Friday, December 30, 2011

Penguin-cam to keep watch on the waddlers

Jo Chandler
December 30, 2011
ANTARCTICA.     first use SMH and The Age.    chick Adelie penguins near  Casey station  Antarctica.  Melbourne Age. news. Photo by Angela Wylie.  January 16 2008. Antarctic penguin-cam records the secret life of the Adelie colony. Photo: Angela Wylie

IT SEEMS no one, and nothing, is safe from the all-seeing gaze of remote camera technology. And it doesn't get much more remote than Antarctic penguin CCTV.
Over the past six summers scientists working from the Australian research stations of Mawson, Davis and Casey on the East Antarctic coast have set up a network of cameras to record the secret lives of Adelie penguins living in raucous, crowded suburbs along the icy coast.

Next month - weather and sea ice permitting - the network will be extended with the arrival of a team aboard the Aurora Australis to set up a new camera at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, the infamously inhospitable ''home of the blizzard'' where Sir Douglas Mawson established base camp for his pioneering Australasian Antarctic Expedition a century ago.
This summer Australian expeditioners have again set out from Hobart for Antarctica - these days voyaging both by ship and by air - continuing Mawson's tradition of geographical exploration and scientific studies. The Adelie project is part of an ambitious agenda of summer science by the Australian Antarctic Division and its partners, much of it linked to measuring and documenting the effects of climate change.

''Penguin-cam'' begins rolling each October, long before winter conditions ease enough to allow scientists into the field to conduct survey work. With daylight returned to the continent after the long Antarctic night, the solar-powered cameras are programmed to switch themselves on, primed and ready to capture the moment when the first penguins of the season leap out of the Southern Ocean onto the ice, following powerful instinct to waddle back to their birthplace for another breeding season.

The cameras run to a pre-programmed schedule right through the season until the penguins, now expanded by a new generation, return to the sea and the light fails. The images they collect allow scientists an intimate and unprecedented insight into the phenology of the breeding cycle - how its timing is influenced by climate and other factors - as well as providing critical ''census'' data, glimpses of penguin behaviour, and opportunities to compare the unfolding narratives of populations spread far and wide along the coast and islands.

''We've surveyed over 3000 kilometres of coastline now, and some 2000 islands for the presence or absence of breeding sites, and mapped the current breeding distribution of Adelies,'' says the Antarctic division's Dr Colin Southwell, who oversees the Adelie project and leads a research program that provides ongoing monitoring of seabird status and trends across East Antarctica.

While over on the west of the continent, including along the Antarctic Peninsula, Adelie populations are in worrying decline as the region experiences dramatic warming conditions, with 5-6 degree increases in mean winter air temperatures and decreases in sea ice, a very different story appears to be evolving in the Australian territory along the east.

''We've found substantial increases in Adelie populations across the board over the past three decades or so - quite significant changes,'' says Southwell. ''We've also found that new breeding colonies have been established in some places, but haven't found anywhere that colony sites are no longer used for breeding.''
Just why the story is so different for Adelie populations on the different coasts is a question scientists are still investigating. Adelies have long been regarded as a bellwether for changing conditions, but there may be regional variations in the Adelies' response to environmental change.

''It's still only speculation, but in the west there is much less sea ice, and so a decline in ice with a warming climate will take it below optimal levels for Adelies,'' says Southwell. Adelies are dependent on sea-ice habitats for foraging, but large areas of consolidated sea ice may limit access to the ocean and therefore limit their ability to forage.

''For the east, it could well be that there is more ice than is good for them, and so a decline in ice could - at least initially - be a good thing for Adelies.''

Southwell and his team hope to use the data coming in from the growing camera network, which gains depth and rigour with each passing season, together with older surveys and records to build a more definitive picture of changes in the Adelie populations over the past 30 years, and to then use those to explore and identify the drivers of those changes.

Elephant seals will also be the subject of some in-depth investigation this summer. Scientists are keen to find clues as to why their breeding populations on the sub-Antarctic islands of Macquarie and Kerguelen have fallen by about half over the past 50 years.

A team of researchers from the University of Tasmania is due at Davis station in February to visit the nearby elephant seal colony, where they will observe and examine the seals, hopefully collecting whisker samples - which provide clues on the seals' diet - and fitting satellite tracking tags. Like ''penguin-cam'', these devices allow scientists to monitor hidden aspects of seal life - beaming back information on where the seals travel and forage.

Some seals are also recruited to do deep oceanographic exploration as a sideline, taking water sensors on their travels up and down the water column, and sending back information on temperature and salinity which is critical for scientists wanting to learn more about the character of deep, remote water.

Alison Dean, station leader at Davis, is already supporting another team out in the field exploring creatures at the other end of the biological spectrum - tiny little invertebrates, the most common animals in Antarctica.
''It's a really interesting project looking at dispersal patterns of invertebrates,'' says Dean. Scientists are intrigued as to how the same species might be found in Antarctic environments and in other locations - Australia and New Zealand. ''How does this happen - is it long-distance dispersal, or are the species down here living fossils? This team [of five] are out there in the field for several weeks in some really remote locations finding lots of these little creatures.''

They collect and compare the genetics of the various samples, with the Davis base providing logistics to move from site to site over the summer.

Meanwhile, over at Casey station, a fourth season of aerial survey work into the critical question of East Antarctic ice sheet dynamics - how the largest body of fresh water on Earth might behave in a warming world, arguably the greatest climate conundrum of the moment - is continuing.

Operation ICECAP - ''Investigating the Cropheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate'' - is a collaboration of Australian, American, British and French glaciologists. They fly close transects back and forth over the ice sheet, using various forms of radar to try to peel back the white to map the shape and form of the bedrock deep underneath.

This season the ICECAP crew is also working with NASA to collect surface information for its IceBridge project, which was set up in 2009 to straddle the gap in data collection between the end of the life of NASA's ICESat-1 satellite and the beginning of the operational life of its successor, ICESat-2, in 2016.
The team are also doing some close survey work around the Totten Glacier, one of the largest glaciers on Earth, and one which is a hot spot for scientific interest as a result of significant change, having lowered as much as one or two metres a year in some locations.

