Every day is a new adventure in the Adelie Penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarcitca. Our colony has about 2000 breeding pairs of Adelie Penguins and there are two of us who live in a tent about a quarter mile from the nesting sites. Dr.David Ainley who is a world authroity on Adelie Pneguins and the principal investigator for the research team that monitors several colonies on the island and Jean Pennycook , an educator, who shares Dr Ainley's work with the world.

Along the way to work each day we pass Shackelton's hut built in 1908 which is now a world heritage site and being renovated by the New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust. Besides Adelie Penguins, we see Emperor Penguins, seals, whales, skuas and snow petrels at Cape Royds. In the background is Mt Erebus, one of three volcanos on Ross Island and the only active one. Follow along with our stories as the season progresses. We welcome your comments and questions.


Here are links to our web-based penguin activities.

Click here for additional information about Adelie penguins and how they are coping with climate change. Click here for additional activities you can do in your classroom.

Questions about this page? Email me.

Jean Pennycook penguin_letters@yahoo.com


Map of Ross Island showing the penguin colonies in our research study.

Cape Royds Adelie Penguin breeding colony.

 

These are daily stories from Cape Royds Adelie Breeding Colony on Ross Island, Antarctica. If you would like to follow penguin families 'live from the field' as they raise their chicks go HERE.

Click on any picture to see a larger version

 

penguin chick

Jan 17, 2014

Biggest Chick. Although this is not one of our chicks, it was the biggest chick in the colony on our last day at Cape Royds. You can see he has started to molt from the wooly chick feathers into the waterproof adult feathers. Soon he will be able to stay warm and dry in the ocean and get his own food.

penguin chick

Jan 17, 2014

Smallest Chick. Although this is not one of our chicks, it was the smallest chick in the colony on our last day at Cape Royds. You can see the difference between this chick and the one to the left. This chick is getting fed, but is not growing well. We wish him the best and hope he makes it.

penguin family

Jan 15, 2014

Mothers everywhere are good pillows! It's universal, mothers are always good as a pillow. Growing up is hard work, and sometimes you just need to have some comfort. This chick knew where to get it.

penguins

Jan 16, 2014

Lost and Found. This is a small chick compared to the ones around him. He got pushed out of the group and wandered outside the safety of the crowd. I sat there for several minutes as he was vulnerable to attack by the Skuas. Finally an adult came and talked him back into the creche.

penguin chick

Jan 13, 2014

Teenagers can sleep anywhere!! Three week old chick are in the teenager stage of development, mostly they eat and sleep. This one found a place on top of a rock with his head on the ground near the parent's feet. Only a penguin chick would be comfortable sleeping like this.

contest

Jan 14, 2014

Penguin Lovers, it's our chance!! NASA has a new mission and they need a name for their penguin mascot. Come up with a name, and a story why this name is a good one, and submit it before March 1, 2014. Go HERE for details

penguin_creche

Jan 11, 2014

The Crèche is on. Some chicks have already formed creches. Both parents are out gathering food for these fast growing chicks so the chicks huddle together to keep warm and help fend off the Skuas. When an adult comes close, fresh from the ocean, these chicks will beg for food. It is up to the adult to identify their own chicks in this crowd and feed only them.

Skua chick

Jan 12, 2014

Penguins aren't the only ones!! This young Skua chick lives close to the penguin colony where both parents are able to bring it food everyday. It too is growing fast and will need to develop adult feathers (plumage) before the short breeding season at Cape Royds is over and winter sets in.

penguin chick

Jan 9, 2014

One Month Old. This is our first born one month later. Other chicks around him may be larger, but notice how long his wings are. He is just starting to develop adult feathers under his wings which means he is maturing. Two more weeks and he will be on his own. The parent is close by, but it takes two busy birds to feed this big chick so they are out getting food most of the time.

cape royds

Jan 10, 2014

What's in your driveway?. This is how we get around at Cape Royds. The sea ice is gone, snow machines are not an options. If we need to go someplace where we can't walk, we call the helicopters and they come for us. In Antarctica the helicopters are run by Petroleum Helicopter Inc (PHI) and they take very good care of us. What's in your driveway?

Skua

Jan 7, 2014

South Polar Skua. This bird is a scavenger and predator. With a range of open water there are sightings along the eastern and western US in summer. Normally breeds in the southern hemisphere and many are summer (Nov-Feb) residents here on Ross Island raising their chicks along with the penguins.

band searching

Jan 8, 2013

Working in the colony. Megan searches for banded birds in one of the breeding groups at Cape Royds. It requires patience and stealth movement among the nesting birds. The metal bands are around the left wing and have a number etched in them. Megan reads the number with her binoculars and records what the bird is doing. We band the birds as chicks and follow their lives each year when they return.

penguin chick

Jan 5, 2014

Well fed chick. Food is plentiful in the ocean this year and penguin parents are able to provide for their chicks. We know this because the chicks have big bellies like this one and are growing fast.

crabeater seal

Jan 6, 2014

Crabeater Seal. These are the most commom seal in Antarctica, numbering in the millions, but we rarely see them at Cape Royds. These large seals eat krill, can weigh up to 500 pounds and live for 40 years. This one stayed only one day and had lost one of his flippers, probably a bite from a predator.

penguin chicks

Jan 3, 2014

Three's company. Three chicks is a lot of mouths to feed. We do not think this pair laid three eggs, more likely one wandered in from another nest. It seems the adults are feeding all three, but we will keep our eye on this nest to make sure. Hopefully there is enough food to go around.

penguins

Jan 4, 2014

Lost egg. This egg did not hatch on time and we have been worried about it for sometime. Today the chick was too big for the parent to keep both the egg and the chick in the nest. It rolled out and 30 sec after I took this picture a Skua swooped in to take his prize. This is not uncommon, there are several nests with unhatched eggs in them. I think their fate will be the same as this one.

penguin chick

Jan 1, 2014

3 weeks old. This is the oldest chick in the colony, just over 3 weeks. He has multiplied his birth weight over 20 times in those 23 days, a very rapid growth rate. In a few more days we may see the signs of his developing the adult feathers that will protect him in the water so he can be on his own for food. When that happens, this chicks will be fledged.

penguin chicks

Jan 2, 2014

Too big for the nest. These chicks have out grown their home and although the adult is nearby she can no longer sit over them. The pile of rocks is scattered, the nest is gone. Both of these chicks are fat and growing well, these parents are good providers.

penguin nests

Dec 30, 2014

20 days later. This is the same group as our picture on Dec 9 and 19. You can see it is no longer quiet time in the colony. Almost all the eggs have hatched, there are many adults standing around, lots of noise and many birds coming and going. Chicks are growing, the activity level is increasing. Check back in 10 days to see the difference.

wall of ice

Dec 31, 2013

Wall of Ice. As the snow melts then freezes from the rocks above the sea ice it forms these magnificatn icicles. This wall of ice went on for 30 yds in each direction. The space behind the huge icicles is a cave and very cold.

penguin

Dec 28, 2013

Can you do this? Penguins are very agile and strong. Since they do not have hands, they use their feet to scratch the hard to reach places like behind their ears.

penguin flying

Dec 29, 2013

Can you do this? Penguins are very agile and strong. Getting from one ice floe to another requires strong legs and a good landing plan. This bird landed on his belly and slid into the ocean.

penguin swimming

Dec 26, 2013

Penguin in Flight. Before they were swimmers, penguins were flyers. They use the same motion with their wings (called flippers) in the water as other birds do in the air and have very powerful chest muscles to propel them. Here you can see how they streamline their bodies to decrease resistance in the water. They are air breathers just like you and me, but can hold their breath up to 5 minutes.

