Birding Gageo-do

I’ve been fortunate enough to have done some birding on islands, namely Amherst Island in Canada, on Kinmen Island and mainland Taiwan, and on some of the small islands off the coast of Korea, namely Eocheong-do (오청도) and Heuksan-do (흑산도).  Large islands can often offer the adventurous birder endemic species, found nowhere else on Earth.  Smaller island, on the other hand, are havens for birds during migration, and one never knows what will show up.

Unlike the other islands I’ve birded in Korea, Gageo-do (가거도) is about as isolated as a Korean island can get.  It’s out in the middle of the Yellow Sea, about 140 kilometers from the nearest mainland port, and has a very small population compared to its size.  The island itself is quite rugged, characterized by high, forest-covered mountains in the interior, surrounded by rocky cliffs around the coast.  It’s not an easy terrain to navigate on foot, and the trails that do exist are not maintained and barely deserve the name.  As compared to Eocheong-do, with its well-kept hiking trails and convenient paved roads, Gageo-do is challenging…but it makes it that much more rewarding.

Island birding in Korea means pelagic birding, as the islands are only accessible by ferry.  Depending on the destination, this rare opportunity to observed the ocean’s unsung avian wonders can be thrilling or a complete miss.  The ferry to Gageo-do takes between 4 and 5 hours to reach the island, making a few stops at other islands along the way.  However, unlike the ferry to Eocheong-do, passengers are not permitted to go outside of the cabin throughout the trip, so all birding must be done looking through the window.

The rocky shores of Gageo-do

The rocky shores of Gageo-do

Nevertheless, the sea was surprisingly calm and the skies were clear.  At about the one hour mark, we came onto several groups of red-necked phalaropes out in the ocean.  These shorebirds spend the breeding season on land in the northern latitudes, but retreat to the open ocean for the winter.  It wasn’t until we were nearing Gageo-do that I began to see my first pelagic species.  Gageo-do has a breeding colony of Swinhoe’s storm petrels, which nest on the surrounding islets.  There were dozens of groups of threes and fours, flying quickly from the path of our ferry.  Hidden among these small birds were three unusual specimens.  Swinhoe’s storm petrels are bat-like in appearance, and have dark plumage all over their bodies.  So imagine my surprise when I picked out three birds showing bright white rump patches as they evaded the ferry.  Reviewing my copy of Onley & Scofield’s Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwaters of the World, I narrowed it down to either Leach’s storm petrel or (more likely) band-rumped storm petrel.  Reviewing my observations, I decided on Band-rumped, as the birds I observed did not have the forked tail common in Leach’s.  I doubt this is the first recorded sighting of this species in Korean waters, but it is nonetheless an exceedingly rare occurrence.  Both A Field Guide to the Birds of Korea and the Birds Korea Checklist for the Republic of Korea only list Swinhoe’s storm petrel as occurring in Korean waters; even the checklists on Avibase fail to mention any other storm petrel species.  If only I had been able to get a photo for confirmation…

When we finally arrived at the island, my first encounters were with the resident species.  Blue rock thrushes were plentiful, and the prevalence of first-year birds indicate there was a successful breeding season on the island.  The marina held dozens of grey herons and smaller numbers of great egret and little egret.  The village of Gageodo-ri was patrolled by a pair of common kestrels, which would put in an appearance everyday of my trip.  Elsewhere around the village were numerous light-vented bulbuls; these rare breeders actually outnumbered the brown-eared bulbuls which are far more common on the mainland.  And flitting about the harbors were numerous wagtails, including grey, white, and eastern yellow wagtails.

Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius philippensis)

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea cinerea)

Looking out over Gageodo-ri

But it was the migrants that I was interested in.  There isn’t much in the way of shorebird habitat at Gageo-do.  The beaches that are there are rocky and the sand is replaced by smooth pebbles.  However, a few migrant shorebirds were around, including singles of Pacific golden plover, red-necked stint, long-toed stint, and several wood sandpipers that could be found on the grassy common area at the center of Gageodo-ri.  Cryptic Latham’s snipes were flushed from their hiding places in the tall sedges around Gageodo-ri and Hangri-maeul.

