Today was the first of an eleven day birding trip to South Korea that I am leading on behalf of Zootherabirding, having led a similar trip to the country one year ago. After meeting everyone at Incheon airport, Seoul, we drove straight to the National Arboretum where we spent the whole afternoon birding around this lovely woodland park with a covering of snow and with intermittent snow showers creating an idyllic winter scene. Our main target here was Solitary Snipe but there was also a lot more to enjoy here.
On arrival we first scanned the stream alongside the car park for Snipe but with much of the stream at this spot being frozen we were not at first successful. However, upon entering the arboretum we headed along the stream to a regular spot for the species and soon found a very confiding individual and very soon after spotted a second bird. Wonderful to connect with one of the major target birds of the trip so quickly, particularly as the amount of wintering habitat here is shrinking rapidly, making seeing them far from a certainty. As we enjoyed watching these beautiful Snipe feed a flock of Tits began to forage nearby with Eastern Great Tit, Marsh Tit and at least three of the highly anticipated Varied Tit performing wonderfully well for us.
Also within this flock, but harder to see, were at least two Yellow-bellied Tits. This species was not seen on last year’s tour which made it even more welcome.
As we watched these species we saw a flyover flock of Eastern Spotbilled Duck as well as a small flock of Mandarin Ducks. In nearby trees were small groups of Hawfinch and a few Large-billed Crows while in the stream there was a Green Sandpiper and Western Great Egret. As we walked through the arboretum a pair of Marsh Tits put on a nice performance for us at eye level, giving me the opportunity to get some nice photos.
Further along we encountered a small flock of birds which included the ubiquitous Brown-cheeked Bulbul, a single Eurasian Nuthatch, several more Varied Tits and a pair of Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers; very cute and one of my favourite birds of Korea. A brief view of a Naumann’s Thrush preluded the call of a Black Woodpecker and although we were unable to see this bird we soon tracked down White-backed Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker as well as having a close encounter with a stunning male Daurian Redstart.
We walked through some pleasant winter scenery and as the day drew on bird activity began to cease although on a berry tree a Dusky Thrush was seen briefly and Brown-cheeked Bulbul was too nice not to photograph.
More Varied Tits, Eastern Great Tits, Large-billed Crows and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were found as the weather conditions began to get poorer and the light started to fade and a couple of Goldcrests brought the day’s birding to a close and with the promise of flocks of Cranes in the morning we headed to our lovely, warm accommodation and a delicious hot dinner.