2 week old penguin

Dec 27, 2013

Two Weeks Old. This is the only chick left in our first nest of the season (see Dec 11 and 18 entries). The other chick was taken by the Skua, they have chicks to feed too. Adelie penguins grow fast and the parents must bring about a pound of food a day to this hungry bird. How do we know this? Go HERE

penguin feathers

Dec 24, 2013

Feathers. Penguin feathers need to keep these birds both warm and dry. Here you can see the dense and hard center shaft of the feather which is visible on the bird, densely packed and holds out the water. Surrounding the center are many downy extensions which are against the bird's body and help keep them warm. If you would like to learn more about penguin feathers go HERE.

sea ice

Dec 25, 2013

Sea Ice. This is McMurdo Sound, early December. Frozen sea ice about 4-6 ft thick is used by seals to rest on, fish to hide under, and humans to land planes on. The freezing of this expanse along with the rest of the sea ice around Antarctica and subsequent thawing in the summer is the largest seasonal event in the world.

still waters

Dec 22, 2013

Still Waters. The winds in Antarctica are legendary, and it is rarely calm at Cape Royds, but today the air and the waters were still. Here you see a mirror reflection of a small ice berg off the penguin beach. The ocean is glass, the air is quiet, only the penguins are busy. Chicks are hatching and gathering food is at a critcal stage.

penguin hatching

Dec 23, 2013

Hatching Penguin Chick.This Adelie Pengun chick is about 1 minute old. They emerge from the egg tired, wet, hungry and vulnerable. Parents must keep the chicks in the brood patch for several days until they have enough feathers to keep themselves warm. Feeding must start immediately as there is not much time for these chicks to grow up.

penguin nestpenguin nest

Dec 20, 2013

DIfferent Nests for Different Birds. Not all penguin nests are alike. Here are two very different styles. One used large rocks and built a large pile, the other has barely made a nest at all, mostly scratched out a little space in the layer of small rocks that cover this nesting area. The purpose of the nest is to keep the eggs from rolling away, so far so good on both nests.

sleeping penguin

Dec 21, 2013

Sleeping Penguin. Many people ask me how penguins sleep. This is one way. They put their bill under the wing and close their eyes, but stay standing. They also lay down on the ice or rocks and pull their feet in under their body to stay warm.

one week old penguin chicks

Dec 18, 2013

One Week Old. Check back to the Journal entry from Dec 11. These are the same chicks only one week later. Adelie Penguin chicks grow fast. If you would like to watch other chicks grow on a daily basis, go HERE. Pictures are live Nov-Jan every year.

penguin nesting

Dec 19, 2013

10 days later. This is the same group as our picture on Dec 9. You can see it is no longer quiet time in the colony. At least 5 of the nests here have chicks, there are many adults standing around, lots of noise and many birds coming and going. As the chicks grow the activity level will increase, check back in 10 days to see the difference.

penguin

Dec 16, 2013

Tired of Sitting. This adult penguin has 2 eggs in the nest and has been here a very long time, perhaps 3 weeks or more. As long as it is on the nest the bird does not eat or drink. The bird will brood the eggs until it can no longer go without food and water, but it will not sacrifice itself for the eggs. We will watch this nest for the next few days and hope the mate returns.

sleeping_penguin_chick

Dec 17, 2013

Nap Time. Adelie Penguin chicks are eating machines and after all that eating, there is nothing like a good nap. In 50 days they will multiply their birthweight by 30 and it takes about 24 kg (60 pounds) of food to make that happen. How do we know this? Go HERE to find out.

penguin jump

Dec14, 2013

Off We Go! Adelie Penguins are timid when they enter the water. Their main predator, the Leopard Seal, waits under the ice for these birds to jump in. Today there are no Leopard Seals in the area so these penguins are safe.

ice berg

Dec 15, 2015

Ice Berg. This large iceberg (about 11 mi by 7 mi) has been floating around our area since we arrived. We keep hoping it will come closer, but then worry if it does it interfer with the penguin's feeding grounds. Today we went out for a closer look. What you see above the water is only 10% of the iceberg, and what we see is about 200 feet tall!

brood patch

Dec 12, 2013

The brood patch is the only place on the penguin’s body that is not covered with feathers.  The space is just big enough to fit two eggs, as the eggs need to be against the penguin’s skin to stay warm. The pink is caused by the large amount of warm blood near the skin’s surface which does the warming.  The feathers wrap around the eggs to hold in the warmth.

seal

Dec 13, 2013

Weddell seals frequently haul out on the ice near Cape Royds to rest. Today there were 9 of them.  They eat fish so do not bother the penguins and may spend several days here before moving on.   This one is young and only about half the size of a fully grown adult.   If you would like to see how we count seals go here http://z.umn.edu/seals.

penguin

Dec 10, 2013

Lion and Lamb.  This Skua is the only predator the penguins need to fear on land. They take first the eggs and then the chicks.   Normally when the Skuas get too close, the penguins will chase them off, try to bite them or beat them with their flippers. Today these two birds are sitting very close together in peace. Perhaps the penguin senses the Skua is not hungry.

penguin chicks

Dec 11, 2013

First chicks of the season, always a banner day for us.  When I found this nest it already had two chicks. Last year the first chicks were found on Dec 13, so a few days later than this year.  We hope this will be a good season to raise chicks.   I will watch this nest every few days to see how they grow.

penguin

Dec 8, 2013

Nest Exchange. This is the female from Nest #5 (band #5176). She has been on the nest for a long time without food or water and I am sure, very hungry.  The male returned today and took over brooding the nest.   I took this picture of her out on the sea ice as she was headed to feed. How long do you think she will be gone?  Check Nest #5 in a few days to see if you are right.  

penguin colony

Dec 9, 2013

Quiet Time.  These are the last days of quiet time in the colony. The brooding mates are sitting silently on the nests keeping the eggs warm, the others are out feeding.  Any day now we will start to see chicks hatch and then the work begins.  The activity level will go up, parents will be going for food more frequently and there will be many more birds in the colony. I will take this same picture in 10 days to see the difference.

Skua kitchen

Dec 6, 2013

Skua Kitchen.  The Skuas are back at Cape Royds too. They know when the breeding season begins for Adelie Penguins at Cape Royds and set up territories in the colony.  A mated pair of Skuas will defend their ‘eating’ territory from other Skuas.  Here you see the remains of several Skua meals, probably the same Skua pair.  How many eggs do you see?

