The Bamboo Forest of Damyang

As June winds to a close and the true heat of summer begins in July, the crazed running around trying to see as many birds as I could was slowing to only a moderately-fevered pace, as opposed to the manic, all-consuming pace it had only a month before.  The breeding season is typically a slow time for birding, with bird activity coming to a crawl as adults incubate, feed, and protect their young.  No new migrants are available until late August, when the earliest shorebirds begin their long flights back to their wintering grounds.

It’s the long pause before the storm.

So it was time to do some sightseeing, and give the birding a rest.  And if you’ve been following anything I’ve said here, you know that statement is a lie.  The birding never stops, but that doesn’t mean I can’t multitask once in a while.  Melanie and I had skipped it two weekends ago, so we decided to visit the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (죽녹원) in Damyang.  Many areas in South Korea are known for a particular food or attraction that makes the place worth knowing: Daecheon for its mud festival, Jeonju for its bibimbap, Jindo for its dog breed, and so on.  Damyang is known for several reasons, but the bamboo forest is by far the most visible of these.  And this attraction could not be easier to get to from Gwangju.  Take the #311 village bus from anywhere in Gwangju; the bus arrives typically every 5-15 minutes.  Get off at the Juknokwon stop, and the entrance to the bamboo forest is across the street.  Admission is 2,000 won for adults, 1,000/1,500 won for children/adolescents.

With the exception of a few kitschy fiberglass panda bears just beyond the entrance (which are usually surrounded by tourists waiting to take their picture) the bamboo forest is just that: a forest of bamboo.  You’d almost expect to see an actual panda there, but of course there is none.  There is, however, an old Confucian school, an art gallery/gift shop, and a well-manicured pavilion, on the grounds of the forest.  If you’ve never experienced an actual bamboo forest before, it’s well worth a visit.  The entire grounds of the place can be explored in an afternoon, and there are plenty of restaurants and convenience stores nearby to grab a bite to eat.  As with all places in South Korea, the best time to visit is in the morning, before the crowds arrive.  This is especially true on weekends, so get there early.

A winding trail meanders through the thick bamboo forest at Juknokwon in Damyang.

A winding trail meanders through the thick bamboo forest at Juknokwon in Damyang.

It's unreal how tall the bamboo can grow!

It’s unreal how tall the bamboo can grow!

New bamboo growth appears bright green in this shot.  The shoots emerge with a protective sheath; once the bamboo has grown, the sheath falls off revealing the vibrant green of fresh growth.

New bamboo growth appears bright green in this shot.  The shoots emerge with a protective sheath; once the bamboo has grown, the sheath falls off revealing the vibrant green of fresh growth.

I was impressed with how tall the bamboo could grow.  It was surprisingly cool in the shade of the forest, a nice break from the heat and humidity of Korean summers.  The forest was also a breeding site for azure-winged magpies, as we found several pairs of them throughout the area.

A “Korean” Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus koreensis) perches in the bamboo at Juknokwon in Damyang.

The trail system at Juknokwon is a series of loops, so it’s impossible to get lost.  Our path eventually led us out of the forest into the Jukhyang Culture Village (죽향문화체험마을), a large open pavilion with grassy slopes and a nice koi pond surrounded by small pagodas.  It was here we found two pairs of azure-winged magpies and about a half dozen fledglings in tow.  Two Eurasian jays were also foraging with this group, and the calls of both a common and lesser cuckoo could be heard nearby.  As we walked around the koi pond, I also found several Eurasian tree sparrows, oriental turtle-doves, a pygmy woodpecker, brown-eared bulbuls, and fly-overs of both a cattle egret and a dollarbird.

The large Jukhyang Culture Village Pavilion (죽향문화체험마을).  A boardwalk overlooks a tranquil koi pond.

The large Jukhyang Culture Village Pavilion (죽향문화체험마을).  A boardwalk overlooks a tranquil koi pond.

One of the many pagodas  at the Jukhyang Culture Village.

One of the many pagodas at the Jukhyang Culture Village.

One of the adult Azure-winged Magpies keeps a close eye on me.  The presence of so many fledglings obviously had the adults working overtime keeping them safe.

A fledgling Azure-winged Magpie sleeps in a low branch, seemingly oblivious to its surroundings.