''We're looking at the thickness of the ice, particularly where the Totten starts to float near the grounding line, trying to get some idea of the shape and ocean cavity underneath,'' says Dr Tas van Ommen, leader of the AAD's ice core group and ICECAP collaborator.

''There's a fair chance that what is going on is that warm water is intruding under the glacier and causing it to melt from underneath - that that's what is causing the lowering.''

A particular focus this season was to survey the route of an old ground traverse conducted over the Totten back in 1987, and compare the thickness of the glacier recorded on that expedition with present conditions. The flight succeeded in tracking the old route to within 10 metres, collecting data that is yet to be analysed and published.

''To look at those changes over a 25-year period, we might start to get a real handle on longer-term changes. It's important because the Totten is probably the largest change signal we see in East Antarctica, and we don't know a lot about what's driving it at the moment,'' says van Ommen.

''The Totten Glacier is one of the larger glaciers in Antarctica in terms of the amount of mass that it drains off the continent. So even a small percentage shift in the drainage off the Totten adds quite a bit to potential sea level rise.''

Other projects scheduled for the various Australian stations this summer include ongoing programs collecting atmospheric measurements including temperatures using the LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) at Davis, marine science, ice core excavation to measure beryllium levels (which provides a proxy narrative on the levels of solar activity), studies of changes to Antarctic moss and seabird surveys.


Baby birds big stars this year at Lowry Park Zoo

 Take a look at this video first... that's one push penguin! HERE

Noa Leibovici, 2, of West Palm Beach checks out Taki, a female penguin born in May at Lowry Park Zoo, during a visit last week.
Noa Leibovici, 2, of West Palm Beach checks out Taki, a female penguin born in May at Lowry Park Zoo, during a visit last week.
By Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Thursday, December 29, 2011
Zookeeper Christine Rogers holds a 2-week-old penguin after weighing it. Under 2 ounces at birth, it now tops a pound.
[Photos by KATHLEEN FLYNN l Times]
Zookeeper Christine Rogers holds a 2-week-old penguin after weighing it. Under 2 ounces at birth, it now tops a pound.

They're often upstaged by rhinos and elephants and giraffes.
But the aviary at the Lowry Park Zoo — with close to 600 birds, belonging to 135 species — has begun to take a more starring role, celebrating a series of births.
Here's a look back at a year of new life at the zoo, and a look ahead.

Penguin progress 

Only once every two days, and for just a few minutes each time, the penguin chick is scooped from beneath its parents, to be weighed and photographed and given a look at the world outside its nest box.
Zookeeper Christine Rogers reached in last Thursday, wearing gloves in anticipation of a biting father, and emerged with a gray bird not much bigger than her hand, with feathers so small, they looked like fuzz.
Hatched Dec. 7, at a weight just under 2 ounces, the chick has fattened to more than a pound. It has begun to crawl, but cannot stand. It does not yet have a name, or a distinct personality. Even its sex, pending a blood test, is undetermined.

Despite all the unknowns, the baby's life plan was etched long before birth: To help prevent the extinction of the African penguin in as little as 15 years.
The chick descended from a line of penguins rescued from a South African oil spill about a decade ago. Decimated by water pollution and commercial fishing, the species is barely hanging on.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits Lowry Park Zoo, has established a "Species Survival Plan" to keep track of African penguins in captivity and recommend ideal genetic pairings for strong offspring.

Matchmaking is tricky. Penguins are monogamous, and over the past two years, the Lowry Park Zoo had to break up three established couples.
But the arranged marriages worked. In 2011, the zoo welcomed its first-ever penguin chicks — three of them — growing the zoo's group to 17.
Taki, a girl hatched in May, loves the company of people. And Marini, a boy hatched in February, is a loner who recently made his first friend, a penguin bachelor named Titan.
One day, next spring or summer, Taki and Marini will begin to eat lots of food, get bowling-ball round, and lose all feathers. For a while, they'll appear to sport awkward buzz cuts. But before long, fancy feathers will grow in.

Then, in a few months, each will join a betrothed in another zoo — Taki at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, and Marini, at the Georgia Aquarium.
Plans have yet to be made for the new chick, whose only responsibility right now is to continue to grow under the dark warmth of parents.

Baby boom 

For four years, the greater flamingos in the zoo's African animal habitat area lived in an adults-only community. This summer, the baby boom began. First, one couple hatched an egg. Then, another.
By the end, there were six fluffy flamingo chicks, with legs the color of bubble gum. It will take a year or two for the young ones to look like the others. But their feathers, now gray, are beginning to show highlights of pink.

Also this year, a pair of tarictic hornbills, native to the Indonesian island Sulawesi, nested inside an opening in a zoo prop and sealed it up with mud, leaving only a hole for the male to bring the female food. She stayed in there for three months, sitting on an egg, and in June, hatched a male chick. With his birth, the population of the species in large North American zoos — those accredited by the AZA — jumped to 11.
A pair of sunbitterns, too, raised the zoo's first chick of their species. Lowry Park got a female not long ago, which bonded quickly with her mate; in August, their chick hatched. Keepers have watched her fly out of her nest and, for the first time, flex her feathers in a defensive posture, to show off what appear to be two giant eyes on her wings.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

City holiday for Rena spill victims



FAIRFAX NZ/Leilani Hatch
PENGUIN PALACE: Fifteen little blue penguins and a dotterel are taking a break in Palmerston North after being caught up in oily waters after the Rena crisis.
A group of little blue penguins and a dotterell still suffering from ailments after the Rena disaster have been treated to a holiday in Palmerston North.

Staff from Massey University's wildlife centre have been helping hundreds of oiled birds and animals in Tauranga since October 5, when the container ship Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef.
To give staff a break over Christmas, 15 little blue penguins and a dotterel have been brought to Palmerston North for care.
Since October, 313 penguins have been treated and released back into the wild, along with 54 dotterels and four shags. However more than 100 penguins did not survive.

