korean speaking foreigner, probably not very.

City/town/local buses serve parts of the country you would think would be well outside a normal service range and amazingly frequently. Most city/town buses have PA systems announcing current and next stops – but in Korean only. Some bus stop signs are in English, at least in Seoul. Numbering on the bus stops can be a bit hit-and-miss sometimes. Don’t expect the driver to speak English. Change is not normally given, so make sure you have plenty of low denomination notes/coins.

The express bus service between towns and cities is for the most part good, usually being fast and punctual, with a frequent number of journeys each day. Check the destination arrival times if more than one bus is going at a similar time – a slightly slower bus is usually cheaper. Tickets are bought at a ticket office before travel. Booking in advance can be a good idea but not normally essential.

Trains serve most parts of the country. Express trains are fast, punctual and efficient, and just a little more expensive (though more comfortable) than buses. Local trains stopping at every little village whilst still punctual are a bit on the slow side (reminded me of old-fashioned branch line trains in the UK).

Domestic airports are available, but unless travelling any distance (e.g. Seoul to Busan), or offshore to Jeju-Do, offer little time advantage, and are much more expensive than land-based transport options.

Taxis are virtually everywhere in towns and cities and fairly easy to hail down. Fares are very reasonable, but in the cities it may be a good idea to stick to the basic ones rather than the more expensive deluxe/luxury ones. The drivers are likely to only speak/read Korean, which makes giving directions difficult, and banter impossible. Some drive like boy-racers/Knightrider, making journeys ‘entertaining’ in their own right. If you’re wearing brown trousers you’ll be right!


I’ve seen a number of derogatory comments about Korean food. Well I have to admit I like the cuisine. Contrary to reports that there is little variety, I would say this is not the case – how could it be when 40 dishes are set in front of you at a Korean restaurant? The same ‘lack of variety’ label could be attached to a number of national cuisines – English, Nepalese and Mongolian immediately spring to mind, and for those birders who exist on a diet of cholesterol-packing pies and/or fish and chips I can only express my deepest sorrow. Western-style food is widely available in Korea, but not everywhere, and where it is it is invariably more expensive than native Korean food. Unless you stay all your time in the larger centres you will almost inevitably end up eating Korean food somewhere, whether you originally intended to or not.

Korean food is based around rice (normally the sticky medium grain variety) or noodles and has some similarities with the neighbouring countries of China and Japan. Most dishes contain either meat, or animal products. Vegetarians are likely to enjoy little variety in their Korean meals, and vegans are almost sure to lose a considerable amount of weight over their stay, though beans and tofu do feature commonly.

Meals are usually eaten with steel chopsticks, which are thinner and more slippery than wooden or plastic ones (get your technique right before travelling). A long-handled spoon is also provided. If two sizes of chopsticks/spoons are provided the longer ones are for men, and shorter for women. Spoons are used for eating rice dishes, stews and soup. Chopsticks are used for eating other items and for taking items from side-dishes, which as mentioned can be numerous, and are shared within a group of diners. Apart from drinking thin soups bowls are not picked up from the table – it is considered rude (but they can be tilted). Also don’t leave your chopsticks/spoon stuck in your food – this is only done for food presented to the dead, and will offend many Koreans. Instead lie them horizontally on a dish or on a napkin. Expect to have to serve (even collect) your own water and sort out your own eating utensils. Some restaurants only have low tables and cushions. Unless you are used to sitting cross-legged the only way you will feel comfortable is propped up against a wall – kneeling or keeping your stomach muscles tight with your legs straight out soon becomes uncomfortable or ungainly. Service in Korean restaurants is invariably quick and efficient, if not always first class.

Many dishes are generously laced with chilli. These usually (unsurprisingly) either appear orange or red. The chilli in soups tends to settle at the bottom, so leave the dregs unless you like it. In dishes like pibbimbap scrape off some of the chilli paste before mixing everything together. Many soups and stews are brought to the table still boiling in iron bowls, or put on small gas burners to bubble away vigorously at the table – Koreans obviously have asbestos-lined mouths. Other dishes (e.g. samgyeopsal) are brought to your table uncooked and you cook them on a gas burner/griddle at the table. If pieces of lettuce or sesame leaves (these look hairy and heart-shaped) are provided, these are to wrap your meat (with a small amount of chilli paste and a side dish or two) in before eating. Seafood and seaweed feature highly in the cuisine, indeed kimbap is very similar to sushi. Koreans eat similar meals through the day. Eating rice, soup and kimchi for breakfast seemed a bit strange to me though, and I missed my usual fruit, muesli and yoghurt.

Some of my favourite Korean dishes that I would heartily recommend include:

Pulgogi (a beautiful marinade of small pieces of beef, eaten rolled in lettuce and sesame leaf with chilli and a sample of side-dish or two); samgyeopsal (a bit like bacon); kimchitchigae (kimchi stew); miyokguk (seaweed soup); tchajangmyeon (noodles in yummy sticky black bean sauce – just try not to get it on your clothes and wipe your lips well after eating); kimchimandu – kimchi stuffed dumplings (like wontons); pibimbap – stir well to mix everything to a modge; and the following side dishes – kkakdugi (cubed radish kimchi); baek-kimchi (a refreshing non-spicy kimchi containing much pear); kim (dried thin slices of seaweed – used to wrap rice using chopsticks); anchovies; yellow picked radish; pickled cucumber. Desserts aren’t a common feature, but everyone should try ddok (sticky sweet rice cakes). My least favourite food was bondegi – boiled silkworm larvae, served by many street vendors – they look (and taste) like flies and just the smell of them (after one taste) was enough to turn my stomach.

Water is a common feature with every meal – usually bottled water as the stuff out of the tap invariably tastes foul (usually due to chlorine, so generally safe). The local beers (maekju) are very drinkable, though nothing special. Unstrained rice wine looks strange and unappetising, but tastes surprisingly pleasant. Soju, Korea’s main alcoholic spirit is very popular with Koreans, who have their favourite brands (a bit like whisky I guess). Traditionally it is drunk quickly out of shot glasses. I tended to get very merry very quickly, and certainly couldn’t keep up with Hyeza’s brothers-in-law/friends who have been drinking it fairly regularly for years. I found it surprisingly drinkable, however, and not as sometimes described ‘firewater’. Interestingly Chilsung Cider isn’t alcoholic, but a refreshing apple-based soft drink. Another soft drink/soda, Pokari Sweat, thankfully doesn’t taste like its name suggests. Teas tend to be of the green-like variety, though not always actual green tea (nokcha). Black tea (hongcha = red tea) is less common. Coffees are readily available (where aren’t they these days), though nothing special. One special tea I particularly enjoy (after a meal as it’s rather sweet) is sujeonggwa – persimmon tea/punch – it’s even available in cans. If serving a drink to a Korean remember to use two hands or they may think you a bit impolite.

Breakfasts were often a bit of a problem, not wanting to pay extra for breakfast to be brought to our room in the various motels/hotels we stayed in. Hyeza and I often went to a bakery the night before, buying bread and pastries to eat the next morning with instant white coffee (out of sachets – common in motels, and surprisingly tasting acceptable). The bakeries were not quite what you would expect from a western-style one. Many had tables where you could eat your purchases, more like a café.

For those not wanting to eat Korean the large burger, sandwich and pizza chains can be commonly found, Chinese restaurants are fairly common (and often very good), and the Korean take on Italian restaurants offer an interesting if not very authentic change.

Entertainment-wise, visitors to Korea are unlikely to go especially to see a show/play/concert or movie, though these are available in the main centres at least. I saw one classic Korean movie on the flight over (thanks to the individual choice available on 777s) and was pleasantly surprised. The ending was a bit sad, but Hyeza told me that’s fairly normal. Korean movies apparently often win international awards. It’s worth working out the time of the changing of the guard at Bosingak and the palaces in Seoul – they are very colourful and noisy spectacles. We also enjoyed the traditional dancing after the replica wedding ceremony held every day at the Jongno end of Insadong-gil. These had the added advantage of being free. Not free but surprisingly entertaining was an hour or so spent in a noraebang (= singing room) a bit like a small (and thankfully not public) karaoke bar. The computer graciously offered scores above 90% for my less than musical renditions of English language songs.

I watched a fair amount of telly. Anglophones will be relieved that there are at least two channels in English – Arirang and the Forces Network. What little I saw of the latter was a little strange, I guess it’s really for military personnel, but if watching some guy in fatigues talk about the latest piece of army hardware is your thing it could be right up your alley. Arirang is mostly a news/documentary/interview channel, with some broadcast in the daytime being in Korean, but the programmes are well-produced and presented. Hyeza became keen on a costume drama programme in Korean (with English subtitles) about ginseng merchants in the Joseon period. Some programmes have Spanish subtitles. Korean TV (well KBS1 anyway) had some interesting programmes in the early evening, especially comedies – Koreans have a great sense of humour, even if you can understand barely a word. The news seemed a bit old-fashioned compared to the slick western news programmes. Much of the channels seem to show endless soap operas, many of these being very Crossroads-like (people living in the UK in the 70’s will know what I mean). I can’t say they pushed my buttons anyway. There are also the evangelical channels if you need Korean spiritual uplift. CNN and the usual satellite channels are often available in motels/hotels.

