Friday, November 29, 2013

Images of the Day

emperor penguins
Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri

  emperor penguins 

emperor penguins

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get Up Closeand Personal with an African Penguin at the Vancouver Zoo

Hope, an African penguin, plays with a ball as part of an indoor enrichment session that also gives guests the opportunity to learn more about this endangered species. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium.Hope, an African penguin, plays with a ball as part of an indoor enrichment session that also gives guests the opportunity to learn more about this endangered species. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium. 
Since their debut, penguin walks have been one of the Vancouver Aquarium’s most popular guest experiences, but with winter and the cold, rainy season approaching, the penguins have waddled inside for an indoor enrichment session.

During these enrichment sessions, the African penguins get to experience new sights and sounds, while getting a little exercise. It’s also the perfect opportunity for guests to get up close – really close – and ask questions about these adorable flightless birds, which are also an endangered species.
Indulge your curiosity about African penguins during a penguin enrichment session, occurring twice daily in the Pacific Canada Gallery. For information on when these shows will occur, simply ask an interpretive delivery specialist in the Pacific Canada Gallery.

The African penguins at the Vancouver Aquarium were bred at another aquarium as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. The number of penguins in southern Africa has dropped 90 per cent since the early 1900s. North American zoos and aquariums, including the Vancouver Aquarium, are helping to save this species through population management, education and ocean sustainability programs. 


Image of the Day

gentoo penguin by Derek Pettersson
gentoo penguin, a photo by Derek Pettersson on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

African Penguin Named "Bugsy" Hatched at LR Zoo

LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - The Little Rock Zoo is proud to announce that an African Penguin successfully hatched on October 24, 2013 and is growing strong.   

The chick, named Bugsy by Zoo staff, is the second chick hatched at the Zoo. The first chick, Gilligan, was hatched October of last year and can be seen at the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe habitat. Like Gilligan, Bugsy’s parents are penguins Skipper and Eze.  

Both Gilligan and Bugsy were hatched at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the African Penguin, also called the Black-footed penguin. African penguins are native to the country of South Africa and Namibia and are considered an endangered species because of loss of habitat, overfishing, and oil spills. African penguin populations have declined by 95 percent in the past 100 years. 

Bugsy and her parents are on exhibit at Penguin Pointe but spend most of their time in their nest box. However, Bugsy has started to explore outside of the nest box and is occasionally visible. When she is ready, keepers will start hand-raising Bugsy inside the Conservation Room at the exhibit to teach her how to eat whole fish.  During this process, Bugsy will be visible to the public.   

The hatching of Bugsy brings the total number of penguins at the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit to 17.

Water to the rescue of yellow-eyed penguins

Fuseworks Media
The rare and endangered yellow-eyed penguin will benefit from a new strategic alliance between the Holiday Accommodation Parks Association of New Zealand (HAPNZ) and EcoWai, producer of 100% pure New Zealand bottled spring water.

EcoWai branded New Zealand sourced and bottled spring water will be available for purchase at participating holiday park association members around the country, with a large percentage of the profit being directly gifted annually by HAPNZ to the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust.

Chief Executive, Fergus Brown, on behalf of the HAPNZ Board, says he is delighted with this initiative which will benefit the conservation of New Zealand's remarkable yellow-eyed penguins, thought to be the rarest penguin in the world.

"The ideals of EcoWai water and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust are closely aligned with the HAPNZ values of sustainability, recycling and the nurturing of our natural heritage for all visitors to enjoy. An important aspect of HAPNZ's organisational culture is our partnerships with ecologically responsible suppliers and supporters of New Zealand's wonderfully diverse, native flora and fauna."

Mr Brown says New Zealand’s natural environment is a major drawcard for international and domestic visitors, and it is vital to protect it for future generations.

"The yellow-eyed penguin is unique to New Zealand and it needs our help. The Trust does a wonderful job protecting the penguins from introduced predators and habitat loss, however it works with minimal government funding. HAPNZ is committed to helping the trust achieve its long-term vision and goals for penguin preservation."

Mr Brown says the funds raised from the sale of EcoWai spring water will provide much-needed scientific support for the Trust's programmes.

"HAPNZ is pleased to be associated with such a dedicated and respected trust that has a practical conservation ethic and willingness to include education and public access to one of our natural taonga."

