Dee Boersma, Christopher Joyce
Introduction to living/working quarters and discussion about Magellanic penguins.
Dee Boersma, Christopher Joyce
Discussion about fleas and Magellanic penguins.
Dee Boersma, Christopher Joyce
Visiting the research site with Magellanic penguins discussion.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
14 Feb 2003
- Punta Tombo
- -44.03893 -65.20241
- Sennheiser MKH 30
- Sennheiser MKH 50
Decoded MS stereo
Log of DAT #:6
Engineer: Flawn William
Date: February 14-15, 2003
Ambi. Begins to rain.
Ambi. Rain slows down.
FX. Thunder. Great!
FX. Rolling Thunder
Ambi. Driving on gravel road.
Stop driving and getting out.
FX. Door slam
FX. Bus motor.
Conversation in Spanish. Jess speaks to Garda Fauna about the fire. (Ambi of bus motor hum throughout).
FX. Loud bus motor
Ambi. Driving along the road to Punta Tombo.
Chris muses about recording the wind.
Ambi. Driving along the road to Punta Tombo. Sonosac filter
Chris testing system.
Ambi of wind throughout.
To get to where the penguins of Patagonia are you have to drive down this dirt and gravel road for a couple of hours. The road's not so bad. It's when you get out of the car that the problem starts. That's when you meet the wind of Patagonia. This isn't ordinary wind. It blows all day long, and everything here has to accommodate itself to the wind. The bushes here hug the ground, the animals here hug the...the bushes here hug the ground, the animals hug the ground. There are no trees of any sort. Occasionally you see a bird fly up into the wind then change its mind and go back down. If you could capture the wind and sell it, in Patagonia, you could be a millionaire in a day.
Ambi. Getting into car. Wind.
FX. Slamming car door.
FX. Door slam
Flawn says recording on Ms pair, mkh 30, mkh 50.
Ambi. Driving to Punta Tombo.
Arrive, greet Dee Boersma.
Quick tour of station facilities. Shown living quarters.
And then these are our trailers. The Jane Fonda and Ted Turner memorial trailers. They came down and fortunately took pity upon us and donated these trailers to the Wildlife Conservation Society. So, those are our other little places.
Everyone from Radio Expeditions says it's great.
Actually, you wouldn't know this but yesterday we actually took everything out of here and washed it down and swept it out. But the problem is this wind. I mean, we got 32 millimeters of rain last night and it's been blowing like this the whole time.
Ya, uh, how long do you expect it to blow like this? Is there any way of telling?
Well, we don't usually get 32 millimeters of rain so the whole thing is fairly unusual but, um, well, as you know, you got stopped by fire. So yesterday we had some lightening strikes and that then started this fire. And so really, well it was pretty impressive. On top of the hill here we could see flames and so they must've been I would guess maybe 30 feet high because it had to be, I don't know, nine or so kilometers away from here. So they were worried that if the wind shifted direction it would blow right there. And fortunately we had a very strong south wind so it kept blowing it out towards away from us and then down towards the sea. But apparently they have gotten that stopped. I don't know, you came through. It fortunately delivered my bag, but I could smell the smoke all over the bag, so.
Well that's probably from driving back through it.
From driving back through it, but you could see it as he was crossing, the smoke was crossing the road. But, anyway...
Very black smoke, too, very dark, oily looking. This must be creosote-like. Um, I don't know what the plants are but they really burn black.
Ya. And with this grass, you can see all this introduced grass, cause, of course, just like everywhere else in the world we have a lot of cheap grass, comes with grazing, so you've got a lot of introduced species and at the end of the summer its very dry and boy, if somebody lights a match it just goes. And these lightening strikes, I wasn't surprised really that we got a fire out of it.
Is this what it's like in the Antarctic on a nice, warm day?
Uh, actually the Antarctic is warmer (laughs) than here right now.
Bet you can, oh, you can hear them moving in the wind right now.
Oh gee, the trailers danced all night. At least you won't move in any one of these places.