Language and other problems

Unless you have the luxury of a Korean-speaking guide or friend to tour with you are likely to struggle with communication in Korea. Although English is taught in all schools, this tends to be written grammatical English, not conversational, and most Koreans tend either to not know how to speak English, or are too shy, or modest of their limited ability in it to do so. Therefore even a very basic prior knowledge of the Korean language – e.g. the alphabet and some basic phrases would be very advantageous. Indeed you would probably be pretty foolish not to learn the Hangeul alphabet as it is easy compared to other eastern languages and almost everything is written in it alone, especially outside the main cities.

Lonely Planet produce a basic guide to the language, which I found of some use, though was told by the child of a Korean friend that some of the Anglicised Korean phrases were a bit unusual in their spelling and therefore their implied Korean pronunciation. The book also tends to use the older means of Anglicising Korean with the short-sound sign (like a u) over short-sounded vowels, which though easier, has been replaced by an official Korean version using the rather confusing method of placing an ‘e’ before short-sounded vowels. All the books I’ve seen for teaching Korean to English-speakers convert the Korean letters to ‘equivalent’ English sounds. From bitter experience these are only approximations – the actual Korean is a little bit different. Visit for examples of how each letter sounds and is made (and other information on Hangeul and the Korean language). For those attempting to learn the language the structure of sentences is different to English, the verb endings are often longer than the verb stem (and change according to degree of politeness/whether a question is being asked/future-present-past tense and various other reasons) and particles are added to nouns to signify various things. Anyway it’s all pretty complicated and very different to the European languages with which I am acquainted, even though the language has ‘borrowed’ many words in its vocabulary from English. Make sure you don’t address people (other than small children) with the ‘low’ form of speech as you’ll either be very quickly corrected or will offend the person you are speaking to.

Incidentally the Korean for “I am a birdwatcher” is “chonun tamjoga imnida”. This is in the very polite form of speech – should you need it.

Virtually every tourist place you visit has an entrance fee, generally a very nominal amount, but a little annoying. It tickled me a bit that in many places a chap on a gate a handful of steps away would watch you buy a ticket from someone in a ticket booth, then carefully make sure you had one and clipped it. A little like a roadworks supervisor watching a guy digging a hole all day. Presumably the 1000-2000W fee pays for both people to do their jobs given the population base in Korea providing enough throughput of people through the gate.

Korea has definite problems with its drains – they stink! Somehow the design must be awry. Undoubtedly they drain straight into the rivers in cities, as they stink too – not that the birds mind. To misquote a Northern English adage ‘where there’s muck there’s birds’. Anyway if you’ve got a weak stomach it would pay not to eat your lunch too near a manhole/grate/drain.

You are expected to remove your outdoor shoes when entering most people’s houses, hotel rooms outside the area close to the room door, Korean-style seating areas of restaurants, and temple buildings. Many locations have cubby-holes in which to place your shoes, and provide slippers for you to wear. Thankfully shoe theft seems to be almost non-existent. If visiting places such as those listed above shoes that can be slipped on and off easily offer a great advantage.

Having driven on the left hand side of the road all of my adult life, driving on the right took a bit of getting used to, especially trying to read Korean road signs at the same time, and glancing down at the GPS. The rear view mirror was in the ‘wrong’ place (not that most Koreans seem to make much use of this feature anyway), and I was never quite sure that the right hand side of the car was in the correct place on the road. I was quite relieved that the right hand side mirror was still attached when we gave the car back to the hire company. I took out insurance for the car for my peace of mind, and would suggest to others that this is a good idea. I was also quite relieved that I only drove on the relatively quiet Jeju-Do, and not in one of the mainland cities.

Like other countries in the region most streets in towns and cities are not named. This provides endless entertainment finding the building you are interested in. You may wonder how you could lose a huge chunk of concrete and glass, but it is surprisingly easy among hundreds of similar ones. Local area maps are provided at subway stations and often at strategic places in districts (e.g. bus stops) – generally in Korean, sometimes with English. It must provide Koreans endless opportunities to talk about matters other than the weather, as Hyeza had to ask the way countless number of times, and nobody she asked seemed to be surprised (only one refused). Taxi-drivers seemed to have to ask passers-by for directions during some city journeys. Businesses and hotels etc. will usually provide directions on request, including which number exit at a subway station you should use. The numbering system in a district is apparently based on which building was built first (#1), second (#2), etc. so not surprisingly this can appear totally random on the ground. Apartment blocks are normally prominently numbered, but the district to which they are assigned is not always obvious. Thus you can have two numbered 101 almost next to each other and be totally confused as to which is the right one.

Sadly South Korea is still nominally at war with North Korea, and has been for over 50 years. In addition to the heartache that this causes families that have been split up (reunions still occur – their participants now white-haired with age), and to others in the population living in a de-unified country, there is a significant amount of military effort put in to defending the country. A number of areas are what could be described as sensitive, and it would not be a good idea to start pointing cameras or high-powered optics at them. It’s probably easiest not to than to have to persuade someone in uniform (who may or may not speak your language) that you are merely looking at birds. With the recent journeys of trains across the DMZ, after 53 years, there is hope that there may be a thawing in the often icy relationship between the North and South, and that perhaps one day the country will be re-unified.

The Places and the Birds


Seoul City

We arrived at Incheon Airport Seoul about 7am and journeyed from Incheon to Guil area of the city by Limo bus to Guro Station then taxi. The area between Incheon Airport and Seoul resembled a long building site, relieved by a number of areas of paddyfields/wetlands and estuaries.

Birds comprised mostly Black-billed Magpies, which were very common, with egrets (probably Intermediate mostly) and a Grey Heron in paddies. Crossing the estuarine areas on causeways/bridges, a few gulls were seen, mostly Black-taileds, though one gull with as dark a back as one of the latter but no tail band was probably Slaty-backed. The ‘Little Gulls’ with the strange wing marks seen in one estuary area were probably Saunders’.

We spent most of day sight-seeing in Seoul.

There was little bird diversity in built-up areas – Tree Sparrows, Feral Pigeons and the odd Black-billed Magpie. The grounds of Gyeongbokgung had a few Brown-eared Bulbuls and Barn Swallows, a singing Great Tit, and trying to look inconspicuous under a bush on one of the lawns a female Dusky (Naumann’s) Thrush.


Gwangneung National Arboretum

The journey took 2.5 hours from central Seoul. First by subway (line 1) to Uijeongbu, then (after standing at the right bus stop outside the subway station for a while but noticing that 21 was not on the sign, asked a few locals for directions and got a different answer each time) wandered around the business district of this suburb looking for the bus interchange, finally finding the interchange and the same No. 21 bus that would have stopped outside the subway station. Then from Uijeongbu there was a seemingly interminable bus ride to the arboretum. Stops were announced for the current and next stop via a PA system in Korean, and the next stop was signed in ‘English’ on every bus shelter – fairly useful.

On arriving at the Arboretum it seemed as if a large proportion of Seoul’s schools had taken the opportunity to visit as well. With at least 20 busloads of school kids, all shouting, and teachers with loud-hailers it was mostly very challenging indeed to hear any birds, and those present tended to be the commoner ones. I got the feeling that many birds must have fled in terror at the cacophony that had descended on the place.

Anyway the visit was an almost total waste of time and effort. The probably more interesting higher areas were closed, and the place is probably not visiting without access away from the ‘popular’ lower areas. One lower area without people was the low bushy area past the lower lake – perhaps just not of interest to students, all the buntings I saw were in this general area, so at least something appreciated it. I appreciated the buntings and the relative silence.

Having to book in advance to gain entry is also a fag, as are the very gentlemanly opening hours/days.

Great Egret – 1 on river
Little Egret – 1 on river
Grey Heron – 1 on river
Spot-billed Duck – a few flyovers
Pheasant – 1 heard
Rufous Turtle Dove – 1 heard singing distantly
Indian Cuckoo – 1 heard singing distantly
Common Kingfisher – 2 heard on river, one seemingly ‘singing’
Great-spotted Woodpecker – 2 or 3 heard calling
Grey Wagtail – 1 Lake Yuklim (the upper lake)
White Wagtail (leucopsis) – 1 on small stream
Brown-eared Bulbul – common
Wren – 1 heard
Daurian Redstart – 1 heard singing, but could obviously see I was interested in it because it shut up and disappeared whenever I worked out which tree it was in.
Eastern Crowned Willow Warbler – 1 heard singing distantly
Marsh Tit – several
Great Tit – fairly common
Eurasian Nuthatch – 1 heard
Rustic Bunting – 1 male
Tristram’s Bunting – 1 small group of 3+
Black-billed Magpie – common

Han River, Seoul

Viewed from the jetties and pleasure boat area near the National Assembly building on the south bank towards Bamseom Island, from about 4-5pm.

