I don’t get out that way very often, but Busan has a selection of great birding sites. Many have specific species that simply can’t be found in Gwangju. And the simple fact of being on the Sea of Japan makes the scenery that much more spectacular. Melanie and I took a weekend trip to Busan in mid-November with the sole purpose of spotting a Pacific reef heron for my year list.
To find this bird, the best place I knew of was Igidae Park. I’ve written about it before, as it is one of the best birding sites in Busan. Since we were looking for a heron, we opted to follow the trail that hugs the rugged coastline; for hikers on a day trip, I’d recommend going into the forest interior and exploring the trails there.
To make a long story short, the reef heron eluded us, despite an exhaustive search. But we did have luck with some of Igidae Park’s other resident species. Numerous gulls were out on the water, namely black-headed and black-tailed gulls, and several blue rock thrushes put in appearances along the rocky coast. And it wouldn’t be complete without finding a few large-billed crows willing to pose for the camera.
Although there were no reef-herons at Igidae, we were generously compensated by observing two of Igidae’s majestic birds of prey: the black kite. I ticked my first black kite at Igidae Park in May 2013, and on every subsequent trip I’ve managed to spot at least one. But every time the weather was against me, and most black kite sightings I’ve made were during overcast or rainy days.
As you can see, weather was no problem today. The first kite spent several minutes flying low over the coastline, riding the thermals coming off the surf. Eventually the kite swooped down to the surface of the water, snagging a fish much to the chagrin of fishermen nearby. But never before had I been able to watch a raptor hunting from such close proximity: as the kite took off to the safety of the trees to eat it’s meal, it passed nearly within arm’s reach of Melanie and I as we stared dumbfounded by the edge of the rocks. Shortly afterwards a second kite appeared, and the two spent time circling eat other in the sky before disappearing over the mountains to the other side of Igidae. This was Melanie’s life bird experience with black kite, and what a memorable one it was!