McMurdo

Dec 7, 2013

McMurdo Research Station. This small town of about 800 people supports a large percent of the US Science effort in Antarctica.  The blue building in the center is our favorite because that is where we eat.  In addition to the science teams there are carpenters, plumbers, electricians, shuttle drivers, radio operators, medical staff, cooks, mechanics and even a lady who cuts hair. Lots of fun jobs for everyone. You will notice there is nothing green, no trees, no bushes, no grass, no plants of any kind, only ice and rock.
ice caves Ice Caves.  When a glacier moves over land that is not flat, it bends and buckles creating openings called crevasses. Some of the openings are large enough and safe to climb into, we call these ice caves.  The ice here is 100’s of thousands of years old and a deep blue color.  The warmer air and sunshine causes some melting and then refreezing to create extraordinary icicles hanging from the roof.

penguin eggs

Dec 5, 2013

Young Bird.  We are seeing events like this in the colony this season.  A pair has created a good nest, laid two eggs then seems to abandon them.  We do not know if the bird in the picture is the parent of these eggs, but probably. For some reason the bird is not tending the eggs, perhaps they are too young and lack the maturity to be successful parents. In Antarctica it takes only a few minutes for the eggs to freeze. This nest is lost.

penguin nests

Dec 2, 2013

Penguin Hooligans.  Penguins are very territorial in the nesting colony. When fights break out over nesting sites or mates, the two penguins involved in the skirmish run, roll and fall over the others.  Nests are disturbed, and eggs scattered.  In this case at least three nests lost their eggs including our Nest #8 (green arrow) We do not know if our bird was in the fight, but his nest is lost anyway. This was a sad sight today.  They will not lay more eggs. We are finding a new nest to put into the study. 

on the ice

Dec 3, 2013

How we roll on the ice. Transportation in Antarctica is always a challenge. Vehicles need special tires and must go slow. Cracks in the sea ice are dangerous and change all the time. Today we are going out to Cape Royds using snow machines. They are lighter weight than other vehicles, can go faster and cross cracks the other vehicles could not. Notice we pull a sled with survival bags and extra clothes for the 2 hour trip.

whales

Nov 30, 2013

We are finally back at the Cape Royds Adelie breeding colony on Ross Island. The delay has cost us a months worth of data, but we are glad to be here. The whales are back too. This one was just off the ice edge near the penguins.

camp

Dec 1, 2013

Pre-Season. This is how our camp at Cape Royds sits all winter. The work tent is in the box, our sleep tents are rolled up on top of the box. The solar panels are down and all the supplies are straped together with the box. Every year we return and are glad to see it's still here. It takes two days to pull it all out and set up. We should be living here by Sat. Dec 7.
Stories from the 2012-2013 Adelie Penguin breeding season at Cape Royds, Antarctica.

Jan 18 , 2013

You're Not a Chick Anymore.This Adelie chick is loosing its chick feathers and growing the adult plumage that will enable it to stay warm and dry in the water. During this transition they require a great deal of food.

 

Jan 20 , 2013

 New Clothes. This Adélie Penguin chick has almost completely lost his chick feathers and grown a set of adult ones. This is the last step in their maturing before he can keep warm and dry in the water as he looks for food.

Jan 16 , 2013

Molt is On. This chick is probably a month old, and is the first chick I have seen with the signs of growing its adult feathers. These birds will not be able to swim in the ocean and forage for their own food until they have all their adult feathers. The chick feathers are warm but not water proof.

 

Jan 17 , 2013

 Storm Penguin. When a blizzard arrives at Cape Royds, many of the penguins hunker down on the snow and ride the storm out. After 24 hours of strong winds and snow this bird is almost buried. You can see his back and the tip of his tail. Snow is a good insulator so at least he is protected from the wind.

Jan 14 , 2013

Penguin Feet. Adelie Penguins need strong feet and toenails to climb over rock and ice. Here an adult penguin is climbing the rocks at Cape Royds to get to its nest. Notice that the feathers come down almost to the end of the leg giving the appearance of short legs, but these birds have long strong legs. To learn more go HERE.

Jan 15 , 2013

Old Clothes. Living in Antarctica is hard on feathers. Cold water, ice, strong winds all take its toll even on these sturdy birds. Adelie Penguins lose their feather and grow new ones (molt) every year to replace worn out ones. On this bird, much of the black part of these feathers has already worn off. Molting is about a month away for most of these birds so we hope he can still stay warm and dry with these feathers.

Jan 12 , 2013

Hungry Chick. Compare this chick to the one in our Dec 30 entry below. This one is hungry and waiting for the parents to come and fill his belly with food. It takes a lot of food to raise a penguin chick. I will check on him tomorow to make sure they came back. Hopefully his belly will be full.

Jan 13 , 2013

Now What? With the sea ice starting to break up these cracks are occuring just off from Cape Royds. These birds are full of food for thier chicks and the nest is on the other side of the crack. Some birds can jump one this small, but we have seen some fall in when they try. Others will dive into the water and then crawl out the other side. The group will stand here for a while yakking and swaking trying to decide what to do.

Jan 10 , 2013

Whales in Town. A melt pond or 'polyna' has opened up in the frozen sea ice and the whales have come into it to feed. Here you see one Orca spy hopping and several others in the area. Theywere here for about an hour then left. These whales do not bother the penguins.

 

Jan 11 , 2013

 The Baby Sitter. As the the chicks get older the parents do not guard them so closely. Here we see an adult surrounded by nests of chicks. Hard to tell which chick belong to which adult. You can see the structure of the nests have broken down as the penguins move around more and the parents are busy getting food rather than collecting rocks.

Jan 8 , 2013

Tag you are IT! This bird will wear the TDR (time, depth, recorder) tag for one trip to the ocean as it looks for food. It will tell us where he went, how many dives, and how deep the dives were as he searches for food. This way we can assess the abundance of food available for these birds. I am holding him steady as Dr. David Ainley attaches the tag. It takes about 5 min and does not hurt the bird. You can read more about how we use satellite tags HERE

Picture courtesy: Elaine Hood

Jan 9 , 2013

Sea Glider 4 An update on our sea glider. You can see that as the season progresses the penguins must go further and further for food. Our sea glider is working to record the conditions of the foraging areas by being close to where they are. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.

Jan 6 , 2013

Pigment loss. This penguin is slightly different than the others. He has no pigment on the tip of his wings and most of his toes. A genetic variation or alteration has caused this. It does not seem to effect him in anyway, but he does stand out in the crowd. The outside toe on his other foot is also black.

 

Jan 7 , 2013

 And the Rest. So many of you wrote in to see what the rest of this bird looks like. Here he is with white feathers in odd places all over his body. We named him Salty.

Jan 4 , 2013

Whales. Penguins have to share their space at Cape Royds. Today a pod of killer whales came through. These large predators do not bother the penguins, too much work for such a small meal, instead they eat the large Antarctic toothfish. If you would like to learn more about the relationship between whales, penguins and the Antarctic toothfish go HERE.

 

Jan 5 , 2013

How We Know What We Know. This penguin has been outfitted with a TDR (time-depth-recorder) tag which it will wear for about 24 hours, or one trip to the ocean for food for itself and it's chick. It will record how long the bird was out feeding, where it went, how many and how deep the feeding dives were and how long it stayed under the water for each dive. This is important information for researchers to learn about the location and quantity of food resources for these birds and their chicks. If you would like to learn more about these tags go H ERE.

Dec 31 , 2012

Sea Glider 3 An update on our sea glider. You can see that as the season progresses the penguins must go further and further for food. Our sea glider is working to record the conditions of the foraging areas by being close to where they are. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.

Jan 3 , 2013

Penguin Attack. Normally Adélie Penguins are more curious than aggressive. If you stand still they will come close and investigate what you are. In this case the penguin walked over to me, first played with my shoe laces, then decided to see if I was something to eat. It took a nibble at my leg then a hard bite which hurt. I did not want to scare him so tried hard to stand still, luckily he did not bite a second time, denim is not his favorite taste.