Another fledgling waits patiently for an adult to bring some food.  In the high heat and humidity, many of the fledglings kept their mouths open to cool themselves down.

The koi pond had quite a collection of koi, ranging from small to large.  There were also a significant number of dragonflies flitting about.  I was unable to get photos of all of them, including some of the large darner species (which never land), but I did photograph a number of new species that I can’t find in North America (not that I’m counting, of course).

A male Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) taking a rest by the koi pond in Juknokwon.

A male Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia).

We walked around the Culture Village for awhile longer, and in one of the pagodas a man and his wife were creating paper fans from bamboo.  The end results were beautiful, and it was amazing to watch how quickly the fans came together with nothing more than a dab of glue and a flick of the wrist.  I can only imagine the mess I would make if I tried to do the same thing.

We left Juknokwon and took a short stroll along the Yeongsan River.  There were plenty of shady spots to stop for an afternoon nap, and I had unfinished business with a common kingfisher that I knew was somewhere nearby.  It was another hot day, and by this hour many of the birds had retreated to whatever cover they could find.  Three domestic mallards slept on the water, an adult black-crowned night-heron made a brief flyover, and I could only locate one grey heron catching fish at the edge of a reed bed.  Sometimes it’s amazing how big a difference weather and timing play in finding a lot of birds and dipping on even the most common of species.

I followed the same path along a short boardwalk to a spillway, but the kingfisher eluded me yet again.  A quick note referring back to my previous post about the common kingfisher: a nemesis bird can continue to be a nemesis, even after it has been found and listed.  Sometimes it just mocks you for the sheer fun of it.

The spillway where I had enjoyed photographing striated herons two weeks earlier was empty, save for a little egret, a barn swallow, and one white wagtail.  The only real activity were the six or seven oriental reed-warblers that, despite sticking to the cover of the reeds, were singing continuously.  But there were plenty of dragonflies around, so I turned my attentions to them and got a few more photos for my troubles.

A Pied Skimmer (Pseudothemis zonata) resting near a spillway on the Yeongsan River.  I was unable to photograph several of this species at Juknokwon, but this one was more than happy to pose for me.

A beautiful clubtail, known only by its Latin name, Burmagomphus collaris.

Just like before, as we returned to catch our bus back to Gwangju, I heard a high-pitched call coming down the river.  Only this time the call was answered by a second call from a stationary position.  I got a brief glimpse as one common kingfisher zoomed by, banking sharply and disappearing behind some trees.  But that second call remained where it was, and I finally located the source perched on a branch on the opposite side of the river.  It was in this moment that I was glad I splurged on the 400mm lens, because I was finally able to capture a photo of a kingfisher.  This is far from my best work, but considering it’s a tiny bird from across a river, I’ll take it.

My South Korean nemesis:  an "Indian" Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis bengalensis).

My South Korean nemesis:  an “Indian” Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis bengalensis).

It’s good to know that a pair of common kingfishers are on territory near the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest.  Now I know where to look for them, and maybe I’ll even be able to get a decent shot of them one of these days.  Take that, nemesis bird!

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The Nemesis Bird

Generally birders are easy-going, energetic, active, and hyper-aware of their surroundings.  You could also use the words obsessive, quirky, eccentric, or just downright weird.  I think you have to be all of these things to do what I do.  Well, I wouldn’t describe myself as weird, but all the others certainly apply.

Therefore it may seem strange to use a word like nemesis to describe a bird, of all things. Isn’t that a little harsh?  Well, yes and no.  A nemesis bird is birder lingo for a bird that one has repeatedly tried to see and repeatedly been denied the pleasure (what we call “being dipped”).  We all get dipped from time to time.  What makes a bird a nemesis is the continuous, often times incessant, refusal to be where it is supposed to be, so that we don’t drive for hours on end, halfway across a state or province, just to find out that we “just missed it.”  That phrase (or related ones like “it was just here” or “I just saw it five minutes ago”) are like the Achilles’ heel of a birder’s composure; we typically lose our cool at that point, and a stream of swearing and profanity can often ensue.  The more swearing and profanity, the more nemesis a nemesis bird is.

A nemesis bird can also be one that, for reasons unknown, cannot be found in an area or habitat where it should be found.  Making several trips to an obscure tract of forest or unknown marshland all for the chance to see a bird that should be there, only to find out that it isn’t, even though everyone you’ve spoken to says it’s a “sure thing,” or “you can’t miss it” gives the title of Nemesis to even the most unsuspecting of sparrows.