Viewing distances to the island were long, though scopable. The light could best be described as looking through a very thin grey mist, the consistency of gruel, which dulled everything down and made perceiving things like basic identification marks really difficult. I didn’t feel much like walking along the bridge crossing the river though and sharing it with a constant stream of vehicular noise and vibration. In contrast the river bank was quite peaceful and relaxing. Surprisingly didn’t get many funny looks from Seoulites, or people asking what I was photographing with my big ‘camera’ – like I would in NZ.

Great Cormorant – several. I kind of tossed back and forth thinking well shouldn’t these be Temminck’s? But then they looked just the same as Greats re back colouration and face patch size/shape. Maybe Greammink’s.
Grey Heron – several
Mallard – 2 or 3
Spot-billed Duck – several
Pheasant – several on island
Black-tailed Gull – several
Mongolian Gull – 2 or 3
Feral Pigeon – common
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – common



We made a visit on Children’s Day to Ganghwado with a friend’s family in their car, arriving at Bunori Dondae/Dongmak Beach late morning.

Journey from Seoul to Ganghwado (and return)

The Han River was followed most of the way, then we turned inland close to the island.

Cormorant sp. – few Han River
Cattle Egret – 1 Ganghwado
Great Egret – fairly common, paddyfields
Intermediate Egret – common, paddyfields
Little Egret – common, paddyfields
Grey Heron – common, paddyfields
Spot-billed Duck – common anywhere with water
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper – 3 in a paddyfield near Han River, seen whilst in traffic jam on way home
Black-tailed Gull – several, Han River and crossing over to island
Feral Pigeon – common in built-up areas
Rufous Turtle Dove – fairly common
Brown-eared Bulbul – few, Ganghwado
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 1 small party in Ganghwado farmland
Tree Sparrow – abundant
Grey Starling – 1 Yeochi-ri, Ganghwado
Black-billed Magpie – abundant
Jungle Crow – few, Ganghwado

Bunori Dondae

Immediately east of Dongmak Beach on the southern coastal road this ancient fortification/watch-point provides a good vantage point looking over some useful mudflats. Unfortunately on arrival the tide was almost fully out, and the sea was not visible through the haze – it was a long, long way out! Scrub and woodland clothes the sides of the small peninsula holding the dondae and held some interesting birds, including the beautiful-looking (but not sounding) Black-capped Kingfisher. Plenty of people were on Dongmak Beach, including shellfish-gatherers well out on the mudflats and children obviously enjoying getting covered from head to toe in mud on their special day.

Temminck’s Cormorant – 1 flew past, and 2-3 probables on mudflats
Great Egret – several
Little Egret – several
Grey Heron – several
Black-faced Spoonbill – about half a dozen, a couple seen really well
Spot-billed Duck – several
Redshank – 2-3
Terek Sandpiper – 2-3
Bar-tailed Godwit – 2-3
Eurasian Curlew – several
Far Eastern Curlew – several
Whimbrel – several
Black-tailed Gull – common
Black-capped Kingfisher – 1 seen well in flight and another heard simultaneously
Grey-headed Woodpecker – 1 male
Brown-eared Bulbul – several heard
Great Tit – 2-3
Tree Sparrow – several
Black-billed Magpie – 2-3
Jungle Crow – 2-3

Jeondeungsa Temple

A short visit after lunch, primarily for sight-seeing. The walk from the car-park at the base of the hill where the temple was situated took about 15 minutes and was through oak-maple forest. Plenty of people present, possibly linked to the day being a holiday.

Rufous Turtle Dove – 1 or 2
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker – 1 heard
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Eastern Crowned Willow Warbler – 1
Great Tit - several

After arriving back in Seoul we caught express bus to Gunsan, arriving after dark


Geumgang Estuary

Due to rather unhelpfully early tides (5am) we only visited the area about 500 m downstream of the barrage on the northern side of the river after rising at the still (for Hyeza) unsocial hour of 6am. This area is easily reached by taxi from Gunsan (hire one for a few hours and don’t be taken in that there will be an extra charge as you are going from one council district to another – I was pleasantly surprised to find two taxis just after 6am on a back street!) and either has a roost or is one of the first areas to be uncovered/covered on a falling/rising tide, allowing close viewing of a cornucopia of shorebird species, only spoilt for me by the dingy, hazy, grey light – I felt like my the lenses of my bins and scope had been dipped in the mud below and not wiped clean. Unfortunately the area near the barrage doesn’t seem to attract Red or Great Knots – these can be found further east on the estuary shore – e.g. at a location known to Korean wader-counters as ‘shellfish harbour’ – not exactly sure where this is, however.

Black-crowned Night Heron – several
Grey Heron – several
Great Egret – few
Little Egret – few
Spot-billed Duck – several
Mallard – 2
Pintail – 4 (2 drakes and 2 ducks)
Common Teal – about 50
Grey Plover – about 30
Mongolian Plover – common
Dunlin – common
Curlew Sandpiper – several
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper – fairly common
Red-necked Stint – common
Greenshank – very common
Redshank – several
Spotted Redshank – common
Terek Sandpiper – common
Bar-tailed Godwit – several
Black-tailed Godwit – about 6
Eurasian Curlew – several
Whimbrel – fairly common
Black-tailed Gull – several
Black-headed Gull – common
Vega Gull – 1-2
Little Tern – 1
Common Kingfisher – 1 heard
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Rufous-tailed Robin – 1 heard singing in nearby forest
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 1 small flock, public gardens near barrage
Coal Tit – 1 heard, public gardens near barrage
Great Tit – several, public gardens near barrage
Tree Sparrow – several
Black-billed Magpie – several

Geum River Lagoon above Barrage

Species number and diversity were in direct contrast to that below the barrage – the area simply isn’t good for birds, at least outside winter. The birdwatching centres were interesting though, as far as their external architecture went (we didn’t venture inside), even so much as to call them impressive, but a pity they weren’t built where the birds are – below the barrage. Also some impressively long hides on the south bank – overlooking lots of water but little else. If you visit you can get some info on the birds of the area (including the scary-sounding ‘Whopper Swan’) and some basic maps/suggested tours.

Black-crowned Night Heron – several
Grey Heron – several
Great Egret – several
Little Egret – few
Spot-billed Duck – several
Common Kestrel – 1 adjacent farmland
Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Oriental Great Reed Warbler – 2 singing in small marsh about 5 km above barrage on N side
Great Tit – several
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – common

Journey Gunsan to Daejon
By express bus through a mixture of farmland and forest, with some towns.

Black-crowned Night Heron – particularly common in farmland/wetlands near Gunsan
Cattle Egret – few
Great Egret – few, especially rivers
Intermediate Egret – several
Little Egret - several
Grey Heron – fairly common
Spot-billed Duck – fairly common
Feral Pigeon – common in towns
Rufous Turtle Dove – fairly common
Brown-eared Bulbul – several, especially towns
Tree Sparrow – common
Grey Starling – few
Black-billed Magpie – common in open areas and towns


Gyeryongsan NP

A visit to the eastern part of the park, walking up the road from the bus stop/car-park past a number of food and souvenir shops to the park entrance then following a stream past Donghaksa. After this nunnery/temple complex the road soon ends, becoming a well-worn (if a little rocky and rough in places) path to Eunseonpokpo, where the path starts to climb steeply (and we turned back). Though there is a stream adjacent most of the way it didn’t drown out bird sounds, and indeed almost dried up by the time the waterfall (pokpo) was reached. Beautiful forest, stream and temple area. The Mandarin Ducks on the stream were a nice surprise, but given the numbers of fish in it where were the kingfishers? Plenty of people encountered all the way to the pokpo, but could still hear and see what birds were making themselves apparent.