Photo: courtesy Elaine Hood

Dec 29 , 2012

Yearling. We so rarely see one year old Adelie Pengiuns in the colony. They spend their lives out on the sea ice, eating and growing. This is the only one I have seen so far this year. You can tell a one year old because of the white chin. When he molts this year his new chin will be black. See picture below.

 

Dec 30 , 2012

Eating Machine. Adelie Penguin chicks must grow fast. This one will multiply its birth weight by 30 in 50 days. That is like a 7 lb baby weighing 210 lbs in a month and a half. Here you see a 10 day old chick with a stomach to match its appetite. Parents will bring back almost 66 pounds of food for each chicks by the time they are ready to be on their own. If you would like to learn more about how we know this go HERE.

Dec 27 , 2012

Eating Tools. Adelie Penguins have many adaptions to thrive in the harsh environment of Antarctica. Here you see their mouth parts whick include soft finger-like projections on their tongue and roof of the mouth. These make it easier to catch and swallow their prey whole. Small fish and krill get forced toward the throat and into the stomach. If you would like to see other adaptions go HERE.

 

Dec 28 , 2012

 Reinforcements are here. This Adélie Penguin, Lonely Joe, built his nest a long way from the others. I have been worried about him all season and yet he has been able to fend off the Skua attacks which have been numerous because he is so isolated. Recently we have had an influx of many young birds in the colony. They are not here to breed, but may be looking around for next year. For now they have made a circle around Lonely Joe and are keeping the Skuas away. Lonely Joe and his mate get a break and can rest easily on their eggs.

Dec 25 , 2012

Nest #4 has Failed. This is a sad day for us as Nest #4 has failed. The male did not return in time to relieve the female who had been sitting on the eggs for over 2 weeks. During that time she had not eaten anything or had any water as she cannot leave the nest. She is gone. The eggs rolled out and became food for the Skuas as you can see in this picture.

Dec 26 , 2012

Penguin Family. It takes two parents to fledge (ready to be on their own) these chicks. One must stay and guard them from the cold and every present Skuas, the other must go get food. The parents take turns guarding and foraging, the work is evenly split between male and female. These chicks will eat about 30 kg (about 66 lbs) of food before they fledge. If you would like to learn more about how we know this go HERE.

Dec 23 , 2012

Feeding the Chicks 2. It is the same everywhere, feeding the children is a messy event. As every young mother knows when you feed the chicks the food gets everywhere. In this case the food is all over the the parent, the chick and ground. I have seen the same scene with a one year old baby and spaghetti. If you would like to learn more about penguin diet go HERE

Dec 24 , 2012

Our New Flag. This one from Grayslake Middle School, Grayslake IL. Ellen Bergstrom's class.

Dec 21 , 2012

Feeding the Chicks. Part of our study is to find out what the penguins are eating. It seems to change during the season and we want to know why. We do this by watching what they feed their chicks. This is nest #2 and today they are getting a meal of part fish and part krill. Krill is pink and fish is silver. If you would like to learn more about penguin diet go HERE

Dec 22 , 2012

Penguin Chick Hatch. This is our first chick from Nest #6. Penguin chicks have to work hard to break out of their shells and the parents will not help them. This one is almost out (you can see the beak and wing) and will emerge wet. The parent will keep the chicks in the brood patch for several days to keep them warm as they are vulnerable to the cold and winds.

Dec 18 , 2012

Sea Glider 1. This self-propelled torpedo-like vehicle will be gliding through the ocean where the birds from our sister colony Cape Crozier feed. It will be taking measurements about the ocean as well as locating schools of fish. At the same time, some penguins will be outfitted with transmitters so we can see where they go for food. To learn more about this glider and watch its movements go HERE.

Dec 19 , 2012

Sea Glider 2. This map shows where the sea glider has been and where the penguins are foraging. You can follow along as more data comes in by going HERE.

Dec 16 , 2012

She has a secret. This bird is laying on her nest and although she will not stand up so we can see, we can tell she has a newly hatched chick. Our clues are the broken egg shell nearby and the marks near her mouth. When adults feed their chicks there is always some left over that splashes onto their mouth. Maybe tomorrow she will let us see the chick.

 

Dec 17 , 2012

 Meal Time. These penguins are on their way to the ocean and food. They have been tending the nest with eggs waiting for their mate to return, now it is their turn. Some have been waiting over 2 weeks for relief. The ocean is not far, the small iceberg marks the ice edge, less than a half a mile from the colony. This is a good year for penguins at Cape Royds.

Dec 14 , 2012

Predator and Prey. These two birds share the breeding colony at Cape Royds. Skuas eat penguin eggs and chicks during this time, as they soon will have their own chicks to feed. The Adelie penguin in this picture has 2 eggs and this Skua has had his eyes on them for some time. We wish the penguin luck in continuing to defend both eggs and hopefully chicks.

Dec 15 , 2012

Jumping the Cracks. The sea ice off Cape Royds is breaking up. To get to the open ocean and food, the penguins need to get from one ice floe (chunk of sea ice) to another. If the space is small enough they jump. Almost like flying for these birds. And, NO, they don't always make it. Sometimes they fall in the crack and have to climb out.

Dec 12 , 2012

Warm wings. This penguin has just returned from the ocean. The ocean is cold and he uses his wings to fly through the water, both demanding a great deal of energy. The pink color here is due to the large amount of blood supplying this energy. When these penguins are at rest on the land their wings are white indicating most of the blood has left their wings and gone back into their bodies to help keep them warm.

 

Dec 13 , 2012

 First chick. This is the first chick of the season and marks the time when the colony will become full of new life and energy. We are so excited to see this happen. Today we found three nests with chicks. Tomorrow there will be many more.

Dec 10 , 2012

Antarctic plants. Only the hardiest of plant life can survive in Antarctica. In the frozen lake near the penguin colony there are plenty of nutrients from the birds, but the water is frozen 10 months out of the year and the sun does not shine for 6 months. Yet this simple moss like plant survives from year to year. When the water runs and the sun shines, it thrives.

Dec 11 , 2012

Center of the Circle. Sometimes being in the center is a good thing. Center nests are well protected from Skuas. But in this case the center bird has become covered in penguin poop. The white lines around each nest are poop squirts, the penguins raise their tails and squirt the poop away from their nest. Unfortunately the center bird has become the target for many of these squirts as you can see from the white lines on its back.

Dec 8 , 2012

Design a Flag. If your classroom would like to design a flag to fly in front of the penguin colony go HERE for instructions. This flag was made by the Peach room at Montessori Academy in Pembroke Pines, FL. After fying near the penguins, it now hangs at the McMurdo research station science laboratory in Antarctica.

Dec 9 , 2012

Supplies for the camp. This is how our field camp receives supplies. The helicopters from McMurdo arrive and bring propane for our stove and heater, food, and equipment. They also take away all trash, dirty water and even human waste. We leave nothing here. Antarctica is a pristine environment and we work hard to keep it that way.

Dec 5 , 2012

Barnes Glacier. A day trip out to see the Barnes Glacier. The glacier comes off Mt Erebus and floats out over the ocean. Right now, the ocean is frozen so we are able to drive our snowmachines on it, but is a few weeks all this will be open water.

