Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 23, 2012: A truly Antarctic day at Brown Bluff

Having had fantastic weather conditions over the past few days, it only seemed appropriate that the guests get a real taste of “summer” in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Melissa and I headed out on the first boat to begin our counting at Brown Bluff.  Brown Bluff is home to ~20,000 pairs of Adélie penguins and ~600 pairs of Gentoo penguins. Well, to be more specific, 598 pairs according to our count.  We counted the Gentoo nests in about an hour and a half, but did not attempt to count the Adélies.  Counting 20,000 nests would take days and as these birds nest over large portions of the island, counting is typically done using satellite imagery.  As we finished up our count of Gentoo nests, finding several nests with small chicks (1-3 days old), the weather began to turn.

Kate and I not letting little snow storm stop us from
counting Gentoo penguin nests
The snow was blowing horizontal and gusting up to 30 knots.  The snowfall was beautiful with large, soft flakes falling silently between gusts of wind completely changing the landscape we were part of just moments ago.   Within minutes the penguins sitting on their nests began to disappear into their surroundings.  Penguins that were on nests hunkered down ensuring the eggs or chicks underneath stayed nice and warm, not minding the blowing wind or sheet of snow slowly accumulating on their backs.

Despite the cold, many of us stayed out at the penguin colony for nearly 3 hours.  Watching these birds is such a treat and is something that I do not always have the time to do as counting typically takes much longer.  Today was a perfect reminder of how quickly conditions in the Antarctic can change...and that Christmas is only 2 days away!  

Melissa and I counting high in the colony during the snow storm.
Can you spot us?

Gentoo penguins weathering the storm

March of the Adelie penguins

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