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

I was hoping for some migrant warblers and flycatchers, which should be moving through in good numbers.  The few trails that I had located around Gageodo-ri were too overgrown to bird effectively – I spent more time avoiding thorns and watching my footing than watching the birds around me.  Luckily, there are two roads that traverse the island, connecting the main village of Gageodo-ri to the small hamlets of Hangri-maeul and Sam-gu.  Most of the migrant passerines could be found along these roads, where the edges of mountain forests met the rocky coastline.

This road (1 of 2 on the entire island) connects Gageodo-ri and Hangri-maeul

Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta)

The most common bird along these roads, besides the blue rock-thrushes, were grey-streaked flycatchers.  I am not sure whether this species breeds on the island; I usually found them in groups of three or more, flitting along the roads and into the air as they hawked insects and dragonflies.  Migrant warblers could also be found along the roadsides.  I didn’t find many warblers in large numbers, but there was definitely a good variety of species.  Dusky warblers were probably the most numerous; although I rarely actually saw them, their distinctive chip note could be heard frequently along the road.  Eastern crowned leaf warblers and yellow-browed warblers were present in smaller numbers, and I had a brief glimpse of a brightly colored Pallas’s leaf warbler.  However, the best Old World warbler (and the best bird of the entire trip!) was Middendorff’s grasshopper warbler, a drab brownish warbler that I located twice near the village of Gageodo-ri.

Although it isn’t much to look at, the Middendorff’s was officially my 700th species!

Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella ochotensis)
This is Life Bird #700!

Eastern Crowned Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus coronatus)

Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)

The most numerous bird of all, however, was the Japanese white-eye.  These small greenish birds were literally dripping off the leaves.  I would often have to sift through large flocks of white-eyes just to spot that one non-white-eye.

Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus simplex)

There were so many white-eyes that the tree branches simply ran out of room for them all…

The island also hosted a few predators as well.  In addition to the pair of kestrels that patrolled the skies above the main village, at least two peregrine falcons were also making use of the thermals over the mountainous interior.  Shrikes were also fairly common on the island, with three species present.  Brown shrikes are often found on the islands offshore around Korea; I found one on Eocheong-do during the spring migration.  On Gageo-do there were two brown shrikes, each on a different side of the island.  A single juvenile bull-headed shrike indicated that there was likely a breeding pair of adults somewhere on the island, even though they remained unseen during my stay.  The big surprise was not one but two long-tailed shrikes, again on either side of the island.  These shrikes are quite common in China and Taiwan, but almost entirely absent from Korea.  Occasional records do crop up on some of the islands, but overall it is quite a rare bird for the country.

Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus cristatus)

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach schach)

The four days on Gageo-do were a great way to kick off the fall migration.  There was a good variety of resident and migrant species, and I was treated to some rarer species that I can’t find on the mainland.  In total I saw just over 50 species, and picked up 4 life birds, including #700!

Spotlight: Gageo-do

Having spent a long weekend at Eocheong-do this past spring, I decided to check out another of Korea’s numerous islands for the long weekend over the Chuseok holiday.  The destination was Gageo-do (가거도), the most remote island in South Korea.  Situated some 140 kilometers from the port city of Mokpo-si (목포시), Gageo-do is the most westerly point in the entire country.  Continue reading for some logistics.