Dec 7 , 2012

Glacier Melt. During the breeding season the glacier in the background melts proviing a small river through the colony. If global climate change warms this part of the world, the melt from the glacier will increase causing the water to rise. The penguins you see would not know to move their nests and would get washed away.

Dec 2 , 2012

Emperor penguin chick. These chicks were hatched several weeks ago and will be ready to fledge in a few more. Adelie penguins will not hatch for 2 more weeks. The cycle of breeding for these birds is very different even though they live in the same place. If you would like to learn more about Emperor penguins go HERE.

Dec 4 , 2012

Lost eggs. It seems Adelie penguins do not realize that their eggs have rolled out of the nest. Even when the eggs are very close to them, the adults do not roll them back in. Here are two eggs that will not become chicks this year. It makes us sad to see this, but we are here as observers only and cannot interfere with what happens.

Nov 30, 2012

Penguin tracks in the snow. The penguin's tail makes the wiggly line in between the feet prints. Many people think they have short legs but here is a picture of them. They are long and powerful. It's not their legs that are short, it's their body which is long. Imagine our bodies going down to our ankles. We would walk like a penguin too.

Dec 1 , 2012

Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano. This volcano has a bubbling lava lake in the crater and shoots out lava bombs frequently. It serves as a backdrop to our penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds. In the picture you see the Hilton Group where nest #5 is. If you would like to learn more about Mt Erebus go HERE.

ice edge

Nov 28, 2012

Penguins in their natural habitat, on the ice. These adult Adelie Penguins are from our colony and taking a short rest before heading into the ocean to feed. They prefer to go into the water as a group so will wait for one to go first, then the rest will follow.

ice berg

Nov 29, 2012

Ice Berg. When part of an ice shelf breaks off it is called an ice berg. Here is one that found it's way to Cape Royds. 80% of the ice is below the water so you can imagine how big this is. They are moved by the wind, currents and tides. Who knows where this one will go next.

seal colony

Nov 26, 2012

Weddell seals in the McMurdo Sound area spend much of their time resting on the ice. In this area many have pups which are still nursing. The pups stay close to the mothers. Look at the picture carefully and see how many mothers with pups you can find.

Antarctic Day Celebration

Nov 27, 2012

Antarctic Day. Dec 1 is the day to celebrate Antarctica and all the special animals that live there. Antarctica is for owned by no country and only science and limited tourism is allowed. The creatures that make this place their home need our protection which includes protecting their habitat and their food source.

penguin food

Nov 24, 2012

What penguins eat. We do not know why this penguin regurgitated this pile of krill, but it does let us know what they are currently eating. During the season they may switch to fish for reasons we are not sure of yet, but hoping to find out, one of the many mysteries of these extraordinary birds. To learn more about their diet go HERE.

penguins asleep

Nov 25, 2012

Sleeping penguins. Many people ask us how penguins sleep. Sometimes they sleep standing up with their heads under their wing, but we found these Emperor penguins laying on the ice resting.

Nov 21, 2012

A satellite image of Ross Island. McMurdo Research Station is located at the end of the long peninsula and the three breeding colonies of Adélie Penguins are located on the three capes which have exposed areas and small rocks for their nests. This picture was taken Nov. 8, 2012 and you can see the open ocean is close to all three capes, good for the penguin parents as chicks require lots of food.

Nov 23, 2012

Skua dinner. When the penguins start to lay eggs the Skuas arrive. These big predatory birds tag team the penguins on their nest. While one Skuas harasses the nesting adult the other reaches in and grabs the egg. This Skua has claimed his prize and will soon enjoy a meal.

Nov 19, 2012

Near Miss. This penguin has had an accident. It appears to be a bite mark, perhaps from a leopard seal, but we do not know for sure. He has managed to survive and thrive in spit of it and is able to swim, feed and get around. Antarctica is a harsh place and penguins must not only cope with the weather, but also hungry predators in the ocean. We will watch him as the season progresses. He is on a nest with a mate.

Nov 20, 2012

This Emperor penguin came into the colony today for a visit, rarely do we see them come onto the land. He wandered into an Adélie breeding group and was attacked by several birds trying to keep him from stepping on their eggs. This Adélie got behind him and started pushing him in the direction away from the nesting group. Gratefully the Emperor seemed to take the hint and walked away, rather than further into the nesting area. As it was a couple of eggs did get stepped on and were lost.

Nov 17, 2012

It is early in the season and some nests are already losing their eggs. This one rolled out and was stepped on by the adults. No Skuas were around. So far I have counted 10 eggs like this in the colony. Maybe the adults are young and not being very careful, we do not know what caused this to happen. It is very sad.

Nov 18, 2012

The Barnes Glacier. This glacier comes off the slopes of Mt. Erebus, an active volcano 5 miles from the penguin colony. The glacier has pushed its way into the ocean and right now is frozen in. We can walk up to the ice where the exposed parts are probably 20 000 years old. In a couple of months where we are standing will be open water.

Nov 14, 2012

Penguins aren't the only ones creating families here in the Ross Sea area. Spring is the season for Weddel seals to have their pups. This one is about 10 days old and will rely on the mother for food for a few more weeks. The females haul out of the ocean through cracks in the ice to have their pups and remain on the ice until the pups are old enough to swim themselves.

Nov 15, 2012

Mated pairs of Adélie Penguins stay close to each other while on the nest. Like humans this pair will work as a team to raise the chicks. They will take turns keeping the egg warm ( brooding) and then take turns bringing food back for the chicks. Antarctica is a harsh place, there is no chance a single parent can raise the chicks by themselves.

Nov 12, 2012

Antarctica from 30 000 feet. The ice does not stand still. You can see how the glacier looks like a stream. In fact it is called an ice stream and it moves very slowly away from the interior of the continent towards the ocean. The end of the glacier may float out over the water where it will be called an ice shlef, and if a piece breaks off it will be called an iceberg.

Nov 13, 2012

 An early arrival to the Adelie breeding colony at Cape Royds. This picture was taken Oct 26, 2012. Few males were here so this lone bird was able to gather a very large pile of rocks. Within a few days other birds arrived and it was impossible for this male to guard the pile all the time. His stash was quickly reduced and his nest became much smaller. Males must constantly guard their rocks to maintain the nest. As soon as they turn their backs or walk off in search of new rocks, others will steal them.

 

Jan 16 , 2012

Siblings. Notice the difference in the size of these nest mates. One may have hatched much sooner or one may be more aggressive getting food. As I watched this nest, both chicks were getting fed, but the larger one was getting more as it could reach the parents beak easier, was stronger and could reach higher. We will not know if the smaller one makes it. He will have to grow in a hurry to make fledging weight and size before winter comes.

Nov 10, 2012. The new breeding season for Adelie penguins has begun. We first sighted penguins at Cape Royds in late Oct and the first egg was seen on Nov 8. Our research team is now camped in the tents near the colony to watch as the penguins raise their families. Follow along with our daily pictures and stories on this page and adopt a penguin family to watch on a daily basis here.

Contact us at penguin_letters@yahoo.com

 

Jan 14 , 2012

Naked Peguin. An interesting chick in the colony. He has no feathers on his front side or head and the feathers on his back are small.. We are worried about how he will survive unless he grows his adult feathers. You can see the places where the feathers should be and you can see his ear. He seems to be thriving well, but will not be able to survive the cold without the protection of his parent. We will follow him as long as we can.

