Month: May 2018

King Penguins of the Falkland Islands

Share This!

King penguins are the largest penguins after the Emperor. Even though you can find an occasional one on different small islands within the Falkland Islands, most of them congregate at Volunteer Point.

Derek and Trudy Patterson run the show here, and we stayed in their house with them. They are a wealth of knowledge regarding the area, and gave us free roam of the areas where the penguins congregated.

Make sure you do not miss the video at the end of the Magellanic Penguin stalking Dr. P.

It is a 4 hour off-road drive to get to Volunteer Point from Stanley. Halfway there you can take a break and get a nibble at the Bake Safe (did you notice the Facebook icon?). 

It is filled with fresh baked goodies

An aerial view shows Derrek and Trudy’s red roofed house were we stayed in the center bottom. The land just above the house is where the Magellanic penguins had their burrows. On the beach we saw Gentoo, Magellanic, and King penguins.

Here are all 3 of them for a size comparison

This is the view when walking past the burrows to the house from the direction of the beach

The house is quaint, with just a few rooms for guests. Our hosts made us feel at home, with their hospitality, food, and knowledge of the area. We had free reign of the land, something the guests that came in on the tour boats did not for their few hour visit. 

It would have been nice to have our tea time on the quaint porch, too bad the wind was a bit brisk to say the least

Dr. P likes to share, so he shared his flu symptoms of stuffy nose and achey body with Georgina and Dr. K. (hey, what are friends for?). They pretty much stayed in bed recovering from their ailments the two days we were at Volunteer Point. 

Now you know what King penguin footprints look like

The Kings acted like we were not even there as they paraded around in their tuxedos. They would sometimes stand as if at attention, waiting for us to take a photo of them. As you will see, we even discovered a new subspecies of King Penguin, called the penguinous headless (headless penguin).



Walking back home from the beach past the Magellanic burrows one evening Dr. P had one of the best penguin encounters of the trip. Being careful not to disturb the penguins at their burrows with their chicks, he walked slowly and tried not disturb them as he continued on his way. Halfway back he had the feeling that something was following him. He turned to find one very inquisitive penguin following him. He stopped and turned on the video camera while the penguin moved in so close that he was afraid the little guy would scratch his lens with its beak. It was friends at first beach! This one experience alone made all the time and effort to get here worthwhile.

The view from the beach as the walk began

There were many burrow, adults, and chicks, and most of them seemed leery of him. Most, but not all, as you will soon see! 

 

They exchanged email addresses, and will be seeing each other again when Dr. P goes back in the late fall of 2020

Return to the Falkland Islands home page.

Continue Reading

Cormorants of the Falkland Islands

Share This!

These birds go by several names: Imperial Shag, Imperial Cormorant, King Cormorants, Blue-eyed shag, Blue-eyed Cormorant. They are graceful fliers, but ungainly on land due to the position of their legs.

They streak past as they pursue a diet of fish and squid

It’s a different story when they come in for a landing. As they get near the colony they put on the brakes, flop their wings, and drop unceremoniously in the middle of the flock, sometimes knocking other birds over. Its quite entertaining as you will see from the following photos.


Once they are done crashing into each other they start their grooming and bonding

This is your chance to get close for some shots

Do you see why they are sometimes called Blue-eyed shags?

When you point the camera at them they seem to know you are taking photos and will pose for you 

These two stayed in this position for quite a while as they watched the sun set

 

Georgina and Dr. P decided to get a different angle by walking into the middle of the colony. If you go slowly you do not disturb them. The following 3 photos show the view from this new vantage point. 

Return to the Falkland Islands home page.

Continue Reading

Falklands Elephant Seals

Share This!

On Sea Lion Island we came across groups of juvenile male elephant seals that were resting and molting. They had been feeding out in the open ocean for several months, and were resting up for their next journey into the sea.

These juveniles are big boys, weighing up to 2,000 pounds. After seeing how big these juveniles are, it’s hard to imagine the size of the mature male elephant seals that are up to 4x larger. The big guys come to this beach in October and November each year to gather their harems and mate. At the same time, the pups are born and the killer whales are hanging around to see what easy pickings are available. That will be next time, when I go back in mid October of 2020.

I set up shop right next to them as the Magellanic Penguins walked right up to me

The elephant seals were calm and relaxed in my presence for the most part, so I was able to walk amongst them

Periodically two of them would pop up and start sparring

This woke up some of the others that were snoring away

It is best they get used to your presence by walking around them slowly before taking photos 

Once they accepted me they  let me get close and take some nice portraits of their cute faces

Their fingers are human-like

One was so calm that he did not move when I touched him

One of them was none-too-happy about me being this close

When he reared up and moved towards me I got the message that it was time to give him his space

He was the most aggressive elephant seal of this group, so I kept my distance so as not to disturb him, while I photographed the others

Later on I decided to make a video of him, and got the same reception as before. As he got closer I decided that he weighed a good bit more than me, and it was time to stop recording and move away.

You can see the video shake as I was rapidly moving away. He does not look as big in the video as he is in the flesh (or should I say blubber).

I moved far enough away to give him his space, and filmed him with a telephoto lens. He still was not happy with me, and kept coming.

Eventually he stopped his charge and gave me a piece of his mind.

These males practiced their fighting abilities in preparation for being a beachmaster one day and having a harem. Some of the fighting was ritualistic, and they would just push each other around. Most times they would bite and knock each other off balance. Some of the fights started on the beach and moved into the water. When they rear up to fight you have a better idea of how large they are. This is a real good time to keep your distance.



