Penguin Awareness Day

A reblog from the Daily Zooniverse – penguins!

Daily Zooniverse

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For those of you who for some reason were not previously aware of penguins, today is Penguin Awareness Day. To find out more about these interesting little creatures, and see them in their natural habitats, go to www.penguinwatch.org now and help us count them!

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Around Pajštún

Snow and ice being gone again, we used the fairly good weather for a long walk around a ruin of a castle called Pajštún, near the small town of Stupava north of Bratislava. It is popular with local climbers. I liked the gargoyles best.gargoyles But we had actually ventured out to find some of the local wildlife. For quite a while, all we could admire were the trees treeand their roots.

 

 

 

beech root

 

The blueish bit on the left is a hidden scottish tourist.

 

Then the birds started putting in an appearance. Nuthatches were quite common.nuthatch Also two kinds of tit, the great titgreat tit and, I’m almost certain with the ID, the marsh tit.marsh tit Very audible, yet hard to spot was the great spotted woodpeckergreat spotted woodpecker. eurasian collared doveEqually elusive were the eurasian collared doves we found in a tiny hamlet. The rooks, however, were guarded, but came a lot closer. rookWe also spotted some deer, but they were too fast for me. Whereas this shoat isn’t running anywhere anymore.dead piglet

Crossing the Drake Passage

Wonderful! We had such calm seas and sunshine, it didn’t feel like the notorious Drake at all.albatross The weather forecast, however, was not that brilliant, which is why we didn’t sail by Cape Horn. There is a poem by the Chilean writer Sara Vial (link to the Spanish original: http://www.caphorniers.cl/images/placa1.jpg). Here is the English translation by Princeton University (http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/maps/websites/pacific/magellan-strait/cape-horn.html):

I am the albatross that waits for you
at the end of the world.
I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners
who passed Cape Horn
from all the oceans of the earth.
But they did not die
in the furious waves.
Today they sail on my wings
toward eternity,
in the last crack
of Antarctic winds.

The German translation as on wikipedia (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kap_Hoorn#Literatur):
Ich bin der Albatros, der am Ende der Welt auf dich wartet.
Ich bin die vergessene Seele der toten Seeleute,
die zum Kap Hoorn segelten, von allen Meeren der Erde.
Aber sie sind nicht gestorben im Toben der Wellen,
denn jetzt fliegen sie auf meinen Schwingen für alle Zeit in die Ewigkeit,
wo am tiefsten Abgrund der antarktische Sturm heult.

We not only saw several species of albatrosses during the two-day trip, but also Cape Petrels, from below, sideways and above.cape petrel cape petrels

Giant Petrels came alongside, too. PetrelI might develop after all into a decent bird photographer, given time and practice with the right targets, somewhere south …

Petermann Island

We reached the southernmost point of our journey at 65°10′S 64°10′W on Petermann Island. It was sunny, foggy and sunny again, almost no wind. Hence ideal conditions for our last landing to visit the, at the moment, also southernmost colony of Gentoo penguins. Gentoos marching

I’m saying at the moment, because in the wake of global warming Gentoos are moving further south, while Adelies and Chinstrap penguins lose out. Their numbers are apparently falling. More information can be found here: http://www.penguinlifelines.org/ and of course you can help by identifying and counting penguins here: http://www.penguinwatch.org/. The rookery on Petermann is also part of the Zooniverse project! gentoo with pebble

There is still a number of Adelie penguins on the island yet, and they were also very active, bringing pebbles or trying to steal them and then running away.adelie thief

Proudly presenting their eggs.adelie egg

But not always paying attention, to the Skua’s delight. skua egg

Some of the eggs, to the tourists’ delight, had already hatched. adelie with young

Blue-eyed shags also breed on Petermann, and this time their nests were right amongst the penguins.

Shag callingThe shag chick seemed quite active, but the parent kept on sleeping.shag young

Well, sadly, we had to say goodbye.gentoo mountain I’d dearly love to come again.

Through the Lemaire Channel

Lemaire ChannelIt was a bit foggy in the Lemaire Channel. Navigating through this narrow piece of geography in between the Antarctic Peninsula and Booth Island, trying to evade the icebergs can’t have been easy, in the past or now.

The weather conditions successfully prevented big landscape pictures, but there was enough to discover close to the ship. tracksPenguins tracks covered several of the ice floes.

The penguins themselves porpoised through the water. porpoisingOr, when the fog lifted somewhat, we could see small colonies and the highways in between them.colony The ice floes were also good places to spot seals. This is a Weddell seal, I unfortunately missed the Leopard seal. Need to go again!seal

The ice itself was always worth a second look. Sometimes, it was possible to see the underwater-bit.ice

When we left the Channel, the weather cleared and we were also reminded that we were not completely bereft of other humans.cruiseship

A Visit to the Penguin Post Office

Port Lockroy – British history 64° south. If you are interested, their website is great: http://www.ukaht.org/. It’s a magnificent place to be, especially in sunshine. Base AMuseum The tiny island where it is located is also home to a Gentoo colony, and yes, part of the Zooniverse project http://www.penguinwatch.org/. The BBC made, helped by the people who work at the UK’s southernmost post office, a film about the place, aptly called ‘Penguin Post Office’. Watch it!

The penguins have one addition here to their life. They can, and sometimes do, stand to attention.flag

Or they just get on with pebbles and breeding.

It was really a gorgeous day, so we spent only a few minutes inside the quirky museum. Life as it used to be here, one of the people working there even turned on the old gramophone, playing Frank Sinatra, I think. Not entirely my time or music, but it was great fun. window

Again outside, we needed to be careful not to trip over the Snowy Sheathbills. snowy sheathbillThey were busy scavenging in the penguin poo. The Antarctic Skuas were trying to finish their acrobatic mating business, it looked successful.skua 1 skua 2

This must be the most wonderful post office to work in. I shall definitely keep that in mind as an option to come back here.mountain 1 mountains 2 mountains 3

Amongst the Ice

mapWe had been cruising somewhere between the Antarctic Peninsula and Wiencke Island, when we hit ice. ice 4Its peculiar shape has led to its name, pancake ice. There was no continuous ice surface, just small floes and slush in between.

The ship had also been built to deal with exactly this kind of condition. Every now and then we could hear a loud, low-pitch bang – must have been biggisher pieces of ice.

So we spent time on deck, watching the ice, when someone pointed out a penguin swimming close to the ship. This was in itself quite rare, they tend to swim away. Then I took a picture of the penguin and won the bird jackpot of the trip.emperor penguin An Emperor, completely out of place. Their colonies are in other places on the continent. Birders pay tens of thousands of dollars to see them. I was the only one lucky enough to take a photo, and shared that on the Fram’s blog: http://mvfram.blogspot.com.ar/2014/12/a-busy-day-at-cuverville-and-almirante.html.

There was, however, a lot more to be seen, also some wildlife. Wilson s storm petrelWilson’s Storm Petrels kept swooping by. On some bergs, penguins had settled down for a ride (look right). ice 5ice 2Blue ice could be seen more often. Further afield, big icebergs loomed, and ice 6sometimes you couldn’t really tell the difference between them and islands. Glaciers were everywhere. ice 3What I found, again, most fascinating were the sections of calm water, where the mountains and the ice mirrored in the sea.ice 1 cloudsCan you find the ship in both photos?