Jan 15 , 2012

Skua Nest. I have passed this nest every day for the last few weeks. Finally the first egg has hatched. This chick is one day old. The second egg has a small hole in it and I can hear the chick peeping. Many of the Skua chicks do not make it through the first couple of weeks, but these aggressive predators live to be 40 years old so there are many opportunities to raise a family.

Jan 12 , 2012

Disciplining the Children. Sometimes chicks wander off and when they do the neighbors will peck at them. When this happens, they can get disoriented, not be able to find their way back to the nest and become lost. This parent has decided one way to keep her chick under control is to put him between her legs and sit on his head.

 

Jan 13 , 2012

Buried Nest Update. An update on the story of Jan 8. We have been watching this nest over the last few days to see how the birds managed with the large amount of snow fall. The adult pulled himself out on the 8th and then over the next few days the hole widened. The parents were able to feed the chicks through the hole and as of today we feel the chicks will be able to get out of the hole themselves so we are no longer worried about this nest.

Jan 10 , 2012

Time to Give Up. This pair has been taking turns nesting these eggs for over 53 days. For some reason they did not hatch. They may have gotten cold, were not fetilized, or something else was wrong. It is time to give up. They continued to sit the nest as all the other eggs around them hatched. Today the parent on the left got up to exchange with the returning parent on the right, but neither one sat back down on the eggs. Ten minutes later the eggs were gone to the Skuas.

 

Jan 11 , 2012

 Oldest Chick. This is the oldest chick I know of and was probably hatched on Dec 13. That makes him almost one month old. He is very large and you can see the adult feathers starting to come in around his head. There is a nest mate who is as large, but so far I do not see adult feathers on him. Notice the chin will be white as in the picture below for the first year of his life. Next year at this time he will molt again and get the adult black chin.

Jan 8 , 2012

Buried in the Snow. After our recent snow storm, some of our nests were buried. This parent is on a chick and protected it from the storm with her body, but now finds herself buried in snow. Not a problem for the adult, within a few minutes she pulled herself out, but the chick will stay in the hole until the snow melts. The parents will still be able to feed the chick through the hole, so we are not worried.

 

Jan 9 , 2012

 The Yearling. This bird may not look like the other Adelie penguins at our colony but he is one. This is a one year old. When chicks get their first set of adult feathers they have a white chin. Only after their second year of life do they get the black chin as you see in the picture below and the others on this page.Yearlings rarely come to Cape Royds, as they are too young to breed. In six years this is only the second one I have seen.

Jan 6 , 2012

Dinner Time! We get many questions about what the penguins eat. The only way we know is by watching what they feed the chicks. If it's orange, it's krill, if it's gray it's fish. Today a young parent regurgitated more food that her chick could eat so a pile of it was near the nest. You can see most of it is krill, the small shrimp like creatures with black eyes, but there is also some fish matter in there as well. If you want to read more about penguin diets and how we know this, go HERE

Jan 7 , 2012

All Ashore! Look at the picture for Jan 3 below and you see how penguins go into the water. Here is what they look like when they come ashore. Notice how sleek their feathers are. Compressed against their bodies, the feathers keep these Antarctic penguins warm and dry in the sub freezing water of the Ross Sea. The water here is -1.6oC, which is below the freezing temperature of fresh water. It doesn't freeze because of the salt content.

Jan 4 , 2012

First Skua Chick. These precocious chicks do not receive the constant protection from the parents that the penguin chicks get. Both parents are out looking for food and the chick is left alone. As I walked close, however, one of the parents flew back so from a distance they keep their eye on him. This chick is probably 2 days old.

Jan 5 , 2012

Only a Mother Could Love. This chick is in the awkward stage of growing up. Most of his body is his stomach which the parents must constanly fill up. Adelie Penguins multiply their birth weight 30 times in 50 days, which is an incredible rate of growth. The fluffy chick feathers keep them warm, but are not water proof. After today's storm many of the chicks are wet and cold like this one.

Jan 2 , 2012

Frozen in Time. In 1907-09 the British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Nimrod Expedition, lived in a hut they built which is close to the penguin colony.The hut still contains much of the food, equipment and supplies of the original expedition. Here you can see some of the food they ate. It has been 100 years, but since everything stays frozen year round and there are no insects, mold or other pests, the food is still edible. To read more about the hut go to: http://www.nzaht.org/

Jan 3 , 2012

Perfect Form. One nice thing about the water being so close to us is the ability to watch the penguins diving, jumping and swimming. Here you see a penguin diving into the water from about 4 ft. Notice the extreme hydrodynamic shape of his body. The body shape of penguins has been reported as the most hydrodynamic shape known and has influenced the design of manmade underwater vehicles and equipment. They do not use their feet to paddle like a duck, but use their wings to fly through the water as other birds fly through the air.

Dec 30, 2011

You Go First. There are many cracks in the ice just off Cape Royds. For days they have been easy for the penguins to jump over or go around. Today the cracks are too big and the birds have to swim across. In this picture a group of penguins stood at the edge for several minutes. No one wanted to be the first to go. Then one took the lead, within 5 seconds they all went. There are no leoplard seals near Cape Royds, but the penguins don't know this. Jumping in the water is always a risky event, but that is where their food is.

Dec 31, 2011

Ice Crack. It is summer in Antarctica, the sea ice around Cape Royds is breaking up. For the penguins this means there is more access to places where food has been hiding. This crack, heading south from the tip of the cape, has been opening up for several days and today we are watching penguins use it for feeding. The seals also enjoy these cracks and there are several groups of them along the length of this one.

Dec 28, 2011

Skua Attack. Skuas hover over the nesting birds looking for opportunities to swoop in and take eggs or chicks. This one has it's eye on a small chick in the nest below. The Skua can hover for several seconds trying to get the adult penguin off balance so it will expose the chick.This nest is in the rocks which is good, but as you can see there are few penguins close by to help fend off the attack. Today the adult successfully fended off the Skua. Penguin 1, Skua 0.

Dec 29, 2011

Late Egg. This chick is more than a week old. The second egg has not hatched and probably won't. If it did now, the second chick would be so much smaller than the first that it may not be able to compete for food. At some point there will not be room in the nest for both the chick and the egg. It will get kicked out, roll away and become Skua food very quickly. I will continue to watch this nest to see how long it takes for that to happen. There are many reasons for the egg not hatching, perhaps it was not fertilized, or got cold.

Dec 26, 2011

Near Miss. While we are talking about feathers, here is a penguin we will call "Lucky." We do not know what happened, but it could be this is a near miss from the bite of a leopard seal. The seal got away with a mouth full of feathers, but the penguin got away! In a few weeks he will go through a complete molt and grow new ones so no serious harm. While he is swimming, this area will be wet and cold, but we hope he will be able to tolerate that until the new feathers grow in.

Dec 27, 2011

Brood Patch. This adult Adelie Penguin is showing us the brood patch. This is the only part of the penguin's body not covered with feathers besides the beak and feet. It is exactly the size of two eggs or two very small chicks. The eggs and chicks are nestled in here to keep warm. It's the penguin's body that creates the warmnth, not the feathers.

