Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 4:59 pm

I've not had time to prepare for the Predators or Penguins tonight, so will post some scenics instead.


An old bergy bit floats in the still waters of Cumberland bay, lit by the last of the evening light.

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The jumbled chaos of ice at the foot of the Royal Glacier. The King Penguin colony is just below the right hand cliff.

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Winter brash ice blown into Jordan Cove on Bird Island.

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Lenticular cloud over the Nordensköld Glacier.

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Hooked filaments of cloud over Mount Hodges.

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Solar halo over Mount Hodges.

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Lenticular clouds lit up by the setting sun.

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Fohn clouds glow in the last light of the day.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:00 pm

It's difficult to chose the best looking of the Penguins, but Kings must surely rate high amongst the most striking looking. The colours of the head and breast stand out like a flame from a braai fire, glowing deep orange through to pale yellows as they catch the sunlight.

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In the evenings after work, I'd walk along the beach to where a group were gathered ashore either resting, or sometimes moulting. I loved sitting quietly watching their behaviour. The subtle posturing between individuals, or simply watching them preening their feathers, drying them out after a day in the ocean.

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Due to the harsh light, it was very difficult to capture the colour of the eye as the photos were often underexposed due to the dark head, or overexposed due to the whiteness of the underparts, and in a lot of my photos, the eyes are not visible at all.

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They get into all manner of poses as they clean their feathers and I often caught them in weird postures.

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They would call out quite frequently with their nasal trumpeting.

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Moulting groups huddled together on the beach for warmth and protection.

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While others could be seen walking alone along the path towards the main group.

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With a backdrop of icebergs, the moulting Kings would settle down for the night in a tight huddle.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:01 pm

A lone King Penguin has a scratch and a preen on the beach at Surf Bay, Falkland Islands.

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While another takes in the scenery at Cooper Bay, South Georgia.

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Moulting Penguins with a backdrop of icebergs and the promise of stormy weather to come.

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King Penguins with the Nordenskold Glacier and Mount Paget in the background.

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If you sit still for long enough, they become very inquisitive.

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Very, very inquisitive!

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As the breeding season approaches, the colours around their heads and throats becomes more vivid and they begin their trumpeting displays in an attempt to attract a mate.

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When a mate is selected, the displaying reaches a crescendo, with trumpeting, bowing and neck stretching postures.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:02 pm

King Penguins are unique among birds as they have an 18 month breeding cycle and can breed throughout the year, although if the timing is wrong, most with young chicks during the Winter months will fail. This means that at any one time, the colony can have all stages of breeding going on, from display, to incubation, through to almost fledged chicks.

King Penguin colony, Bay of Isles.

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A chick peer out from under it's parent as the adult squabbles with a neighbout.

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At this age, one parent is out at sea feeding, while the other cares for the chick.

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As the chicks grow, they become less in need of the warmth and protection of the adults and gather in creches within the colony. Both parents can then go out to sea to forage and return regularly to feed the chick. They find each other by call recognition.

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The old whalers called them wooly bears and they can be very comical to watch at this stage in their lives.

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As with all Penguins, they are curious of their surroundings and will often approach to inspect anything unusual.

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"Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave!"

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:05 pm

Leopard Seals are the main predators on seals and penguins in the Southern Oceans. Their are sleek, reptilian looking animals which can reach up to 3.8m long in females, while the males are slightly smaller at around the 3m mark. They have a broad range of prey items that they will feed on which ranges from Krill, Fish, Squid and Seabirds up to Seals.

A male Leopard Seal yawns while resting on a piece of ice.

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When the brash ice was blown into the bay, there were often several animals present.

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Some would haul out on the beach and spend long hours asleep.

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When ashore, they were continually pestered by the Sheathbills, who would peck relentlessly at a sore or wound which caused a lot of annoyance to the seals.

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The seals would open their mouths and emit a throaty, deep thumping noise in an attempt to scare off the birds, but it never worked.

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Leopard Seals have an impressive array of canine teeth, but also note the rear teeth which are used to catch krill.

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Occasional juveniles like this one were noted, but we mostly saw adults hauled out.

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A gentoo Penguin warily watches as a male makes it's way down the beach.

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Another was actively hunting Gentoo Penguins on the shore and struck out in attack.

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Penguins are clumsy on land, and this one did not know which way to turn.

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It was caught by the seal, who took it offshore to feed.

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Underwater, Leopard Seals are graceful animals and can put on quite amazing "ballets" when displaying to each other.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:06 pm

Around the island, there were always variously sized and shaped icebergs. Sometimes the bays would be choked up with huge bergs if the wind and tides conspired together. One season a very large tabular iceberg drifted up from the continent. Measuring over 40 x 30 miles, it drifted just to the North of us where it split lengthways into two smaller tabular bergs, with thousands of smallerpieces being formed. The bay was soon full of ice giving us a wonderful vista of sculptures.

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The various shades of blue were ever changing in hue and depth depending on the light falling on them.