Of the penguins still in captivity, some are recovering from sores on their feet from being on land too long, while the others are enjoying a holiday as the areas they were found in are not yet cleared of oil.
The dotterel is thought to have a fungal pneumonia and is being treated in the wildlife centre's clinic.
To make the penguins feel at home, a makeshift aviary and pools have been set up at the centre's annex at the university's large animal teaching unit.

Centre director Brett Gartrell said the aviary – which included plastic crates as houses, and a pool – was one of the first built when they arrived in Tauranga in October. He said being in captivity was difficult for the penguins, who are used to foraging for food and swimming for hours on end.
"They're tough little buggers," he said. "They'll be keen to head back out [into the ocean]. This isn't their natural environment."

Dr Gartrell said the penguins were swimming in the pools for between one and six hours a day, depending on how recently they were washed of oil.
"When we wash them they lose their water-proofing, and to get that back can take a few weeks."
Penguins' feathers cross over like mesh to create a waterproof layer, meaning the birds can swim for hours on end.
The most recently washed penguins have lost this layer and need to regrow it, otherwise they cannot swim for long.

Although staff have loved looking after the little birds, Dr Gartrell said he would be pleased to see them go – but he is not sure when that will be.
"Those with sores on their feet will be healed in a week or two, but those who have come from areas where there is still oil we don't know. Hopefully no longer than a month. There is still the risk that the other 110 tonnes of oil still on the Rena will wash ashore."

Each bird had been microchipped and tagged and would be taken back to where it was picked up. Massey's wildlife centre is set to reopen on January 3, irrespective of whether Tauranga work is finished.


Brrrotherly love in a cold snap of penguins

Birds of a feather ... two baby Emperor penguins hug
Birds of a feather ... two baby Emperor penguins hug
Paul Souders / Barcroft Media

THESE baby penguins are just chillin' as they share a brotherly embrace in temperatures of MINUS 60°C (-76°F).

The cute newborns — like the ones in hit movie Happy Feet Two — were snapped on remote Snow Hill Island in the freezing South Atlantic.
They are part of a colony of Emperor penguins raised by their protective parents.

P-p-p-protect a penguin ... mum and dad unite to look after their baby
P-p-p-protect a penguin ... mum and dad unite to look after their baby
Paul Souders / Barcroft Media
Females lay a single egg — and both mum and dad help to look after their offspring.

Gimme shelter ... chick's refuge from icy blasts
Gimme shelter ... chick's refuge from icy blasts
Paul Souders / Barcroft Media
Snapper Paul Souders said the scenes he witnessed were "utter magic".

Nappy feet ... newborn bird finds a cosy spot
Nappy feet ... newborn bird finds a cosy spot
Paul Souders / Barcroft Media

Image of the Day

Penguin Colwyn Zoo by Teresa Smalley
Penguin Colwyn Zoo, a photo by Teresa Smalley on Flickr.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Penguin numbers continue to climb at Warrnambool's Middle Island

27 Dec, 2011


PENGUINS are flocking back to Warrnambool’s Middle Island with the biggest influx since the population was almost wiped out by predators six years ago.An estimated 190 little penguins have arrived for the annual breeding season and at least 17 chicks and nine eggs have been counted so far.

Maremma guardian dogs Eudy and Tula have also returned to the island to protect the colony from foxes and roaming dogs.
More than 600 penguins and short-tailed shearwaters once lived on Middle Island, near Warrnambool’s breakwater, but dog and fox raids reduced penguin numbers to less than 10 by 2005.

Warrnambool City Council and the local Coastcare Landcare group swung into action to help restore the population, with an award-winning Maremma dog project as the centrepiece.
City council officer Justin Harzmeyer said the dogs had been returning to the island every year since the first four-week trial in 2006.
He visits the island twice a day to feed and monitor the dogs.

“It puts our minds at ease knowing the Maremmas are back there watching over them,” he said.
Mr Harzmeyer said he was thrilled to see penguin numbers on the rise. Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2009, but there will be opportunities this summer to see the birds up close.
Morning tours will leave from the Foreshore Pavilion at 10.30am on January 2, 3 and 4 and then at 8.30am on January 9, 10 and 11, but bookings must be made on 5559 4615.


Zoo Volunteer 'Penguin Peggy' Taken all over World by Penguin Love

 Dec 26, 2011
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A quest has led to a decade of trips for one First Coast couple.
Peggy Wilchek, a volunteer at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, has a specialty - penguins.
"It's just the feeling that they give you," Wilchek explained.

That feeling has taken Wilcheck around the globe. It all started 10 years ago, on a trip to Antarctica with her husband.
"I was awed," Wilchek said. "That nature put together such a beautiful... 'cause King penguins are gorgeous. Their bill plates are orange, their ear patches are golden yellow. You're just in a different world."

Home video from the couple's trips shows not only the visitors' curiosity, but also the penguins'.
"Peggy's busy making friends with an Oakum boy there," Her husband explained in one video, as a large King penguin made his way right up to Wilchek. "They're very curious. We're supposed to keep 15 feet away but you can't do that when they come right up to you!"

The incredible experience sparked what Wilchek calls her Penguin Quest: to see all 18 species of penguins in their natural habitats.
Penguins like the Macaroni, Galapagos and Humbolt have taken her to four continents.
The most extreme experience: a month aboard a Russian icebreaker down into the Weddell Sea. "That was the most challenging trip, but yet the most rewarding because that was the only way to see the Emperor penguins." Wilchek said. "It was an unbelievable experience."

Wilchek's enthusiasm took her around the world and brought her back home to the Jacksonville zoo, where the former nurse found a way to get involved with the zoo's penguins.
"It's just an inside feeling that just kept growing," Wilchek said. "When we would go to places that had aquariums and I would see volunteers. Oh, that was my dream to be a volunteer with penguins. And now I get to do it!"

The zoo's 11 Magellanic penguins need a lot of care. Along with talking to visitors, Peggy helps the staff with things like taking water temperature, feeding and cleaning the rooms.
The retired nurse said scrubbing is something she's knows well.

