On Gossamer Wings

Mid-June through to mid-August marks my brief hiatus from the birding world.  The desire is there, but unfortunately the birds usually are not.  They’re busy making the next generation, and later, preparing for the long journey back to their southern wintering grounds.

So in the “dog days of birding,” I turn my attentions to butterflies and dragonflies.  While I don’t go after these creatures with the same flair and gusto as my avian obsession, I still enjoy discovering new species and finding unexpected surprises.  The identifications are a lot more challenging (especially with dragon- and damselflies, which often are only differentiated by the most minute details), but it’s the challenge that keeps it interesting.

Below I present a sampling of some of my latest discoveries.  I’ve taken a real interest in the Lycaenidae family of butterflies, the small gossamer-wing species for which this post is titled.  They are quite amazing in their delicate beauty, and test my abilities both with identification and photography.

Antigius attilia
Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea

Taiwan Wave-eye (Ypthima multistriata)
Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea

Aeromachus inachus
Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Gakhwa Reservoir, Gwangju, South Korea

Wide-bellied Skimmer (Lyriothemis pachygastra)
Gwangjuho Lake Eco-Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Wide-bellied Skimmer (Lyriothemis pachygastra)
Gwangjuho Lake Eco-Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Taiwan: Lifer Mania Part I

The sun rose on our first morning in Taiwan.  It was going to be a hot and humid day, with a chance of thunderstorms later in the afternoon.  Having already added two new birds to my list, just by travelling from the airport to our hotel, I was anxious to get out and find some more birds.

The top of my list for birding sites in Taipei was the Taipei Botanical Garden (台北植物園), where my research told me Malayan night-heron was a slam dunk.  The Garden is located just a 5 minute walk from the Xiaonanmen subway station.  There is no entry fee, and the Garden is conveniently open from 4am to 10pm.  It’s as if they’re specifically targeting birders with that early morning opening.  Upon reaching street level at the Xiaonanmen station, I pointed out two Javan mynas to Melanie.  This species, like many of the mynas, was introduced to Taiwan and managed to sustain a population within in the country.

The entrance to the Taipei Botanical Garden.

The entrance to the Taipei Botanical Garden.

We had no sooner walked through the gate then I found my target bird.  Just to the right, in a closed off portion of the garden, stood a Malayan night-heron!  If only all lifers were this easy.  The Malayan night-heron prefers dark, damp forests over marshes and wetlands.  All of the Malayan night-herons I would see during my time in Taiwan were foraging on the ground, away from water, picking through leaf litter or grass clippings.  These night-herons also seemed unusually acclimatized to humans, and you could walk up to them very close without flushing them.

Malayan Night-heron (Gorsachius melanolophus)

A little ways from the entrance was an intersection of trails.  I stopped here for a moment to take some notes, and in so doing spotted a Taiwan barbet, black bulbul, and several light-vented bulbuls flitting around in the trees.  It was a literal buffet of lifers: almost every hint of movement in the vegetation revealed another species I had never seen before.

This path seems like a good choice.

This path seems like a good choice.

The intersection had three branches, each of which would meander through the Garden and eventually take me back to where I started.  In times like these, I find it’s always a safe bet to go up the middle.  This path took us towards the Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si Yamen (臺灣布政使司衙門), the Office of Provincial Administration Commission.  Originally built in 1887, when Taiwan was declared a Chinese province, the Yamen (“Imperial bureau”) housed the administrative functions of the regulatory authority Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si.  The Yamen was later dismantled and parts of the structure were rebuilt at different sites, including the Botanical Garden.

Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si Yamen

Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si Yamen

I really liked this flower by the entrance.

I really liked this flower by the entrance.

The long hallway entrance of the Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si Yamen.  Every inch of the structure was ornately decorated.

The long hallway entrance of the Bu-Zheng-Shi-Si Yamen.  Every inch of the structure was ornately decorated.