I’ve had several nemesis birds in my time, but those were all back in North America, and all but one have been found and checked on my list (I’ll get you one day, American Three-toed Woodpecker).  I didn’t think I’d be in South Korea long enough to get a nemesis bird here, but what did I know?

My field guide calls it the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).  Some words of advice for beginners: don’t ever fall for the misnomer of “common.”  A lot of birds with the word common in their names are anything but.  There are three species of kingfisher that can be found on the Korean peninsula, not including vagrants.  Despite living in a city with two rivers, and visiting other rivers, reservoirs, and lakes, all across the southern portion of South Korea, I had been unable to find any of these so-called common kingfishers.  Belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon), the widespread kingfisher of North America, can be found almost anywhere there is water, including even drainage ditches.  So it’s understandable why a bird called the “common” kingfisher quickly got on my Nemesis List for being so completely un-common.

So, as happens with some nemesis birds, I try to put it out of my mind and focus on more attainable birds.  But of course, I can’t walk past a suitable body of water without looking for my nemesis.

Melanie had a Hiking Club outing with her school on Friday.  She took the kids to Damyang, just outside of Gwangju, and they walked along the Yeongsan River bike trail.  She came home and mentioned seeing a strange heron, which she described as being similar to a black-crowned night-heron, but darker.  She’ll be the first to admit that her ID skills are not as honed as my own, but while she may not be able to identify a species just by its song, she definitely knows what she’s seen and what she hasn’t.  So Saturday morning we took a trip to Damyang, to retrace her steps and see if we could relocate this mysterious heron.

We hopped on the #311 village bus to Damyang; it’s a short trip, only about 15 minutes or so.  We got off right near the Yeongsan River, across the street from the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (죽녹원).  If there had been enough time we would have checked out the bamboo forest, but we were both interested in walking the riverside, so perhaps another trip.

Our starting point was a small district in Damyang, with numerous restaurants, shops, an archery range, and of course the bike path along the river.  There were many families enjoying the good weather, but it was by no means crowded.  We began walking past a sports complex on the banks of the river, complete with a 1km running track.  The bike path next to this complex was lined with shrubs, and squeezing through a gap in the vegetation, hoping to get a better look at the river, I found a Japanese tree frog in the foliage.  I almost knocked it off its branch as I tried to get through the shrub.  There are only two species of tree frog in South Korea, the Japanese and the Suwon tree frog.  The Japanese tree frog is more widespread; the range and preferred habitat of the Suwon tree frog are poorly understood.

A Japanese Tree Frog (Hyla japonica) near the Yeongsan River in Damyang.

The river was a magnet for heron species, and we quickly spotted grey heron, great egret, intermediate egret, and little egret near the shore.  Several domestic mallards and greylag geese were also dabbling in the water.  Eurasian and azure-winged magpies flew along the length of the river, and very close to our bus stop I found an azure-winged magpie nest still under construction by two adults.

One of a half dozen nominate Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta garzetta) in Damyang.

A stately looking Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea cinerea) watches over a small spillway on the Yeongsan River in Damyang.

A Grey Heron takes to the air.  It’s amazing to watch such a large bird fly so gracefully above the water.

The future home of a pair of Azure-winged Magpies (Cyanopica cyanus koreensis) near the Yeongsan River.

A few of the domesticated Greylag Geese (Anser anser) at the Yeongsan River in Damyang.  These are typically called “barnyard geese” or “Embden geese.”

There was a small spillway along the river where we found singles of great and intermediate egrets, a grey heron, and two eastern spot-billed ducks.  As we passed the spillway, a small dark heron burst out from the vegetation and flew downstream.  I was able to get it in the binoculars, and sure enough, it was a striated heron.  Melanie confirmed that this was the same thing she had seen the day before on her school hike.  And so, Lifer #497 was added to the list.

We continued a little further before crossing a bridge and heading back on the other side of the river.  Heading back to our bus stop, we found three mandarin ducks, and got some close up views of a black-crowned night-heron and a Eurasian kestrel.  Near another spillway we located a second striated heron.  This bird would stand at the base of the spillway and pick small fish that got too close.  I was able to use the vegetation and get in close to the base of the spillway, and when the heron returned to its place, I got a chance at some amazing photos.