Dec 24, 2011

Penguin Trees. Just like the song birds need trees, these penguins need sea ice. This is where they live and much of their food supply lives underneath the ice. In some places around Antarctica, changes in the sea ice have caused these penguins to move. If you would like to read about how global climate change has caused Adelie Penguins to move you can go HERE.

Dec 25, 2011

Penguin feathers are different from other birds and a major factor in how these birds cope with this environment. These specialized feathers keep them warm when they are on the ice, dry when they are in the water and contribute to how fast they swim. More dense than any other bird, Antarctica penguins are almost completely convered with them. Only the tip of the beak, feet and brood patch are feather free. Every year Adelie Penguins undergo a complete molt, losing their old feathers and growing new ones. During this time they can not feed as they would not be waterproof. Around Cape Royds there are piles of feathers, letting us know many of them go through their molting process here.

Dec 21, 2011

Penguin Tracks in the Snow. A few days ago we had a gentle snow storm and afterwards the penguins had fun. In this picture you can see their walking tracks and sliding tracks through the fresh snow. Sometimes the penguins slide on their bellies, we call this tobogganing and it's faster than walking. The wide track is made by a penguin tobogganer, the others by walkers.

Dec 22-23, 2011

Fishing in the Ross Sea. This Russian fishing vessel near the Ross Ice Shelf hit ice Dec 16. The crew on board is safe, and New Zealand air crew have dropped pumps and patching supplies onto the nearby ice. This boat is fishing for the Antarctica Toothfish which is sold worldwide as Chilean Sea Bass. A main food source for whales and seals, their numbers have declined in recent years, due to commercial fishing.The boat also carries fuel, which if leaks, would harm populations of penguins who live in the area. Read more about this event HERE.

Dec 19, 2011

Sunday Nap. This warm Sunday afternoon found many penguins snoozing quietly on their nests. Penguins are like people in this way, or maybe it's the other way around! The three here are still on eggs so no rushing to the ocean for food yet !! When the chicks hatch, the real work begins, there will be less time for rest as hungry penguin chicks will require about 60 lbs of food to reach fledging size and weight in the next 50 days.

Dec 20, 2011

Skua Family. This Skua pair has built their nest right in the middle of the penguin colony. Everyday I walk past the nest and wonder why the penugins do not go after these predators of their eggs and chicks. A Skua is no match for an adult penguin, but for some reason they don't. Skua are territorial and will attack any other Skua that come into their breeding or eating territory. This pair is very unhappy about me being there and will attack me if I linger too long or get too close.

Dec 17, 2011

New Life. This is a common sight these days and for the next several days. A brand new chick with its parent. The shell near the nest is a clue that this chick has just hatched. With so much wind at Cape Royds the shells scatter quickly and then the only way we can know about new chicks is when the parent stands up to feed them. New chicks are nested tightly for the first few days. You can see the second egg just behind this chick. It may be a day or two before it hatches.

Dec 18, 2011

Iciciles. Sometimes we spend so much time with the penguins we forget to seek the rest of the beauty here in Antarctica. On this day we came across a magnificant icicile hanging from a rock. It was 5 ft long and just barely dripping when we took this picture. December is the middle of summer and the sun is up 24 hours a day, and even though the temperature is below freezing there is some melting of the snow and ice.

Dec 14, 2011

Taxi Anyone? When we go back and forth from McMurdo research station to our little camp at Cape Royds, this is how we travel. The National Science Foundation provides 5 helicotpers which support the scientific research projects in the Ross Sea Area. Today, this one brought us our mail and some food supplies.The landing pad is right in front of our tent so we don't have to carry things very far.

Dec 15-16, 2011

Mr Popper's Penguins is a classic story about how a group of Gentoo penguins change the way a man thinks about life. It is now a major motion picture starring Jim Carrey and you can win a DVD of the movie by sending us a self addressed stamped postcard. See details HERE. Gentoo penguins do live in Antarctica, but we do not see them here. Mr Popper sent us a flag to fly at our Adélie breeding colony. This is the first time Gentoo penguins have come to Cape Royds.

Dec 11, 2011

Curious Penguin. Many penguins are very curious and if you are still and quiet they will come up to you. This one explored my boots and laces with his beak before looking up at me. I could only wonder what he was thinking as we stood there quietly for several moments. I am 10 times bigger than he is and could easily hurt him, but he was not afraid.

Dec 13, 2011

Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano. Today we can not see the plume becasue the air in Antarctica is very dry. Inside the crater there is an active lava lake which produces lovely feldspar crystals as large as your finger. There is a group of scientists that work near the rim of the crater and study this amazing mountain. If you would like to learn more about Mt Erebus you can visit the website HERE.

Dec 9, 2011

First Skua Nest. These birds are the main predators of the penguin eggs and chicks. Some of them make their nests inside the penguin breeding colony to be close to their food source. This one is particulalry close to the penguins. Today she has one egg, but they frequently lay two. Skua do not make much of a nest, just scrap out a small depression in the sand.

Dec 10, 2011

Penguin Temper. This penguin is showing me that he does not like what I am doing or where I am standing. In addition to this posture, he is growling at me. When this happens, the best thing for me to do is back away or stay very still because the next move on his part will be to bite. Penguins have very strong beaks and a bite will hurt.

Dec 7, 2011

Happy penguin. This penguin is in his element. On this day It was snowing in the colony and some birds are sitting tightly on their nests, others are cozy up in the rocks to keep out of the snow and wind. Just like people, these birds respond to changes in the weather differently, this one was out enjoying it. I watched for a few minutes as he stood here flapping his wings and preening his feathers. Snow does not bother him.

Dec 8, 2011

Snow Petral. The only other bird we see here besides penguins and Skua, the Snow Petral. This lovely and fast flying bird is aptly named. It is snow white except the jet black eye and beak. These pigeon size birds live on fish and krill and make their nest in rock outcroppings on Antarctic Islands near the ocean. We see them more often when the winds are high and I have never seen one land. Catching them on film reguires a fast shutter and many tries.

Dec 5, 2011

Skua Hunters. Penguins aren't the only birds on Ross Island that get studied. These two bird researchers, Terry Greene and Roger McGarry, from New Zealand are here to count the Skua population around Cape Royds. It's hard work and today it is cold and snowing. So far they have counted about 70 birds. Luckily not all the Skua predate the penguins, many of them live off fish from the ocean.

Dec 6, 2011

Third Egg. Sometimes an egg will get loose from one nest and roll into another. In that case the nesting adults will try to incubate all three. But the brood patch (featherless area on the belly of the adults) is only big enough to keep 2 eggs warm. The third egg will get shoved out one side or another. In this picture we see a third egg that is half in, half out. Without being completely covered, it will not be warm enough to properly incubate. We fear it will not hatch.

Dec 3, 2011

Walk to the Ocean. The walk from Cape Royds to the open ocean. You can see the dark line where the ice meets the sky. It's only about a mile, but for a penguin with short legs it can seem longer. The pile of ice near me is made from the action of the tide which shoves ice up against the rocks of the cape. The pressure makes the ice break and pieces jam into each other. Over time it piles up.

Dec 4, 2011

Bowling for Penguins. Adelie Penguins build their nests about 1 meter apart measured center to center. They usually don't face each other otherwise, if they are a bit too close, they will peck. Only under certain circumstances do they all face the same way as in this picture. When the wind blows, penguins face into it so the wind flows over their body and nout under their feathers. This is similar to the water when they swim, the feathers keeping them dry in the water and warm in the wind.