Image of the Day

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Image of the Day

Emperor male and female play the "mirror game" which is used to pair a couple for breeding and rearing a chick. Image: Discover Channel "Waddle All the Way"

Pete and Penny Penguin travel in style to Busch Gardens Christmas Town

November 20, 2013, by Doris Taylor

The adorable Pete and Penny Penguin traveled to Busch Gardens Williamsburg from SeaWorld San Antonio and these two know how to travel in style. A few passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight received a special treat when the two magellanic penguins waddled down the aisle.
Pete and Penny arrived at Norfolk International Airport on Wednesday.
If you want to see them, they will be at their Christmas Town Ice Palace.


This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the Pengies by clicking this link!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trying to save endangered South African penguins is a dangerous job...

One problem with having 500 baby penguins in one place is the whiff. They make an awful lot of mess and all the volunteers must muck in... literally

One problem with having 500 baby penguins in one place is the whiff. They make an awful lot of mess and all the volunteers must muck in... literally

Ask Michaela Strachan in her new series - they bite

By Christopher Stevens

The TV jingle everyone remembers from the 80s is a stuttering little song about a chocolate bar – ‘Just  P-P-P-Pick up a Penguin!’ 

But, as wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan discovered when she volunteered to help at a penguin conservation project in South Africa for a new TV series, that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The birds might look like tubby little waiters in white shirtfronts and black dinner jackets, but offer them a tip and they might just take the tip off your finger! ‘You wouldn’t believe how much their beaks hurt,’ laughs Michaela, nursing her wounded hand. ‘They clamp down on your fingers like a pair of pliers.’

Many of the birds at the Sanccob centre, close to Michaela’s home in Cape Town, had to be rescued after their feathers were coated in crude oil from a tanker spill off the African coast. 

As Michaela Strachan discovers in her new series, trying to save endangered South African penguins is a dangerous job - they bite
As Michaela Strachan discovers in her new series, trying to save endangered South African penguins is a dangerous job - they bite

The oil destroys the birds’ natural waterproofing, and if they aren’t quickly found and cleaned up they will die. The ordeal leaves the penguins wary of humans and leaves them too traumatised to eat, which means they must be fed manually – a task that takes both courage and dexterity.

During the filming of The Great Penguin Rescue, screening next month on the Eden channel, Michaela had to learn fast. ‘You grab the bird’s head from behind,’ she explains, ‘then you scoop up its body with your other hand and ram it between your legs, so that it can’t flap.’ 

Michaela was wearing a glove and arm protectors but one hand had to be gloveless to handle the fish – and that’s the hand closest to the danger zone.

‘You pull back the head,’ she says, ‘then open the beak with your ungloved hand, shove two fingers of your gloved hand in its beak to hold it open, get a fish and ram it down. When they do manage to peck you, it’s like being jabbed hard with a blunt knife.’

Yet the experience didn’t make Michaela  love the birds any less – instead, the presenter  of Autumnwatch and The Really Wild Show is filled with admiration for how African penguins are surviving. As well as facing danger from  pollution, the birds are threatened by  climate change and competition from trawlers and booming seal colonies for the ever-dwindling fish stocks.

Michaela, 47, moved to Cape Town ten years ago to be with her partner Nick, a wildlife cameraman. As well as Nick’s three children, now in their 20s, the couple have an eight-year-old son, Ollie. It was the children who helped ignite Michaela’s passion for penguins.

She often took the family for picnics at Boulders Beach near her home, where thousands of the flightless birds make their nests. ‘It’s hilarious,’ she says.

‘There’s a section where you can sunbathe right next to them, and you can swim in the sea with them all around you; penguins are so sweet and clumsy when they’re on land, but believe me it’s different in the water – they’re so graceful. It’s an incredible privilege for us but I don’t know how much longer we can count on it.’

The fall in penguin numbers has been catastrophic in recent decades. Once there were four million African penguins – now just tens of thousands remain. It’s feared the species could be extinct within 15 years. ‘Solving the problem of lack of fish won’t be sorted overnight,’ she says.

‘That’s the ticking time bomb.’ Michaela hopes her show will raise awareness about their plight, as her earlier series about elephants and orang-utans have done.

One factor in the birds’ favour is their sheer loveability. We humans see a lot of ourselves in the way they waddle and squabble, as well as the way they pair up and nurse their young. Another positive sign is the wealth of new research being done into African penguins. They’re being studied intensively – Michaela believes this is partly because, compared to birds that can fly, they’re easy to catch and tag.