Trail map of Gageo-do


Gageo-do is as far away from mainland Korea as you can get, and still be in the country.  There is only one ferry that services the island, and only one departure per day.  The ferry leaves from the Mokpo Port Coastal Terminal daily at 8:10AM; tickets will cost approximately 55,000₩; slightly less for the return voyage.  The trip will last around 4½ to 5 hours, depending on weather conditions, and the ferry will stop at a number of islands on the way to Gageo-do.  Tickets can be ordered ahead of time or purchased on the day of your trip; be sure to check the ferry schedule before heading out to Mokpo.  As always, you will need a photo ID to purchase your tickets and board the ferry – for non-Koreans, a passport or ARC card will suffice.

Gageodo-ri, the main village
­­© Blake Bouchard


Gageo-do is a very small island community.  Although there are officially three “villages” on the island, the total population is just over 400.  Gageodo-ri, the main and largest of the three villages, is where you will disembark on your arrival.  Unless you’ve already made other arrangements, you best bet at finding a place to stay is here.  There is a selection of accommodations, including a motel, several pension (펜션), and minbak (민박).  Prices will vary, but expect to pay around 40,000 – 60,000₩ per night.

Our pension in Gageodo-ri
© Blake Bouchard

The second village is called Hangri-maeul, and lies on the southwestern end of Gageo-do.  It is connected to Gageodo-ri by a paved roadway.  Hangri-maeul is considerably smaller than Gageodo-ri, but there is at least one minbak where you can stay.  There is also a small restaurant, but it was not open due to the Chuseok holiday.  Hangri-maeul is about a 5 kilometer hike from Gageodo-ri; there are no taxis on the island, but you may be able to hitch a ride with a local resident – there may be a fee associated with this.

Sign for Hangri-maeul, the second village on Gageo-do
© Blake Bouchard

The village of Hangri-maeul

The third and final village is called Sam-gu, and it is located on the opposite side of the island from Gageodo-ri, approximately 9 kilometers away.  It can be accessed by a roadway leading through the interior; you could also hire a boat to take you there, or hike from Hangri-maeul along the coastline.  Although Sam-gu is larger than Hangri-maeul, while we explored the village we did not see a single resident, even though air conditioners were working and there was a faint smell of something cooking around some of the residences.  We did not notice any accommodations or restaurants, but the ghost town like atmosphere was not particularly inviting of further exploration.

The village of Sam-gu


The main economy of Gageo-do, like most Korean islands, is fishing.  So non-Koreans will definitely want to bring some food, especially for breakfast if rice, kimchi, and fish are not your thing.  There are plenty of restaurants available in the villages, but the main course will likely be fish or seafood.  Even though something appears on the menu (or on the storefront window) doesn’t necessarily mean that it is available when you order it.

Many islands are a cash-only economy.  While you may be able to pay with a card, or find an available ATM, it is advisable to bring plenty of cash with you.  Even if you are lucky enough to find an ATM on the island, it probably won’t work, or will only have a small amount of cash available.  


Gageo-do has a thriving fishing industry, and among Koreans the island is known as a sports fisherman’s destination.  Many of the locals offer charter fishing services around the island; prices will vary depending on the owner of the vessel and your skill in haggling, but expect to pay around 100,000₩ per person.

If fishing isn’t your thing, the island does have several hiking trails crisscrossing the mountainous interior, or hugging the rugged coastline.  Be advised, however, that these hiking trails are not maintained and can get pretty difficult.  The interior mountains are very steep, and the trails consist of moss-laden boulders and slippery stones.  It is advisable to wear long pants and sturdy boats, or run the risk of getting torn up on thorny shrubbery.

There are a few pebble beaches around Gageo-do.  There are two large ones just to the east of Gageodo-ri; another secluded one can be found in Hangri-maeul.  Swimming in the ocean is not particularly high on the list of Korean past times, so you may very well have these beaches entirely to yourself.  If there are any locals or Korean tourists around, however, be prepared to be watched like a hawk as you enjoy the surf.