"You know, at the end of the day when I have all these rooms nice and clean and ready for the penguins, knowing that I've made it cleaner and allowed the staff time to do some of the other things they need to do, that's really important for me."

But no one at the zoo calls her Mrs. Wilchek, or even Peggy. Instead, her dedication has given her a nickname: Penguin Peggy.

Source: First Coast News

Image of the Day

Happy Feet by CostaDinos
Happy Feet, a photo by CostaDinos on Flickr.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Feet Two premieres in Australia December 26th

Film Review & Interview with Robin Williams and George Miller: Happy Feet Two

Happy Feet was the tale of a lonely Emperor Penguin named Mumble (Elijah Wood) whose passion for dancing made him an outcast among with peers and family.
After a journey of self-discovery Mumble ultimately found his place in the world and the film ended on a high note with ample opportunity for a sequel.
Five years later director George Miller has finally given us that sequel and despite what other critics have said, I think it tops, if not succeeds, the original.


Once again Happy Feet Two introduces the audience to the crisp beautiful landscape of Antarctica, however this time around it is portrayed in 3D.
Times have certainly changed since the last film as this time around all the Emperor Penguins in the community appear to have adopted Mumble’s passion for dancing, with the exception of Mumble’s young son Erik.
After an embracing scenario Erik runs away in search of a more accepting environment and Mumble follows closely behind. Along the way Erik meets The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), a penguin who appears to be able to fly.
Realising he has no way of competing with his sons new role model, Mumble prepares to head home, but a catastrophic global event requires all the animals from the Antarctic to band together.
Happy Feet was a simplistic tale about a penguin trying to find his place in the world.
Happy Feet Two brings a lot more to the table in terms of storyline than its predecessor did. Instead of following the life of just one penguin, Miller introduces us to an array of wildlife including two Krill named Will and Bill voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt and a grumpy elephant seal (Richard Carter).

At first I was prepared to jump onto the bandwagon with all the other critics voicing my outrage as to why so much more was added to what should have been another simple coming of age story, but then I stopped and I thought about it.
Happy Feet was not a success just because of a great storyline. The visuals, the sounds, the songs, the cast and the message it told was what made it so special. Happy Feet Two delivers all of those things and more.
The visuals and music have only gotten better with time (Miller confessed that he didn’t have the time or finance while making the first one as he did this time around).
The other thing that really worked in this movie’s favour was the 3D. These days I think that too many film makers are using the technology in their movies just because ‘everyone else is doing it’. Not every film merits the addition of that extra dimension and in some cases it ruins what should be a great movie.
Happy Feet Two was one of the exceptations as the 3D truly gives justice to Millers visually amazing Antarctic landscapes.
Happy Feet Two is a film for anyone and everyone, especially the younger audiences. You don’t need to be a kid at heart to enjoy this toe-tapping movie, just have an open mind and prepare to once again be taken on a journey to the visually stunning South Pole, but this time, in 3D.

Happy Feet Two opens in Australian cinemas December 26.
Starring: Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Pink, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
Director: George Miller
Rating: G
Run time: 103min
Reviewer Rating: 8.5/10


White Christmas on Snow Hill

At least someone's having a White Christmas: Emperor penguins frolic on Snow Hill in Antarctica

By Gavin Allen

25th December 2011

As Britain enjoys mild weather on December 25, it's good to know that at least someone has had a White Christmas.
However, if you wanted to enjoy the snow with these Emperor penguins you would have to travel 400 miles from civilisation. 

Photographed in the freezing South Atlantic waters around the remote South Georgia Island, four days east by boat from the Falklands, the Emperor penguins have such little contact with humans that they come close enough to peck the camera.

Queuing up: Emperor penguin chicks stand on frozen sea ice in Snow Hill Island in the South Atlantic, where temperatures drop to as low as -60C
Queuing up: Emperor penguin chicks stand on frozen sea ice in Snow Hill Island in the South Atlantic, where temperatures drop to as low as -60C
Give us a cuddle: Two Emperor penguin chicks with wings wrapped around each other
Give us a cuddle: Two Emperor penguin chicks with wings wrapped around each other

Isolated: The cycle of parenthood among the colony sees females lay a single egg before leaving it behind to undertake a two month hunting expedition
Isolated: The cycle of parenthood among the colony sees females lay a single egg before leaving it behind to undertake a two month hunting expedition 

Anchored in a small, protected bay near to a massive rookery on the island, photographer Paul Souders spent two hours diving into the water with the Emperor penguins as the Southern summer turned to winter.

Braving the 1.5 degree celsius water to the point where his hands took one hour to get the feeling back, Souders was stunned by the ease with which the penguins accepted him.
'First off, the water is very, very cold. Barely above freezing,' he said.
'I'd never been in anything like it so it came as a bit of a shock. My face went numb and my hands grew painfully cold. 

'But it was utter magic. I'd only ever seen penguins on land and to be honest, they look like idiots there - graceless and clumsy and hilarious.
'But to see them in the water was to see them in their element. They are incredibly graceful, strong swimmers. It's like watching them fly.'

Looking up to his parents: These King Penguins shelter young chick in the freezing winds
Feeding time? This open-beaked chick awaits his mother's offerings after returning from the hunt with a belly full of food that they feed to the newly hatched chicks
Looking up to his parents: Two Emperor penguins shelter a young chick in the freezing winds
Wait a minute, you've already hatched! This chick huddles on his father's feet, where the eggs are kept warm
Wait a minute, you've already hatched! This chick huddles on his father's feet, where the eggs are kept warm
Whee! Penguins slide across the frozen sea ice as they travel up to 50 miles to reach the open ocean
Whee! Penguins slide across the frozen sea ice as they travel up to 50 miles to reach the open ocean
White Christmas: This Emperor penguin with its young chick stands on frozen sea ice in Antarctica
White Christmas: This Emperor penguin with its young chick stands on frozen sea ice in Antarctica 

The journey to arrive at the spot saw Souders travel for two days, flying from Seattle to Los Angeles to Santiago in Chile and then on to Stanley in the Falklands. Next he hired a yacht which took four days to reach the remote British territory.
'We'd anchored in a small protected bay outside a massive penguin rookery on South Georgia Island,' said Souders.