FX. Faint wind howling then door slam.
Ambi. Wind throughout.
All of that stuff came out of the cuava. Anyway, so now we're pretty well, I think, uh, set for winter, but this is where we leave the trailers all the time because there's no camping out here so this way it kind of is hidden, to some extent, from all the tourists.
How much time do you spend at any one time living in these trailers?
As long as I can and still remain gainfully employed. No, in all seriousness I probably spend about two months a year down here, on good years about three.
You're a gluten for punishment.
I just, well, wait until you see it. I mean this is one of the most incredible places in the world. You're just starting to see these penguins around here, but when we go up over the hill, I mean, you'll see penguins everywhere. It doesn't seem to bother them. They don't care if it's rainy, if it blows, they pay almost no attention, and in fact we get to live really close to the penguins. See right under here, right underneath the trailer?
Oh my there's penguins under your trailer.
That's right, and in fact last night there were fights under the trailers because these are some of the best bushes, in the penguins viewpoint, that you can live under. Plenty of shade so, uh, well I see now he's going to come out and try to court us a little bit, um, but he's looking for a female. This guy is by himself. Oh, you got a female last night? Well that's good. Now we're going to hear a lot more copulations and things like that. Right now these guys are acting as if they're getting ready to breed again so you're going to see fights and...
Are they actually breeding at this point?
No, but they're going to pretend like they are.
We have a confrontation between a cat and a penguin.
Right. These, um, cats are the wardens. It's unfortunate that we have cats here.
They're really curious aren't they, they're quite forward.
Oh ya. Penguins are extremely curious and, in fact, if you stand still for very long they'll start pulling on your shoelaces or on your shoes and that's certainly one of the things that attracts people to come down to Punta Tombo to be able to directly interact with penguins. And on the tourist trail you can't. I mean, you start to get an idea of what it's like to be a penguin and you get to be right in the middle of them. And you can see they're extremely tame and curious. This is the male on the right.
How can you tell?
Because of the thickness of the bill. And the female here is on the right, er, on the left. You can see her bill is a little thinner. And so the males are a little bigger all the way around. They've got, um, they're taller, generally have longer flippers, and then much thicker and longer bills than the females. Occasionally they're heavier, but sometimes, at certain times of the year, the female, like before egg-laying, will be much heavier than the male. But you can see they are sexually dimorphic and some of them are more there are occasionally some females that are bigger than their male partners, just like in people.
Sexual dimorphism is in the eye of the beholder and if the beholder isn't all that talented...I was trying to tell the difference between male and female elephant seals, you know, for Claudio it's like. But I could tell size, was the only difference I could tell.
Right, now you can see the difference, though, when they're right close together you can, you can see that there is a size difference and a shape difference and there's an individual difference. I mean, if you looked at these penguins a little while you'd be able to tell ¿em apart just like you can tell people. I mean, when you first look at them they all look the same, but after you look at them a little bit, for example you see the spots on the chest and on the flipper? All those are individual, just like your moles or freckles. So if you learn those you'd be able to tell these individuals apart. That's an awful lot of work so we end up putting bands on it. Because if they have bands then we can tell who they are. By reading them...
That's what they do with the elephant seals. The same thing, with the ear shape, I think. You can't, you can't put bands on elephant seals that easily.
No (laughs), but these you can. But look at the face, that the markings around the bill. That's uh, the, they lose the feathers around that, uh, bill during the breeding season cause that's one of the ways they lose heat and these penguins, of course, have to deal with a fairly hot environment here. I mean there are days it will get to be 100 degrees here and that's too hot for penguins. So one of the ways they get rid of heat is by losing the feathers around their face and they can dump heat through the feathers.
Do they lift their flippers to let heat out from underneath the...
Yep, they'll put their flippers out to the side and they'll put their feet in the shade so they can dump heat through their flippers and their feet as well.
And this time of year is when they've already breed and the chicks are...
They're fledging. Meaning leaving the nest?
