Friday, December 08, 2006

Penguins

No use skirting the subject! We finally saw penguins, and not just one or two, HUNDREDS! After two months here, our PIs were finally convinced that it was a good idea to have a day off, and take a nice little trip. We headed out towards Cape Royds, home to an Adelie Penguin Rookery, and the trip was going well, though the road was bumpy and caused my back to ache. After several miles we saw what looked to be four black rocks on the side of the "road."

Four Little Black Rocks:
Low and behold we had come upon four Emperor Penguins, out for a nice leisurely stroll. We stopped our skidoos and hopped off, and the ever curious penguins came to investigate!


Coming to investigate these odd Red things:

Dan enamored with the Penguins:


2 Emperor's viewing their world:

Penguin feet:


2 Emperor's vocalizing:



2 Emperor's displaying:




Bird brains at work:


And then they'd finally had enough, with one choosing to tabagon away!:



We spent some time watching them waddle, and vocalize, and then were off again on our way to the rookery. When we got there it smelled of penguin! Anyone who has ever spent time around any penguin species know they have a very potent odor, and even in these cold conditions they smell. We walked over the hill, and there before us was a real penguin rookery, alive and boisterous. Before we could really go explore we were allowed to view Shackleton's Hut, but more on that later, for now we'll talk about penguins!

Although the Emperor’s were truly majestic, the little Adelies were much more interesting. They are full of energy, and always seem to be interacting with each other.

2 Adelie Penguins sizing each other up:

Many of them were on their nests, which are essentially small mounds of rock which they very lovingly gather and use in order to gain copulations with the females. Some were lucky, and their rocks were good enough, and some were not. One of the more fascinating aspects of the day was the skua/penguin interactions. I have already mentioned my love of skuas, I find them fascinating, but here they were definitely playing the bad guy. I watched two skuas slowly walk around the colony, frequently being chased off, until they found one semi isolated nest. One skua then lured the nesting Adelie off the rock mound, and the other promptly stole the egg and carried it off. The two then reconvened and had themselves a nice lunch. After several mournful cries, the had-been nest sitter trotted off into the colony, presumably looking for another partner.

While some of the penguins were incubating their eggs, others were marching towards open water, and the opportunity to feed. The open ocean was only 4 or 5 miles from the colony, just on the horizon and many penguins were eagerly heading in that direction. It was quite a treat to watch them come upon a crack in the ice and try to negotiate it. Some would jump, and some would walk around the impediment, though all were able to cross safely, as best I could tell. They small bands would reunite on the other side of the obstruction, and continue their march.
This trip really was a treat, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of this trip!

2 comments:

Laura said...

found you by way of my friend charley (courage). these phots are amazing!
i am sharing your updates with my older kids.
just wanted to say hello.
enjoy your summer.

Pierce said...

Just awesome pictures, how lucky you are for been able to travel all the way to Antarctica, many theories speak about Antarctica been Atlantis or that many ancient ruins are buried down the ice.



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