A small stream flowed through the Garden, and near the Yamen there was a small footbridge overlooking the water.  A tall bush grew close to the bridge, and it was dripping with birds.  The vast majority were Japanese white-eyes, but several light-vented bulbuls were also foraging there, as well as a single black bulbul which had completely molted its head feathers.  A short distance downstream I noticed an oriental magpie-robin sunning itself on a huge palm leaf.

Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus simplex).  This was by far one of the most numerous bird at the Botanical Garden.

“Taiwan” Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis formosae)

A male Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis prosthopellus)

A male Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis prosthopellus)

A "Taiwan" Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigerrimus), looking ridiculous without its head feathers.

A “Taiwan” Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigerrimus), looking ridiculous without its head feathers.

Nearby was a large greenhouse, which housed the Garden’s more predatory plants.  Although the greenhouse was locked, through the windows we could see scores of pitcher plants, likely several different species, covering the whole of the interior.  Many visitors were lining up near one window, which had several large pitchers growing right against the glass.  The greenhouse also had several flower beds nearby, and a small pond with lilypads.  Eurasian tree sparrows and light-vented bulbuls were feeding around this area, and I also was able to photograph several dragonflies near the pond, including a crimson dropwing and a crimson-tailed marsh hawk.

The Greenhouse.  It was closed, but through the windows we could see that the interior was covered with pitcher plants.

The Greenhouse.  It was closed, but through the windows we could see that the interior was covered with pitcher plants.

A male Crimson Dropwing (Trithemis aurora)

A male Crimson-tailed Marsh Hawk (Orthetrum pruinosum)

We continued on through the Garden.  I was looking for one of the Garden’s star features, the Lotus Pond.  We eventually stumbled onto it – the pond was entirely covered in lotus plants.  Only a few blossoms were in bloom (it was mid-August after all), but the leafy parts of the plants dominated the pond, and the area looked more like an overgrown field than a tranquil pond.  A little egret and two Eurasian moorhens were making good use of the cover provided by the lotus plants.  A common kingfisher briefly buzzed by the area, quickly disappearing into some heavier vegetation around the edges.  On one side of the Lotus Pond there is a small pavilion with benches, so we decided to take a break there and have a quick snack.

The Lotus Pond at the Taipei Botanical Garden.  It was here that I found all of the rails.

The Lotus Pond at the Taipei Botanical Garden.

A nominate Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus chloropus).  Click this photo to see a video of this bird preening.

Our reluctant hero never misses a photo op...well, almost never.

Our reluctant hero never misses a photo op…well, almost never.

Sunlight filters through the trees behind a pagoda at the Lotus Pond.

Sunlight filters through the trees behind a pagoda at the Lotus Pond.

As we approached, we noticed several photographers camped out in the corner of the pavilion, all of them looking at a large tree nearby.  I couldn’t see anything in the branches, so I went over to see what was so interesting.  It turned out to be a Taiwan barbet nest, and as I watched, an adult barbet emerged from the cavity, flew off, and was followed by a juvenile barbet that stuck its head out of the hole, intermittently calling to the adult for food.

A juvenile Taiwan Barbet (Megalaima nuchalis).  This species is endemic to Taiwan.

As we all took turns getting photos, I noticed three juvenile white-breasted waterhens foraging near the edge of the pond.  The waterhens resembled skinny chickens with long necks.  Watching these birds move and run around, it’s easy to see how birds evolved from dinosaurs.  Take away the wings and add some forelimbs, and you’ve got a small dinosaur instead of a rail.  A group of six grey treepies also put in an appearance, scattering the Eurasian tree sparrows that were foraging in the area.

One of three juvenile nominate White-breasted Waterhens (Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Grey Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae formosae)

Common Flangetail (Ictinogomphus decoratus melaenops)

Having spent the whole morning touring the Garden, it was time to check out some other sites nearby.  Whether you’re in Taipei for a few days, or you only have a few hours to spend, the Taipei Botanical Garden is a must-see location.  No birding trip to Taipei is complete without a stop here.

After a short break for lunch, it was on to the Xingtian Temple (行天宮) and Hua Jiang Wild Duck Nature Park.