Leaving the nest for the first time and going to the sea. In fact, right before you came I spent an hour chicks fledging, going out to the sea for the first time. And they've been doing that since January, so they've been doing that now for a month.
And you count them?
Um, yep, we look at the number of fledglings that go per hour in the morning, just usually between seven in the morning and eight. So we get some difference between years, we get some idea of when peak fledging is, and we can relate that then between the years, we hope, in part, at whether the young are likely to be more successful if they leave early verses if they leave late.
Everyone jokes a bit and realizes they are cold. DB continues tour of the facilities.
Flawn sets up recording. MS pair.
Discussion on fleas and duct tape. Everyone is getting ready to go out on first walk with Dee.
You might have a sea lion. I mean, we've got sea lions here, we got, um, elephant seals, and then there was a big stranding of pilot wells, that's why I think this came from that beach so I think it's a pilot whale, but I'm not positive.
They continue to search for duct tape and discuss fleas. Ambi of wind while getting ready.
Can you just give me a little run-down of what we're going to be doing today?
Um, well there's a number of things that we're going to be doing over the next few days. One is we band 60 juveniles every year. The reason we band 60 juveniles is because we want to know what the quality of these birds, that are last year's chicks, that have come back now to moult. And so you'd, by weighing and measuring 60 of them we get an idea of whether they're heavier this year, or lighter this year, and particularly because we're interested in long term trends and long term changes, this is the way that we do it. So, always in the middle of February we band 60 juveniles and so we've got about, uh, 30 left to band over the next couple of days. Well over the next three days I guess I'd like to finish up the 60 juvenile sample.
Do you weigh them as well?
We weigh ¿em and measure ¿em because, uh, we weigh and measure ¿em for two reasons because that allows us to tell males and females apart. There's some overlap, so some we can't be sure if they're a male or a female, but most of the time we can by the bill thickness, as I mentioned, and then we weigh them to see what kind of condition they're in. So, presumably if they're small birds, i.e. if they've got smaller bills, and they've got smaller flippers and smaller feet, cause we measure a number of these body parts, uh, and they weigh a lot, then they're in better body condition than one that's really bigger and may even weigh a little bit more, but it'll be relatively skinny. Just like you look at conditions of people we can look at conditions of penguins.
(Starts inside, goes out and then ambi of wind in background)
(starts out faint) I thought it would help if I could take you out and show you where some of the places that we (sound at normal level here) work and tell you about the study and then you'll get a better sense of, uh, you know, the whole project. Do you think that would...
Yes. We're tethered so we're going to be like a couple of penguins ourselves. Ah, yes.
The question is, should we drive down to the tourist trail?
Whatever you prefer. I mean I don't know where we're going and what it's like, so.
What are these there, these look like...?
These are what we call, uh, gonchos, or sticks. We used to call them sticks when we, for a number of years we banded 4000 chicks right before they fledged, and we banded 500 juveniles. Now (FX strong wind as she speaks), as I told you I only band 60 juveniles, and we only band about 500 chicks, but there are many birds in this colony that are known age.
Oh, let's move over here. Oh, that's better (wind not so strong).
And these, uh, these sticks, we use these to capture the penguins. So it's kind of like the old-fashioned hook, you know, when you take someone off stage? Well we put these on the legs of the penguins, and the penguins try to walk away and then we can pull them towards us, and that means we that we can get a hold of them to weigh ¿em and measure them and band them.
How do they go for that?
Well you're going to see soon. They like to get away, it's kinda like how would you feel if a giant grabbed you by the ankle and started pulling? You'd want to get away, too.
I don't want to do any damage, now. I've never, never messed with penguins before.
No, no. The nice thing about penguins is that they're really hearty and strong. And if they do any damage it will probably because you've made the mistake and you'll get bit. In fact you'll even see signs around here that's got a finger and a penguin, and then a finger and a bandage around it, which tells you not to touch the penguins because they really can do a number on your arm. You'll see that the bill is hooked, and the very, the top mandible has got quite a big hook on it and it fits into the lower mandible so when it grabs a hold of you it can really hold on, and that's because it's grabbing fish. And of course your immediate reaction is to pull your finger or your hand away, and so imagine that you've got this hook into your hand and it can really rip apart your skin. So that's why penguins, they're not any slouches and they can protect themselves.
