New Patch: Wolmido Island 월미도

There’s a curious patch of green in the midst of a heavily industrial area on the coast of Incheon: Wolmido Island. Historically, the island has been very important, being, for example, the site of the naval assault by the South Korean and UN forces to re-take Incheon from North Korean forces. Now though, it’s a lovely spot to spend the day. On the coast of the island is a lovely waterfront with many seaside shops and restaurants. In the middle of the island is a heavily wooded forest park that leads up to an observatory on top of the hill. On the inland side is Wolmi Traditional Park, a perfectly lovely and peaceful garden park.

The park area is not heavily wooded, but it does have a number of areas that managed to hold a few birds even in the heat of summer. I definitely plan on returning during migration season.

The most ubiquitous bird at the park was the azure-winged magpie, pictured above. Unlike their even more ubiquitous cousins, the oriental magpies, these birds seem to have a slightly lower tolerance for urban settings, and their calls filled the air throughout the park.

There were just two other species of note that I was able to capture. The first was a pair of grey-faced woodpeckers–male and female. I had actually nearly given up on finding anything more exciting than the magpies at the park, especially given that it’s the wrong season, but my heart nearly skipped a beat when I heard the male woodpecker calling, and managed to spot him on a tree.

After chasing him around a bit, I managed to sneak up on him and his misses as they popped down to the forest floor to do a bit of foraging.

The other birds of note were an adult and juvenile grey-backed thrush. I suspect the adult was the parent, though I suppose there’s no way to know for sure. They were hanging out together at a little clearing next to a stream.

Overall I’m convinced that Wolmido Island will be a great patch to explore in the future!

Unfortunate Changes (and some waders) at Long Valley

It seems that the long arm of urban development has finally reached Long Valley. Once-hailed as an oasis for migrating waders and buntings, this quaint and invaluable stretch of farmland and shallows is beginning its long and unfortunate process of development.

Why just a few weeks ago when I went to visit the visiting Asian dowitcher, there was overgrown farmland adjacent to its favorite pond that is now fully demolished and excavated. Last year as well I saw a plaintive cuckoo in this very field of what I believe was okra. What a shame to see such a fragile and valuable ecosystem being so encroached upon.

The entire road to the entrance point that I usually use is walled-off as well. Currently workers utilize that access point, but I’m not sure for how much longer I will be able to use it. I really don’t know much about what or how Long Valley will be developed, but no matter what I imagine things will be tougher for birds, birders, and farmers alike during this fast-approaching autumn bunting migration season.

(Added 14-9-2020: It turns out that much of the development of the main farmland patches at Long Valley are largely ecological. The farmland and valuable patches of wetland will be largely preserved, but access in the future will be limited to certain areas. This is ultimately better for the birds, though it may make certain records more difficult to make with limited public access. Ultimately, I’d say it’s a good thing. Details on the development of Long Valley can be found here.)

Adding to the unpleasantness of the experience were looming thunderstorms–a real worry if you’re romping around in Long Valley’s open fields with a tripod!

In terms of birds, there was only one noticeable addition to last time. In the first place, there were many more black-winged stilts. I counted nearly 30, a marked increase from last time’s mere handful.

I don’t really have much luck with taking photos of stilts. Their plumage makes them rather difficult to expose properly, and they’re rather loud and annoying when they notice you and plan to flee if you get too close. Either way, I’m still happy to see them in decent numbers here.

Among the stilts though was also a solitary common greenshank. They’re also not the most exciting of waders to see, but it’s the first time I’d seen one at Long Valley.

The most numerous birds were the wood sandpipers. Personally I counted at least 30, and I’m sure there were others hidden in the far reaches of the ponds.

I noticed these birds last year when I visited Long Valley for the first time later in the season, though I don’t recall them being so numerous. Perhaps this really is the peak of their migration through Hong Kong. If so, I hope they enjoy their stay, and I”m happy that I got to take at least a few somewhat respectable record shots.

Wood sandpipers, black-winged stilts, and common greenshanks each have corresponding entries in my Hong Kong Bird Log.