Seoul, 23-24 May 2015

Seoul, 23-24 May 2015
By Craig Brelsford
Latest update: 2018-02-16
© 2015-2019 by Craig Brelsford

Who Am I?

Craig Brelsford lived in Shanghai from 2007 to 2018. When he departed China in January 2018, Craig was the top-ranked eBirder in that country, having noted 932 species, as well as the top-ranked eBirder in Shanghai (323 species). A 1993 graduate of the University of Florida, Craig was an award-winning newspaper editor in the United States for 10 years. In 2002, he earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Liege in Belgium.

Craig lives in Debary, Florida with his wife, Elaine, and their son, Tiny.


I spent 23-24 May 2015 in the capital of South Korea teaching bird photography to Oliver Havenhand, age 16. In Seoul, which by some measures is the second-largest city in the world, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Dollarbird, Black-naped Oriole, Eurasian Jay, Varied Tit, Marsh Tit, White’s Thrush, and Daurian Redstart inhabit parks just a few steps away from World Cup Stadium. On game days, one can hear at a single point Common Pheasant and Brown-eared Bulbul and the cheers of thousands of fans. Oriental Reed Warbler call from the pond near the stadium. Oliver and I were in a highly urbanized area but never even took a taxi to go birding—high-quality parkland was within easy walking distance of my hotel. If birding in Seoul is this good, then the hills and mountains outside the city must be even better.

Seoul was a breath of fresh air for me—in more ways than one. What an example for China Seoul is, with its proximity to China both in space and culture. I’m an optimist and see Chinese cities looking more like Seoul in the next few decades.

Light-vented Bulbul and Spotted Dove were not seen in Seoul. Have those species, whose ranges are expanding north in China, reached the Korean Peninsula?

The Trip

Sat. 23 May 2015
Seoul, South Korea

I arrived in Seoul from Shanghai. Oliver Havenhand and I met at Stanford Hotel and walked to Susaek Ridge. I taught Oliver how to shoot in full manual mode, choosing aperture, speed, and ISO as conditions warrant. He learned quickly and got off a good flurry of shots of Common Cuckoo. The cuckoo alighted on a nearby bough and gave us only seconds to react. Oliver never hesitated and captured the bird in various poses. Under brilliant blue skies, we took in the amazing views of Seoul from the mountain.

We noted 18 species. Among the highlights were 3 Oriental Dollarbird, a female Daurian Redstart and her fledgling, and White’s Thrush. Brown-eared Bulbul are the “city bulbul” in Seoul; I saw not a single Light-vented Bulbul. Oriental Turtle Dove is present in Seoul and Spotted Dove apparently is absent.

Susaek Ridge, Seoul, South Korea (37.587443, 126.896378). 13:00-18:30.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 7 heard
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 8
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 3
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 2
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius 4
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 7
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris 7
Varied Tit Sittiparus varius 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 9
Silver-throated Bushtit Aegithalos glaucogularis 20 (flock)
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis 16
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 16
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2 (mother & fledgling)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 8

Sun. 24 May 2015
Seoul, South Korea

Oliver and I took a long walk, skirting the edge of Noeul Park and Haneul Park (parts of World Cup Park), and once again seeing a surprisingly rich array of birds for an urban area. We noted 19 species.

Around World Cup Park, Seoul, South Korea (37.565459, 126.889468). 10:35-16:30.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 7
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 14 (flyover)
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 5
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 30
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 3
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 2
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 1
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 5
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius 2
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 8
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 9
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris 12 (6 nestlings)
Varied Tit Sittiparus varius 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 9
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis 18
Silver-throated Bushtit Aegithalos glaucogularis 12 (flock)
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 2
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 18
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 18
Reach us:

Be notified every time we post. Send an
email with “Subscribe” as the subject to

Donate to Shanghai Birding!

Shanghai Birding 上海观鸟