'It was late in the summer there, and many of the penguins were fat and happy, their chicks mostly grown.  
'So they were curious about the boat anchored there, and even more so when I plopped into the water.  

'They swam right up to the camera dome and pecked at their reflections.'
Souders felt privileged to be in the same environment as the swimming birds.
'Some were quite curious about me, circling around me as I floated in the sea and coming over to check out their reflection in the glass underwater camera dome,' he said.
'They were all individuals from the nearby rookery, stopping off to check out the new neighbours.

'I can only stress what a privilege it is to do this work, to see wild animals undisturbed in their natural environments.
'I think it's critical for photographers to accept our responsibility not to not disturb the animals we encounter, and to encourage everyone to respect and protect the natural world.'

Remote: The penguins are so unused to human interaction that they even looked at their own reflections in photographer Paul Souders' camera lens
Remote: The penguins are so unused to human interaction that they even looked at their own reflections in photographer Paul Souders' camera lens

March of the penguins: Souders says the penguins look 'clumsy and hilarious' on dry land but are graceful in the water 
That's what I'm squawking about: This adult is getting to grips with the responsibilities of parenting 
March of the penguins: Souders says the penguins look 'clumsy and hilarious' on dry land but are graceful in the water - and they spend a lot of time on the ice as they get to grips with the responsibilities of parenting

Morning constitutional: Penguins take a group stroll along the ice on a sunny arctic morning
Morning constitutional: Penguins take a group stroll along the ice on a sunny arctic morning


And thanks to my dear friend, Paul, for sending me the link!!!!  

Merry Christmas from Penguin News Today

From the best birds in the world! (and me, too!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the pengies by clicking here


Experts slam penguin 'plucking'

By Isaac Davison
Saturday Dec 24, 2011

File photo / Simon Baker

The shipping of dependent penguin chicks to a controversial American marine park has outraged New Zealand conservationists.
Ten emperor penguins were taken from Cape Washington, Antarctica, and flown to SeaWorld in California via New Zealand last month.
SeaWorld said in an application to the New Zealand Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that it wanted the animals for research purposes.

Conservation group Friends of the Earth said the complex translocation of young, dependent penguins to the other side of the world for research was unethical, if not dubious.
Director Bob Tait said: "We strongly object to the removal of the penguins from their colony, and subjecting them to the ordeals of lengthy jet travel, and condemning them, for profit-driven reasons, to live out the rest of their lives separated from their real colony in an alien environment at SeaWorld, California."

The EPA and Department of Conservation were consulted on the shipment because the penguins travelled through a New Zealand airport. But those government bodies said they had no power over the export of the birds from Antarctic territory outside of the Ross Dependency.
Cath Wallace of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition said the "plucking" of baby birds from their natural habitat showed the difficulty of managing Antarctica's wildlife.

"Antarctica is a reserve for science and nature, not a place for [taking] things from their homes. I think the Minister for the Environment and the EPA need to get some better Antarctic expertise because we are doing nothing there."
SeaWorld's proposal said the 10 birds - which are not listed as endangered - would be integral in a research project to determine lung and air sac volumes in emperor penguins.

Mr Tait said it was unusual that SeaWorld needed to import penguins for research when it had its own emperor penguin breeding programme.
He noted that the American marine park was taking into captivity the same species which New Zealand authorities had recently committed significant resources and funding to release back into the wild.

"We note that Time magazine this month named Happy Feet the runner-up in their annual Animal of the Year list, and the unprecedented concern and efforts spent to try to save the New Zealand emperor penguin when it arrived in New Zealand, and to return it back to its home. SeaWorld do not intend returning the penguins after their 'research'."

The SeaWorld brand has attracted criticism from animal rights groups because it holds most of the world's 50 captive orcas. Two people have been killed in its orca pools.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Image of the Day

;-) by PekingDuck (a.k.a. Gordon)
;-), a photo by PekingDuck (a.k.a. Gordon) on Flickr.

Punter prays for a penguin on beach

Friday 23 December 2011
5,000-1 SHOT ... but Sean Monaghan hopes a penguin will turn up on South Shields beach on Christmas Day. 5,000-1 SHOT ... but Sean Monaghan hopes a penguin will turn up on South Shields beach on Christmas Day.
A PUNTER is set to p-p-p-pick up a fortune if a wacky bet comes off.
Sean Monaghan was given odds of 5,000/1 that a penguin will turn up on South Shields beach on Christmas Day after he had a premonition.
The 45-year-old, from Washington, put a pound on at William Hill – and is set to have a merry Christmas if the bet comes off.
William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said: “Mr Monaghan decided to risk £1 on his hunch coming up trumps – and £5,000 would certainly pay for a few cinema tickets to see the new penguin film, Happy Feet2.
“Initially he asked for one specific penguin to find his way to South Shields, but we decided to widen the bet out to include any wild penguin of any description who just happens to wander along.
“Now all he has to do to collect £5,000 is pick up a penguin!”


David Attenborough's The Bachelor King 3D to premiere on Sky

David Attenborough's new 3D documentary about King Penguins 'The Bachelor King 3D' will broadcast on New Year's Eve.

Filming The Bachelor King 3D in South Georgia
In the wilderness: filming 'The Bachelor King 3D' in South Georgia 
Sir David Attenborough’s groundbreaking documentary The Bachelor King 3D is to air on Sky 3D this New Year's Eve.
The film is shot in 3D and follows the incredible lives of King Penguins, imagining the life of one penguin from awkward adolescent to adulthood.
It is filmed in the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia over five months. South Georgia is a spectacular and little known island, home to majestic albatrosses, brawling elephant seals - and six million penguins.
The Bachelor King returns to the place where he was born in search of a mate. He meets the penguin of his dreams, and raises a family.
Comic, tragic and moving, The Bachelor King 3D is a rite of passage set on one of the earth’s last great wildernesses.