The swimming beach lies far below Hangri-maeul
© Blake Bouchard

A view from one of the beaches at Gageodo-ri
© Blake Bouchard

Overall, Gageo-do is a unique location with a tight-knit community.  You will feel like a minor celebrity as you walk the small, twisting alleyways of Gageodo-ri.  Korean island communities are by far the friendliest that I’ve come across – just remember to be open-minded.  Please check out my friend’s blog for more information on our trip to Gageo-do.  I’ll discuss the bird aspect of the trip in another installment.

Kinmen: A Midnight Run from China

I don’t know if there is an actual word for what we planned to do next.  I call it a vacation within a vacation, if that makes any sense.  China is an incredible place, full of history and culture, natural beauty and the urban high life.  But China is also the most overpopulated place on Earth, and as the saying goes, “good things come in small doses.”

So for our final stop on our trip, we decided to (technically) leave China behind and go to the island of Kinmen, two kilometers from the port city of Xiamen.  Although it is nestled right in the heart of a bustling Chinese port, the island is officially part of the country of Taiwan.  As such, the island has a distinctly different culture and history than the nearby city of Xiamen.  And for the foreign traveler, it is prudent to remember that Kinmen is a separate country from China – be sure to apply for a multiple-entry Chinese visa if you plan to go to Kinmen and return to China, or you may find yourself stranded at the ferry dock.  Additionally, Taiwan has its own visa policies that must be taken into consideration as well.  It should go without saying that Xiamen and Kinmen also use different currencies; you may exchange Chinese yuan (¥) for Taiwanese dollars at the Wutong Ferry Terminal in Xiamen.

For me, this was the best part of our entire trip.  We had traveled to mainland Taiwan a year earlier, and it was an incredible trip.  I have never had a bad time in Taiwan, and that still holds true.  If you’re looking for an international destination, I highly recommend it.

The plan was to spend two days in Kinmen, and then two days in Xiamen before returning to South Korea.  That plan lasted all of about 20 seconds once we arrived in Kinmen.  We ended up extending our stay there, and only returned to Xiamen to catch our flight back to Incheon.

We booked our stay at the W Guesthouse, located in the center of the island.  It was by far the best choice of accommodations we made throughout the entire trip.

W Guesthouse

W Guesthouse

The owner/operator Mr. Weng is incredibly friendly, and will go the extra mile to make your stay perfect.  When we arrived at the guesthouse, he set us up in a newly renovated room.  The guesthouse is actually Mr. Weng’s home, and includes a traditional-style Taiwan house.  This house was our room for the three days, and we had the entire place to ourselves.

The W Guesthouse offers visitors the chance to stay in a renovated traditional-style Taiwan house

The W Guesthouse offers visitors the chance to stay in a renovated traditional-style Taiwan house

Every morning at 8am Mr. Weng would come to the courtyard of our guesthouse with breakfast.  He did this on his own, and we never had to pay for a thing.  He would also offer to drive us anywhere on the island we wanted to go, even though we had rented bicycles for the duration of our stay.  Yet another great thing about Kinmen: bicycles are free to rent from the island’s Visitor Center at the main bus station in Jinning county.

The only way to explore Kinmen

The only way to explore Kinmen

Kinmen countryside - quite the polar opposite of Beijing

Kinmen countryside – quite the polar opposite of Beijing

For a break from the extreme hustle and bustle of China, I’d highly recommend a side trip to Kinmen.  However, after speaking with Mr. Weng and his son (who attended high school at Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania – a rival school from my Valley View alma mater), plans are in the works to build a bridge between Kinmen and Xiamen.  This will bring a lot of new tourists to the island, and land has already been purchased to construct casinos.  So in short, this hidden treasure won’t stay hidden for much longer.

LOGISTICS: To get to Kinmen, you can catch a ferry from the Wutong Ferry Terminal (五通客运码头) in Xiamen, China.  Ferries between Xiamen and Kinmen run on a regular schedule between 8am and 6:30pm.  The ferry ride will be about 20-30 minutes.  Tickets cost ¥150 ($24 USD) from Xiamen to Kinmen; slightly less from Kinmen to Xiamen.  Remember that Kinmen is not part of China, so make sure your Chinese visa allows for multiple entries.  More information can be found here.

