We are surrounded! Everywhere we looked penguins went about their daily lives. Most just lay about keeping their newly hatched babies warm and safe; some were on their way to or from their Atlantic fishing grounds, and others entertained themselves by pecking the ankles of tourists milling about. Along with these daily activities, many juvenile males practiced their future domestic duties. They gathered brush to build nests, practiced their prowess against each other, and cared for rocks (future eggs). Of all the penguins, the juvenile males entertained us the most.

Ever year, over half a million Magellanic penguins migrate from Brazil to breed on this small section of beach in Argentina. This particular colony is the largest outside of Antarctica, and the amount of penguins here is amazing. Unfortunately, only 1 out of 4 chicks survives to adulthood. We witnessed several predatory birds feeding on the chicks, and saw two chicks struggling for survival in an empty nest. However, even with those statistics the colony is growing by 8% each year.

On the rainy day we visited, large puddles blocked the trail, and everyone skirted the barriers keeping a close eye on the penguins. It didn’t take any of us long to figure out they out numbered us. Keeping a vigilant eye on the nibbling ones, we snapped picture after picture of the tuxedo-clad penguins. Above-ground boardwalks allowed these very active birds to walk freely under our feet, toward the sea. I did notice a few that liked to hang out at the stairs of these boardwalks and peck at the ankles of unsuspecting people. It was amazing to be so close to the penguins, but it was a bit disheartening as well. Some tourists seemed to think the penguins pecking them was cute or some sort of greeting, rather than a sign of stress and aggression. The trail crosses their entire path to the sea, and thus the penguins have no other option than to come in contact with people. Jodi was highly distressed while watching a horde of tourists photograph a penguin chewing on a plastic grocery bag and enraged when no one bothered to pick it up (she stuffed it in her backpack after watching for several minutes to see if any of them would take it). Visiting the penguins was a unique experience but we hope in the future the national park service will do more to protect these penguins and their habitat.

As always, our recent photos can be viewed on Chris’ and Jodi’s flickr pages.

One Response to “A black tie affair”

  1. Mom says:

    What a great experience with the penguins! I would have loved to have been there.