Sanccob – the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds – doesn’t only rescue oiled birds. During the first episode of her new show, Michaela sails out to Dyer Island off the Cape of Good Hope. 

Weather conditions are a bit rough, but the work cannot be delayed: late-born penguin chicks at the colony have to be collected and taken back to the centre for fattening up before being released back into the wild. If they’re left to cope alone, many will starve to death.

Volunteers call this ‘chick bolstering’. By saving the birds that might otherwise die from natural causes, Sanccob can help the colony grow. And by tagging the chicks with radio transmitters, they can see where the birds go in future years and collect valuable data on where the scarce fish resources could be.

One problem with having 500 baby penguins in one place is the whiff. They make an awful lot of mess and all the volunteers must muck in... literally. 

The result can be a fishy fragrance that lingers and lingers. ‘Once I had to go to Ollie’s school for a parent-teacher meeting right after filming,’ says Michaela, ‘and I absolutely stank of fish. I could feel people looking at me and thinking, “Phew!” But I couldn’t smell it. After the first half-hour your nostrils get used to it.’

The Great Penguin Rescue, Wednesday, 8pm, Eden Channel.


I'm Forever Chasing Butterflies...

Akron Zoo offering penguin feedings in winter season

Akron – Starting Dec. 1, the Akron Zoo will allow guests to do something they cannot in the summer season – feed the penguins. Penguin feedings will be offered daily from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. for $3 for a cup of fish.
Penguin feedings will be offered through Feb. 28, 2014, when the temperature is 55 degrees or below. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter in the zoo’s Welcome Center.

The majority of the zoo’s animals will be viewable during the winter months. Most of the animals that cannot handle cold weather have indoor exhibits that make them viewable year-round. During the winter the zoo will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Other zoo experiences like the carousel and train ride are closed December through February, but in addition to the penguin feedings the zoo does allow visitors to still feed the farm animals year round.

The Akron Zoo is open 361 days a year. Zoo hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and admission is $6 per person. Children under two are free and parking is $2.00. For more information visit or call (330) 375-255


One more shameless plug for "Waddle All the Way"

Image of the Day

Falklands by richard.mcmanus.
Falklands, a photo by richard.mcmanus. on Flickr.
King Penguin on Leopard Beach, Carcass Island.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Images of the Day

Yellow Eyed Penguin

The Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) or Hoiho

Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Flipper Moments

More World News from ABC | JFK Assassination Remembered

By Linsey Davis

Nov 22, 2013
A penguin couple attempting to stage a “chick-napping” after losing their own baby. Another penguin flipping its tail under to keep its egg from freezing. A hungry predator that thought it had picked up dinner instead inadvertently became the first bird to capture an aerial-view shot.

These are just some of the incredibly rare penguin moments caught on cameras filmmakers hid inside life-sized animatronic penguins and then placed among colonies of the real marine birds. There are 17 species of penguin worldwide and these robots look and move like the real thing. “They have cameras in their eyes and they can get really close to the animals, the penguins, and they can get these kinds of shots that are really in the penguins works and also capture extraordinary behavior,” producer-director John Downer said.

Watch the full story on “Nightline” tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET
HT penguin robot 1 sr 131120 16x9 608 Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Flipper Moments
                                  (Photo Credit: Discovery/BBC/John Downer)
HT penguin robot 2 sr 131120 16x9 608 Robot Penguin Spy Cams Capture Rare Flipper Moments
                                (Photo Credit: Discovery/BBC/John Downer)
Downer, with producer Phillip Dalton, used the spy-cam embeds to capture unprecedented footage for their new documentary, “Penguins: Waddle All the Way,” which premieres on the Discovery Channel Saturday 9 p.m. ET. “The cameras actually caught the moment the egg came round and you saw the tail flip round protecting the egg, saved it from the ice,” Downer said. “You know it was a moment that you wouldn’t have seen any other way.”

Downer and his team deployed 50 of these cameras, which were also placed inside fake penguin eggs rocks and ice formations. The cameras caught emperor penguins as they took the treacherous 60-mile journey to their breeding grounds, rockhoppers as they bobbed and weaved their way through snapping sea lions, and Humboldts as they tried to evade vampire bats. They even captured moments of jealousy. “The rockhoppers up in the colony, they were waiting for their females to return and most of them had, except for one individual that was quite lonely, and so he turned his eye on our robot and they very quickly bonded,” Dalton said. “But he was caught in the act, the female did return and she wasn’t very happy.”