Spotlight: Eocheong-do

Melanie and I recently had a few days off from school, during the Korean holiday of seokga tanisil (석가탄신일), more commonly called Buddha’s birthday.  This holiday is one of the main travel times in Korea, with many people traveling to visit family and relatives.  Any tourist destination is usually booked solid, as was the case in Busan this year where literally every hotel, hostel, pension, and jimjilbang in the city were sold out.

So rather than fight the crowds and traffic, we chose to leave mainland Korea and spend some time exploring one of the country’s numerous offshore island communities.  We chose Eocheong-do (어청도), a small island approximately 70 kilometers west of the port city of Gunsan-si (군산시).  Here are some logistics.

Eocheong-do (어청도)

Eocheong-do (어청도)


Being an island, the only way to get to Eocheong-do is by ferry.  Ferries depart once daily during the week, and twice on Saturday and Sunday, from the Gunsan Coastal Ferry Terminal.  During the week the ferry departs at 9:00AM; on weekends you can choose between a 7:30AM or 1:30PM departure time.  However, ferries are often cancelled due to fog, rough seas, or bad weather, so be sure to check the weather before leaving the mainland.  The ferry ride itself lasts about 2½ hours, with a short stop at nearby Yeon-do (연도).  Tickets for a one-way trip will cost around 25,000 won at the time of this writing; these tickets can be ordered ahead of time by phone or online, but unless you have a solid grip of the Korean language, it’s best to buy your tickets at the Ferry Terminal the day of your trip.  You will need a valid photo ID to board the ferry; for non-Koreans, a passport or Alien Registration Card (ARC) will suffice.

Gunsan Coastal Ferry Terminal

Gunsan Coastal Ferry Terminal


Eocheong-do is a small island community, with a population of only about 400 residents.  As such, don’t expect any 5-star hotels with room service on this trip.  However, minbaks (민박) are plentiful and affordable throughout Eocheongdo-ri, the main village on the island.  A minbak, or “homestay,” is a bed-and-breakfast style accommodation, with a traditional Korean feel.

 Expect a sleeping mat, blankets, and an ondol-heated floor in place of a bed; however, some minbaks may offer Western-style beds for an additional cost.  This may seem frightening at first, but minbaks are usually very clean and comfortable, and the owners are always friendly and helpful, even if they do not speak much English.  Prices range from 10,000 won per night to upwards of 40-50,000 won for more popular tourist destinations at peak travel times; in some cases you can even negotiate a price with your hosts.  In many cases, a minbak will also have a restaurant attached, or be located close to one; you are not obligated to eat there if you do not want to.

The Yangji Homestay on Eocheong-do.  The restaurant on the main level serves excellent fried chicken.

The Yangji Homestay on Eocheong-do.  The restaurant on the main level serves excellent fried chicken.


The island is shaped like a crescent, and has a steep ridge running along the edge.  Half of the island is part of a military base, and is fenced off to the general public and visitors.  However, the remaining half of the island is lined with hiking trails.  The village of Eocheongdo-ri, though small, offers a variety of restaurants, a large public pavilion, a church, a seaside boardwalk, a lighthouse, and numerous gardens through which one can meander.  The residents of the island are especially friendly; don’t be surprised if you’re invited for a drink or a meal by a total stranger.  Koreans as a people are still very curious about foreigners, but unlike most places I’ve traveled to within mainland Korea, the people of Eocheong-do are far more polite about their curiousity.  I did not find that anyone stopped and stared at me, or was even all that surprised to see me.  If anything, people treated me as though I was just another resident whom they hadn’t seen in awhile.

