Let me start out with thanking you, the reader, for dropping in on my little piece of cyberspace, and mostly for spending the time to read my ramblings. You’re here, so I hope my thoughts and stories are enough to make that trip worthwhile. Thank you for taking an interest. So without further ado…
I am a birder; see also twitcher, lister, and obsessive-compulsive watcher of the avian species. If you look up these words in the dictionary, the entry should make mention of binoculars, camera equipment, and perhaps a few words on painstaking note-taking and cross-referencing countless field guides, religiously waking up at 4am on Saturdays in May (because you gotta get out there early if you want to get the “good birds”), and spending romantic getaways with the wife knee-deep in some nameless marsh, being sucked dry by prehistoric pterodactyl-skeeters, all for the hopes of maybe catching a glimpse of some small bird that no one’s ever even heard of.
A friend of mine once asked me how I got into birding, because, as he so eloquently put it:
I haven’t known you for very long, but you strike me as having an obsessive personality, and you were just waiting for something to obsess about. No offense.
He wasn’t far off. The story of my “coming-of-age” in the birding world came about quite by accident, as these things tend to do, when I immigrated to Canada from my home in the United States, after getting married to my beautiful, not to mention endlessly patient and forgiving, wife, to whom this blog is dedicated. Being a new immigrant, I was not allowed to work for at least one year, so I had a lot of time on my hands to be a “house-husband.” When I was done doing all the housework, I still had six hours left in the day before Melanie came home from work, so I decided to get out and explore my new environment. This led me to spending days at the Hog’s Back Park, not far from our apartment in the south end of Ottawa, Ontario. It was here that, as my friend put it, I found “something to obsess about,” and the rest is history, as they say.
That fateful event, nothing more dramatic than a black-capped chickadee landing on my outstretched hand looking for a freebie of black oil sunflower seeds, has put me on a new life trajectory that I never imagined for myself. I’ve had the great fortune to meet and learn from some amazing people out in the field, and to them I am eternally grateful for sharing their wisdom and experience with me. This obsession has led me to the deep boreal forests of New Brunswick, to the remote breeding grounds of the Bicknell’s thrush. It’s taken me to the coasts of Rhode Island, trekking through the wetlands on the search for saltmarsh sparrows. It brought me back to my hometown in northeastern Pennsylvania, where I worked to monitor the golden-winged warbler population in the Poconos. I’ve learned the bird bander’s trade, conducted numerous point-count surveys and nest monitoring activities, and had the opportunity to share these experiences with the general public through leading public outings and seminars with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club. I hold the fifth recorded sighting of Say’s Phoebe in Rhode Island (2011), and was able to witness Ontario’s first record of Thick-billed Kingbird, and Ottawa’s first record of Ivory Gull (both in 2012).
In 2013, having basically checked off the majority of the East Coast’s species (and some of the West’s), I took the next logical step in my obsession and headed off to greener pastures, moving to South Korea with my wife to teach English as a native speaker. Teaching English was Melanie’s dream, and having put up with me running all over the map for the past three years, chasing birds and taking on different contracts all over eastern North America, she deserved her chance to “live the dream.” The fact that I would be dropped into a new continent, with literally hundreds of new species at my fingertips, played no part at all in my decision to go along. So this blog is a sort of journal of this experience. I hope to give detailed accounts and descriptions of the various sites and locations that I travel to while roaming the Korean countryside, especially since it’s hard to find this kind of information online, at least in English anyway.
So, if I haven’t scared you off yet, please come along on an adventure with me…
Hi Patrick, we were neighbors. I once worked at Meadowlands Mall near Hog’s Back. I expect that you’re still in South Korea. My brother was there in 1953.
I love birding. I’ll be back often to check your posts.
Wow, small world after all. I used to pick up milk and bread at the County Grocer in the Meadowlands Mall.
I knew him before he was on the internet.
Heh, you knew me before this whole crazy bird thing started. We’re getting old, my friend.
I noticed in one of your replies on Neil Hayward’s blog that you are living in Korea at the moment. I also am currently living in South Korea (though not for much longer). I was wondering how connected you are with birders in Korea and whether or not you have looked into Birds Korea? I’d love to talk more, if you are interested.
Nevermind. I noticed your recent post on your trip to Heuksan with members of Birds Korea. As you probably know, they are all fantastic birders and even better people. Hopefully, you will take the time to become more involved with Birds Korea. It’s a great organization with loads of people involved who are very passionate about conservation in Korea and the Yellow Sea eco-region. Cheers!
Hi Bradlee, thanks for stopping by. As you’ve already discovered, I am a new member of Birds Korea, and have had the good fortune to go birding with some of them in the southern part of the country. I am hoping to become more involved, as my school schedule allows.
I’d also be interested in checking out some of the birding spots closer to Seoul. If I’m in the area, I’d love to meet up and you could give me the nickel tour.
It’s great to hear that you are excited to get involved with Birds Korea. Just keep in touch with Jason Loghry and he’ll let you know when and how you can get involved more. Usually, along with their conservation efforts, there are a couple trips a year for members, guided by Dr. Moores (like a winter east coast sea watch in January/February).
As far as coming up to Seoul for some birding, I will be leaving Korea at the end of November, so my opportunities to get out birding are getting pretty slim. A Saturday trip to the National Arboretum could still be in the cards, though. I’m hoping to have Jason, as well as a couple others up here in November for a last (for me) weekend of hardcore birding. Maybe you can get up here for that. Who knows?
Feel free to call anytime. I’d love to meet you.
I am the managing editor for Neotropical Birds Online, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and I would like to talk to you further regarding permissions for some of your images. I look forward to speaking with you further.
Found your blog after noticing your name while exploring Korea in e-bird. What a great resource!! I’m scrambling a bit to plan some birding while in Korea on business in October. I’ll be in Yeosu for a part of the trip, so your posts on Suncheon Bay were especially helpful. My wife and I are struggling a bit to come up with a destination for 3-4 days after Yeosu that will allow easy access to reasonable birding. Any recommendations? We were hoping to maybe hire a guide for a day or two, but seems those are tough to come by. The trip was completely unexpected, so I’m feeling WAY behind the planning curve!!
Thanks for stopping by. As far as hiring a guide goes, that particular service doesn’t really exist here. There are a fair number of Korean birders, but the hobby just hasn’t taken off here as it has in other parts of the world. You could look into contacting Dr. Nial Moores at Birds Korea, but he’s usually pretty busy out in the field and may not get the chance to respond.
I’ve got plenty of information for you. Drop me an email at: patrick.blake83 AT gmail.com and I’d be happy to fill you in.