What about the venom I've heard about.
No venom, that's the good news. Those are in snakes (laughing).
Oh gee, I've been laboring under this misconception all my life.
Nope, no venom (laughing), only clean cuts.
Well driving sounds like a decent idea to me, if that's what you want to do.
Dee suggests they drive because of the mud.
Ambi. Nat sound outside of station. Wind.
FX. Faint call of a penguin.
At the weather station. Loading up to go to tourist trail.
So you see the windmill that, uh...
It looks a little broken to me.
Ya, it's missing a couple tines, but let me tell you that's one of the best thing that I think has ever happened out here. That was donated by some of the volunteers that came out to help band penguins. And, uh, what it does is it, um, fills the tourist bathrooms with water so you can flush all the toilets and things. The water's loaded with arsenic so it's not, uh, potable, but it really has made a big difference in terms of functioning, ya, functioning restrooms.
So you can see there's been an awful lot of rain all these puddles in the road. Usually we never get any water here, we rarely get very much rain.
I suppose that the main driving hazard here is the penguins.
Yes, and in fact that is a major hazard. And usually there is a penguin killed a year by one of these buses that end up going through here a little too fast and ends up hitting a penguins trying to cross the road.
Why did the penguin cross the road?
I think it's to get to the other side.
C'mon Dee, you can do better than that. (laughing)
So now you can see all the way out to the point. There's Punta Tombo. As you can see it's just a little strip of land that goes out about four kilometers into the ocean. But look at the storm that's out there. All those waves that are really coming in. You usually don't see them crashing, as you can there, up and over the birds. This is quite a big storm. And we may get more rain as you can see over to the left. Looks kind of ominous.
And the penguins just, um, huddle underneath these bushes.
Actually most of them are not really huddling underneath the bushes. Those are nest sites that you're looking at. They live under these bushes. They make burrows under as well, but a lot of the times they just use the available vegetation for protection and nest under there. Now some of the big bushes, uh, there are birds that are huddling under those. And those are, a lot of those are juveniles and young adults that are moulting. They're dropping all their feathers and growing new feathers. Pretty good puddles, though.
Ya. I want to wait till we're out of the car to go into that. The process.
Ya, look, right here, slow down here Jess cause she's not, this birds unlikely to move, but you see how they're right next to the puddle. She'll come up and she'll take a drink. They really like to drink fresh water, even though they've got salt glands that can get rid of the salt. And they're just really curious. Okay, now you can try and drive around her. If she doesn't move I'll encourage her to cross the road. Oh, she's gotta be encouraged. I'll be right back.
FX. Sound of getting out of the car, door slam.
FX. Getting back into car.
See there's a banded bird over here on the right, just walking away? But this colored bush, the streamers that I have on him, that means that he's a known-age bird and he lives in that nest. So we use these different colors to be able to find that nest because obviously it's, uh, there's an awful lot of bushes, they all look alike. So we put the green and blue on. The green is to indicate that it's a known-age bird, and if it has blue or pink that means that it got a mate and that it layed eggs.
Wow, that much you can tell from two pieces of colored plastic.
And we've got quite a few along the road because this is where we did most of our banding of chicks for ten years along both sides of this road because we knew we walked down this road quite a bit looking for birds. Here's your first chick. This is not, he doesn't look all that fat and healthy. We're getting near to the end of the season. And you can see he's been pecked on. He's lost some of his feathers around his head cause some adults been picking on him. There's another healthier chick, flapping it's wings, kind of practicing, getting ready to go for its first swim. Can you see it, over to the right?
Yes, I do.
Flapping its wings.
And these chicks have just finished moulting?
