Monday, 12 May 2014

South Korea trip part 2 - Going to Gunsan

Grant had some time off during the week so we decided to visit Gunsan for a couple of days. We got on a bus at Daejeon bus station and we were on our way. About 30 minutes into our trip, Grant looked worried and said he thought we might be on the wrong bus as there was a similar sounding place near Daejeon. It turned out he was right but luckily we were able to get a connecting bus from the fake Gunsan to the real Gunsan and better still the bus took us through some great scenery on the way including a National Park and some more rural areas, and as we weren't in a hurry it worked out better in the end. I took a couple of snaps through the bus window....

We arrived at Gunsan then got a taxi to our destination which was on the Geum river estuary. This site is reported to be an important area for Baikal Teal during the winter. There's a huge observation tower looking over a freshwater part of the river where it has been dammed, it looks more like an airport control tower than a hide. Unfortunately the tower seems to be built about half a mile away from the rivers edge. Grant has never seen Baikal Teal here as when he came to look it was so cold the river was frozen solid.
We stayed in a hotel on a hill nearby that mainly seemed to cater for weddings, and a rather skeletal staff populated the building. The garden was full of huge, grotesque stone sculptures. The view from the window was pretty good though as you can see the freshwater part of the river, plus a strange amusement park or fun fair that was always open but never seemed to have any visitors.
The Geum River Barrage, seperating the brackish water from the fresh water

There is an area that contains several restaurants and a shop selling junk food. We had some excellent Korean food in two of the restaurants here in a really friendly atmosphere, highly recommended but the menus are for more than one person so going on your own may be a problem as Grant has found out in the past. 

To the east there is a Eco Park near the observation tower that seemed to have very little in the way of birds in it at all, a couple of Parrotbills in the reedbeds but nothing else on two of the times I visited. Though Grant has had better luck in the past. The main activity occured to the west of the barrage. The area kind of reminded me a tiny bit of the more industrial parts of Rainham on a huge scale, but at Rainham, Terek Sandpipers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Far Eastern Curlews are not a common sight. Nor are Mongolian Plovers or Black-tailed Gulls. I counted the Tereks one time and got 161, funny there is always that extra 1 that gets in there. At first there was no sign of any Sharp-tailed Sands but on the second day they turned up in numbers amongst the Dunlin, I counted 72 on the 26th April. The most obvious wader here was probably Bar-tailed Godwit, but there were also quite a few Black-tailed. We had 10 of the rather rare Far Eastern Oystercatchers, maybe a future split? Best of all on the evening of the 26th we had 3 of the rare Black-faced Spoonbill feeding out on the mud, with another few unidentified Spoonbill species earlier that flew off north.
Aveley Bay?

There were also a few passerines about, at least 9 Olive-backed Pipits, a single winter looking male Pallas's Reed Bunting and a group of Chinese Penduline Tits in the reed bed as well as several Black-faced Buntings. Also heard and saw White's Thrush in the woods nearby on several occasions. 

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