Day List: 13
Lifers of the Day (8): Javan Myna, Malayan Night-heron, Taiwan Barbet, Black Bulbul, Light-vented Bulbul, Oriental Magpie-robin, Grey Treepie, White-breasted Waterhen
Taiwan List (to date): 15
Life List: 512

The Peacock and the Skimmer

I had been cooped up in the apartment for too long.  The rainy season in South Korea was dragging on, and as final exams loomed at school, I was under pressure to create meaningful review lessons to prepare my students.  My birding had taken a back seat for the meantime, and while July is always a slow month for birding, I had been away from the chase for too many weekends.  So Saturday morning Melanie and I set out to Gwangjuho Lake Ecological Park (광주호 호수생태원) on the outskirts of Gwangju.  The Eco-Park is a little removed from the city, but is easily accessible by the #187 village bus.  This bus only comes once an hour, usually on the :30 or :45, so be sure to check the bus schedule before leaving – nothing is worse than waiting for an hour because you missed the bus by a few minutes.

Rice paddies in Chunghyo-dong, just outside the Gwangjuho Lake Eco-Park.

Rice paddies in Chunghyo-dong, just outside the Gwangjuho Lake Eco-Park.

The surrounding area in Chunghyo-dong is covered with rice paddies and agriculture.  Wading through the paddies were numerous cattle egrets and little egrets; occasionally a big great egret could be found.  The skies above the paddies were full of red-rumped swallows hunting insects; on this instance I also found a Eurasian kestrel hunting the swallows that were hunting the insects.

The Eco-Park had grown wild since my previous visit in April.  The small ponds were inundated with reeds, and hidden within were several oriental reed-warblers.  The grounds of the Eco-Park had dozens of azure-winged magpies and Eurasian magpies feeding their offspring.  I also spotted a scaly thrush with a mouthful of food for an unseen nest or fledgling.  One of the resident pair of grey-faced woodpecker also put in a brief appearance.

Many of the shrubs were in full bloom, and butterflies and dragonflies abounded.  Most of the butterflies were Asian swallowtails, but a few Chinese peacocks could be found with a little effort.  In the small ponds, there was a wide range of dragonflies, including black-tailed skimmers, scarlet skimmers, with smaller numbers of pied skimmers and butterfly skimmers.  I was particularly drawn to the butterfly skimmers, which had magnificent black iridescent wings that exploded with color in the sunlight.  Zipping among the blades of grass were several small green-and-yellow damselflies, which I later identified only as Ceriagrion melanurum.

The Chinese Peacock ( Papilio dehaani), one of the flashier butterflies at Gwangjuho Lake.

Asian Comma (Polygonia c-aureum)

A Long-tailed Spangle (Papilio macilentus), missing part of its long tail.

This damselfly is identified only by its Latin binomial Ceriagrion melanurum.

A Butterfly Skimmer (Rhyothemis fuliginosa), as translated from the Japanese common name; this is possibly one of the most beautiful dragonflies I’ve ever photographed.

We took the boardwalk along the edge of Gwangjuho Lake, drinking in the fresh air and sunlight.  Even though the day was a warm one, and the skies were mostly clear, there was still a surprising amount of birdsong in the air.  On the lake we saw a mother mandarin duck with two fluffy chicks in tow, and came across several groups of vinous-throated parrotbills with fledglings.  Melanie almost stepped on a dark-spotted frog, which provided me with a photo opportunity before disappearing into the grasses.

The boardwalk at Gwangjuho Lake.

The boardwalk at Gwangjuho Lake.

Dark-spotted Frog (Pelophylax nigromaculatus)

A black-naped oriole could be heard singing from somewhere in the Eco-Park.  We could also hear two common cuckoos and a lesser cuckoo calling periodically.  Near a junction in the boardwalk, by a shallow reed bed, the sounds of oriental reed-warblers gave way to a juvenile bull-headed shrike, calling out to attract an adult.  Shortly thereafter an adult male came in from the north and answered its anxious fledgling.  Not far from there were several more vinous-throated parrotbills and Japanese tits in a mixed-species foraging group.