Mandarin Duck – 3 pairs on river below temple
Feral Pigeon – several near car-park
Rufous Turtle Dove – 1 heard singing
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo – several heard in upper valley, 1 seen to fly over
Indian Cuckoo – 1 heard singing near car-park
Oriental Cuckoo – 1 heard singing in lower valley
Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1 heard drumming in upper valley
Grey Wagtail – several along stream
Winter Wren – 1 heard singing
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Rufous-tailed Robin – 2 heard singing
Daurian Redstart – several heard singing and 1 male building nest at toilet block opposite temple complex
Eastern Crowned Willow Warbler – 2-3 singing, lower valley
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2 bathing in a wet area adjacent to stream in lower valley
Varied Tit - several
Marsh Tit – fairly common
Great Tit – common, including 1 nest low behind open cover of lamp post – 4 young about 10 days old
Eurasian Nuthatch – fairly common
Tree Sparrow – common in built-up area near car-park
Jay – 3-4, lower valley
Black-backed Magpie – 2-3 only

Daejeon Area

Away from the built-up concrete jungle of the CBD and its apartment suburbs the rivers and Science Town offer more park-like surroundings, and more birds.

Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets – several on river through Daejeon (Daejeoncheon?), and in a small egretry near the visitor centre in Science Town.
Grey Heron – several along rivers
Spot-billed Duck – several along rivers
Common Kestrel – 1 hotel district, CBD
Feral Pigeon – fairly common, city
Rufous Turtle Dove – several in outer suburbs
Brown-eared Bulbul – fairly common city and suburbs
Great Tit – several
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – common


Journey Daejeon to Andong

By express bus taking from mid-morning to early afternoon, through a mix of agriculture and forest.

Black-crowned Night Heron – several, especially near Daejeon
Great Egret – several
Intermediate Egret – fair numbers
Little Egret – several
Spot-billed Duck – several
Common Kestrel – 1 Gimo City (an industrial city)
Feral Pigeon – several, cities/towns
Rufous Turtle Dove – common
Broad-billed Roller – 1 flew over
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – common towns and open country, not forests

Hahoe Folk Village

West of Andong, this is a traditionally-styled village, with interesting examples of architecture – this being the reason for our visit, not birds. The nearby Nakdong River produced some bird interest, however, and there was a surprising array of birds in or on the edge of the village. Shame about the drinks machines, shops, and obtrusive minbak signs that spoilt the atmosphere of the village in places. Still worthy of a visit though. We hired a taxi from Andong (we were short of time) and asked the driver to collect us after 2 hours – he also looked after our case during that time. It was the fastest taxi I’ve ever been in with speeds over 140 km/h at one stage. I expected the driver to sprout horns, a manic grin and a red outfit a la Plains, Trains and Automobiles at one stage and for me to have to peel my hands from the seat in front.

Great Egret – 1 Nakdong River
Grey Heron – 2-3 Nakdong River
Spot-billed Duck – 2 on river
Little Ringed Plover – 4 on river
Rufous Turtle Dove – 2+
Barn Swallow – common, nesting
Brown-eared Bulbul – 2-3 Mansongjeong pine grove
Daurian Redstart – 1 Mansonjeong pine grove
Great Tit – several, village
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2, village
Grey Starling – several
Black-billed Magpie – several

Jirye Artists’ Colony

A beautiful village in a wooded setting. Here we stayed in a traditional Korean house sleeping on the floor, and eating good food produced as in a family setting by the wife of owner Kim Won-gil. The owner moved the buildings from the valley below when it was flooded by a dam. The village is a very pleasant, relaxing place with fairly good birding on tracks through the surrounding forest. It would have been nice to have stayed more than just one night. Visit for more details.

Birds seen/heard from the village in the late afternoon/evening:

Grey Heron – several flew over
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1-2 heard
Indian Cuckoo – 3-4 heard singing
Hoopoe – 1 heard singing
Eurasian Scops Owl – several heard singing
Jungle Nightjar – 1 heard singing
Grey-headed Woodpecker – 1 heard drumming
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Daurian Redstart – about 3-4
Pale Thrush – 2-3 heard singing
Marsh Tit - several
Great Tit – common
Jay – 1
Jungle Crow – 1-2


Jirye Artists’ Colony

Records were made early to mid-morning, including whilst walking the track above the settlement.

Grey Heron – 1 flew over
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1 heard
Rufous Turtle Dove – 1 heard singing
Indian Cuckoo – 1 heard singing
Eurasian Scops Owl – heard from bed
Jungle Nightjar – heard from bed
Hoopoe – 2 or 3 heard singing
White-backed Woodpecker – 1-2 heard drumming, 1 brought in to tapping on tree with stone.
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker – 1 heard drumming and calling
Grey-headed Woodpecker – 1-2 heard calling and drumming
Barn Swallow – 1
White Wagtail – 1 leucopsis, singing
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Daurian Redstart – several, singing and chasing
Pale Thrush – 2-3, singing
Short-tailed Bush Warbler – 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2-3
Marsh Tit – several heard
Coal Tit – 2 nesting in outbuilding
Great Tit – common
Black-naped Oriole – 1 heard singing
Jay – 1 heard
Jungle Crow – 1

Andong Folk Museum and Korean Broadcasting Service Set

The surroundings are well-wooded, with the car-park and adjacent area being a parkland of low azalea bushes (attracting many butterflies) next to the (birdless) Andong Dam lake. Visited about midday.

Rufous Turtle Dove – 2-3
Broad-billed Roller – 1 overhead
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Bull-headed Shrike – 1
Daurian Redstart – several
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2
Coal Tit – several
Great Tit – several

Journey Andong to Gyeongju

By mugunghwa train – very slow as stopped roughly every five minutes, through rice paddy and other crops, with some forest. Arrived Gyeongju late afternoon.
Great Egret – fair numbers

Intermediate Egret – fair numbers
Little Egret – fair numbers
Grey Heron – fair numbers
Spot-billed Duck – common
Mandarin Duck – 1 river near Gyeongju
Common Kestrel – 1
Green Sandpiper – 1 river near Gyeongju
Feral Pigeon – several
Rufous Turtle Dove – abundant
Common Kingfisher – 1
Barn Swallow – fair numbers
Red-rumped Swallow – 2 above Andong City
Buff-bellied Pipit – 1 probable, paddyfield
White Wagtail – 1 leucopsis
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Oriental Greenfinch – 1 singing on wire in Andong City CBD near Railway Station
Tree Sparrow – common
Grey Starling – fairly common
Black-billed Magpie – fair numbers

Noseo-dong Park and Tumuli Park

A late afternoon-early evening visit to see the tumuli, which were intriguing in a strange green mound kind of way. The tomb that has been opened up is well worth a visit. Part of the Tumuli Park comprises low trees, and has a few birds. The piped music throughout the Tumuli Park was an ‘interesting’ feature.

Great and Intermediate Egrets – several flew over to roost
Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Barn Swallow – several
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Daurian Redstart – 2
Great Tit – several
Oriental Greenfinch – 1
Tree Sparrow – common
Grey Starling – common
Violet-backed Starling – 2
Black-billed Magpie – common


Gyeongju Tour to East Coast

We took a tour on a fairly empty bus round many of the sights of the area – not birding sites. The bus left from close to the express bus terminal at 10am and returned at 4pm, with lunch at a seafood restaurant close by to the rocky Underwater Tomb of King Munmu (only Black-tailed and Black-headed Gulls present). There were fair opportunities to explore some of the forests in the area where some temples are situated in them, but plenty of other people were always around.

Cattle Egret – several in paddy next to Gwoereung Tomb
Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets – several of each
Spot-billed Duck – several
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1 heard Gwoereung Tomb
Black-tailed Gull – numerous, King Munmu’s Tomb, mostly immatures
Black-headed Gull – numerous King Munmu’s Tomb, mostly non-breeding
Feral Pigeon – few
Rufous Turtle Dove – common
Barn Swallow – several
White Wagtail – 1 ocularis in paddyfield near Gameunsa Temple site
Brown-eared Bulbul – fairly common
Daurian Redstart – several
Pale Thrush – heard singing Golgulsa Temple area
Marsh Tit – fairly common
Coal Tit – several
Great Tit – common
Tree Sparrow – common
Grey Starling – fairly common
Black-billed Magpie – several, not that common
Jungle Crow – 1 heard Golgulsa Temple area

Gyeongju Southern Downtown

We spent the late afternoon and early evening sightseeing at the southern edge of the city, visiting the Cheomsongdae Observatory, the National Museum, Wolseong Palace site and Gyerim Forest. There was a mix of habitats – mature forest remnants, farmland and parkland, and I quite enjoyed birding while we gently strolled around. In fact our stay in Gyeongju was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Great and Intermediate Egrets – several flew over to roost
Grey Heron – 2-3 river/moat next to Wolseong site
Spot-billed Duck – 2-3 in wetter areas
Common Kestrel – 3-4, including 2 males fighting on ground near museum
Eurasian Oystercatcher – 1 flew overhead near museum, calling – unexpected this location
Little Ringed Plover – 1 on river/moat next to Wolseong site
Long-billed Plover – 2 on river/moat next to Wolseong site
Barn Swallow – several
Brown-eared Bulbul – fairly common
Pale Thrush – 1 Gyerim Forest
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2 near Gyerim Forest
Coal Tit – several
Great Tit – common
Tree Sparrow – fairly common
Grey Starling – common, nesting in Cheomsongdae Observatory
Black-billed Magpie – common



Hyeongsan River near Express Bus Terminal

A seemingly typical Korean river with a semi-braided gravel bed and low weirs to allow the river to be used for irrigation. Visited between 10am and 11.15am filling in time before catching a bus to Busan, the area (just across the road and downstream from the bus terminal) was surprisingly filled with migratory waders, and is seemingly well worth a visit, contra at least one report that says the area is bereft of birds.