Dec 1, 2011

Young Parents. For some reason this pair is not nesting their egg. Maybe they are young and in-experienced. Like many first time parents they are not sure what to do. Antarctica is always cold and unlike other birds, who can leave the eggs for awhile, penguins cannot. I watched this pair for almost an hour, they played with the egg, moved it around, but never laid down on it. A few times Skuas tried to take the egg, but the parents successfully defended it. Then a particularly bold Skua came and took it. This pair will not have a chick this season.

Dec 2, 2011

Skua Kitchen. Some of the Skua pairs in our colony have territories and seem to predate the same group of nesting penguins. When they take the eggs, they frequently take them to the same place to eat them. Here is one of those places right near the group with our #7 nest. We call it the Skua kitchen.

Nov 29, 2011

Searching for Bands. Being a penguin researcher is not always glamours. It is long hours walking the colony looking for banded birds, entering data into the computer and sometimes being cold. One of our researcher Dr. Katie Dugger in her element searching for banded birds at Cape Royds. Read more about Katie HERE.

 

Nov 30, 2011

Fish Dinner. When penguins are not breeding and providing eggs and chicks for the Skua, these strong predators eat fish. Here you see a mated pair of Skua.One of them brought a fish in from the ocean to share with its mate. We are glad to see this because every fish eaten is one less penguin egg stolen. This pair hangs in the middle of the colony and may lay their eggs there, we will watch them.

Nov 27, 2011

Dirty Birds. The day after the storm and the sun has come out. This means the new snow turns to mud and another challenge for the penguins. Some nests are very shallow and will catch the melt water. This will turn the eggs cold and they will not hatch. In this picture the pair lost the eggs in the storm, they must have rolled out of the nest or been kicked out as the birds tried to manage during the storm. Eggs in the open do not last long, there are many Skua in the colony this year.

Nov 28, 2011

In 1907-09 the British Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Nimrod Expedition, used this hut in their pursuit of the South Pole. Led by Ernest Shackleton, the expedition reached a latitude of 88° 23' S, just 97.5 nautical miles (180.6 km; 112.2 mi) from the pole before having to turn back. The hut still contains much of the food, equipment and supplies of the original expedition. To read more about the hut go to: http://www.nzaht.org/

Nov 25, 2011

Storm in the colony. Not all the breeding groups in the colony get hit by the storm equally. The group in this picture is in the path of the wind as it comes off the frozen sea and always get covered with snow. Eggs and chicks fall out of nests,it is a tough location to raise a family. Other groups are on the side of the Cape which is sheltered by winds from the South, these nests do better.

Nov 26, 2011

Visitors. We think we have this place to ourselves, but sometimes a tour ship will arrive and take tourists to Shackleton's Hut, one of the historic huts on Ross Island. This one is a Russian icebreaker that has been turned into a tour boat. Not too many ships are able to get through these waters. They anchored themselves in the ice as you see it here to wait out the 2 day storm.
What Penguins do in a Storm. When a storm arrives at Cape Royds, penguins on nests have no choice, they hunker down to protect eggs or chicks and allow the snow to cover them. Other penguins like the ones in this picture find a snow bank to lay on which protects them from the wind. The snow builds up around them and they find themselves in a hole. After the storm is over the penguins are able to pull themselves out of the hole and walk away. The amount of guano we see lets us know how long the pengin was in the hole. The storm lasted 2 days so we suspect the penguin was here for about that amount of time.

Nov 22, 2011

They're Back. The Skuas have returned to Cape Royds. This pair has been in this nest location for many years and it is not far from the penguins. It will be a few days before they lay their eggs, but we already see the empty shells of the penguin eggs they have eaten.

Nov 23, 2011

Friendly Spat. Sometimes penguins build their nest too close to each other and squabbles break out. In this case it was over some rocks that one neighbor felt belonged to him. The other bird thought they would look good on his nest so an argument started. Nothing too fierce, mostly beak jabbing and squawking. It was over in a few minutes.

Nov 20, 2011

Head in the Snow When it snows in the colony, penguins who are not on a nest lay down and let the snow collect around them. Sometimes they will stay like this for a few days untill the storm stops.

Nov 21, 2011

Lost Egg. When storms happen, trouble sometimes follow. Durring a snow storm at Cape Royds this egg rolled out of the the nest. The parents, both in the picture, either did not see it or did not know. Once the egg is out of the nest if freezes quickly and will not survive. This nest will only hatch one chick.

 

Nov 18, 2011

Waiting for the Females. This male has made a very nice nest out fo rocks and is waiting for a female to come join him. This display is nosiy and says" This is my nest, look at me, come on by for a visit."

Nov 19, 2011

View From Research Hut. Today is a brilliant day at Cape Royds and there is open ocean in front of us. This makes the penguins very happy as they do not need to go far for food. In the back is the continent of Antractica and the Royal Society Mountain Range.

 

Nov 16, 2011

From 30 000 Feet. When flying over Antarctica you can see that some glaciers are not standing still. These ice streams are called that because even though they are soldi ice they flow. Look carefully to see the lines in the ice.

 

Nov 17, 2011

Stubby Antarctica is a harsh place and penguins live a tough life. We do not know if this penguin had a close call with a predator, had a slip and fall or was born this way. No matter, it does not slow him down.

Nov 14, 2011

Visitors to the Cape. These adult Emperors did not breed this year otherwise they woudl be in their colony tending to their chicks. Emperor chicks hatch in Sept and by this time would be in the highest need of food.

 

Nov 15, 2011

Cape Royds Research Station. Today we move to our research station at Cape Royds very close to the penguins. OUr hut is a tent with a dmall propane heater to keep us warm and a solar panel to charge our computers, cameras and radios. It will be home for over 2 months.

 

Oct 28, 2011

First Nest of the Season. This male will go without food and water for several days, maybe longer. These are the early birds. They must protect thier pile of rocks from the neighbors and wait for the females to arrive. If they leave the nest for even a minuet the rocks will be stolen.

 

Nov 12, 2011

The First Egg of the Season. Today we see the first egg of the 2011-12 breeding season at Cape Royds.Some years the first egg is earlier, others it's a bit later. Why this happens is one reason we are here to study these remarkable birds.

 

Click on one of the titles below to read some of the past stories from Cape Royds.

 

What a Difference a Year Makes. Scientists use satelites to track the sea ice. The difference between 2009 and 2008 was surprising.

Nov 3, 2009

Storms and Snow Challenge the Penguins. This year there are more storms with more snow than other years. This makes the nesting process for the Adelies harder. See how they are coping.

Nov 11, 2009

Adelies Aren't the Only Ones With the sea edge so close, Emperor Penguins are coming onto the ice and walking towards Royds. They do not breed here, so what are they doing here?

Nov 14, 2009

 Fish Story Today we walk the ice crack and look for fish heads. What does this have to do with penguins?

 

Dec 8, 2009

Penguins 1 - Skuas 0 Penguins take revenge on a Skua who got too close. See who won.

 

Dec 12, 2009

New Life Comes to Cape Royds, Our first chicks of the year, see how they hatch!

 

Dec 18, 2009

Where Have All the Whales Gone? Commercial fishing in the Ross Sea is reducing the food source for the marine animals that live there.

 

Dec 24, 2009