A shallow reed bed near Gwangjuho Lake.  Oriental reed-warblers and two bull-headed shrikes were located near here.

A shallow reed bed near Gwangjuho Lake.  Oriental reed-warblers and two bull-headed shrikes were located near here.

A juvenile Japanese Tit (Parus minor), foraging on its own with a sibling at Gwangjuho Lake Eco-Park.

We left the boardwalk and proceeded through a stand of metasequoia trees.  A Japanese bush-warbler could be heard calling nearby.  A dollarbird flew overhead, and in the swarms of red-rumped swallows overhead I found three barn swallows.  On the other side of the Eco-Park is a large open area with ornamental shrubs and trees.  This area was undergoing maintenance, so we decided to head back to the entrance of the park.  On the way we stopped at an observation deck overlooking the lake.  Hidden in the trees I found three common kingfishers, the most of this species I have found anywhere.

Eurasian Magpies (Pica pica sericea).  This photo reminds me a little of the crows in Dumbo.

It was getting near the lunch hour when we decided to head back to Gwangju.  On the way out of the park we passed another group of azure-winged and Eurasian magpies.  An adult male ring-necked pheasant ran across the walkway, and hiding in the tall grass I found a small juvenile pheasant.  All in all the visit to the Eco-Park was a great outing.  I’m looking forward to returning here in the early autumn, to see what kind of migrants use the park as a stopover on their migration routes.

Butterfly Hunting at Gunwangbong

July is a difficult month for birders.  The breeding season is in full swing, so most birds are concerned with feeding their chicks or keeping an eye on fledglings.  Many species stop singing and disappear, not to be seen again until the autumn.  At these times many birders turn their attentions to other things, most often dragonflies and butterflies.

Many of the birders and photographers I know from Ontario switch to looking for insects in the summer months.  It makes a lot of sense when you think about it: birders are very determined and very attentive, so we can’t help but notice things around us, even if it’s not of the feathered variety.  Besides, some dragonflies and butterflies can easily rival the most ostentatious of wood-warblers in terms of coloration, while others require that same attention to detail that all birders hone over the years.

It’s the rainy season in South Korea now, and the weather is very unpredictable.  On occasion it will rain for several days straight, then be overcast and excessively humid for a few more days, and then rain again.  The only real constant is the humidity and heat, which remain regardless of how much water falls out of the sky.  On the rare days when the clouds break and the sun appears, temperatures quickly soar into the 30s, and the added humidity makes it difficult to stay out long or do any long-distance travel on foot.  I haven’t been able to get out as often as I’d like recently, both because of the weather and my work schedule.

Even so, I took a few hours this weekend to put down my laptop and lesson plans and head out into the wilds, hoping to reconnect with an old friend who I’ve neglected for too long.  I can’t quite characterize my relationship with the natural world; often times when I’m wandering along a mountain trail or walking the shore of a lake, I think to myself yeah, this is home.  Almost like the human world with its electronics, cars, bustling crowds, and constant noise, all that is the fake world.  Here on this mountain, or here by this lake, this is where we’re supposed to be.  This is where we really belong…it’s where we’ve always belonged, even though we like to think we’re somehow beyond it or above it.  Needless to say, even a few hours surrounded by the trees and life was enough to recharge the old batteries.

A map of Gunwangbong Peak and the reservoir on the outskirts of the Mudeungsan chain.

A map of Gunwangbong Peak and the reservoir on the outskirts of the Mudeungsan chain.

So this weekend Melanie and I stole away to Gunwangbong Peak (군왕봉), a mountain in the Mudeungsan chain that is near our apartment in Duam-dong.  The peak itself isn’t particularly high, topping at about 365 meters (~1,200 feet), but it is a pretty steep climb.  However, the view from the top is incredible: on a clear day you can see the entirety of the city of Gwangju laid out below.

My main focus was to look for some interesting butterflies and dragonflies.  I knew this area quite well, and although there is a good diversity of bird species in the area, I was not expecting to find any lifers, especially not so late in the breeding season.  Most of the species we encountered were the typical mountain species, such as Japanese tit, pygmy woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker, oriental turtle-dove, and brown-eared bulbul.  There were a few summer breeders around as well, including black-naped oriole and Asian stubtail.