Great Egret – several
Little Egret – 2-3
Grey Heron – 2
Spot-billed Duck – 4
Little Ringed Plover – 2+
Long-billed Plover – 2+
Common Sandpiper – 4, displaying
Green Sandpiper – 4
Wood Sandpiper – about 6
Barn Swallow – 2-3
Japanese Wagtail – 1-2 (kept especially to rank grass on river edge)
Tree Sparrow – several
Grey Starling – about 10
Black-billed Magpie – 2-3

Journey to Busan

A surprisingly short journey (50 minutes) that ended unexpectedly at the ‘central’ bus terminal of Busan, which is actually in the outer suburb of Nopo-dong, though next to a subway station. The journey was mostly on motorway through farmland.

Intermediate Egret – several
Grey Heron – few
Spot-billed Duck – few
Feral Pigeon – several
Rufous Turtle Dove – fairly common
Barn Swallow – several
Tree Sparrow – fairly common
Grey Starling – several
Black-billed Magpie – few

Beomeosa Temple

A large temple complex in the northern outskirts of Busan. Take the subway to Beomeosa station, then head out of the station away from the city, taking the first turning on the left and a 5-minute walk up (there is a slight climb) this road to a small bus terminal, from where there is a bus to the temple (frequency usually every 30 minutes). Apart from the magnificent buildings, and an interesting museum, the temple complex is surrounded by forest (evergreen broadleaf/cedar/cypress/bamboo/wisteria), and there is a well-constructed circular walking track through the forest just downhill from the temple, taking about 40 minutes to walk the circuit (very enjoyable). We visited for a couple of hours between mid- and late afternoon.

Ring-necked Pheasant – 1 heard
Feral Pigeon – 2-3, plus a nest with squabs
Rufous Turtle Dove – fairly common and very tame
Grey Wagtail – 2 on stream
White Wagtail – 1 heard on temple grounds
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Daurian Redstart – about 3-4
Grey-backed Thrush – 2-3, singing
Pale Thrush – 3+, singing
Short-tailed Bush Warbler – 1 heard singing
Korean Bush Warbler – 2 separate individuals heard singing briefly
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 1 flock of about 6
Varied Tit – 2+
Marsh Tit – 2-3
Coal Tit – several. One seen at nest hole, with chicks
Great Tit – common
Japanese White-eye – 3+, singing
Tree Sparrow – several
Black-billed Magpie – several


Busan Harbour Cruise

A cruise in the rain (more like that heavy drizzle that soaks you and invades any crack in your clothes that up until tested by it you were sure were waterproof) from the Passenger Ferry Terminal to Haeundae and return. The procedure for foreign visitors at the ferry terminal is amazingly bureaucratic and not exactly user-friendly. Remember to take your passport, even though you are not leaving the country! Hopefully you will strike someone behind the desk that can speak English well.
A gull sculpture outside the ferry building added some interest.
There was evidence of breeding/roosting (guano) on the Oryukdo Islets, but no birds.

Great Crested Grebe – 1 by ferry terminal wharf
Temminck’s Cormorant – 2+
Cattle Egret – a flock of 7 flew past
Intermediate Egret – a flock of 4 flew past
Black-tailed Gull – common
Feral Pigeon – 2+

Busan City Centre

(General comments from our 3-day stay)
As usual in South Korea, lots of concrete and few birds, though perhaps more than in central Seoul. A Rufous Turtle Dove was even seen in a badly mutilated roadside tree near the main railway station. Black Kites were seen on the edges of the city in small numbers. The weather experienced was typical of a maritime climate, with depressions moving through so a rainy day would be followed by good weather for a while – maybe a few days. It is warmer in this southern part of South Korea, but also wetter.

Black Kite – 1 near docks
Feral Pigeon – fairly common
Rufous Turtle Dove - several
Brown-eared Bulbul – fairly common in greener areas
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – few



We visited this well-forested park on one of the peninsulas at the green edge of the city in the morning (9am-12.30pm) after reading good reviews in Tyler Hick’s report/guide. We followed the tracks suggested in his guide fairly closely, but unfortunately found little evidence of any migratory activity – perhaps not too surprisingly given the beautifully sunny and still weather. Plenty of people were out and about recreating in the area. Shuttle buses (tyred trains) are available for the mobility impaired/lazy.

Changes from Tyler’s guide:

The rough track down the jetty seems to have been paved, though still only for pedestrians. The bird-sounds or silence that should pervade the little gully through which the path descends were roundly shattered by a loud speaker near the bottom of it seemingly set at full blast ceaselessly broadcasting an advert for a boat cruise so that it could be heard at the road above and the café near the entrance. Visiting early or late in the day may miss having your auditory senses being assailed by the lo-fi insult of the speaker, and you might be able to actually hear some birds in what otherwise seems to be a nice bit of forest.

The narrow track following the stream from the lower temple to the upper is fairly indistinct at its lower end, and near the top of the track may have been improved – here it is cordoned off from the rest of the forest, so it is necessary to climb over a rope fence. It all suggests that the track in its entirety might best be described as ‘unofficial’ in status.

Not mentioned in the guide:

The area above the upper temple/special forces monument is not open to the public, though the signs informing visitors of this are only in Korean.

Black Kite – 5 in air together at about noon, seen from restaurants/shops below entrance
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1-2 heard
Feral Pigeon – several near shops at entrance
Oriental Turtle Dove – several
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo – 1+
Barn Swallow – several
Brown-eared Bulbul – common
Daurian Redstart – 2-3+
Pale Thrush – fairly common
Short-tailed Bush Warbler – 1 heard singing just below café near entrance (next to vehicular road to entrance)
Arctic Warbler – 1 singing near Special Forces monument
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – common
Long-tailed Tit – 1 flock of 4 near entrance café
Varied Tit – fairly common
Marsh Tit – 1-2 heard
Coal Tit – several heard
Great Tit – common
Japanese White-eye – common
Yellow-throated Bunting – 2+ along narrow gully track
Yellow-browed Bunting – 1m 1f near top of narrow gully track
Oriental Greenfinch – several
Tree Sparrow – several near entrance
Black-naped Oriole – 2+ singing/cat-calling and seen in flight, below upper temple
Black-billed Magpie – several
Jungle Crow – several


Visited on a high tide between mid- and late afternoon. This may have been a mistake as all the mudflats at the southern end of the island were covered with water and only a limited number of waders were visible on the tidal wetlands within the island. Despite its status as a habitat for migratory birds there is a bridge being built across the island near its southern end. The whole area has CCTV, perhaps linked to the building of the bridge, and access seems less than when Tyler Hicks visited the area. A sign near the southern tip, where a hide has been built, and a fence warns that you are being watched and the area past the fence doesn’t seem to be open to the public thus limiting exploration of the centre of the island. The easternmost internal wetland is easily visible from near the main road down the island, but the western one is seemingly down a track going through the office car-park of the construction company building the bridge – though locals didn’t seem to be perturbed by this, using it to gain access to favourite fishing and food-gathering sites.

The site is probably best visited by taking the subway (line 1) to Hadan, then a short bus trip, alighting immediately after the barrage. The main road down the island follows its eastern shore, giving good views of a long inlet – the lowest stretch of the Nakdong River, some tidal wetlands and some reedbeds. Much of the island is rough grassland/shrubland. The rock-armoured shore next to the road attracts some waders.