Indeed, Dalton said, the angry female knocked the animatronic penguin to the ground. Through these spy cams, the birds were seen slipping, sliding, and stumbling their way through a course of seemingly endless challenges on their annual pilgrimage to the harshest of destinations, all in hopes of creating new life. “They reflect a lot of our lives,” Dalton said. “They would survive all the knocks in life, get back up, and just keep going.”


Where's a post office with a view... of penguins?

Credit: Annalisa Alvarado
World listener Annalisa in Antarctica
Annalisa Alvarado listens to PRI's The World on Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, California. A few years back, she travelled to Antarctica and chanced upon one of the southernmost post offices in the world at Port Lockroy. 

"I was on a cruise with about a hundred other tourists. We were able to buy postcards and actually get a stamp in our passports. Outside of Port Lockroy, there's a Gentoo penguin colony, and the penguins were very curious, especially the younger penguins that are molting.

"They'll come right  up and peck you because they think you might be a larger penguin, or maybe you have some food. So they're just very cute, but they're really smelly.

"We also took all kinds of pictures of all these different shapes and sizes of icebergs, capturing the way the light refracted off the ice and the different shades of blues.

"You had to take pictures of them, because you knew that each iceberg, as it went by, almost had a soul because you knew it was melting, going into the sea, drifting farther out into the warmer ocean."

Discovery's robot penguin lays egg on TODAY

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Nov. 21, 2013
Who doesn't love penguins? Now, what about robot penguins? Turns out they're just as amazing, as the filmmakers behind Discovery's new two-hour special "Penguins: Waddle All the Way" proved during a visit to TODAY Thursday.

Wildlife director John Downer and cameraman Phil Dalton are two of the people behind the special. For the program, mechanical life-sized penguins equipped with hidden cameras were devised and then embedded among the real-life birds to explore their world.

The duo brought three of their robot buddies to the studio and showed off some tricks, including laying an egg (with a camera in it, of course), while another, which was lying face down, came to a standing position. The penguins accomplished their tricks with the help of Dalton's handy remote control, which the cameraman said worked from up to a kilometer away.

"The whole point was to try and get inside their lives and see penguins as they see themselves," said Downer, who noted they got "extraordinary" footage because the cameras in the fake penguins could tilt, pan and capture high-quality detail.

"The material we got, so much was new to science," Downer said.

But at times the fake penguins blended in a bit too successfully. One real penguin became "very affectionate" with one of the mechanical ones, said Downer. And later, when a fake emperor penguin set off on the march across the ice, the real birds "just got in line and followed," he laughed.

"In penguins' defense, they might not be the smartest, but they are the feistiest and the most determined animals," said Downer.

"Penguins: Waddle All the Way" airs on Discovery on Nov. 23 at 9 p.m.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

AQUARIUM: Penguins need a temporary home downtown

November 20, 2013

PHOTOS BY DAN CAPPELLAZZO/staff photographer PENGUINS APPROVE: Aquarium of Niagara employees Michelle Paterson and Autumn Syracuse show penguins William and Burgess a plan of their new habitat.

NEW DIGS: A look at the rendering of the new penguins habitat at the Aquarium of Niagara Falls. 

Niagara Gazette — Somewhere in this city there’s an empty building or warehouse that could be the perfect spot for a colony of temporarily homeless penguins.

Note to that building owner: Gay Molnar is looking for you.

Molnar, director of the Aquarium of Niagara, is seeking a location downtown, close enough so aquarium staff can easily get to the penguins for care and feeding, while their new home is being built.  

“We’re looking for an extremely generous developer or corporation that has some space ... we want to keep our colony intact,” she said recently.

The new exhibit is part of up to $2.5 million in renovations and upgrades needed which will fortify the aquarium’s application for accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“What we’re doing is looking towards a multi-phase, complete facelift and renovation of our existing facility,” Molnar said.

The facility has already spent well over $600,000 in upgrades over the last five years, she added. But much more is needed, first and foremost, a new penguin home.

The penguin project will displace a very tight knit little family of nine penguin personalities, according to the keepers.

The oldest penguin the the colony is William, who at about age 35, hails from the original colony established at the aquarium in 1978.  Next oldest is Opus, 25, hand reared at the aquarium, purchased from a collector in Peru. DJ is 23, Tux is 20, then there’s Araya, 16, Lou, 14, Burgess, 13, and and siblings Bobbi and Chile, 7.

