King penguins

Farthest south!


Day 21 - Macquarie Island


     This journal is constructed as one web page for each day of my journey, including the arrival day in Auckland, and the final two days, which I spent in Hobart.  I have tried to keep the picture images of a reasonable size for easy web page loading. 

To see a much larger view of (practically) any image, just left-click on the photo.

     It was a calm and peaceful night in Buckles Bay.  In the morning, with an overcast that seems far more typical of this environment, we headed south, for Sandy Bay, to visit a large colony of Royal penguins.  This will be our last excursion for the trip.  We were able to spend quite a bit of time here.

     At our arrival, we were greeted by many King penguins.  They are much more curious than their cousins, perhaps because they are much bigger.  They have a rookery a bit further up the beach, but it is late in the season for them, so there are relatively few around.  [Few meaning some hundreds, at least!]

     Walking down the beach, we came across a huge group of Royal penguins.  They are small, with distinctive golden eyebrows.  This appears to be a spillover section of the main colony, located up the hill, in a barren stretch.  They have well defined boundaries for the group, and only a few wandered away.  This must be a defensive mechanism, as, later, we saw Skuas attacking, and feasting on, isolated Royals.  The King penguins would sometimes hop by the Royals, but stick close to the hillside edge while doing so (as did we).  I don't think that the Royals are much of a threat, but they do have big beaks.

A zodiac heads for Sandy Bay.  Sometimes they lay around! Beach colony of Royals.

Royal chick molting.  The flora of Macquarie Island. Seems happy enough.
     We had to cross a small trickle of a creek, which the Royals use to get back and forth between the upper colony and the beach.  Past this is a stairway and a path to follow, not unlike the constructed paths on Enderby and Campbell Islands (wooden planking topped with chicken wire).  It keeps us off the vegetation, which is quite green and varied.  At the end of the path, we found ourselves overlooking a huge colony of Royal penguins.

     What a noisy place!  It was hard to hear each other up here.  And, crammed full of birds, mostly molting, so they don't really have anything to do, and seem a bit on the cranky side.  Across the valley here is another colony, even higher up on the hillside.

     After climbing back down, I headed as far south as we could go - to the main little creek that drains this big valley.  I sat around and was entertained by three King penguins that kept checking me out.  While there, we saw a Skua attack a lone chick about 50 yards away.  I filmed quite a bit of this unrelenting attack.  A couple of times, it seemed as if the chick would get free, but such was not its fate.  A few more Skuas joined in to finish it off.  Brogan, our "Digital Log Photographer" said that he saw these attacks all morning long from this spot.  And what do the other penguins do about it?  Nothing but give the birds, and their quarry, as wide a berth as possible as they head up, or down, the hill.  Quite fascinating.

King penguins coming. Royal penguins. King penguins going.

Royals hop between colony & beach.

Dennis and some King penguins. 

They don't really intermingle. 

     Once back on board, I changed out my motion sickness patch, and was drowsy most of the afternoon and evening.  We only had one lecture today, so I spent some time gathering up my cold weather gear so that I can start packing it up tomorrow.  I did spend about an hour up on the bridge, chit chatting with the usual suspects - Paul, Anna, Marian, Kathryn,  Brogan and Mike.  We are all a bit melancholy as our trip winds down, but enjoy reliving the events of the day, as we ply our way further north.

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