A male nominate White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos leucotos)

At the base of the mountain is an abandoned reservoir.  There are a few gardens nearby, and plenty of ornamental flowers and shrubs, which attract all kinds of butterflies.  We found two species of swallowtails, large butterflies from the Papilionidae family.  The most impressive was the Chinese peacock, a large black butterfly with iridescent blues and reds in the wings, which explode in color when in the sunlight.  The second, the Asian swallowtail, reminded me of the tiger swallowtails from eastern North America, except larger and lighter in color.  Along a small stream leading into the reservoir, we found several small damselfies, which I later identified as stream glories or oriental greenwings.

Asian Swallowtail (Papilio xuthus)

Chinese Peacock (Papilio dehaani)

Stream Glory (Neurobasis chinensis)

On the way up to the peak we stopped at a small overlook.  A few black-tailed skimmers were flitting around, and near one of the burial mounds I noticed two butterfly skimmers engaging in aerial combat with one another.  I wasn’t able to photograph these dark-winged beauties, but just seeing them was enough for me.  We made use of the shade of the trees here and took a short siesta, getting our strength back before taking on the last stretch to the top.  It was easily nearing 40°C, and not much cooler in the shade.

A male Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

I was dozing a bit when I noticed a small bird pop up from the nearby vegetation and perch on an open branch.  It was small with a long tail; I figured it to be a brown-eared bulbul as they are very common in these mountains.  So you can imagine my surprise when I raised my binoculars and found myself looking at a tiger shrike scanning the vegetation for insects!  Here was Lifer #499!

Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus): Lifer #499.

My field guide had said that tiger shrikes were uncommon summer visitors to the Korean peninsula, but delving through the eBird database and following sightings in Korea had not yielded any reliable places to find this species.  In fact, the complete lack of sightings made it appear far rarer than the field guide would have me believe.  And yet, here was one no more than two kilometers from my apartment, hunting over a forest opening that I had been to dozens of times before.  It’s moments like this that remind me why I love birding so much: it’s the serendipity of the sport, and how even your backyard can surprise you sometimes.

The Tiger Shrike gives me a smile before returning to hunting insects near Gunwangbong Peak.

After an enjoyable photo session with the shrike, we decided to tackle that last push to the top of Gunwangbong, even though the heat was unrelenting and we were slowly going through our water supply.  Thankfully the trail to the top is relatively shaded in the forest; it’s a tough climb, but there is plenty of cover from the sun.  In the shade of the trees we found a few more butterflies on wildflowers along the trail.

A skipper butterfly, Daimio tethys

Grey-veined White (Pieris melete)

At the top of the peak there is a large observation area, with benches and a small marker designating the summit.  We stopped here for a long time, exhausted from the ascent.  A few more butterflies were flitting about, mainly Pallas’s fritillary and an Old World swallowtail; there was also a Eurasian magpie hanging around, looking for scraps of food from the people taking a rest in the shade.  It was a very clear day, with very little haze despite the high humidity.  Below me the whole of Gwangju spread out into the distance – this was the first time I had actually seen the whole city.

A panorama of the city of Gwangju, as seen from the top of Gunwangbong Peak.

A panorama of the city of Gwangju, as seen from the top of Gunwangbong Peak.

A marker at the summit of Gunwangbong Peak.

A marker at the summit of Gunwangbong Peak.

Pallas’s Fritillary (Argynnis laodice)

A male Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius), flitting among several Pallas’s fritillaries at the summit of Gunwangbong Peak.

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), a little worse for wear.

A female Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius)

It was a productive walk through the mountains, and finding the tiger shrike was an exciting and unexpected surprise.  Although birding can slow to a crawl during the dog-days of summer, it’s still worth keeping an eye out.  The birds may be on hiatus until the fall, but there are still plenty of other amazing critters to discover out there.  And anytime you can see a familiar place with new eyes makes all the difference.

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!