Striated Heron – 1
Great Egret – several
Little Egret – 2-3+
Grey Heron – fairly common
Mallard – 2+
Spot-billed Duck – only 3-4
Eurasian Wigeon – about 10, especially southern tip
Pintail – 2m 1f, southern tip
Black Kite – 1-2
Common Kestrel – 1f
Ring-necked Pheasant – 3+ heard
Little Ringed Plover – 1 internal tidal wetland
Kentish Plover – 1 internal tidal wetland
Grey Plover – 1 internal tidal wetland
Greenshank – 2+ inner tidal wetland
Terek Sandpiper – several
Grey-tailed Tattler – several
Common Sandpiper – several
Whimbrel – several
Black-tailed Gull – very common Nakdong River inlet
Black-headed Gull – 1 internal tidal wetland
Vega Gull – 1, Nakdong River inlet
Little Tern – fairly common Nakdong River inlet
Common Tern – 1 longipennis, Nakdong River inlet
Feral Pigeon – several
Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Barn Swallow – fairly common
Brown-eared Bulbul – several
Fan-tailed Warbler – 3+ heard singing, seemingly from areas of rough grass
Oriental Great Reed Warbler – common
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – fairly common
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – several



This forested park is mentioned by Tyler Hicks in his report/guide, as next to Dadaepo Beach, but not named. It seems to have a similar avifauna to Taejongdae, but is maybe a bit quieter people-wise, and has no roads adding to the background noise. A number of buses serve the suburb of Dadaepo – alight at the southern end of the beach. The Busan guide calls the peninsula Molundae, but correctly this would need two ‘rl’s next to each other in the Hangeul spelling to make a fully ‘ell’ sound. I’ve followed the spelling on a sign/map at the park.

Again we visited at a time of beautiful calm and sunny weather not conducive to keeping migrants on coastal promontories. Good tracks are available through the forest. A less used narrow track is found from the upper sports ground/picnic area to the southern shore, forming a short cut to the main track.

Temminck’s Cormorant – 2 on offshore islands
Black Kite – 2-3
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1+ heard
Black-tailed Gull – several offshore
Rufous Turtle Dove – fairly common
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo – 1 heard singing
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker – several
Barn Swallow – several
Brown-eared Bulbul – common
Ashy Minivet – 1 heard
Pale Thrush – 2-3 heard singing
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – fairly common
Great Tit – common
Japanese White-eye – fairly common
Oriental Greenfinch – fairly common
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – fairly common
Jungle Crow – several


We flew from Busan to Jeju-si late in the afternoon. This volcanic island has a very maritime climate; we got one day of good rain, at least whilst on the south of the island. However Hallasan, the mountain in the middle of the island, has an effect, with an obvious rain shadow effect on the same day meaning the peak was clothed in thick cloud and rain, but Jeju-si to the north was dry under orographic clouds.

The soils of the island are of a volcanic nature and porous. Hence paddyfields are not a feature, but small, fertile stone-walled fields produce a good range of crops. South of Hallasan, the warmest part of the island, tangerine groves are a common sight.

The island is picturesque in places, and is probably the area best developed for tourism. This, and its relative remoteness means food and accommodation etc are more expensive than on the mainland. Korean couples often choose the island to spend their honeymoon on, with many sharing the same style of clothing – an interesting touch.

Of all the places in South Korea, the island is probably the safest place to drive. Hyeza and I hired a car. This was a saloon car (all the roads are good quality) running on LPG (not all ‘gas’ stations sell gas though) with ‘navigation’ – the Korean term for a GPS unit. When told where you wanted to go by use of a numerical code in a book, this unit told you in perfect Korean when to turn left and right and to watch your speed near the speed cameras, which have obviously had a good breeding season or two recently. Thankfully the display also had arrows and other symbols that I could understand when Hyeza wasn’t translating for me, and wondering why her yonguk saram namja chingu couldn’t pick up just a few more simple Korean phrases for goodness sake!

We stayed in a pension near the airport overlooking part of the northern coast of the island in a suburb of Jeju-si. Sightings in this general area were:

Feral Pigeon – fairly common
Rufous Turtle Dove – common
Eurasian Skylark – 1 heard singing, airport
Barn Swallow – common
Brown-eared Bulbul - several
Blue Rock Thrush – 1 m on chimney on building next to E-Mart hypermarket
Oriental Greenfinch – common
Tree Sparrow – common



We tried to find the south-eastern entry to the mountain at Miaksan, but found that entry here is restricted to permit-holders. The only bird of note near Miaksan was a Bull-headed Shrike. This area is up a single-track road and is not worthy of a visit.

Next, in a vain search for Fairy Pitta, we visited the other southern entrance at Yeongsil. By this time it was mid-morning, the day was heating up, and the birds no doubt quietening down. The Yeongsil area is up a winding road with no places to stop to listen or look for birds without blocking that side of the road, at least outside the crowded ticket office car-park and road-end car-park. The track from the road end and its café/shops was very crowded, like a motorway of people, and too noisy/disturbed for good birdwatching. Some birding down the road from the road end was fairly productive. The forest looked nice near the road end with an interesting dense ground cover that could have held huge flocks of pittas without them being seen. Lower down the forest had a denser shrub layer with good numbers of rhododendrons.

Ring-necked Pheasant – 1 heard near road end
Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Winter Wren – common, road end
Brown-eared Bulbul – common lower down than road end
Pale Thrush – 2+ heard singing below ticket office area
Korean Bush Warbler – fairly common, singing
Varied Tit – several
Coal Tit – several
Great Tit – fairly common
Japanese White-eye – several heard
Jungle Crow – common near road-end buildings

Seogwipo Natural Recreation Forest

We visited this area of forest, chalets, camping and picnic sites at the foot of Hallasan for 90 minutes after noon; not the best time for finding forest birds. I was impressed at the area, however, and wished that we could have spent more time birding the area. This was not just because some interpretation panels on a short forest walk/nature trail near the entrance featured the Fairy Pitta!

The forest is signposted off the road from Jeju-si to Jungmun skirting to the west of Hallasan, a few kms south of the Yeongsil entrance. It is necessary to buy a ticket, then either take a walk here along a short nature trail, or drive along a slow one-track one-way road (mostly tar-sealed, rest gravel) to other areas to either stop or walk. A map (in Korean) is available at the ticket office, featuring places to stay, picnic or walk in the park.

Oriental Turtle Dove – fairly common
Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1 heard calling
Brown-eared Bulbul – common
Korean Bush Warbler – fairly common
Blue-and-white Flycatcher – 1 singing
Varied Tit – several
Coal Tit – several
Great Tit – common
Japanese White-eye – several
Chestnut Bunting – 2, interesting to see them hopping around treetops (viewing from the edge of a steep valley-side)
Oriental Greenfinch – several
Tree Sparrow – several
Black-billed Magpie – several

The south coast and western inland part of Jeju-Do

An attempt to follow the coast road around to the west from Seogwipo, stopping at several places, mostly tourist sites (World Cup Stadium, Jusangjolli Rocks, Cheonjiyeonpokpo), but eventually managed to lose the coast road somewhere around Hallim and returned to Jeju-si through open farmed country somewhere in the west of the island, guided by the car’s trusty GPS. I do have to admit not being at all cognoscent of our position on the last part of the journey. Of all the sites the magnificent wooded valley (evergreen broadleaf trees – uncommon in Korea) and stream of Cheonjiyeonpokpo was the most bird-rich (and wildlife-rich in general), though Jusangjolli Rocks came a good second – they looked very similar to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Pacific Reef Egret – 1 Hallim harbour
Grey Heron – only 1-2
Spot-billed Duck – only 2 (Jeju is not well-endowed with surface water)
Chinese Sparrowhawk – 1, inland farmland
Ring-necked Pheasant – 1, inland farmland
Feral Pigeon – several
Rufous Turtle Dove – common
White-rumped Swift – 2, farmland near southern coast
Common Kingfisher – 1 Cheonjiyeonpokpo stream
Barn Swallow – common
Grey Wagtail – 2 Cheonjiyeonpokpo stream
Brown-eared Bulbul – common
Blue Rock Thrush – common at and just inland from coast, including 1 at World Cup Stadium (singing) and 2-3 near Jusangjolli Rocks
Korean Bush Warbler – fairly common (2-3 singing Cheonjiyeonpokpo)
Varied Tit – several
Great Tit – fairly common
Tristram’s Bunting – 1 on bare crop field wall, inland
Oriental Greenfinch – several
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – fairly common
Jungle Crow – several


Seongsan-po Lagoon

A couple of lagoons adjacent to the small town and port of Seongsan, overshadowed by the weirdly-shaped Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak). There are both saline and fresh lagoons, with the saline one perhaps being more interesting. Both lagoons are incredibly smelly, as they receive the area’s sewage discharge. Not the area for a picnic if you are at all queasy!

We visited between 10-11am on a high tide. There was light rain (showing the area’s maritime climate) and a cool wind blowing, so the area was a little grey and bleak. The few waders present seemed to prefer to use rocks and narrow sandy beaches on the edge of the lagoon for roosting and a little high-tide feeding.

Temminck’s Cormorant – 1
Intermediate Egret – 1
Little Egret – several
Spot-billed Duck – 2, freshwater lagoon
Greenshank – 1
Terek Sandpiper – several
Grey-tailed Tattler – 3-4
Common Sandpiper – 1
Black-tailed Gull – 1 sub-adult, apparently injured
Vega Gull – 2 first-summer probables
Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Barn Swallow – several
Tree Sparrow – several
Black-billed Magpie - several

Sinyang Beach

Several haenyeo (women divers) added interest to the few birds here. Diving is a dying occupation (the occupation – hopefully not the divers!), with young women not replacing the aging people currently diving for seafood. The beach was in a pretty location, and no doubt would have been even more inviting had the weather been better.

