Rockhopper Penguins of the Falkland Islands

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These are the athletes of the penguin world, braving the stormy ocean get to get a meal for their chicks, then literally hopping up cliffs that are up to 600 feet high to feed their chicks at a rookery. And they do this every day while the chicks are growing!

The first time we saw them was at Sea Lion Island, high up a cliff, with cormorants as neighbors. Their rookery was high on this cliff, and they were feeding their chicks.

One of them offered us a rock as it was walking past. How appropriate for a Rockhopper penguin!

They were a raucous group and chased each other continuously

Just like all of the other penguin families we encountered, the ravenous chicks chase the adults non-stop until they were fed

We spent several days with the Rockhoppers at New Island. We first saw them when we photographed the Black-browed albatross.

This is the view from the albatross takeoff spot looking down at the waves the Rockhoppers brave. In the distance in the middle of the photo on the cliff  is the rookery, giving you an idea of the distance they need to climb to reach their chicks.

This is the view the Rockhoppers see as they return from fishing

Dr. P wanted to get a Penguin’s eye view of the action, and decided to set up shop near the waters edge

When he saw these rogue waves come in on occasion he decided that it just might not be the best spot to stand

With waves this strong, and a water temperature of 45 degrees F, it was time to move the studio to a new spot

Ready to shoot at the new location. Some of the Rockhoppers, that have already returned from fishing and are on their way to scale the cliffs in the background to feed their chicks, hop right past Dr. P is if he is not even there. 

A different vantage point from the new studio location to give you some perspective. You can see one of those rogue waves in the background where the Falklands branch of Paramount Studios was first located. 

These are the waves they brave coming back from fishing

In the following three short videos, taken at slightly different times, you can see the Rockhoppers coming in on waves in slow motion. They get pushed backed, but eventually make their way through the kelp and past the wave gauntlet. They do this every day while feeding their chicks.

Once they get past the first group of waves it’s a race to get past this rocky landing before the next set of huge waves, that are starting to crash behind them, catches them. It is amazing how fast they move by mostly just hopping.

The waves can come from any direction

If they don’t move fast enough the next set of waves catches up to them

They are happy once they make it this far without getting swamped by a wave, and live up to their Rockhopper name. They prefer to hop over walk, as they continue to make their way inland.

They continue on and push each other off the edge of the last shelf of rock in their haste to make it to dry land. Once one of them lands in the water the next one takes off, sometimes landing on the prior one. Over the course of an hour hundreds of them put on a show by running this gauntlet.

When they are completely out of danger from waves they give a good shake and start hopping up the cliff

Sometimes they hung out with Dr. P for a while before they started the hop up the rocks

Off they go for the long hop to the top

They walk only inches away, and love to show off their hairdos when the sun catches them just right. Sometimes they would just stop and stare at Dr. P for a few moments before continuing their hop. You gotta wonder what they were thinking!

When this adult finally make it to the top it was greeted by one very hungry chick, wondering what took it so long. Just like the other penguins, the chicks peck at the beaks of the adults to get them to regurgitate their meal of krill and fish. These chicks are getting older, and soon will be venturing out on their own, staying in the sea until they return the following season.

These two Magellanic penguins were hanging out under the rocks for protection from the waves, watching the crazy Rockhoppers brave the waves. They were smart, and stayed right there the whole time, never once going near the waves.  We hated to say good bye to them!

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