Cape Royds Daily Journal

Nov 4, 2022. Our penguin team has returned to Antarctica. It will take a week of finding,  sorting,  cleaning, organizing and packing our field equipment before we can move into the penguin colony at Cape Royds.  We will post a daily picture and story so you can follow along.  Go HERE to see the stories from previous years.




Every day is a new adventure in the Adélie Penguin breeding colony at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarcitca. Our colony has about 2000 breeding pairs of Adélie Penguins and there are two of us who live in a tent about a quarter mile from the nesting sites. Dr. David Ainley is a world authority on Adélie Penguins and the principal investigator (PI) for the research team that monitors several colonies on the island. Jean Pennycook is an educator, who shares Dr. Ainley’s work with the world. They live in a tent for 2.5 months every season learning about these remarkable birds.

Along the way to work each day they pass Shackelton’s hut built in 1908 which is now a world heritage site. Besides Adélie Penguins, Emperor Penguins, seals, whales, skuas and snow petrels come to Cape Royds. In the background, Mt Erebus, one of three volcanos on Ross Island and the only active one, provide a scenic backdrop to the penguin colony. Follow along the daily stories as the season progresses.

Drone over penguins

Dec 2, 2022

From afar Adelie penguins are black and white. Look closer at these ‘black’ feathers and see they are tiped in blue.

Dec 4, 2022



Drone over penguins

Nov 28, 2022

Counting the population of penguins at all the colonies used to take many people  and several days.  Now we use a drone. So much easier and faster.

Drone over penguins

Nov 29, 2022

The drone flies over the entire colony taking pictures every second. A program stitches the pictures together, produces one large photo and map of the colony, and then counts the penguins.

Penguins on nests

Nov 30, 2022

Here is breeding group 10N at Cape Royds today.  Click on the year to see the same group on almost the same day in 2019, 2018, and 2009,  Count the birds on nests to see how things have changed over 13 years.


Mt Eerebus

Dec 1, 2022

The only tool an Adelie penguin has is the beak. Nests may have hundreds of rocks, which need to be brought one by one to the site.
Penguin color anomaly<br />

Nov 24, 2022

An interesting color anomaly due to a genetic mutation. It does not hinder this birds ability to survive, but makes him stand out in the crowd.

Cape Bird, Ross Island, Antarctica

Nov 25, 2022

For the holiday weekend we visit Cape Bird, another penguin colony on Ross Island. This colony is much larger and has a magnificent glacier near by.

Cape Bird penguin colony

Nov 26, 2022

At Cape Bird the penguins build their nests on ridges. Think of a reason why this is a good life strategy for these birds.  Answer will come later.  

Skua with egg.

Nov 27, 2022

Skuas do not make a nest like the penguins. Instead, use their feet to scrape a small depression in the ground. This is one of two eggs she will probably lay.

Antarctica moonscape

Nov 20, 2022

The area around Cape Royds looks more like a moonscape than anywhere else on Earth. Absolutely no land plants grow here. No wonder the penguins have to use rocks for their nests. 

Penguin with skua attack

Nov 21, 2022

The penguin on the nest has an egg. Three Skuas have ganged up to get it, and it won’t take long. Nests at the edge of colonies are  very vulnerable.

Skua regurgitated pellet

Nov 22, 2022

Similar to Owls, Skuas swallow their food whole then regurgitate what they can not digest, in a pellet. In this case you can see the penguin feathers.

Adelie penguin

Nov 23, 2022

Adelie penguin’s beak and toe nails are much stronger than other birds. They need to be able to carry rocks to their nests, and walk miles over slick ice and slippery rocks.  These are sturdy birds.

Cape Royds ASPA

Nov 16, 2022

Cape Royds Adelie  breeding colony is an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) which requires a permt to enter. This helps protect the birds and fragile ecosystem.

Skua on watch for pengun eggs

Nov 17, 2022

Skuas are everywhere and watching for a chance to grab an egg.  The penguins are quiet now, but  will react if the Skua flies close to them.

South Polar Skua

Nov 18, 2022

A close up view of a South Polar Skua. They are a top predator here in Antarctica, very cagey, smart and adaptable to changes in their habitat. 

Mt Eerebus

Nov 19, 2022

Mt Erebus, in the background, is an active volcano. The team from Iris/PASSCAL at New Mexico Tech have installed siesmic and infrasound sensors near Cape Royds to learn more about the activity of the volcano.

penguin nest with rocks

Nov 12, 2022

This is a well built Adelie penguin nest, but so far no female has accepted it. Let’s see how long it takes for one to arrive.

Skua with a penguin egg

Nov 13, 2022

The Skuas are back. Now that penguins have eggs the Skuas are here to eat them. Sas to see so many  penguin eggs go to these predators, but that is nature.

penguin flag

Nov 14, 2022

 A flag made by the students at Saint Columban School in Garden Grove, CA is flying in our penguin colony. If you would like to send us your flag go HERE form information,

lost penguin nest

Nov 15, 2022

The well built nest from Nov 12th  is gone and so are the rocks. No female decided to join him, he left and others took the rocks.

Mack-wheeled Truck

Nov 8, 2022

There are no paved roads in McMurdo. Many of the vehicles have these ‘tracks’ which are are easier to drive over ice and snow.

Antarctic helicopter

Nov 9, 2022

The USAP progam uses helicopters to move people  from camp to camp. Ones like these will be taking us out to Cape Royds tomorrow.

Camp Cape Royds, Antarctica

Nov 10, 2022

Camp Cape Royds. This will be our home for the next 2.5 months.  You can see Mt Erebus in the background, our solar panel on the left and the sleep tent in the back.

Adelie penguin pair

Nov 11, 2022

Adelie penguins  have come ashore to find mates, build nests and lay eggs.  This pair was busy bringing rocks to their nest site.

Nov 4, 2022

Today we left Christchurch, New Zealand on a C-17. It is a 5 hour flight to the ice and McMurdo Research Station. It is no frills flying, we are just cargo.

Nov 5, 2022

We land on the Ross Ice shelf, a floating glacier over the ocean.

Penguin to-do list

Nov 6, 2022

There is always lots to accomplish before we can head to our field camp.  Briefings, sorting equipment, packing food, and so much more. Here is our To-Do list which everyone must check off before we can leave.  It took us 6 days.

Berg Field Center

Nov 7, 2022

Part of the work involves gathering, sorting, cleaning and packing all the equipment we will need. Here is the store room where we select the items we will take with us.