Near this portion of the Yeongsan River, we found and observed an incredibly accommodating Striated Heron.  I used the tall grasses to get close to the heron's preferred hunting spot at the base of the spillway.

Near this portion of the Yeongsan River, we found and observed an incredibly accommodating Striated Heron.  I used the tall grasses to get close to the heron’s preferred hunting spot at the base of the spillway.

A Striated Heron (Butorides striata amurensis)
gives me a passing glance before returning to catching fish.

My victory portrait, after successfully photographing Lifer #497.

My victory portrait, after successfully photographing Lifer #497.

While I was photographing the heron, I noticed a female grey wagtail walking the concrete spillway.  Might as well snap a few photos of her while I’m at it.

A Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea robusta) at the Yeongsan River.

After the spectacular photo session with the striated heron, we had some lunch before continuing our hike.  While eating, I saw and heard several other species, including a cattle egret, a Japanese bush-warbler, a pygmy woodpecker, a passing black-naped oriole, and three common cuckoos.  One of the cuckoos was kind enough to let me take a portrait.

A Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) near the Yeongsan River in Damyang.

The trail turned into a boardwalk near a small sandy cliff along the river.  This section of the river held two pairs of oriental reed-warblers, vinous-throated parrotbills, brown-eared bulbuls, and an oriental turtle-dove cooing in the branches.  Near another spillway we found two more striated herons, a barn swallow, and three white wagtails, one of which was a recent fledgling.  The two adult wagtails stayed close to the fledgling, but it was an older bird and capable of flying short distances on its own.  It kept in constant contact with the adults, continuously making a chipping call to say “I’m here!”

A Grey Heron sits idly on the railing of the boardwalk on the Yeongsan River in Damyang.

A fledgling “black-backed” White Wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens) waiting to be fed by an adult.

A Striated Heron jumps across a gap in the spillway at the Yeongsan River in Damyang.  The herons really enjoyed hunting along spillways such as this.

Oriental Turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis)

After a few hours of hiking, we decided to get on the bus back to Gwangju.  I stopped to photograph the oriental turtle-dove pictured above, when there was a high-pitched squeak and a small flash of iridescent blue.  From under the boardwalk came a tiny bird, which flew over the river, stopped and hovered, dove into the water, and then flew off into the surrounding trees.  The whole event lasted no more than fifteen seconds.  And just like that, my nemesis was finally caught: the bird was a common kingfisher, probably a male.  Suddenly I began to notice all the signs around me.  The bank of the river here was high, the boardwalk cutting into a sandy cliff – perfect habitat to put a kingfisher nest.  There were several dead branches hanging over the water, and underneath most of them were ample collections of droppings – obviously the kingfisher had several favorite perches to watch the river from.

We waited around for awhile, and were treated to several more views of this diminutive bird.  Kingfishers as a family are notoriously wary of humans, and photographing them is an exercise in patience and persistence.  Alas, I didn’t manage to catch my nemesis on film, but just seeing it was memorable enough.

During the course of our hike, we also encountered a variety of dragonflies and butterflies.  I have yet to locate a source of identifications for Korean dragonflies, so many of these will remain unknown until I can get my hands of a field guide or locate an accurate website.  The butterflies, on the other hand, I am pretty confident in IDing.

We found several of these unnamed damselflies during our walk.  They are referred to by their Latin binomial Calopteryx atrata, and do not have a common name as of yet.

We found many of these Eastern Pale Clouded Yellows (Colias erate) along the bike path.

A female Deielia phaon, an Asian dragonfly that does not have a common name.  We encountered quite of few of these dragonflies during our hike.

Many of these small damselflies were flitting between blades of grass.  They’re identified as Platycnemis phyllopoda.

A female Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum).  The males of this species are a chalk-blue color.

An Asian Comma (Polygonia c-aureum).  I managed to photograph this active butterfly as we were returning to the bus stop.

Deielia phaon, a male this time.

Our hike along the Yeongsan River had proven to be quite productive, both in terms of birds and wildlife in general.  Nabbing two lifers also helped sweeten the deal.  And any time you can check off a nemesis bird, well, life doesn’t get much better.  Now, to try to photograph said nemesis bird…ahh, another challenge for another day.

