Monday, October 5, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bromsgrove allotment owner's request for penguin dropping poo-pooed

 Jane Ffoulkes of Bromsgrove with the Gentoo Penguins at the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham

Ian Craig /

AN ALLOTMENT owner from Bromsgrove searching for the perfect fertiliser made an unusual request to a Midlands sea life centre.
Jane Ffoulkes began tending an allotment in the town earlier this year and, while researching types of fertiliser, discovered penguin droppings contained exactly what she needed.
She said: “The excrement, known as guano, contains the contents of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, all three essential nutrients for plant growth.
“I then looked into the closest place I could get my hands on this and got in touch with The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.”
The attraction’s marketing manager George Paige said: “I was surprised when someone contacted us for our penguin poo, as this is probably one of the most unusual requests we have had.”
Unfortunately the centre had to poo-poo the idea due to licensing restrictions and instead offered a bag of plant fertiliser as consolation.

Antarctic postmasters complete training for penguin-packed peninsula

  • 3 October 2015

Image copyright UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
Image caption The post office and museum building is surrounded by 2,000 penguins

Four people have completed a week's gruelling training preparing for five months in the Antarctic Peninsular at the UK's most remote post office.
Cambridge-based UK Antarctic Heritage Trust chose a small team to spend five months at Port Lockroy.
Rachel Morris from Essex, Adele Jackson from West Yorkshire, Laura Martin from Inverness-shire and Iain Pringle from Lincolnshire beat 2,500 other hopefuls.
The tiny post office deals with mail from 18,000 visitors during the summer.
Before heading off to their new jobs, the four postmasters spent a week in Cambridge learning about all aspects of life on Goudier Island, which is home to thousands of gentoo penguins.

Image copyright UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
Image caption Team members were asked if they were happy to live with 2,000 smelly penguins for five months

Image copyright UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
Image caption Penguins tolerate humans but visitors are asked to respect their habitat
The training course included lessons in emergency first aid, role-play sessions on dealing with the thousands of tourists who arrive on cruise ships, maintenance of the museum and historic buildings and learning how to use specialist data collection equipment to monitor the impact of people on the resident penguin population.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also sent an expert to deliver a lesson on the finer points of the Antarctic Treaty.

Image copyright UK Antarctic Heritage Trust


  • Iain Pringle, 28, from Nocton, Lincolnshire, currently works as a geophysicist and project supervisor at an archaeological consultancy company
  • Laura Martin, 25, from Kingussie, Inverness-shire, currently works as a student outdoor instructor in the Scottish Highlands
  • Adele Jackson, 42, from Clayton West in Huddersfield, visited Antarctica last year and worked as an expedition photographer
  • Rachel Morris, from Saffron Walden in Essex, is in her mid-30s, and has just returned from South Georgia Heritage Trust museum, where she worked as an assistant

The training was intended to equip them for everyday life at Port Lockroy.
"We ask a lot of the team when we send them to Antarctica, with each member having responsibility for a very broad and diverse set of duties," Camilla Nichol, chief executive of the trust, said.
Trainee postmaster Rachel Morris described the training as "very thorough" and said it had helped them "bond as a team".
"I feel as prepared as possible for the work we will do," she said.
Once settled in their new home, the team are expected to send regular blogs back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust detailing daily life as a postman among the penguins.

Image copyright UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
Image caption The teamwill live on the island for five months, welcoming more than two cruise ships a day

Galapagos #Penguin Population Doubles With Climate Change

By Brian Stallard
Aug 30, 2015
galapogos penguin
(Photo : Anne Dirkse)

Can climate change be good for penguins?! A new study suggests that at least one unusual species of the swimming birds found on the iconic Galapagos Islands might actually benefit from a changing world.
It's no secret that the great majority of penguins are having a tough time in the wake of climate change. The iconic emperor penguins of Antarctica, for instance, continues to march towards extinction as the average climate of their native habitat continues to warm. Some research has shown that due to shifting ocean currents and water temperatures, these animals are losing the ice from which they fish (not unlike the arctic's polar bears) and often have to move to find new suitable territory.