David Attenborough, who wrote and produced the film, said: "3D allows you to literally step inside the King Penguin’s world."
I knew it would be mind-blowing, there are a number of extremely dramatic animals in South Georgia that would look particularly astounding in 3D. I feel hugely privileged to have started my life on 405 black and white and now to be working in 3D.”

At the screening of the film, David Attenborough defended the film's failure to mention global warming.
"If one was going to make a film about global warming, you wouldn’t pick King Penguins, because King Penguins are not badly off," he said.
"If it warms they will, without any question, move from South Georgia on to the Antarctic continent, where the conditions will suit them. And that’s the point about wildlife in really wild parts of the world – where man hasn’t already overtaken the environment – they can move and keep pace with changes in climate.
"They can’t do that in the northern hemisphere, where human beings have taken over so much of the land that it’s impossible for them to migrate across corridors."

The film will be released in giant screen cinemas around the world in 2012 and will return to Sky 3D later in the year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Deal in TN--Have a Penguin Party at TN Aquarium

Penguin Party at Tennessee Aquarium

Singing and dancing emperors, a romantic Adelie, and a rockhopper guru are among the animated penguins who will be joined by a whole new cast of lively Antarctic characters when “Happy Feet Two” comes to the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater on Saturday, December 17th.

The sequel to the Academy Award®-winning smash hit promises to return audiences to the South Pole for another fun-filled 3D adventure. When Happy Feet Two begins, “It’s party time and at the center of everything are Mumble and Gloria,” says George Miller, the film’s director, writer and producer. “Gloria is singing, Mumble is dancing, and everyone is inspired by the rhythm and chemistry between the two.”

Before audiences don 3D glasses and start tapping their toes while enjoying Happy Feet Two on the biggest screen in Chattanooga, guests may choose to mingle with the macaronis and gentoos at the Aquarium. Special “Party with the Penguins” packages will be offered from December 26th through January 8th. Each combo ticket includes Aquarium admission, the penguin party and a ticket to see Happy Feet Two. Combo price is $35.90 for adults and $22.90 for kids 3-12

Guests will discover fun facts about penguin feet. “Most people recognize the size difference of the gentoos and the wild-looking yellow crest feathers of the macs,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “But quite a few people miss the color difference of their feet.” Gentoos waddle around on brightly-colored yellow feet, while the macaronis use their pink feet to playfully hop around and climb. “You’ll see them using their strong toes to grip and climb the rocky ledges,” said Graves. “Macaronis are known as ‘alpine penguins,’ because of this ability to be little mountaineers.”

Craft stations will be located outside the penguin gallery so kids can make their own happy - pink or yellow - feet, dance with penguin costumed characters and color a wrist bracelet to match the flipper band of their favorite Aquarium penguin.

“One of the most frequently asked questions is about the penguin flipper bands,” said Graves. “We use them to identify individual birds at a glance. The bands also help us track the health history of each penguin.”
Graves and other penguin keepers will deliver a series of special programs each morning during these special events.

The Party with the Penguins will end at 11:00 am, giving young guests enough time to waddle like penguins to the IMAX 3D Theater to see the 11:30 am showing of Happy Feet Two. Because Aquarium tickets are good for both buildings for the entire day of purchase, families will have plenty of time to enjoy the film and all of the Aquarium’s animals and exhibits.

These special packages will only be offered between December 26th and January 8th. For more information, or to purchase tickets online, go to:


Image of the Day

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Penguin Counting And An Antarctic Reunion (PHOTOS)

Posted: 12/20/11

A few wet strides to the rocky shore and I am in an amphitheater packed with penguins -- 60,000 to be exact -- all screeching and lollygagging about. Over their heads, I can see ice capped peaks piercing the sky. Anchored out at sea is a Soviet surveillance ship turned Canadian cruise liner, our home for three weeks.
This is South Georgia Island and the sixth day of my journey to make a film about the five field biologists who live here and count penguins for a living. Their simple, golf-ball sized tallying devices are the chicken soup of modern science: soothing and wonderfully basic. This year's population counts will be added to the data that has been collected over twenty years as part of an ongoing analysis of what climate change is doing to the penguins, the Antarctic food chain and, more broadly, oceans around the world.

Salisbury Plain, where I'm standing, is unspeakably compelling. We are mobbed by flapping penguins and blubbery fur seals who lurch upward, bare their teeth and shriek. These greetings seem personal and I'm tempted to apologize for offending them.
It's the long wait to reach the remote penguin colonies that pre-occupies the counters who are with me. They hitchhike through the southern seas, sailing at the good graces of shipping lines, which provide crew quarters for two, three or four months at a time. Antarctic ships support the scientists. Grant money would barely cover the cost of subsistence down here.

For their keep, the penguin counters mix with tourists at meals and in the bar.
"This cruise is our surreal bus ride to work," said Stephen, whose first choice of a profession was to be an astronaut. "It's days and days of sailing in some of the roughest seas in the world, just to reach the penguin colonies. And when we get there, we have no idea if the weather will let it happen."

Gale force white-outs can erupt without warning, so the counters are on edge. So much so, that they barely notice that a media mob is stealing their thunder as a revision to polar history unfolds before us.

On our ship are the ashes of a polar explorer, which are to be buried in South Georgia Island. They are the remains of Frank Wild, the closest explorer and confidant to Sir Ernest Shackleton, who consulted Wild on everything. Though he died in 1939, Wild's ashes will be laid to rest where he wanted them, right beside his boss, who was buried in Grytviken in 1922 after a sudden heart attack. Shepherding his remains is Wild's biographer, Angie Butler. After seven years of research in order to set the record straight -- Frank Wild was an extraordinary explorer and not a drunkard at the end of his life -- Angie's sixth sense led her to his ashes in Johannesburg.

"We are bringing Frank Wild back to where he always wanted to be," Angie explains. "The Heroic Age of Exploration is being looked at much closer now, and it's Shackleton and his team who are getting the attention even though they never reached the South Pole."