Sometimes they fought on the beach

Sometimes the fighting was in the water. As you can see from the scars on their necks, the sparring is more than a ritual

As we walked around the island we sometimes found elephant seals resting in the tussock grass away from the water. They were just hanging out and enjoying the warmth and sand.

They will bask for hours

They love to bury their faces in the sand and snort away

Georgina explained their behavior to us in these field interviews

Even though they were calm it was a good idea not to get too close

We got the message

One last snort before we go

Return to the Falkland Islands home page.

Continue Reading

Magellanic Penguins of the Falkland Islands

Share This!

These guys are characters, and are sometimes called Jackass penguins due to the braying sound they make and their silly antics. Unlike the rookeries where the Gentoo, Rockhopper and King penguins raise their chicks, the Magellanic penguins raise their chicks in burrows.

Our first encounter with them was while walking towards the the beach where the juvenile male elephant seals lounged around. Their chicks were several months old, and would soon be leaving the burrow to go off on their own.

When we got to the beach some of the adults were going out for their morning fishing expedition

They walked right past us in single file, seemingly oblivious to our presence (and to the presence of the 2,000 pound juvenile male elephant seals)

Before entering the water they would gather for a huddle

One of them got an earful after the morning huddle!

The braying started soon after, and you learn why they are called Jackass penguins

After the braying it’s a headlong rush into the water to feed

They came in waves and waddled their way up to the surf

They dipped one foot into the water and came running back out

He just stood there for a while on one foot

Hard to explain why they came back out so fast, maybe the water was a little wetter than normal?

This was our chance to get some close up shots

Eventually the adults went fishing, and were mobbed by their famished chicks when they returned with a full tummy of fish and krill to regurgitate

We saw them in many locations around Sea Lion Island. They were either in burrows, or going into or out of the ocean.

This pair did not have a chick

This one kept a wary eye on us as it emerged from the surf

We pre-positioned a video camera and watched them as they got the courage to walk past it

We also saw the Magellanic’s again at Volunteer Point when we went to see the King Penguins. The Magellanic’s had burrows adjacent to the beach, and to get back to our accommodations we had to walk past them.

The walk from the beach to our house took us right past their burrows

They seemed disturbed by our presence, so we kept on walking slowly past them

As Dr. P slowly kept walking towards the house, distancing himself from these penguins, he had a funny feeling something was behind him. He turned around and saw this inquisitive penguin following him. He stopped and turned on the video camera, and stayed there for a few minutes while this little guy checked him out.

We saw them one last time at New Island while we were watching the Rockhopper penguins brave the rough waters as they returned from a fishing excursion.

These two were smart as they hid amongst the rocks while watching the Rockhoppers get thrashed by waves at New Island

Return to the Falkland Islands home page.

Continue Reading

Falkland Islands Gentoo Penguins

Share This!

We left Los Angeles on a Wednesday night, and finally got to see penguins on Sunday when we took our first trip out to the Gentoo penguin rookery, a 5 minute walk from the Sea Lion Lodge.

Our crew, ready for our first encounter with the Gentoo penguins

There was a mixture of adults and molting chicks that were three months old

The adults were quite vocal as they interacted with their chicks

As the sun set a nice pink sky appeared

They did their final vocalization before it got dark

In the morning they would walk the one mile to the ocean to fish for the day

They entered the water in one big splash and disappeared

Some of theM would run out of the water as soon as they entered it. Maybe it was too wet for them that day?

After a variable amount of time in the water they would return

They came from all directions, so you needed to be ready at all times

They move surprisingly fast even with those short legs

Some of them had such full bellies that they waddled back to shore

Off they went in a group for the one mile hike back to the rookery to feed the chicks

They walked on well-marked trails through tussack grass to feed the starving chicks

They were on a mission to feed their chicks, so we had to stand out of the way to avoid being run over

They move surprisingly fast with those full bellies

The molting chicks were so hungry they would mob the adults and chase them incessantly until the adults regurgitated food for them. It was hilarious to watch this, as the relentless chicks never gave the adults a moment of peace.

This adult was chased by two chicks

This adult was lucky only one chick chased it

There was so much running around we had a hard time singling out just one to photograph

These three chicks were so zealous in their pursuit that they knocked the adult down

Some of the chicks chased the adults into the water. These chicks did not know how to swim, and once they were literally in over their heads they would flop around in a panic. It was quite entertaining to say the least!

Eventually the adults gave up and stopped running

The chick would bring its beak up to the adult

It would rub its beak against the adults beak to stimulate it to regurgitate

The chicks finally got their meal

After eating some of the chicks found a nice tuft of grass for a siesta

You are not to approach the chicks while they are molting. Molting is a stressful time, and if the chick perceives you as a danger ,it can succumb to the stress and expire. Nobody told this to the more inquisitive chicks though. After feeding, if you laid on the ground some would approach quite closely as you will see from the following sequence. This is the pee-your-pants moment.

They would slowly approach as a group at first

Eventually one would run up to us as if we were long lost friends

He would stare at us for a few minutes before moving closer

Eventually he walked right up to my camera and put his face in my lens

Sometimes his friends would join him to see what all of the fuss is about

We also saw Gentoo penguins when we went to New Island. They were at the north end, and were being stalked by a rogue sea lion that eats penguins. You can learn about him when you go to the Rogue Sea Lion page.

Here are some photos of the Gentoo’s on a day when they were not being hunted, but were still practicing their ocean landing by jumping out of the water at the beach.









Return to the Falkland Islands home page.

Continue Reading