William is the sweetest and his mate, Burgess, is very protective. “She’s all about William,” said Autumn Syracuse, an aquarist who runs the “penguin encounter” program where visitors can spend time with one of the black and white birds.

William is also the one visitors often get to see more closely. “A lot of times he likes to sit up front at the window,” Syracuse said of the eldest penguin.

“In the world of penguins, we have what you might call a geriatric community,” noted Michele Paterson, an aquarist and records manager. Aquarium life appears to have done well by William, she added. Captivity has nearly doubled William’s life span, since penguins typically only live into their 20s in the wild, she said.

While penguins are typically known for their love of the cold, these are not those kind of penguins. They are Humboldt penguins and they like sunny days and warmer climes.

The new exhibit, which will triple the size of their current exhibit, will be balmy and bright, with more swimming space and underwater viewing.

“This is about giving our birds the best exhibit they can possibly have,” Paterson said.

Construction for the new exhibit will begin once the birds are placed in temporary housing. Thus, the hunt for housing is on.  The staff wants to keep the penguins together, locally, because if they are sent to another aquarium, there’s no guarantee of getting them all back.

“They have a history here,” Molnar said. “and the stress of relocation is an unknown. We would much rather have them in temporary space for a year or so ... but what’s most important is the health of the birds.”

It would be a bonus if the location was downtown, where visitors could stop by and look in on the birds, she added.

“If we could find a benefactor, we would love it,” said Molnar. “We’re open to any kind of discussion.”
She noted that the Aquarium staffers are planning another fundraiser to afford the upgrades that will help make the facility world class. “We need the support,” Molnar added. “We need to go to the public and say we’ve been here 48 years. We’re the only attraction open every day for 275,000 plus visitors every year.”

The aquarium only closes on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. For more information or to invite the penguins for a long visit in a local warehouse or building, call 285-3575 or visit


Don't Forget--Waddle All the Way--is this Saturday. But 1st a foretaste...

A Day On Bird Island (South Georgia)

Hannah Wood looks at a single day’s activities by the BAS team at the science base on Bird Island...

On October 12th we all started to go about our daily routines; I got ready for the leopard seal round; Craig headed over to Special Study Beach (SSB) to do some maintenance on the Wendy House which has been used and abused by seal assistants for many years and needed a bit of TLC; Jerry was preparing for a day up on the hills looking for northern giant petrel eggs; and Steph was going to head out to check for grey-headed albatross eggs, the first of which was found 4 days earlier. Our plans were quickly put on hold however due to the discovery of something we had been hoping for over the past week. Two heavily pregnant elephant seals had been seen on Landing Beach for a while and now, finally, one of them had given birth to a small furry sausage. Needless to say the day’s work was delayed as we all spent half an hour or so watching the small pup interacting with its mother and getting used to its environment. There was a lot of noise as the mother and pup ‘chatted’ away to each other and the female tried to defend her offspring from the hungry skuas which had gathered in the hope of an easy meal and were constantly pecking at the new-born’s umbilicus.

Image:BI1Oct13.jpgThe new elephant seal pup look up adoringly at his mother.

After the excitement of our new arrival we headed off in our separate directions to get on with the day’s tasks. The daily lep round starts from the cliffs above the SSB where the majority of the fur seal work is conducted. The cliffs are a nice place to begin the round as they offer a good vantage point for not only seal spotting but also whale and bird watching. The southern right whales have not yet returned from their migration north over the winter, but the recent influx of birds means that the cliff tops are now surrounded by wheeling and soaring giant and white-chinned petrels, black-browed, grey-headed and light-mantled sooty albatrosses. I was particularly happy to see the sooties as they are the least numerous albatross species on Bird Island and their nesting is dispersed and restricted to sheer cliffs, making them harder to spot than the mollies in their large, more accessible colonies.

Image:BI2Oct13.jpgA pair of light-mantled sooty albatross perch on a cliff-side touching beaks and preening each other to affirm their bond.

Coming down from the cliffs I passed Craig fixing up a bench in the Wendy House before he headed back to base for a morning of generator servicing and an afternoon removing and painting all the doors of the stores and workshops. My rounds then took me down onto the beaches which is always a good time to look for the smaller, less publicised, wildlife including the “butter-wouldn’t melt” South Georgia pintail ducks (which in summer can be observed scavenging on fur seal placentas!) feeding along the strand line, and the noisy little Antarctic terns which dart around picking nearly-invisible crustaceans from the water in high speed dives. A couple of days ago the first couple of pipits were seen collecting nesting material and they are always around busily flitting about and singing from the tussac lumps.