In the past twenty years, the polar story has shifted from emphasis on success to the journey. In 1916, after watching their ship, the Endurance, sink mercilessly into the ice, Shackleton appointed Frank Wild, a Yorkshireman, to take charge of 21 men on the shores of Elephant Island. Then Shackleton and five others embarked on a torturous, eight hundred mile voyage in an open boat. For five months Wild and his men survived on seal, penguin and seaweed, until Shackleton miraculously returned to rescue them. Their story of survival in the face of repeated catastrophes has eclipsed the success once lauded on Robert F. Scott, who died with his entire team soon after reaching the South Pole in January 1912.

With all the chatter, our ship begins to feel like the National Press Club. Corridors fill with tripods, lens cases and batteries. At Angie's heels are a BBC producer, cameraman and presenter; a BBC Radio 4 reporter; a journalist for the Sunday Observer Magazine; and Britain's 2011 Travel Photographer of the Year. To fill their frames are the Honorable Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest Shackleton; a vicar from the Falkland Islands to lead the burial service; and four Australian descendants of Frank Wild, none of whom have the slightest inclination toward exploration or adventuring.

"Nobody paid much attention to those glass plates that were stored in the garage," said one of the Wilds, in dry reference to the photographic archive of the Endurance expedition that the family handed down. "We broke a few glass plates playing around as kids, but back then nobody seemed to mind." Fast-forward to Britain today, and those glass plates which documented the fate of the Endurance, suddenly matter.
"What I'm most proud of is that my grandfather chose to turn back within 90 miles of the South Pole," said Alexandra Shackleton. "And as a result of that decision, all of his men survived."

"All this just to celebrate failure," a journalist commented offhand. "Americans don't do failure, but we British know how to credit failure when it's due."
Indeed. Conspicuously absent is any reporter from the US. This is British business. They're celebrating what's left over after the empire lost its power and the family silver was sold.
"This is all about leadership and character," said Alexandra Shackleton with a firm blink and a nod.
A number of passengers wished the whole media circus would disappear, to make more room in the bar. Others were delighted to be part of this historic event. The penguin counters tolerated the hubbub as an inevitable part of the job.

On the morning of Day Seven, sixty tourists dressed in waterproofs shuffled into the old Norsk chapel in Grytviken -- to hear poems, prayers and remembrances of Frank Wild. He braved five Antarctic expeditions and earned a rare Polar Medal with four bars.

Carrying the ashes of her great uncle, Frank Wild's niece led the procession to the graveyard, passing rogue seals, loitering penguins and the massive, rust-bucket remains of what Grytviken was originally built for: an industrial whaling station. Oversized barrels, gear wheels and storehouses stand in sharp contrast to the pristine peaks, but their presence is no less haunting. What could the sound and stench of boiled blubber and seared flesh have been like, for those who lived here year round?

At the graveyard, more words, then drops of whiskey for the reunited friends.
Shortly after, another historic moment unfolds on the ship with the appearance of the great grandson of Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole -- a month ahead of Scott. Suddenly Antarctica feels less roomy. The young Norwegian is in the area to celebrate the centenary of his great grandfather's achievement. His presence in the bar turns a cadre of tourists into a paparazzi brigade, snapping shots of this chance gathering among descendants of three great polar explorers: Shackleton, Wild and Amundsen.

Despite the hullabaloo, all this has little effect on the penguin counters. By the twelfth day, Paula's colleagues have all boarded a fifty-foot yacht together with Ron Naveen, founder of the NGO Oceanites, which brings the counters to Antarctica every year. Weather permitting my husband Peter Getzels, together with Erik Osterholm will be able to film the counters reaching the more remote colonies over the next fourteen days, while I stay on the ship filming along the Antarctic Peninsula with Paula. Despite the seasickness Paula feels on days at sea, especially when the ship lurches and pitches across the dreaded Drake Passage; Despite the loneliness and the revolving crowds of tourists she'll never meet again, Paula can't shake the compulsion to return year after year.

"Welcome to the highest, driest, windiest, darkest, loneliest place on the planet," says the cruise ship director each time the ship drops anchor in the Antarctic seas.
Compact and petite, she sludges across screefields, sinks waist-high in guano, and plods up the mountainsides in snowshoes, unphased by the biting winds.
"Something about this place gets inside you and you just want to be here as long as you can," she says. "I can't explain it."

It is 10 at night and Paula has been counting penguin nests for six hours. Kneeling on the floor of the Zodiac that will bring her back to the ship, her binoculars are fixed on the nearby coastline, in search of another colony. Skies are deep gray with clouds as smooth as pearls. Shards of ice glint like treasure chests. The water is uncharacteristically smooth and the icebergs glint psychedelic blue.

The penguin counters have confirmed that the Adelie and Chinstrap colonies are in decline while the Gentoo populations are soaring. With 300 square miles of ice breaking away to the west of here, the impact of climate change is palpable. The goal now is to figure out exactly why it's happening. Until then, Antarctica will remain an icy puzzle.


While Toronto breaks up their gay penguins, China gives theirs a chick

By Phil Reese on December 20, 2011 
The love story of Buddy and Pedro is officially over. After the Toronto Zoo broke up the couple of endangered African penguins in and effort to encourage them to breed for the sake of their species, both Buddy and Pedro quickly became interested in courting female penguins at the zoo.

According to the Toronto Star, Buddy has already successfully mated with a female penguin, while Pedro is still courting the object of his affection.
Sadly, however, the two former flames actually began fighting over territorial squabbles in the nesting area, according to the Star.

“[T]here could have been serious injuries if not for a mesh between the nests,” the Star reports of the fight.
However, in China, a captive pair of penguins, who were “married” by their zoo in 2009 in a ceremony, have been given a baby penguin chick to rear after a mother in the flock unexpectedly hatched twins. The pair, located at Harbin Polar Land in northern China are experienced parents, having been called upon by the zoo in the past to care for eggs abandoned by mothers. Prior to their foster parent responsibilities, the pair had been caught attempting to steal eggs from other nests during hatching season, according to Metro. 