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Wind and wave action sculpted them into many different shapes.

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Other icebergs would occasionally take on the shapes of familiar objects such as a boat.

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Or a tasty looking dollop of vanilla ice cream.

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The scenery on clear days was spectacular, with ot without the ice cubes.

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But even when the weather was poor, it sometimes made for a nice photo opportunity. Snow being blown off LaRoche in high winds.

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But the calm, sunny days were the best, even if a rare ocurrence.

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The weather conditions also affected the quality of the sunrise and sunsets.

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Each one being very different to the one before.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:07 pm

With a wingspan of up to 3.5 metres, the Wandering Albatross is an impressive sight as it glides above the waves with hardly a beat of it's massive wings. When not ashote breeding, they cruise the Southern oceans, effortlessly utilising the small updraughts generated by the waves to give them lift. This method of dynamic soaring carries them vast distances with little loss of energy.

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They feed chiefly on Cephalopods, but also take some fish, which are caught or scavanged on the surface or following a shallow dive. This method of feeding had brought a catastrophic decline to their populations as many are caught on the hooks of longline fishing vessels as they put out their lines. Efforts to minimise this are now in place and evidence that the decline is halting is encouraging.

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Wanderers are long lived birds, reaching 60-65 years of age. Some of the birds we worked on were older than I was! The population on Bird Island has been studied since the 1950's, with all chicks raised there being ringed annually.

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The birds whiten with age, males becoming even paler than the females. The South Georgia population is sometimes called the Snowy Albatross, as birds from here are the largest and palest of all the sub-species.

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Females and immatures are browner. The females have darker and more extensive vermiculations on their plumage.

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Breeding adults also sport a pink secretion on their ear-coverts. This is more prevalent in the males and varies in extent from bird to bird.

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As the breeding season approaches, adults return to the island to meet up with their partners or to look for a mate.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:08 pm

Wandering Albatross will remain faithful for as long as their breeding success remains. Established pairs will "divorce" if they fail to raise a chick after several attempts, otherwise they remain together to breed until one of the pair dies. Due to the prolonged cycle of raising a chick, they only breed every two years. Two cohorts are present, one set breeding in one season, the others the following year.

Paired males return to the island and re-establish their nesting territories and wait for the female to return. They go through an elaborate display which reinforces the pair bonding.

A male arrives back at the nest and waits for his mate to return.
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He will practice his display sometimes, with head bowing.
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When the female returns, they will begin to display in an elaborate procedure which includes -

Pointing, where both birds point at each other with their bills.
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and sky calling
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Some birds even display when out at sea, although I've only ever seen this behaviour the one time.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:09 pm

Display over and pair bonding strengthened, they get down to the serious buisness of nest building. Both birds are involved and they gather together moss, mud and tussac grass into a mound which elevates the nest above the damp ground.

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Following copulation, the female lays a single large egg. Once laid, the male takes over the first incubation period while the female goes out to sea to feed and regain lost energy.

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The female returns after 8 to 10 days and takes over from the male.

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The egg begins to hatch out and before long, the chick is ready for it's first feed.

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The adults stay with the chick for protection from predators until it is large enough to fend off the attacks of skuas or Giant Petrels.

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Dewi
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Re: Elephants, Leopards and Lions - with flippers.

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 5:10 pm

Before I get to the pics tonight, a few facts and figures on the breeding Wanderers.

First male returned to the nest site on 7th November.

Firs pair noted copulating was 29th November. This was also the date that the first chick from last season's breeding pairs fledged.

First egg of the season was laid on the 12th December.

The island was censused on the 6th January. 1,208 eggs counted.

The first egg hatched on the 27th February.

Another census on the 2nd April counted 941 chicks. A 22% failure during incubation.

In October, the chicks were ringed. 865 chicks remaining.

By December, all remaining chicks had fledged.


Once large enough to fend off predators, the adults leave the chick and head out to sea to feed. They return on average every 8 to 10 days. Males head South to feeding grounds North of the pack ice, while females head North, sometimes reaching up to the coast of Brazil.

The chick meanwhile, has to brave the vagaries of the weather, sitting tight until an adult returns.
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Nest sites were staked out. The stakes helped to locate the nests in deep snow, when the chicks were often buried, with just a small breathing hole for their beaks to pop through when conditions were bad.
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When an adult returns, the chicks peck at their bills to stimulate regurgitation of food.
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This process may take quite a few minutes.
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But eventually the chick recieves a nutritious soup of half digested squid. This has to be one of the smells of the island that remains with me in memory to this day. :shock: :lol:
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Well fed again, the adult leaves for another foraging trip, while the chick sits out it's lonely sojoourn.
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As a size comparison, an adult South Georgia Pipit in front of a Wanderer chick.
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The chicks start practicing and strengthening their stubby little wings at quite an early stage.
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As the Winter progresses, they start to loose their down, which is replaced by their first set of proper feathers.

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