The Damyang Excursion

In my years as a birder, I never fail to be surprised at how much serendipity plays a role in your success and failures in the chase.  The most carefully planned outings can end in total disaster, while at the same time you can find the rarest bird you can imagine almost as if it was an afterthought.  That’s how my Say’s phoebe sighting in Rhode Island, only the fifth record for the entire state, took place.  I was returning to a work site after dropping off a co-worker at his truck while I was working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  We were in the middle of planting native shrubs for a habitat restoration at the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.  I turned my truck onto a service path on the refuge and within a few moments caught sight of a small passerine hover-gleaning on the dirt path ahead of me.  I thought it was either a grey catbird or American robin, both very common on the refuge, but when I finally found my bins in the back seat and got the bird in view, I was shocked to be looking at a Say’s phoebe sitting on a bayberry branch not a kilometer away from the Atlantic Ocean.  Here was a bird where its kind had no right to be, but nevertheless I was looking at it.  I put out the word on the local RBA (Rare Bird Alert), but unfortunately no one was able to relocate the bird.  As it turned out, that wasn’t the only sighting of Say’s phoebe on the East Coast that fall, with birds showing up in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well.  Who would have expected that?

So the lesson I’ve learned is always be birding, even when you should be doing anything but birding.  You never know what’s around the corner, or in the tree above you, or right at your feet.

It was with this lesson in mind that Melanie and I headed out with a group of fellow English teachers on a make-shift spur-of-the-moment trip to Geumseongsanseong Fortress (금성산성) in the town of Damyang.  The fortress was built during the Three Kingdoms Period, sometime in the 13th century.  It consists of a stone wall encompassing a large mountain valley; the whole perimeter wall is about 7.5 kilometers around, and takes nearly 5 hours to hike the whole thing.  From the U+ Square Terminal (formerly the Gwangju Bus Terminal), take #311 or #303 to Damyang. It’s about a 40-minute bus ride, and will cost around 2,300 won (about $2.50USD) for a round-trip.

A map of the Geumseongsanseong Fortress.  The dotted line represents the perimeter wall.

A map of the Geumseongsanseong Fortress.  The dotted line represents the perimeter wall.

A group of us, about a dozen waygooks (the Korean word for “foreigners”), descended onto the Geumseongsanseong Fortress at around 10am under a perfect clear sky.  It was a warm day, with temperatures reaching into the mid-20°C – basically a perfect spring morning.  We took cabs to the base of Mt. Geumseong, and hiked up the side of a mountain, along trails that hardly deserve the name.  This was real hiking!  None of those pre-planned paved or gravel pathways with rope handrails or retaining walls.  These trails had been walked on for centuries, and they hugged the edge of cliffs and valley walls with nothing more than gravity holding you to the ground.  In a word, the hike up to the summit was intense!

The real enjoyment of hiking in Korea is the hope that you will stumble onto a Buddhist temple or shrine, or come across a forgotten burial mound or grave marker.  These signs of ancient Korean society are literally strewn over the landscape.  There are mountains only a few minutes from our apartment in Gwangju where you can walk for fifteen minutes and come across a grave marker holding position idly next to the trail, or enter a clearing dominated by several burial mounds that have been there longer than Europeans have been in North America.  One such temple could be found along on our ascent to the summit, but we chose not to take that detour on this trip.

Nazis?  150m ahead?!  No, just a signpost to a Buddhist temple at Geumseongsanseong.

Nazis?  150m ahead?!  No, just a signpost to a Buddhist temple at Geumseongsanseong.

After what seemed like a never-ending vertical ascent, we came to a vast expanse, and discovered that we had reached the entrance to Geumseongsanseong.  The entrance is guarded by what appears to be a guardhouse or observation platform (remember, this was a fortress once).  A second observation platform sits to the east, overlooking the valley below.  From the height of the mountain, we could see the entirety of Damyang below us, and just on the horizon the peak of Mt. Mudeung on the edge of Gwangju to the south.  What a sight it must have been to be on guard at this fortress, overlooking a mountain valley untouched by human hands.

The imposing entrance to a guardhouse at Geumseongsanseong.

The imposing entrance to a guardhouse at Geumseongsanseong.