What's worse, some sub-arctic penguins are being raped and then eaten by local fur seals in a bizarre learned behavior that may be the result of a climate driven decline in the availability of mates or more traditional prey.

seal on penguin
(Photo : W.A. Haddad)
However, for the only known penguin population in the Northern Hemisphere, the shifts in atmospheric winds and ocean current that characterize climate change may actually prove helpful.

Back in 2000, the 19-inch (48cm) black and white penguins of the Galápagos Islands found their way onto an international list of critically endangered species. Thanks to the arrival of invasive plants, new diseases and domesticated animals, the island chain's natives, such as the Galapagos tortoise, have faced rapid decline. It was no different for this unique penguin, and experts speculated that there were only a few hundred of the 'tuxedoed' individuals left on the entire island. Today, it is considered the rarest penguin in the world.

The Hottest Penguin Around

Most of these extremely rare birds can be found on the island chain's westernmost islands, Isabella and Fernandina, where minimum temperatures even in Dec. rest between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There, they dive for fish that live in cold pools of water fed by the ocean's chilly and nutrient-rich southwestern current - the very edges of the Equatorial Undercurrent.

"The penguins are the innocent bystanders experiencing feast or famine depending on what the Equatorial Undercurrent is doing from year to year," Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist and researcher, explained in a recent statement.

(Photo : zpics on Flickr)
Karnauskas recently determined that over the past 30 years, changes in wind and ocean currents have nudged the Equatorial Undercurrent further north, bolstering how much cold water reaches the Galapagos' southwestern shores. As a result, the pools the archipelago's penguins rely on to survive have grown larger and packed with plenty of fish.

The researcher and his colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution also noted that despite their worryingly small group, the Galapagos penguin population is now growing, swelling to more than 1,000 birds by 2014. The results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Swimming in the Face of Extinction

And if you think this current shift was lucky for these birds, you don't even know the half of it. According to Karnauskas' work and others like it, the Galapagos penguins once numbered 2,000 individuals or more. Then in the 1980s a strong El Niño - a time when sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are unusually warm - pushed away essential cold currents. As a result, the penguins starved, dropping to less than 500 birds. Invaders like dogs and cats then disrupted mating and nesting, making it particularly difficult for the population to recover. 

(Photo : zpics on Flickr)
It was the resurgence of the Equatorial Undercurrent that apparently saved these rare birds, but they aren't out of the woods just yet. Northeast of the Galapagos island is a strange and growing patch of warm water called "The Blob" by oceanic experts. Serving as a buffer for cold currents, The Blob has effectively kept nutrient rich waters away from North and Central America's western shores. As a consequence, local food webs are being disrupted, potentially explaining for the starving sea lion pups that are washing up on Californian beaches, and the mass deaths of West Coast seabirds.

According to the NOAA, The Blob is not a consequence of climate change. In fact, the Equatorial Undercurrent's shift may be what's keeping it contained to the eastern edge of the Pacific. Instead, it may be persisting thanks to the emergence of a newly identified El Niño southern oscillation - a purely natural phenomenon that may have helped cause historic drought conditions currently seen in California, Oregon, and Washington.

The Blob continues to press in on the North American coast, as seen last April.
(Photo : NOAA National Climate Data Center) The Blob continues to press in on the North American coast, as seen last April.
What's worse, researchers announced back in Nov. that the pacific is priming for a stretch of particularly harmful El Niños that could threaten both declining coral populations and the Galapagos penguins. The hope then, is that the northern shift of the Equatorial Undercurrent persists, counteracting what could be otherwise disastrous conditions in the Pacific.

According to Karnauskas, that's also why his work is invaluable to conservationists trying to protect the rare penguins. With strong evidence that the regions where the birds feed are expanding (for now), Karnauskas argues that it could be easier to expand marine-protected areas around the islands, giving the penguins a little more growing room.

"With climate change, there are a lot of new and increasing stresses on ecosystems, but biology sometimes surprises us," he said. "There might be places-little outposts-where ecosystems might thrive just by coincidence."


#Penguin of the Day

Gentoo Penguin 

Gentoo Penguin by Sandro Menzel