Red-crowned Crane Welcoming Party at Donggeom Island. Ganghwa, Incheon ROK

The closing ceremony of the morning session at the Crane Welcoming Party: People are holding papers written “The representing bird of Incheon, Red-crowned Crane Welcoming Party” in Korean. © Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

On 12 December, the EAAFP Secretariat participated in the Crane Welcoming Party Organized by the Ecology Education Hub Mulsaeal, a local NGO which is one of the grantees of the EAAFP Foundation’s 2020 Small Grant Fund programme. The Programme is sponsored by Yeongheung Power Division of Korea South-East Power Co., Ltd. (KOEN_Korean_한국남동발전).

The objective of this event was to celebrate and welcome the Red-crowned Cranes – the representing bird of Incheon – flying to Ganghwa for wintering. The event consists of two activities. The morning session of indoor orientation and in the afternoon the people went out to do monitor the cranes. 23 participants representing the Incheon Metropolitan City, local environment NGOs, and Incheon citizens attended the event. During the opening session, Chief Executive of the EAAFP Secretariat, Mr. Watkins made congratulatory remarks and introduced the EAAFP’s work for the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats.

Following the Red-crowned Cranes video watching, Mr. Jongryul Lee, who spent almost 30 years in ecology journalism delivered a 40-minutes lecture about Red-crowned Cranes in Korea with the title of “Red-crowned Cranes, dreaming of long-lasting lives”. Mr. Lee is currently an editor of Youtube channel ‘Field guide’ sharing professional videos about birds, and a guest journalist for ecology journals at Joseon newspaper.

During the lecture, he pointed few key features of the cranes wintering in the Republic of Korea.

First, there are four key regions that different kinds of cranes coming to winter annually – Cheorwon, Yeoncheon, Paju, and Ganghwa. In total, 1,667 Red-crowned Cranes were counted in January 2020 including 1,179 in Cheorwon, 396 in Yeoncheon, 51 in Paju, and 41 in Ganghwa.

Number of Cranes wintering in 4 key regions in ROK: counted in January 2020 © the original PPT slides from Mr. Jongryul Lee, photo taken by Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

Second, Red-crowned Cranes in Ganghwa stay in mud flat. Unlike the cranes found in other regions that winter at the agricultural areas like paddy fields, Red-crowned Cranes wintering at Ganghwa feed themselves with marine life in mud flats such as Japanese ghost crabs. It is assumed that these red-crowned cranes would come from Zhalong, China but further research on the origin of their breeding sites needs to be done.

Thirdly, he said cranes are known to have their own territories. During Mr. Lee’s 3 years of study on the ecology of cranes in Korea, he learned that cranes have their own territories even within the same regions. One of the examples was that the Red-crowned Cranes annually visit the paddy fields in Gimpo city (Gyeonggi province, ROK) surrounded by residential areas. Despite the noise and disturbance made by human beings, those cranes would still come to this place because they recognize it as their territory.

Lastly, the number of juvenile cranes in Ganghwa should also increase. Since the Red-crowned Cranes are first found in Ganghwa Island, the number of cranes wintering has slowly been increasing. However, among those cranes, not many juveniles were found. It is important for cranes to accompany juveniles to the wintering sites so that the juveniles can recognize the site as their territory to breed, rest, and feed in the future.

He wrapped up his lecture by saying that it is very crucial to find the ways to protect these wintering sites of the Red-crowned Cranes in Ganghwa so that more cranes can come to winter, breed, rest, and feed without any human disturbance.

EAAFP Secretariat staffs monitoring the Red-crowned Cranes © Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

After the lecture, paper craft activities followed. It was an educational activity that would help people to learn about the species while doing the crafting.

The afternoon session focused on the monitoring of Red-crowned Cranes. All the participants were divided into three different groups guided by a professional bird watcher for monitoring the Red-crowned Cranes. The EAAFP Secretariat group visited three spots: Near Yeonryuk Bridge, near Mido restaurant, and near Yedan port. At the first site, EAAFP Secretariat could meet 4 Red-crowned Cranes whereas no cranes were found at the second site. At the last site, 22 cranes were found as well as a group of common mergansers.

Red-crowned Cranes near Yedan port © Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

Red-crowned Cranes near Yedan port © Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

After the monitoring, all groups gathered and briefly reported the numbers of Red-crowned Cranes they observed. In total, 37 Red-crowned Cranes were counted by all three groups throughout Donggeom Island during monitoring. In closing, Mr. Sangkyeong Yeo, the representative of Mulsael, said “The number of Red-crowned Cranes monitored today is a very good point to start with. I hope these kinds of events can raise more awareness and interest of the general public on the red-crowned cranes”.

The EAAFP Secretariat hopes this event would be the first step of engaging general public in learning and understanding the Red-crowned Cranes and its importance of protecting them.

Red-crowned Cranes near Yedan port during incoming tide © Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

© Heasoo Kim/EAAFP Secretariat

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