Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visiting the Emperors

Scott emerges from the secret passageway to the Emperor colony

We finally finished our first complete round of band-searching through the entire Adelie colony on December 3rd. After looking at about 200,000 Adelies (and specifically, their left flippers) we were ready for our annual Emperor Penguin count. The Emperors nest on fast ice that forms in the lee between the Ross Ice Shelf and Ross Island. This year they were tucked well into a large ice canyon, about 4km walk from our hut. We found a beautiful passageway carved by wind between a long-grounded iceberg and a massive snowfield, connecting the island to the ice near the colony. We emerged in beautiful light to find 661 very healthy looking penguin chicks, attended by about 155 parents (there would have to be at least 2 x 661 parents associated with the colony this year, but most of them are at sea finding food at any given moment).

The Emperors send a scout to investigate the visitors

A big chick wonders whether any of these adults will feed it

A pair of off-duty parents take time out for a good preening


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