After a little while I spot one small leopard seal in the water scouting for a place to haul out. He almost comes out on the beach in front of me, but seems to decide that the beach is too steep to belly-flop up and shuffles back out into deeper water, disappearing for the rest of the day.

The rest of the beaches and cliff tops on the round don’t offer any more leopard seal sightings but on my way to the final cove I stop in at the large gentoo penguin colony at Square Pond and discover a muddy penguin sitting on the first egg of the season. Jerry also checked the area earlier in the day and found no eggs, so this one must be freshly laid and only a couple of hours old. All around the first egg a few hundred penguins are busy courting, mating, nest building and defending territory. Occasionally scuffles break out and a penguin is furiously ‘flippered’ by another or chased at top speed through the colony, dodging nests and being pecked at by disturbed inhabitants. Others have paired up and can be seen ‘bobbing’ in synchrony, mimicking each other’s movements and tidying their nests up.

Image:BI3Oct13.jpgWhen mating a male gentoo balances on top of his partner.

I radio Jerry with the news because it means he will now have to come and map out a sub-section of nests in the colony in order to monitor the egg build-up. He has just finished the giant petrel round and arrived home for a cup of tea, but it will have to wait! The geep rounds today were fairly quiet as almost all the northern petrels in the study area have finished laying since they began a month ago. He only found 3 new eggs today (bringing the total up to around 300), 2 from regular breeders and 1 from an unknown bird which required a shiny new ring and darvic. It will be another few weeks until the southern geeps begin to lay their eggs, giving Jerry a bit of a break (but not really).

It’s just as well that the northern geeps have quietened down as Jerry now has daily checks of the selected gentoo nests to do, as well as trips to the major gentoo colony on Johnson to record the first eggs there. In addition he has been to Big Mac and Little Mac to see whether the other species of breeding penguin here, the macaronis, have started to return. There were no macaronis today, but 5 days later we spot one while doing some maintenance on transect markers in the colony. A week later and the place is crammed with the returning males who are fighting over nest space.

Image:BI4Oct13.jpgJerry looking very excited about the first of the eagerly awaited macaroni penguins….

Image:BI5Oct13.jpg….A week later and the males have returned in force.

From my position down on the beaches I can look up at the huge black-browed albatross colonies which are full of noisily calling birds. Precariously balanced among the nests in the tussac is Steph, monitoring the return of ringed birds. Colony H, on the steep slopes above Main Bay, is one of the longest monitored breeding sites on the island, and today Steph has recorded 39 birds in this small but important location. The birds are reuniting with their partners and can be seen bill-tapping and displaying to each other, the females perched on nests and the males calling loudly and splaying their tail feathers. In another of the colonies Steph has already observed couples mating and so there should be eggs soon enough.

The grey-headed albatrosses have already started laying and today there were 8 new eggs discovered in Colony E, which is home to over 300 birds and checked daily. Up in the hills Steph also takes the opportunity to ring a few more of the wanderer chicks which are losing their downy chick feathers at a rapid rate and will soon be ready to fledge.

I finish up the lep round and head back for a cup of tea, a bit of data entry and some odd tasks before a long stint in the kitchen because it’s Saturday, which means a 3 course dinner, and it’s my turn to cook!

Image of the Day

Two African penguin chicks hatched earlier this wee at the Minnesota Zoo...and more are on the way! 

(Thanks to Cora for the heads up!!!)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Penguins 3D Coming To IMAX On “Black & White” Friday, Nov. 29

Penguins 3D Coming To IMAX On “Black & White” Friday, Nov. 29

Monday, November 18, 2013 - by Thom Benson
King Penguins on Gold Harbour
King Penguins on Gold Harbour
- photo by C 2013 Paul Williams for nWave Pictures
The rocky, windswept and remote South Georgia Island lies more than 1,000 miles east of the tip of South America. Massive storms frequently roll through this region whipping the Southern Ocean into one of the angriest seas on Earth.

In spite of the harsh conditions, this place is a remarkable oasis of life – including one amazing colony of King Penguins. Audiences will feel as though they’re surrounded by these majestic birds when Penguins 3D hits the giant screen at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX Theater beginning on Friday, Nov. 29.