Birds seen in the general area were:

Pacific Reef Egret – 2 on rocks next to beach
Barn Swallow – several
White Wagtail – 1 at nearby LPG service station
Blue Rock Thrush – 2-3 in general area
Tree Sparrow – several

Jeju Folk Village

An interesting recreation of life in Confucian Korea centuries past, fairly hands-on. It was a real shame about the torrential rain, though at least this showed that thatch can be quite effective at shedding water, and there were real puddles on the gravel paths. The harubang phone booths are well-worth checking out. Birds were present in the trees and gardens dotting the village.

Rufous Turtle Dove – several
Barn Swallow – several
Korean Bush Warbler – 1-2 heard singing
Oriental Greenfinch – several
Tree Sparrow – common
Black-billed Magpie – common

List of species encountered

Based on A Field Guide to the Birds of Korea primarily, with synonyms and races mostly provided by the Korean checklist at with some obtained from the British Birds list of Western Palaearctic species, James Clements’s Birds of the World checklist (1991) and Richard Howard and Alick Moore’s Birds of the World checklist (1994).

Numbers after the species names refer to the day of the month of our visit, so 3 = 3rd May. H means heard only.

Only one species was seen once despite searching likely sites. Mostly winter visitors, almost all seemed to have gone prior to our arrival.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus cristatus. 12.

Fairly common on coasts and large rivers, telling the species apart was often less than straightforward.
Great Cormorant (= White-breasted Cormorant) Phalacrocorax carbo hanedae. 4,5.
Temminck’s Cormorant (= Japanese Cormorant) Phalacrocorax capillatus. 5,12,14,16.

Grey Heron was very common wherever there was fresh water. Little and Great Egrets were almost as common. Intermediate Egrets seemed to be more associated with paddyfields, as was the less common Cattle Egret. Black-crowned Night Herons were especially common in the Gunsan area, but less so elsewhere.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax. 5,6,7,8.
Striated Heron (= Little or Green Heron) Butorides striatus amurensis. 13.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis coromandus. 5,6,10,12.
Pacific Reef Egret (= Eastern Reef-Egret) Egretta sacra sacra. 15,16.
Great Egret Egretta alba modesta. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13,14.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia intermedia. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,16.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta garzetta. 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13,16.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea jouyi. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13,14,15.

It was great to catch up with the scarce Black-faced Spoonbill. Having seen it I would probably have difficulty telling it apart from Royal Spoonbill, now fairly common in NZ, were their ranges to overlap (unlikely). The black bill tip is easy to see at great distance.
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. 5.

Spot-billed Ducks could be seen almost anywhere where there was water, though reservoirs were surprisingly almost devoid of ducks – or any other bird life. Small numbers of other duck species lingered at shallow coastal sites. Finding Mandarin Duck on the relatively small stream in Gyeryongsan NP was a nice surprise.
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. 7,9.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos. 4,6,13.
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,13,14,15,16.
Common Teal Anas crecca crecca. 6.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas Penelope. 13.
(Northern) Pintail Anas acuta acuta. 6,13.

Korea seems to be a poor place to visit for bird of prey fans. Black Kites were fairly easy to find on the fringes of Busan, especially the forested peninsulas. Kestrels were mostly seen in or near industrial/built-up areas. They maybe use buildings for nesting, as in Western Europe.
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus. 13,14.
Chinese Sparrowhawk (= Chinese Goshawk = Grey Frog Hawk) Accipiter soloensis. 15.
Common Kestrel (= Eurasian Kestrel) Falco tinnunculus interstinctus. 6,7,8,9,10,13.

Only one species was encountered. Pheasants were common in forested areas. The several individuals seen on Bamseom Island in the middle of Seoul were a bit of a surprise.
Ring-necked Pheasant (= Common Pheasant) Phasianus colchicus karpowi. 4,5H,6H,8H,9H,10H,11H,13H,14H,15.

A good range of these birds were to be found on the eastern mudflats, though I didn’t see great numbers (probably didn’t get to the right areas on the right tides). They were the only migratory birds I saw in any number. I missed some species (e.g. Great and Red Knot) by not getting to the right habitats. The range of species using the river on the edge of Gyeongju was amazing, and it was nice to catch up with Long-billed Plover there.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius curonicus. 8,11,13.
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus. 10,11.
Kentish Plover (= Snowy Plover) Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus. 13.
Mongolian Plover (= Lesser Sand-Plover) Charadrius mongolus mongolus. 6.
Grey Plover (= Black-bellied Plover) Pluvialis squatarola. 6,13.
Eurasian Oystercatcher (= Palaearctic Oystercatcher) Haematopus ostralegus osculans. 10.
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis. 6.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata. 5,6.
Dunlin Calidris alpina sakhalina/pacifica. 5,6.
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea. 6.
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus. 6.
(Common) Redshank Tringa totanus eurhinus. 5,6.
(Common) Greenshank Tringa nebularia. 6,13,16.
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (= Tringa cinerea). 5,6,13,16.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. 9,11.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola. 11.
Grey-tailed Tattler (= Siberian Tattler) Heteroscelus brevipes (= Tringa brevipes). 13,16.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (=Tringa hypoleucos). 11,13,16.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa melanuroides. 6.
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica baueri. 5,6.
Eurasian Curlew (= Western Curlew) Numenius arquata orientalis. 5,6.
Far Eastern Curlew (= Eastern Curlew) Numenius madagascariensis. 5.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus variegatus. 5,6,13.

Black-tailed Gulls were common anywhere near the coast, with Black-headed Gull second commonest. The other gulls were only seen in small numbers, with the larger gulls seemingly mostly having left to breed. Terns weren’t all that common, with a small flock at Eulsukdo the most I saw. Strangely gulls were really scarce on Jeju-Do.
Black-tailed Gull (= Japanese Gull) Larus crassirostris. 3,4,5,6,10,12,13,14,16.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus. 6,10,13.
Saunders’ Gull Larus saundersi. 3.
Herring Gull (Vega Gull) Larus (argentatus) vegae vegae. 6, 16.
Yellow-legged Gull (Mongolian Gull) (= East Siberian Gull) Larus (cachinans) (vegae) mongolicus. 4,13.
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus. 3.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons sinensis (=Sternula albifrons). 6,13.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo longipennis. 13.

Feral Pigeons were a common bird of cities and large towns. Rufous Turtle Doves inhabited a wide range of habitats in city trees, farmland and forests. The latter species was especially common in farmland in the centre of the country.
Feral (Rock) Pigeon Columba livia livia. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.
Rufous Turtle Dove (= Oriental Turtle Dove = Eastern Turtle Dove) Streptopelia orientalis orientalis. 3,4H,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.

I heard plenty, but saw few, as they tended to stay hidden and sing/call a fair way from tracks in forests. Northern Hawk Cuckoos seemed to be the commonest of the species I encountered. I was surprised not to hear even one Common Cuckoo.
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (= Northern Hawk Cuckoo = Fugitive Hawk Cuckoo) Cuculus (fugax) hyperythrus. 7,13,14H.
Indian Cuckoo (= Short-winged Cuckoo) Cuculus micropterus ognevi. 4H,7H,8H,9H.
Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus horsfieldi. 7H,8H.

Staying all but one night in towns or cities, not surprisingly I didn’t hear many of these night birds. At Jirye they seemed to be fairly common, but refused to come into taped calls.
Eurasian Scops Owl (= Oriental Scops-Owl) Otus (scops) sunia stictonotus. 8H,9H.
Jungle Nightjar (= Grey Nightjar) Caprimulgus indicus jotaka. 8H,9H.

Only two individuals were seen, at a reputedly good place to encounter them, near the southern coast of Jeju-Do
White-rumped Swift (= Pacific = Fork-tailed Swift) Apus pacificus pacificus. 15.

A real highlight of the trip was the one or two Black-capped Kingfishers inhabiting the Bunori Dondae peninsula on Ganghwa-Do, as they flew around calling and flashing their colourful plumage. Common Kingfishers appeared to be fairly common, certainly more so than they are in the UK. The only Dollarbirds I saw were in flight, but then their flight pattern and butterfly-like action are pretty diagnostic. Hoopoes seemed very scarce indeed, with only one heard.
Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata. 5.
Common Kingfisher (= River Kingfisher) Alcedo atthis bengalensis. 4H,6H,9,15.
Broad-billed Roller (= Dollarbird) Eurystomus orientalis abundus. 8,9.
(Eurasian) Hoopoe Upupa epops saturate. 9H.