Oh these chicks are just about ready to go to the sea for the first time. They hatched in November, some of them have hatched as late as, well into December. In fact I think our last chick that hatched was around the 20th of December this year. This is an extremely late year. They're a couple weeks late compared to other years, but they're fledging at the same time as other years. They've made up for it because there's been a lot of food for these guys and so they've grown fairly quickly over the last month.
So it's the yearlings that have come back to moult then?
Yep, last year's chicks.
Does that happen very often in the Argentine Summer?
Ambi. Nat sound
See some guanacos down there, on the right? There's a herd of about 80 guanacos you should see quite a few of those. Yesterday we saw quite a few rheas with them. Those are young male guanacos that are looking at us right now.
See another one over there?
Yep. I think so.
FX. Car door slam
FX. Getting into car.
But you can see why fast moving cars would be really dangerous for these penguins.
Really, ya. They have no concept of what a car is or what a road is.
None. It would be really nice if people had to walk through this road instead of driving down it. Now here's a good healthy chick. See the bird on the right? It doesn't have any of the adult markings. It's just white and kind of dark gray on the back. That one's ready to go. You can see there's almost no more down. You can see he's waiting for just one more meal. Once he gets that stomach full of food, bang, off he goes into the ocean, and he won't come back until next year, if then. He may not come back until he's three or four years old.
I can just start to see a little down on the back. See a little bit of it? He's got just a tiny little bit at the back of his neck.
Right. He looks big, he looks almost as big as an adult.
Oh ya. Some of them get close to what adults weigh. Um, we weighed one yesterday that weighed 3.6. Most of the adults weigh 3.7 for females, to four, so they're getting close to adult size. In that sense, the chicks that are alive now are in really good shape. We just have had a really poor year for reproductive success because it's been a very rainy year and it's been kind of like an El Nino in the south Atlantic and we get a lot of rain. And any year where we get more than 50 millimeters of rain reproductive success is low because...
Is that because it washes the nests out?
Well for example, in January we had, uh, 15.5 millimeters of rain in 10 minutes, which meant that, uh, this whole area got flooded and so the burrows became swimming pools. And if the chicks were young, which many of them were, then, um, they get, um, totally wet and so they die of hypothermia. They're just not use to dealing with that much cold temperature.
So it sounds like there's a narrow range of environmental conditions. I mean a fair amount of rain. I guess they're fairly flexible with temperature, but source of food...
Well they gotta, yes, they gotta have a lot of food. It's gotta be available and reasonably close to the colony and if it gets way too hot you can get birds that die and if the chicks are small and it gets wet and cold... you can just park anywhere in here. This is what's, you're seeing one of the penguin highways. Look at that guy, here, he's getting a little drink and playing with the rocks (laughs) and then he'll come across. Anyway you can just park anywhere in this area you want and then we can walk into the tourist trail.
FX. Getting out of car.
They get out and realize how windy it is.
Ambi. Wind and penguins.
Yep, you've got copulation, right up here. Flipper patting and you can see the male is flipper patting the female, and the female then, you can see that the female is cooperating. With penguins it really takes an incredible amount of balance and cooperation. And of course they've got to be able to touch those cloaca's together to get the sperm transferred so they call that the cloacae kiss and you can see that it's not easy to do that.
So he's balancing on top of her?
And treading. You can see he's treading his feet back and forth and then flipper patting like that with his head over the front of her bill. In places where it's really muddy you can often sex daily penguins by looking at the backs of the birds, the females are the ones that have the black tread marks, the males have clean backs. Here we rarely have mud so, um, that's not a good way to sex them.
But it doesn't have much of a penis, or
There's none, no they have cloacae, the common way for both the males and the females. During the reproductive season, interestingly enough both the male and the female cloacae enlarge, but particularly the females, but when you watch these copulations you'll see the female tipping up their tail and they'll kind of avert their cloacae and then when the sperm gets transferred you'll see them actually take it in and you'll see their cloacae pulsating for about 30 seconds or so. So it's clear that the females want to mate with the male. And if they didn't you'll see that they have jet powered guano. And I have seen females that have copulated with a male and then immediately get up afterwards and excrete anything, and so you know anything that was transferred comes out in this jet powered guano and so there's extreme female choice in this species. And they're highly monogamous. And not only are they monogamous, but they're extremely faithful. We've had some birds that have been together 17 years.