The village of Eocheongdo-ri

The village of Eocheongdo-ri

The boardwalk, opposite the marina

The boardwalk, opposite the marina

The lighthouse on the western end of Eocheong-do

The lighthouse on the western end of Eocheong-do

The main reason to go to Eocheong-do is for the birding.  Its position in the Yellow Sea makes it an oasis for migrant birds flying from China to the Korean peninsula.  Eocheong-do is well known in Korea and elsewhere as a hotspot for birding during the spring migration.  Many rare and accidental species have been documented here over the years.  In fact, birding-based ecotourism is starting to catch on, and the island’s economy is shifting to promote its natural treasures.

Our visit to Eocheong-do was immensely relaxing, and the birding was some of the best I’ve had anywhere in Korea (where else can you see 100 species in just a long weekend?).  I’ll post about our birding experiences in another installment.

Birding the Yellow Sea

I was invited to go on a pelagic outing around Heuksan-do (흑산도) with several members of Birds Korea.  It was a fantastic opportunity to both see some really spectacular birds, and meet some amazing people whose tireless efforts are the cornerstone of the Korean bird conservation movement.  It was also a chance to utilize my least-used field guide, Onley and Sconfield’s Albatrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World.

I arrived at the Gwangju Bus Terminal bright and early in the morning, meeting my travel companions Maria Lisak, Dr. Nial Moores, Jason Loghry, and Ha Jung-Mun.  Dr. Moores and Jason left on an earlier bus; we would meet them at the other end in Mokpo, where we would pick up our ferry to the island of Heuksan-do.  As the three of us loaded onto our bus, I suddenly realized I had left my field guide sitting on the desk in my apartment.  Not off to a good start.

By the time we reached Mokpo, the skies had darkened and it began to rain.  As we met up with the rest of our group, and were taxied onto the ferry, the rain increased from an annoying drizzle to a window-blocking torrent.  For the length of the two and a half hour voyage, the rain mocked our feeble attempts at spotting tiny seabirds in the worsening swell.  Oh, perhaps I had forgotten to mention the typhoon that was currently beating the pulp out of Taiwan a few hundred miles to the south of us.  Yeah, that’s an important detail.

The bay at Heuksan-do.  Oh yeah, we're going out in this!

The bay at Heuksan-do.  Oh yeah, we’re going out in this!

Nevertheless, Dr. Moores somehow managed to spot a few Swinhoe’s storm-petrels and a streaked shearwater on the ferry ride; I only got the briefest of glimpses of the former, and completely missed the latter.

As luck would have it, the rain followed us all the way to Heuksan-do, and continued drenching everything in sight for another couple hours.  But ours was a determined bunch, and after resolving a slight miscommunication with the boat captain we had hired, we set sail into the great beyond, spirits high if not a little damp.  As we tied off from the dock, the skies began to lighten a bit and someone turned off the faucet.  The clouds (and the rain for that matter) would stay for the bulk of the day, but there were occasional breaks in the sky and by nightfall we were granted an amazing sunset.

Eight passengers set sail that day for a six hour tour...a six hour tour Let's hope it ends a little better, shall we?

Eight passengers set sail that day for a five hour tour…a five hour tour
Let’s hope it ends a little better, shall we?

Despite the break in the weather, the open ocean tossed us around with 1-3m swells, and sporadic downpours left our fearless leader soaked to the bone.  Conditions were far from ideal, but the one great thing about pelagic birding is that the birds have nowhere to hide, except another featureless stretch of ocean that you’re not looking at.  Tons of perseverance (and an equal amount luck) can usually result in a few good birds.

We spent almost five hours at sea. The birds came in waves, usually in singles or pairs, but sometimes in flocks of ten or more.  We stumbled onto a group of three red phalaropes about an hour into the voyage.  Swinhoe’s storm-petrels and streaked shearwaters were seen throughout the trip, though long periods would pass between sightings.  Our ship’s captain wasn’t chumming the waters, so the birds tended to stay out a fair distance.  We also found half a dozen common terns, and near the end of the trip we passed seven red-necked phalaropes, followed shortly by a distant view of a flesh-footed shearwater.  Unfortunately for Yours Truly, however, I never managed to get on this bird, so I will have to try for it some other time.

