Winter is a time when things begin to slow down. The days are very short; I often leave for work and the sun is barely above the horizon; I return home only to discover the sun hovering just over the other horizon…an entire day passes in just a few hours.
With daylight at a premium, even an hour spent outside can reveal a great deal of activity, as the animals hardy enough to survive winter manically scramble to find food while the light prevails. There is good birding to be had in winter, and activity can occur at any time of day.
I recently spent a few hours at the Gakhwa reservoir, a small body of water a short walk from my apartment in Duam-dong. The reservoir is a gateway to a mountain chain running the length of the eastern side of Gwangju. Numerous trails crisscross the mountains, and I have “adopted” this area as my “local patch,” where I do most of my birding in the city.
The mountains are mostly devoid of plants now, the trees losing their leaves and the ground vegetation drying up and disappearing. Grasses and other seed-producing plants provide the bulk of food for birds now, and many of the resident species spend all of the daylight hours searching for food amidst the thickets. Stumble onto a foraging flock, and you can easily spot multiple species all feeding together.
The species present were the typical residents I find here year-round, including Japanese tits, marsh tits, coal tits, long-tailed tit, and brown-eared bulbul. Some highlights included a stunning male Daurian redstart, a grey wagtail, eleven little grebes on the reservoir itself (a new high count for that species at this location), and an unexpected common kingfisher patrolling the northern shore of the reservoir. I always thought this site would make a good location for kingfishers, but this is the first one I’ve found after all the time I’ve spent birding here. The full eBird list is available here.
It was a pleasant (and surprisingly warm) afternoon, and it gave me some time to photograph the common species that birders often take for granted because they are so common. I’ve posted some of my favorite shots below.
Photographing common species is something we all should do from time to time; one day they may not be so common, or we may move beyond their range and miss them when they’re gone.
Oh, and that Marsh Tit looks a lot like a Black-capped Chickadee from the back! Does he have a black bib too?
You hit the nail on the head – someday I’ll be leaving Korea, and when I do the common birds here will become only memories, so I want to try to photograph as many of them as I can so that I can relive the “glory days” in the future.
Yes, the Marsh Tit is closely related (and closely resembles) the Black-capped Chickadee. Marsh tits don’t have a full bib, like in BCCHs, but have a small “landing-strip” style black patch under the bill; you can just see the edge of it in the photo here.