The first guardhouse, as seen from the second to the east.

The first guardhouse, as seen from the second to the east.

From this position, the wall of the fortress went in both directions, following the rise and fall of the peaks.  It was easy to see the strategic advantage this fortress must have served: the valley walls were so steep, any invading army would be like shooting fish in a barrel from the safety of the fortress walls.  Our group enjoyed a brief respite from the arduous climb, then followed the wall towards the west.

The western wall of Geumseongsanseong, looking back towards the entrance.  The small dirt path next to the wall is the hiking trail…did I mention it’s a two-way path?

It was slow going over most of the hike, due mainly to the uneven walking conditions and amazing scenery that demanded closer inspection.  The hiking trail operated in two directions, so people were walking towards us as we continued along.  Normally this wasn’t a problem, but on some of the ascents things got a bit, shall we say interesting.  This is a must-do hike, but be sure to come prepared.  Sturdy shoes and plenty of water are a must.  While the hiking was tremendous, I was disappointed by the lack of wildlife.  A few Siberian chipmunks were around, but very little in the way of bird life, with the exception of a few great tits and marsh tits.

That distant peak is where we took our break.  It offered commanding views of Damyangho Lake below, as well as some much needed shade.

Our group made it about halfway around the fortress wall when Melanie and I decided to head back.  We had not brought much food, and Melanie was starting to get tired.  A few others felt the same way, so as the main group headed on to continue the hike, four of us stayed behind to rest up and meet them again at the entrance.

Enter serendipity…

My group stayed near a sharp spire of rock jutting out from a mountain peak.  There was some shade and a beautiful view, so we stayed there for awhile talking and resting in the cool shade.  It was during this relaxing period that I noticed a distant bird riding the thermals over the mountains.  Some observation through the binoculars finally revealed the bird to be an adult golden eagle!  I was able to watch it for a few more minutes, circling lazily in the sky, before folding its wings and plunging hundreds of meters down into the mountain valley below.

Shortly afterwards I heard some flight calls from the south.  A flock of small birds flew past the peak, and though I was able to see them through the binoculars, I was unable to identify them.  I was left with the guess that they were some kind of finch, but I was less than certain.  We stayed at our resting place for another twenty minutes.   I was getting a bit restless when I heard the flight calls again.  I looked up to the rock edifice above me and found a small bird at the edge of the rock, singing away.  I looked at it, but the sun was behind it, and all I could see was a silhouette.  I left the group and headed up the trail, hoping to get a chance to see it from the other side.  I turned the corner of the trail and flushed eight birds, which all gave an identical call as they scattered.

One of a dozen Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris) foraging on the rocks at Geumseongsanseong.

Seeing two of the birds climbing a near-vertical rock face, I quickly identified them as alpine accentors.  I grabbed a couple quick photos before the flock took to the air again and disappeared.  These birds are uncommon residents in South Korea, making their homes on bare mountains with low vegetation.  They can usually be found at heights above 2,000m.

After this encounter, my group began our return trip back to the entrance of the fortress.  As we descended, the birds became more abundant.  The marsh tits were still singing periodically, and as we reached the guardhouses at the entrance, I found two Eurasian nuthatches foraging on the trees.

One of two Eurasian Nuthatches (Sitta europaea) at Geumseongsanseong.

There was a side trail behind one of the guardhouses, and in the bamboo around there I located several brown-eared bulbuls and a Eurasian magpie. Further down the trail I heard and saw two large-billed crows flying overhead, and flushed two Eurasian jays from foraging near a stream bed.  The stream led down into the mountain valley at the center of the valley, where a small farm house and rice paddy rested at the center.  Around this area were numerous yellow-throated buntings and oriental turtle-doves.  I was also able to locate a singing varied tit and a lone male hawfinch resting in a tree.  It seemed as though all the birds had been hiding here in the valley the whole time.

Alas, it was getting late and I had to return to my group so we could meet up with the rest of our fellow hikers.  We met them on the descent from the entrance to the fortress, and the remainder of the hike went by relatively uneventfully, with the exception of a single pygmy woodpecker working a fallen tree near the path.

The hiking around Geumseongsanseong Fortress is worth the bus ride, and the scenery is some of the nicest I’ve seen to date in South Korea.  This site is definitely on the list for a return visit someday soon.