Penguin droppings hit panda queue at Edinburgh Zoo

The rockhopper penguins have been "curious" about the goings on at the panda enclosure
People queuing to see the panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo are being hit by penguin droppings as the curious birds have been watching proceedings.
Rockhopper penguins have been standing along the edge of their enclosure since the pandas arrived earlier this month.
The penguins are higher than the panda enclosure due to the site being on Corstorphine Hill.
Now officials are planning to build a glass panel in a bid to stop people being hit by the guano.
Gary Wilson, Edinburgh Zoo's director of business operations, said: "Our rockhopper penguins in particular have been watching the events at the panda enclosure below with great interest, ever since work started on the enclosure.
"Extremely curious birds, they often gather next to the wall to see what's happening below.
"We're hoping it's not a case of monochrome jealousy, but one or two of our rockhoppers seem to have had surprisingly good aim.

Where the panda queue stands beside wall of penguin enclosure 
The panda queue stands beside the high wall of the penguin enclosure
"We're just looking into a solution right now, probably in the form of a glass panel so that the visitors' view of the penguins isn't obscured."
A 41-year-old, who was standing in the panda queue on Sunday said: "We were queuing to see the pandas when a man in front shouted out in surprise that his jacket had been hit by a big dollop of penguin poo.
"It just missed me and my family and it was really oily and stank of fish.
"It was disgusting.
"It looked like it would be really hard to clean off.
"It was quite funny but the zoo should do something so it doesn't happen to anyone else."
Although the pandas arrived from China on 4 December they were given time to recover from their long journey before going on display to the public on Friday.
Visitor numbers Visitor numbers marked a 200% rise on usual numbers for a December Friday.
Zoo officials said pre-booked tickets for the first weekend were up by about 80% on usual expectations for a pre-Christmas winter weekend.

Yang Guang settles in to his new enclosure. Photo by Rob McDougall  
Yang Guang settles into his new enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo
Each giant panda enclosure has a glass wall for the public to view the animals.
The pandas' new £250,000 home at the zoo includes two separate enclosures.
When Tian Tian comes into season the pair will be introduced to each other - possibly in February or March.
Tian Tian has had twin cubs in the past, and Yang Guang has also fathered cubs - though not as a pair together.
Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the zoo for accepting the pandas, saying it was a "primarily commercial deal".
They have claimed it is not a credible way to go about saving the giant panda.
Bringing the pandas to Edinburgh has involved a five-year effort by the zoo.
The pair will stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.


Image of the Day

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Little blue penguins off to face the world

Rachel Russell Photography
Little blue penguin

Two little blue penguins were released back into Picton Harbour last week after a stint at Picton's Eco World Aquarium rehabilitation centre. Eco World biologist Kishan Kirkwood said the penguins, named Brad Thorn and Tony Woodcock, despite being girls, were found in abandoned nests under the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club about a month ago.

They were taken to Eco World, where Mr Kirkwood and Eco World manager Regan Russell nursed them to full health.

"The main problem is the parents had abandoned them and they were too young to go and find food for themselves. If they go out before they have got their waterproof feathers, they risk drowning or getting attacked by predators," Mr Kirkwood said.

The penguins were between four and six weeks old when they arrived at Eco World.

"At eight weeks, they get their waterproof feathers and we put them in the [large] fish tank for swimming lessons. When they get used to the water and are swimming and diving confidently, then we release them," he said.

Eco World released another two little blue penguins three weeks ago. They were also abandoned by their parents and found in a stormwater drain near the Interislander ferry terminal, Mr Kirkwood said.

Parent penguins often abandoned their young if there was not enough food. "It depends on the seasons and what food is out there.

"This year seemed to be quite a good year for having a good food supply," he said.

However, it seemed the penguin parents in Picton were probably inexperienced.

"They seem to have abandoned the smallest penguins, which are usually the girls, and instead invest their energies into the strongest chick. This season we have had eight little blue penguins through the centre and they have all been girls," he said.

None of the penguins was injured, although it was likely during the busy season some injured penguins would be brought in.

"We're expecting more penguins through Christmas. We sometimes get injured ones who get bitten by dogs or hit by boats or run over.

"People should know they are out there and they are vulnerable to human activities.
"Watch your dogs and if you are out in a boat, know they are there and can get injured easily," Mr Kirkwood said.


Penguin on the loose: Did one escape from the Biodôme?

Penguin on the loose: Did one escape from the Biodôme?

See our update below for the latest information.

Did a penguin escape from Montreal’s Biodôme?
That’s what TVA Nouvelles asked after it came across a YouTube video supposedly filmed by tourists.
In the video, a group of women visiting Olympic Stadium notice a penguin waddling along. The scene concludes when what looks to be a security guard says into a walkie-talkie “It’s okay, I found him,” and then asks the tourists to stop filming.

A TVA Nouvelles reporter decided to look into the video. Was it a viral marketing ploy by the Biodôme? Did a penguin really escape? Who made the video?
Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 9.14.48 AM
Nadine Fortin, the Biodôme’s communication officer, said they are not responsible for the video and none of their penguins were used in filming.

“We never take the penguins out of their habitat,” she told TVA. “Anyway, to exit you need to pass at least two doors so it’s impossible for a penguin to escape. In addition, very few employees can get in (the habitat).”

The mystery continues...

UPDATED: 1:12 p.m.

Mystery solved!

Thanks to Gina Desjardins, an OpenFile reader who posted on our Facebook wall, we now know the people behind the runaway penguin video are from Centre NAD, a school for animation and design.
Pascal Dery, Centre NAD’s head of communication, gave some background information to OpenFile Montreal.

“(The video) is a student assignment from a third-year bachelor’s class with a concentration on media effects,” he said. “This assignment was to produce a hoax for YouTube. Each team created their own back story and incorporated 3D elements into real media.”

The centre’s Facebook page highlights media reports on their video, posted to YouTube on Dec. 12.