Winter is a great time to observed waterfowl, at least until freeze up. As long as open water remains, geese, ducks, and swans can be plentiful. So a group of us followed Birds Korea members Andreas Kim and Robin Newlin to Gangjin Bay to look for waterfowl and any other potential migrants or overwintering species.
It was a gorgeous day, with unusually high temperatures in the mid-teens °C. By midday we had shed several layers and were basking in the spring-like weather. We arrived at Gangjin Bay at low tide, when all of the waterfowl and shorebirds were foraging in the exposed mud. The whooper swan, our target bird for the day, clearly dominated the area, with several hundred covering the mudflats in all directions. Other species included eastern spot-billed duck, mallard, Eurasian teal, gadwall, and Eurasian wigeon.
Waders like grey heron, great egret, and little egret were found in small numbers; shorebirds were a rare find, and only a flock of dunlin and a few common sandpipers could be found on the mudflats. Our group also located a Eurasian spoonbill, and shortly thereafter had the good fortune to see two of the rarer black-faced spoonbills.
There were also a lot of passerines in the rice fields adjacent to Gangjin Bay. The habitat was characterized by the tidal flats of the Bay, surrounded by reed beds of variable size, bordered by vast stretches of rice fields and agricultural land. As the growing season is over and the fields tilled and sown for the coming season, a lot of sky larks were making use of this fertile land to forage and hide from predators. Eurasian kestrels and a single Eurasian sparrowhawk patrolled the area, and it wouldn’t be a Korean bird outing without at least one bull-headed shrike. The reeds were alive with activity, though many of the birds remained hidden in the vegetation and made themselves known only by their soft chips and tweets. Careful and patient scanning revealed a plethora of buntings, including reed bunting, black-faced bunting, yellow-throated bunting, and a single meadow bunting (Lifer #605). Chinese penduline-tits and vinous-throated parrotbills were also present in greater numbers.
Below are some of my favorite photos from the day.