Though fairly common, most were fairly difficult to see and were detected by often distant calls/drumming. I was stoked to catch up with White-backed Woodpecker at Jirye, and the bird was attracted quite close by tapping a stone onto a tree trunk (to mimic feeding sound). Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers seemed to be common almost everywhere, but especially so at Morundae. Their grating call was very distinctive.
Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker (= Pygmy Woodpecker = Japanese Spotted Woodpecker) Dendrocopos kizuki seebohmi. 5H,9H,14.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major japonicus. 7H,15H.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos leucotos. 9.
Grey-headed Woodpecker (= Grey-faced Woodpecker) Picus canus jessoensis. 5,7H,8H,9H.

Given there is much open farmland in Korea I was surprised by the almost total lack of larks. I heard mine singing on the airport at Jeju-Do.
Eurasian Skylark (= Sky Lark) Alauda arvensis lonnbergi. 14H,16H.

Barn Swallows seemed to get more common the further south we travelled, being especially common on Jeju-Do. Red-rumped Swallows were only seen once, above Andong city.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica guttaralis. 3,8,9,10,11,13,14,15,16.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica japonica (Cecropis d. japonica). 9.

Grey Wagtails were common on any forested stream. White Wagtails were fairly common and seemed to be associated with wet farmland or open areas in forest. Only one Japanese Wagtail was seen, on the edge of the river in Gyeongju where it exhibited the exact behaviour described in the field guide, keeping tight into the river bank. Pipits were surprisingly extremely rare.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea robusta. 4,7,11,15.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis/ocularis. 4,9,10,11H,16.
Japanese Wagtail (= Japanese Pied Wagtail) Motacilla grandis. 11.
Buff-bellied Pipit (= American Pipit) Anthus rubescens japonicus. 9.

Only heard at Morundae as one flew over a dense patch of forest uttering the very distinctive hee ree reen call.
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus divaricatus. 14H.

Brown-eared Bulbuls were common wherever there were trees in cities and towns, and seemingly especially on the edges of forests. Their main call sounded very like a dog’s squeaky toy, but they uttered a vast array of other calls as well. In flight the action was very undulating like a woodpecker, but with a fairly long shallowly-forked tail.
Brown-eared Bulbul (= Chestnut-eared Bulbul) Hypsipetes amaurotis hensoni (=Ixos amaurotis). 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13,14,15,16.

Shrikes certainly didn’t seem to be common – they weren’t seen perching on the many power/phone lines as they can be elsewhere in the world. The raucous ‘song’ of the Bull-headed Shrike was fairly distinctive though.
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus bucephalus. 7H,9,15.

Not especially common, Wrens seemed to be found in dense forest, especially at a little altitude.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes dauricus. 7H,15.

Given all the dense forest and leaf litter, Korea should be a great place for forest thrushes, but it doesn’t appear to be so, unless they generally stay well hidden. Only along the Wisteria Walk at Beomosa near Busan were thrushes as common and visible as I expected them to be. Daurian Redstarts seemed to be a fairly common forest bird. Strangely I only saw males. Blue Rock Thrushes seem to be common within a kilometre or so of the coast of much of Jeju-Do. They don’t mind whether the rocks are natural (e.g. at Jusangjolli) or man-made (e.g. the World Cup Stadium or E-Mart supermarket in Jeju-Si). In poor light the males look almost black, suggesting the colour is produced by refraction rather then reflection.
Rufous-tailed Robin (= Swinhoe’s Robin) Luscinia sibilans. 6H,7H.
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus auroreus. 4H,7,8,9,10,11,13.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis. 14,15,16.
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus. 8H,9,10,11,13,14H,15H.
Dusky (Naumann’s) Thrush Turdus naumanni naumanni. 3.
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum. 11.

Despite searching the canopy and listening for contact calls forest warblers seemed very scarce indeed, except for Korean Bush Warblers on Jeju-Do where this species was fairly common. Oriental Great Reed Warblers seemed fairly common where reed beds or dense waterside vegetation was present. Fan-tailed Warblers seemed to be using scrub on Eulsukdo, where several were heard singing.
Fan-tailed Warbler (= Zitting Cisticola) Cisticola juncidis brunniceps. 13H.
Short-tailed Bush Warbler (= Asian Stubtail) Urosphena squameiceps. 9,11H,13H.
Korean Bush Warbler (= Northern Bush-Warbler) Cettia (diphone) borealis. 11H,15,16H.
Oriental Great Reed Warbler (= Oriental Reed-Warbler) Acrocephalus orientalis. 6,13.
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis borealis. 13.
Eastern Crowned Willow Warbler (= Eastern Crowned Warbler = Temminck’s Crowned Willow Warbler) Phylloscopus coronatus. 4H,5,7.

I expected to see a fair number of flycatchers; they are normally so visible as they sally after insects. However, the only one I saw was a Blue-and-white singing strongly atop a tree on Jeju-Do. It was a stunning sight though.
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana cumatilis. 15.

Small parties of parrotbills could be seen anywhere with a little cover, even a few bushes, though not seemingly city ‘gardens’. They have quite a variety of calls, all short, but sometimes seemingly strung together.
Vinous-throated Parrotbill (= Webb’s Parrotbill) Paradoxornis webbianus fulvicauda. 4,5,6H,7,8,9,10,11,13,14.

Not particularly common the species seemed to be a forest/forest edge species. Behaviour seemed to be identical to those of the same species in the west of its range, flitting through cover in small groups constantly uttering their churring contact calls.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus magnus. 4H,13.

Great Tits were consistently the commonest forest bird, though were also present in other habitats e.g. farmland and city parks. The other species in the family were fairly common birds, mostly of forest.
Varied Tit Parus varius varius. 7,11,13,15.
Marsh Tit Parus palustris brevirostris/crassirostris (= Poecile palustris). 4,6,7,8,9,10,11,13H.
Coal Tit Parus ater pekinensis/insularis (= Periparus ater). 5H,6,9,10,11,13H,15.
Great Tit Parus major minor. 3H,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,13,14,15.

The species had the same behaviour and habitat use as it does in the far west of its range. It seemed to be fairly common in the more northern forests I visited.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis. 4H,7.

I found the species to be a common bird of forests in Busan and on Jeju-Do. It sounded surprisingly similar in voice and behaviour to the related Silvereye of Australia and NZ.
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus japonicus. 11,13,14,15.

Buntings seemed to be fairly thin on the ground, and all the ones I saw were in scrub or forest in contrast to my experience in the UK and NZ where the species prefer open habitats. With most of the species in Korea being winter visitors, most seemed to have departed prior to my arrival. I was a little surprised not to see Grey-faced or Meadow Buntings given that they are reportedly common birds.
Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica rustica/latifascia. 4.
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami. 4,15.
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys. 13.
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans elegans. 13.
Chestnut Bunting Emberiza rutila. 15.

Greenfinches seemed to be common in the bottom half of the country in a wide variety of habitats. Perhaps the most unusual sighting was one singing on a wire in central Andong with not a scrap of greenery in view.
Oriental Greenfinch (=Grey-capped Greenfinch) Carduelis sinica ussurienses/minor. 9,13,14,15,16.

Chamsae were everywhere where buildings or farmland were present, often in good numbers. If the local populace is still eating them they don’t seem to be making much of a dent in their numbers.
(Eurasian) Tree Sparrow Passer montanus saturatus. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.

Grey Starlings were a fairly common bird of farmland and urban edge throughout, but were also a common town bird in Gyeongju where quite a number were nesting in the old stone observatory. Short mostly flight views of Violet-backed were had in the Tumulus Park in Gyeongju.
Grey Starling (= White-cheeked Starling) Sturnus cineraceus. 5,6,8,9,10,11,15.
Violet-backed Starling (= Chestnut-cheeked Starling) Sturnus philippensis. 9.

I found the species very scarce, so my visit may have been a bit early in the year for them. Both the mewing call (very similar to an Aussie catbird) and the liquid yodelling song were very distinctive.
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis diffuses. 9H,13.

Jays were only seen in the more northern and central parts of the country and always in forest. Black-backed Magpies seemed abundant in the north, and became less common further south, but more common again on Jeju-Do. They were present in all habitats, but didn’t usually penetrate far into forests. The Jungle Crow was only found in small numbers throughout, and wasn’t really associated with open country.
(Eurasian) Jay Garrulus glandiarus brandtii. 7,8,9.
Black-backed Magpie (=Eurasian Magpie) Pica pica camtschatica. 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.
Jungle Crow (=Large-billed Crow) Corvus macrorhynchos mandshuricus. 5,8,9,10H,13,14,15,16.


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