Imagine all of the residents of Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville gathered shoulder to shoulder in one location. If current census figures are correct, that’s how many people it would take to equal the population of King Penguins that congregate at South Georgia’s “Penguin City” each year.  According to a recent paper published in Antarctic Science, there are 450,000 breeding pairs of King Penguins in this one relatively small spot. Each couple is there to try and raise the next generation.

This is where the storyline of Penguins 3D begins. A young King Penguin returns to his birthplace after spending three years at sea. Surrounded by the lush, low-lying vegetation and snow covered peaks, our hero searches for a mate among the bustling crowds of nearly one million identical-looking birds. Along the way, this male must contend with brawling elephant seals and grumpy fur seals that make daily shore landings quite challenging.

Audiences will be truly astounded at how chicks and parents can recognize individual vocalizations among an almost deafening cacophony of raucous calling. This is just one phenomenal aspect of King Penguin life according to Sir David Attenborough, the film’s writer and narrator. “It takes the young chick 18 months to develop the swimsuit of feathers which lets it go to sea,” Mr. Attenborough told Empire magazine. “It has to endure all the winter and the next spring and then some.” (That’s a long time compared to ten weeks – the time it took the Tennessee Aquarium’s new Gentoo Penguin chicks to grow large enough to go swimming for the first time at Penguins’ Rock.)

Mr. Attenborough is the world’s leading natural history broadcaster. His distinguished career in television spans more than fifty years. He has traveled from Pole to Pole in his quest to bring nature closer to humans. Penguins 3D may have been the most challenging, yet most rewarding project. “Filming wildlife in the harsh sub-Antarctic conditions, using vast, ungainly, highly sensitive 3D equipment is frustrating with knobs on,” said Mr. Attenborough. “The difficulties were huge, but the rewards are huge too. With 3D you can convey the reality of what’s in front of the camera in a much more powerful way than ever before.”

Fortunately penguins aren’t shy birds. Even with four people lugging an IMAX camera that Attenborough called a “whopping great beast,” the animals carried on with the business of being parents. “Penguins are big, colorful characters,” said Mr. Attenborough. “They are irresistibly comic.”

Audiences will also marvel at the unique habitat of this astonishing sub-Antarctic island. Among some of the native species featured in the film are stately Wandering Albatross, fearsome Leopard Seals and predatory Giant Petrels. “South Georgia is one of the most extraordinary and least appreciated places for wildlife in the world,” said Mr. Attenborough. “Whilst it may be remote, it is far from barren. It bears witness to some of the most spectacular sights in the natural world.”

Penguins 3D, presented locally by High Point Climbing and Fitness, is rated G with a running time of 40 minutes.

Penguins 3D launches at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX on “Black & White” Friday, November 29. Go to for showtimes and to purchase tickets online.

See the official Penguins 3D trailer here:


Penguins in Bow Ties Mingle with Kindergarteners for a Double Dose of Cute

And you're totally jealous.
The Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium held its penguin parade launching ceremony on Thursday, to the delight of school children and animal lovers alike. Adorable kindergarteners in school uniforms marched with the penguins, and the penguins dressed for the occasion as well–in bow ties, no less,
Can’t believe you missed it? Fortunately, the penguin parade is a regular event that will be held on weekends for the next several months, according to Getty.

Penguin Parade Launching Ceremony In Nagasaki
The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images
Penguin Parade Launching Ceremony In Nagasaki
The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images
Penguin Parade Launching Ceremony In Nagasaki
The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images
Penguin Parade Launching Ceremony In Nagasaki The Asahi Shimbun / Getty Images


Penguin carving for town

Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium committee chairman Matt King with the winning People's Choice  carving from this year's  symposium. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium committee chairman Matt King with the winning People's Choice carving from this year's symposium. Photo by Andrew Ashton.

Organisers of the 2013 Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium hope a home can be found somewhere in Oamaru for a new public sculpture.

A total 15 carvers took part in the two-week symposium at Oamaru Harbour, which finished with a silent auction on Saturday.

Oamaru Stone Carving Symposium committee chairman Matt King said although sales at the auction were ''a little light'', the work was of such a good standard that sculptors were happy to take it home with them.

He said about $200 was raised through gold-coin donations made by people voting for the people's choice award to buy a carving of two penguins, created by Allen Harnett, from Bluff.

Although the going price for the work was $600, the symposium committee decided to waive its commission on the work, and would now approach the Waitaki District Council, to see if a location could be found to display the carving permanently in Oamaru.

