Birds Korea Update for Members: April 2007

This Update covers April 1st - April 28th 2007 It is in three parts:

1. Conservation News

2. Birds Korea News

3. Exceptional Bird Records

1. Conservation News

Lawmakers and politicians have this month been debating a proposed Special Law on the Saemangeum reclamation, including allowing any land created to be bought at an accelerated pace by private investors. Recent discussions for possible end-use for the area now include, apparently, a Formula One race track, a golf course complex, a casino area etc. None of these projects are in line with previous declarations, including directly to the Ramsar Secretariat in 2004, that this is an “environmentally-friendly reclamation” required for national food security.

On a more positive note, further news this month on the satellite-tracked Bar-tailed Godwits from New Zealand, with two of the Korean staging godwits found and photographed at Asan Bay on April 16th by the SSMP team, and a further godwit staging in the western part of Suncheon Bay later in the month. For more on this tracking program, please go to:

2. Birds Korea News

The Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP) 2007 has been underway for a month now, with participants so far from South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, The US, Thailand and Bangladesh. Habitat assessment and shorebird counts from the two main high-tide cycles reveal that while the Saemangeum reclamation area remains extremely important internationally for shorebirds (fulfilling several Ramsar criteria) most of the tidal-flats are now severely degraded. The species most affected so far appears to be Great Knot, a highly gregarious shellfish specialist, with numerous observations of birds showing very unusual behaviour, most probably linked to insufficient food. The SSMP counts also continue to confirm the extreme international importance of the Geum Estuary, and have also located further species of note at Gomso Bay. More detailed updates on the SSMP 2007 can be found on our websites.

In tandem with the SSMP, weekly shorebird counts have also been conducted at the southern tidal-flats at Song Do, Incheon (by Birds Korea members Tim Edelsten and Robin Newlin). These counts have recorded internationally important concentrations of Great Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, as well as the continued presence of the globally Vulnerable Saunders’s Gull and the Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill.

On April 26, as a further part of our work for shorebird and tidal-flat conservation, a team from the SSMP (consisting of Mr. Keith Woodley of the Miranda Naturalists Trust in New Zealand; Sarah Dawkins of the UK’s RSPB; Kim Rakhyun, a Birds Korea volunteer and PhD candidate at Auckland University in New Zealand; and Nial Moores, Director of Birds Korea) joined representatives from Mokpo KFEM in a meeting with Cho Jae-Hyun, the Director General of the regional office of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, followed by presentations at a workshop for Mokpo City councilors and representatives of several local organisations. Participants agreed on the need for the conservation of a small but important urban tidal-flat area in Mokpo City. Birds Korea continues to support the conservation and enhancement of this site (achieved in part through the reduction of disturbance and the careful management of existing water/area), and the subsequent development of appropriate programs and facilities to enable improved environmental education and eco-tourism opportunities, as first proposed by local activist Andreas Kim and by Lee Jeong-Sik (of Mokpo KFEM).

Further SSMP-related meetings will be held at the British and Australian Embassies on May 1st. In addition, we are also holding a week-long awareness-raising exhibit in the Student’s Union Building, Wonkwang University (Iksan) between May 1st and May 8th. The exhibit will include images of birds and wetlands, very kindly contributed by SSMP participants (including Ju Yong Gi, Richard Chandler, Peter de Haas, Robin Newlin and Prof. Charles Page) and by members of the Korean Wild Birds Society. We will also hold a symposium in the same building on Friday May 4th, between 7 pm and 9 pm. Further details of the symposium, entitled “Birds, Wetlands and People Are One: A Story of International Cooperation for the conservation of Migratory Birds”, can be found at:

Back in Busan, we are also happy to report that our office-space is now formally open to visits from members - with the first meeting held there (with 9 members) in late April. Our address:

Birds Korea, 1009 Ho, 3 Dong, Samik Tower Apt., Namcheon 2-Dong, Su Young-Gu, Busan, 613762, Republic of Korea.

Office Tel: 051 627 3163 ; Fax: 051 627 3164.

3. Exceptional Bird Records

The month remained dry almost throughout, with average or above average temperatures for most of the month. The lack of significant weather events combined with work for the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program meant there were rather few non-shorebird records of note.

The month started with a Water Pipit photographed on Weiyeon Island (Nial Moores and Geoff Styles) and a White-shouldered Starling on Jeju (Birds in Jeju website), with one more White-shouldered Starling on Eocheong on April 24 (Robin Newlin), and two on Hong Island on 25 (Park Jong-Gil and the National Parks Migratory Bird Research Centre). Towards the end of the month, best was a male Black Redstart on Eocheong on 28th (multiple observers), while the only other exceptional passerine record appears to be of a male Grey Thrush at Seolleung Tombs, Seoul, photographed on April 18 (Robin Newlin). Further records of significance include a Long-billed Murrelet seen well between Yeon Island and Eocheong island on April 21 (multiple observers), and two probable records of Crested Murrelet from the same ferry, with one on April 9 (Nial Moores, Tony Crocker and Andrew Patrick) and four on April 27 (Robin Newlin). There are perhaps no confirmed records of Long-billed from the Yellow Sea, and Crested has not been recorded so far north there, with perhaps no recent confirmed records from the breeding colony in the far southwest.

Shorebird records of note during April included three different Pied Avocet, with one at Seosan from March 30 until April 4 (Park Min-Jeol and Kim In-Gyu), one at Mokpo from March 28 to perhaps mid-month (Kim Seok Yee), and one at Haje, Saemangeum, on April 21 (Jake Maclennan and Peter Nebel); probably three Ringed Plover (one at Namdang-Ri, on April 2, Kim Shin-Han; one at the Mangyeung, Saemangeum on 6th, Geoff Styles and Tabitha Davis; and one at the Geum on 14th and 18th, SSMP); Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Okgu, Saemangeum (two on 24th, one on 27th: SSMP); and Nordmann’s Greenshank, with 9 on 15th and 16 on 18th at Yubu Island (SSMP), with 15 seen on mainland mudflats at the Geum on 24th (SSMP).

(With special thanks to Tim Edelsten for gathering records)

Finally, a gentle reminder to all of our members, past and present, who live in Korea.

Birds Korea depends entirely on the support of our members and volunteers. Donations and domestic membership fees are vital to us, to pay for the running of two websites, to pay for our office space, to pay for materials that we send out, to pay for the SSMP and other research and advocacy work. With more funding, we can do more for our members, and for the birds! Please renew your membership (annual membership fee is only 30 000 Korean won; and life-time membership only 150 000 Korean won at this time), and help us to help the birds!

Thanks for your continuing support and interest

Birds Korea, April 28th, 2007.