Gochang Big Bird Race 2023 brought birdwatchers to contribute bird data to the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Group photo of Gochang Big Bird Race ©️ Eco-Horizon Institute

From 21st to 23rd April 2023, the 2nd Gochang Big Bird Race (BBR), the biggest ever in Republic of Korea was successfully held to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of Gochang Getbol (Tidal Flat) designation as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The BBR was hosted by Gochang County, Jeollabuk-Province, and Cultural Heritage Administration and organized by Eco Horizon Institute. A total of 38 teams and 136 participants joined the event and 140 species and 1,436 records were submitted through the Getbol Keepers app, the official and well-known recording platform in RO Korea. EAAFP Secretariat staff also participated in the bird race and operated a booth during the event.

Gochang Getbol was designated as EAAFP Flyway Network Site EAAF 153 in August 2022, after the inscription of  UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site in 2021 (link), since then, the local government puts more efforts to engage local communities to organize events and raise awareness of the importance of the area, the BBR is a part of the follow-up activities after the promise with the international communities to protect the site. Gochang Getbol is recognized as a unique showcase of geological features of the Yellow/West Sea, with a diverse combination of sand flats, and mud flats, with a special geographical formation known as Chenier to the site. This site provides important habitats for migratory waterbirds. And each year, thousands of these birds are coming to this site, including Chinese Crested Tern (CR), Spoon-billed Sandpiper (CR), Great Knot (EN), Oriental Stork (EN), Far Eastern Curlew (EN), and other threatened waterbirds visit and rest here before their long journey. Gochang Getbol also supports local communities for their livelihoods, particularly fisheries – Gochang eel is a famous local cuisine.

Eurasian Oystercatcher ©️ Devon Knowles

Chinese Crested Tern ©️ Vivian Fu

During the Gochang Big Bird Race, participants are competing to look for birds and record as many bird species within 24 hours. Through the process, the participants will then understand the diversity of bird species in Gochang and recognize the global importance of Gochang Getbol. To observe many bird species, the EAAFP team went to Gusipo Beach, Seonunsa Temple, and Ramsar Gochang Tidal Flat Center. By 9am on the last day, all participants had submitted their records and photos of birds on the Getbol Keepers app.

EAAFP Team at Gochang Big Bird Race ©️ EAAFP Secretariat

EAAFP Secretariat operated the booth at Gochang Big Bird Race ©️ EAAFP Secretariat

On 23rd April, the closing ceremony was held at the main venue, Sangha Farm. Opening and welcoming remarks were given by Shim Deok-seob, the Gochang County Mayor, to celebrate the success of the event. Representing the EAAFP, Dr. Srey Sunleang, Vice Chair of EAAFP and Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Natural Protected Areas from the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia gave a congratulatory remark. He emphasized the importance of conserving Gochang Getbol as birds visiting Gochang would visit other places in the Flyway, and that “We are all part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.” The ceremony then went on to announce the winners of the bird race. The winner went to the team “Ruddy Kingfisher”, the 2nd place was given to team “Chinese crested Tern Lover”, and 3rd place was to team “Memory Keeper” and “Ferruginous Hawk”.

Dr. Srey Sunleang, Vice Chair of EAAFP, giving a congratulatory remark at the closing ceremony ©️ EAAFP Secretariat

Vivian Fu, EAAFP Senior Communication Officer, received the Best Foreigner Participant Award ©️ Eco-Horizon Institute

Compared to the last year’s data, observed species increased from 110 to 140 and total observation was drastically increased from 905 to 1,436. Also, Chinese Crested Tern (CR), Far Eastern Curlew (EN), Bar-tailed Godwit (NT), Great Knot (EN), Eurasian Oystercatcher (NT), Long-billed Plover (LC), Eagle Owl (LC), and Hen Harrier (LC) were observed during the event. Gray-headed Lapwing was observed in the Gochang Getbol area for the first time. All these observations were contributing to the bird data to document the importance of birds on the site.

There were lots of teams consisting of family members including children. They were as enthusiastic and passionate as adults in birdwatching and participating in event activities. They all received a special gift (bookstore voucher) for the celebration of the upcoming Children’s Day. In a lucky draw event, participants could get locally produced foods such as bay salt, peanut, sweet potato, and more. The event organizers informed all that Gochang Bird Race was a great opportunity to get enormous data at once, so it will open more ways to study more on the migratory waterbirds in Gochang.

Group photo of the winner team at Gochang BBR ©️ Eco-Horizon Institute

Parents and children are birdwatching at Gochang BBR ©️ Eco-Horizon Institute


Local news release: link

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