''We had lots of votes and support and this is our way of thanking the people of Oamaru.''

The committee would be ''fairly keen'' to return to the venue again for the next symposium in two years time, he said.

''We loved the venue and it was really obvious that both the people of Oamaru and tourists were loving it.
''It was just fantastic, really, and everyone was agreed thatit was the best one yet, or ifnot the best one, then close to it.

''Lots of people [were] passing through in a fantastic venue, although we were a bit lucky with the weather.''
Mr Harnett also achieved the highest price of the auction, for a second carving, of two dolphins.
It was sold to a private bidder for $950.


Image of the Day

Untitled by Thorbjørn Riise Haagensen
Untitled, a photo by Thorbjørn Riise Haagensen on Flickr.

King Penguins. Grytviken, South Georgia.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy feat on ice

Adelie penguins
Adelie penguins drift on ice floe in the Southern Ocean off the Australian Antarctic Territory. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
THERE could be more adelie penguins in Antarctica than ever before. 
A survey covering about 5000km of the East Antarctic coastline by a team of Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologists has confirmed that adelie penguin populations have increased by close to 50 per cent since the 1950s.

The exhaustive survey, which involved several years of penguin observations from the ground and from the air, also found that adelie penguin colonies had spread over greater areas.

The penguins use pebbles, which are small enough to carry in their beaks, to build nests for rearing chicks during summer on exposed rocky parts of the continent.

Team member Colin Southwell said possible contributors to the adelie boom included:

ITS coincidence with a rapid decrease in sea ice cover, from the 1950s, which could have made it easier for the adelie penguins to forage for krill.

THE slaughter of whales, almost to extinction by the mid-20th century, which meant that fewer whales were eating krill, leaving more for the adelie penguins.

Dr Southwell said it suggested adelies thrived when sea ice coverage was just right, but suffered when there was too much or too little. He said the team's latest survey found that East Antarctic adelie penguin numbers had begun to plateau.

Dr Southwell said the impacts of sea ice variations on larger emperor penguins were harder to observe because the emperors nested on sea ice during winter, in the dark for much of the time.

Another team from NSW's Griffith University has concluded that penguins first appeared as a species about 20 million years ago. The scientists looked at the DNA from the 11 penguin species alive today and developed a "molecular clock" -- to calculate how species evolve on the basis of mutations in DNA.

This measure shows the forerunner of all penguins lived 20.4 million years ago (rather than 41 million-51 million years ago as previously thought) and they evolved into separate species at the same time as a decline in Antarctic temperatures.


The Jackass Penguin

jackass penguin These popular penguins have faced a lot of threats in recent years that have put them on a dangerous path.

Species name: African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), a.k.a. the black-footed penguin or the “jackass” penguin for its donkey-like braying sounds. (The nickname has nothing to do with the penguin’s personality.)

Where found: Coastal southwest Africa, including South Africa and Namibia and the Penguin Islands, which as you might guess were named after their black-and-white denizens.

IUCN Red List status: Endangered. Previously listed as “vulnerable to extinction,” they were upgraded to “endangered” in 2010 due to a rapid population decline of nearly 70% over the past decade.

Primary threat: Lack of food, primarily due to commercial fishing, has been the driving cause for the African penguin’s decline. In addition some fish species have shifted their habitat further west, putting them out of the penguins’ range. Beyond food supplies a number of other factors have affected penguin survival, including oil spills, human disturbance of rocky nesting sites or egg collection, invasive cats, diseases and competition with other species. In other words, it’s kind of tough to be an African penguin these days.

Previous Extinction Countdown articles about this species: The most notable articles covered the strange saga of the supposedly gay penguins brought to Toronto Zoo in 2011. It turned out they were just friends. Going back to 2010, I wrote about a type of facial recognition software that could be used to identify individual penguins and help to monitor their populations.

Notable conservation programs: SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) helps rehabilitate penguins and other seabirds that have been caught in oil spills and conducts research into seabird diseases. BirdLife South Africa does great work in the region on a lot of different fronts. A number of zoos have ongoing breeding programs (Tampa Zoo hatched a chick in August, and Maryland Zoo celebrated four hatchlings in September and October).

Multimedia: You can hear the distinctive “jackass” braying of an African penguin in this short video (shot, notably, before they were listed as endangered):


This Week's Pencognito!

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Image of the Day