Posts Tagged ‘Red Rocks Ridge’

How About an Antarctic Blue-Eyed Shag?

February 15th, 2010 at 5:07 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Get your mind out of the gutter if that’s where it was. I’m talking about avians here.

The other type of bird at Red Rocks Ridge was the Antarctic blue-eyed shag, a member of the cormorant family. Some of the shag nests I saw were in amongst the Adélie penguin nests.

An adult Antarctic blue-eyed shag

An adult Antarctic blue-eyed shag

Antarctic blue-eyed shag chicks in a nest

 

Skua at Red Rocks Ridge

February 15th, 2010 at 5:00 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

A skua is a sizable predatory bird, usually feeding on penguin chicks and their eggs. Several skuas we encountered at Red Rocks Ridge were nesting – getting too close to their chicks (about 40 feet as I discovered) resulted in raucous calls from the parents, followed by them taking flight and dive bombing the intruders (me, in a couple of cases). I kept them at bay until I could get further away by keep my tripod a bit higher than my head. They never made physical contact, however.

Two skua wait for feeding opportunities

Two skua wait for feeding opportunities

A skua with its chick (at left) - well colored for camouflage

A skua with its chick (at left) - well colored for camouflage

Skuas fight over a baby penguin carcass in a three-way match

Skuas fight over a baby penguin carcass in a three-way match

Skuas squabble over scraps

Skuas squabble over scraps

 

Adélie Penguins and Their Chicks

February 15th, 2010 at 4:48 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It is the latter part of summer in the Antarctic now, and that means that penguin chicks are getting to be old enough to head off on their own soon. At Red Rocks Ridge we found a wide range of chick ages, determined by the amount of down the chicks still had on them.

With Adélie penguins, you can tell the different between adults and larger chicks by whether they have black under the chin or white. Fully black chins are adults or nearly so, while white chins indicate youth.

Below are a number of pictures of Adélie chicks in various states of molting.

A juvenile Adelie penguin nearing the end of its molting

A juvenile Adelie penguin nearing the end of its molting

A group of juvenile Adelie penguins

A group of Adelie penguins

Two juvenile Adelies in different stages of losing their baby fuzz

Two juvenile Adelies in different stages of losing their baby fuzz

Close-up of a juvenile Adelie penguin

Close-up of a juvenile Adelie penguin

Juvenile Adelies are not very clean - just like juvenile human boys, and likewise gawky

Juvenile Adelies are not very clean - just like juvenile human boys, and likewise gawky

Elvis has entered the colony

Elvis has entered the colony

An Adelie adult and a chick have an argument, while another chick looks on

An Adelie adult and a chick have an argument, while another chick looks on

 

We Make Landfall on the Antarctic Continent

February 15th, 2010 at 2:54 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yesterday morning, we woke around 8am to find ourselves surrounded by ice bergs in the northern part of Marguerite Bay, just south of Adelaide island. We could make out brown bits of land in the distance in addition to ice bergs and figured landfall was not far off.

An iceberg in the fog

An iceberg in the fog

However, minutes later we were in the midst of very dense fog, which did not let up for hours. An attempt was made to find us a landing site with wildlife nonetheless, but it was not successful.

The fog made it difficult for the Zodiacs to scout a landing site

The fog made it difficult for the Zodiacs to scout a landing site

Radar shows where there are obstacles

Radar shows where there are obstacles

The captain of the National Geographic Explorer opted to move the ship to a new location to try again, and another scouting party was sent out. Finally word came back that we would be able to go for an afternoon landing at Red Rocks Ridge, where there was a large colony of Adélie penguins. However, because of the fog, there would be no Zodiac tours while others were on shore, and instead half the passengers would go ashore at 1:30pm for two hours, and then the other half would go at 3:30pm so that the 100 person on shore limit could be properly enforced but still allow all to spend ample time exploring.

The plan for the afternoon once a landing site was confirmed

The plan for the afternoon once a landing site was confirmed

Everyone on board had all been previously distributed into a total of six groups, and we are in Group 1. Groups 1, 2, and 3 were the first shift, and Groups 4, 5, and 6 the second.

A Zodiac leaves the National Geographic Explorer en route to Red Rocks Ridge

A Zodiac leaves the National Geographic Explorer en route to Red Rocks Ridge

The ride was a bit cold, but we were thrilled to able to finally set foot on the Antarctic continent, and better yet, get a better understanding of how penguins lived on land.

Bas and our friends Natalie and Bruce on the Zodiac to the landing site

Bas and our friends Natalie and Bruce on the Zodiac to the landing site

Some of the expedition members who landed ahead of us - the black specks on the snow are penguins

Some of the expedition members who landed ahead of us - the black specks on the snow are penguins

We spent the next two hours observing the rules of conduct as well as hundreds of penguins, a fair number of Antarctic blue-eyed shags (in the cormorant family) as well as several territorial skuas.

The penguins ignore all the paparazzi photographers

The penguins ignore all the paparazzi photographers

Bas studies a juvenile Adelie penguin

Bas studies a juvenile Adelie penguin

I will post several separate blog posts after this one with photos of particular encounters at Red Rocks Ridge in order to split things up a bit, as there are a lot of pictures to share.

 

GPS Tracking – Crossing the Antarctic Circle Southward

February 14th, 2010 at 4:33 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Last night past midnight we crossed southward over the 66.33 degree south latitude line, but alas, we didn’t feel it. Spent much of the day in fog searching for a suitable landing site with penguin colonies. Found one mid-afternoon at Red Rocks Ridge – numerous groups of Adelie Penguins. Photos later.

For now, our GPS track from about 21:44 last night through the present. No idea where we’re going next except that it’s probably northwards along the Antarctic Peninsula.