Streaked Shearwater (Calonectris leucomelas); this was the only bird that came in close enough to our ship for a photo.  Luckily the battering waves didn’t spoil the opportunity for me.

When we returned to Heuksan-do, we decided to use the last of the dwindling light to search the marina area for some birds.  The skies were alive with Pacific swifts, hawking insects over the mountains.  Within the swifts we found three white-throated needletails, and Jason managed to spy a rare Himalayan swiftlet, a scarcely recorded species on the Korean peninsula.  There were also migrants coming in to Heuksan-do for a night’s rest, including an astonishing flock of at least 100 eastern yellow wagtails, which cruised over the marina before disappearing into the mountains.

Pacific Swift (Apus pacificus pacificus) – note the outstretched tail feathers and small fork in the middle.  Not my best shot, but it is the first time I’ve photographed a swift of any species.


The next morning, our group strolled around Heuksan-myeon, looking for migrants and passerines.  The island of Heuksan-do is sparsely populated, the bulk of which resides in the quiet village of Heuksan-myeon.  The rest of the island is mostly uninhabited, and so offers some great birding for those willing to make the trip.  After the dismal results of our pelagic trip, the birding around Heuksan-myeon more than made up for it.

The sleepy village of Heuksan-myeon.

The sleepy village of Heuksan-myeon.

The village had two pairs of blue rock-thrushes, and we were treated to excellent views of both the males and females.  We also saw plenty of light-vented bulbuls, another rare species in Korea (though it is starting to become more common on the offshore islands).  A family of three tiger shrikes patrolled a large hillside, and Japanese white-eyes flitted about everywhere.  Eastern yellow wagtails and grey wagtails continued their migrations overhead, but nowhere near the numbers of the previous night.

The mountain path came to a small pasture for grazing animals, and it was here that we found the bulk of our species.  As three pin-tailed snipes flew off overhead, we spotted several Pacific golden-plovers foraging in the pasture; a long-toed stint was found near a puddle on the edge of the pasture.  A pair of Daurian starlings flew in, and two grey-streaked flycatchers and a Korean flycatcher patrolled the edge of the area.  By far the strangest sighting was a lone Eurasian wryneck, a cryptically-colored woodpecker which looks more like a nightjar than a woodpecker.  Before returning to the village, we saw one more interesting bird.  It appeared to be a strange-looking eastern yellow wagtail, but several field markers and some call notes it made belong to the western yellow wagtail.  These two closely related species are hotly contested, and most recent taxonomic updates continually change the species from two, maybe one, sometimes even three, different species.  Photos and audio recordings were made, but for now this bird remains unidentified.

Daurian Starlings (Sturnus sturninus)

Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta)

Eastern or Western Yellow Wagtail...anyone know?

Eastern or Western Yellow Wagtail…anyone know?

We walked along some of the shoreline of the island, picking out a few sanderlings and red-necked stints, as well as one black-winged stilt hiding in the debris on the beach.  Later a flock of four of these graceful waders would fly in from the north.  The last bird of interest was a gorgeous Japanese wood-pigeon, which flew from its hiding place on one mountainside to another across the valley.

From my point of view the outing was a great success.  It’s always a good time to be out birding with a group of like-minded individuals, and it never hurts to have such knowledgeable companions either.  Despite the rain we contended with on our first day, the pelagic trip was still successful in that we found some birds and didn’t get completely shut out.  And the day’s birding on Heuksan-do was a great chance to see some unusual birds that don’t frequently show up on the Korean mainland.

A heartfelt “thank you!” to Dr. Nial Moores and all of the members of Birds Korea for putting together a wonderful outing.  I hope it will be one of many yet to come.