The monos are the same way. The monos are monogamous. It seems unusual. I mean they aren't mammals, these are birds, but there's monogamy in other birds aren't there?
Um, monogamy is one of the most common forms of mating in birds.
Well they seem to be done so I guess we can pass by safely.
Yes I think so.
So this is the tourist trail. Punta Tombo's getting about 50,000 tourists a year. Certainly there are other places that people go to see penguins and there'll be more people that visit Australia, um, to see penguins, or even parts of New Zealand, but this has got one of the most accessible colonies for penguins in the world, and particularly to see the number of birds here. I mean this is really one of these spectacles of nature and you rarely get these any other place. And I don't think there's any colony you can walk through like you can here without going to the Antarctic or some place really remote.
Ambi. Wind and penguins.
This is the penguin highway. You can see a lot of the birds are going down to sea, so the traffic right now is going out to the ocean to go foraging. Later in the afternoon you'll see the dominant traffic is coming back in. We're going to go down here to red rocks and pot by all these signs that are interpretive signs that we've put up to help people kind of understand what they're seeing.
So a penguin highway looks pretty much just like a long line of penguins, oh maybe several hundred of them, lined up just to go into the ocean?
Yep, just like any...
They might be taking their turn, I guess.
And you'll see that there's some traffic jams just like you get in big cities. Particularly around here because a lot of the birds are standing around getting ready to moult and so they're not wanting to move.
FX. Penguin sounds.
This is what I mean by moulting. You see ¿em really close here with all the feathers starting to fall off so they look like bad sleeping bags, sleeping bags that have holes in them with all the feathers kind of coming out. And these are almost all juveniles. You can see the big fat ones; those are juveniles that haven't started to moult. And then you can see these ones that are starting to look like adults. They have the adult lines, the crescent on the face and on the body, and those are now juveniles that have finished moulting their feathers and they're going to look like adults. Now see, this is what I mean by penguins being really curious.
Spanish person says something.
Spanish person says something again.
See this is what's really incredible, people can really interact with the penguins.
FX. Penguin sound
This is a young male and he's courting. And he'll pick, he'll actually bite you, but, see, he's actually curious, cause he's a young male, and he's gonna, yep, he's gonna try and hold onto that, whoa!
So he's grabbing on to the, uh...
He's pulling on the goncho. (laughs). But see their just really curious. In fact, every year people worry about what are we gonna do because these penguins obviously sometimes peck the tourists. And I always tell them don't worry about it, next time this year he'll have female and he'll be too busy, he won't have time to do this. He'll be busy reproducing. But this is one of the things I think makes Punta Tombo such an incredible reserve and such an incredible experience for people because it's not very often you can actually get this close to penguins and they approach you.
He's pecking the engineer there.
Ambi. Penguin sounds, walking sounds.
We're going to go just straight down this path and then over there a little to the left, to the tops of the red rocks cause I want you to see this amazing spectacle. And you can hear it. I mean look at everywhere you can see it's like pepper over the landscape; all these penguins just everywhere. And you can hear the sounds, all the males advertising saying come look at this wonderful nest sight here, take a look at this, this would be a good place for you to move in. And you'll notice the pairs are quite quiet. They're standing in their nests.
So there's a lot going on. For the males they're trying to bring females to copulate with, but for the pairs they're not laying eggs right now.
Nope, they're just getting ready for next year.
Now look at this, now isn't this amazing? I mean thousands and thousands of penguins.
Ambi. Penguin sounds.
The winds going to be worse, but you should really get up here so you can see all these, uh...
Oh there's more, even more over here.
Oh ya, there's probably just about 500 of them just standing right here.
Ambi. Penguins, wind, ocean.
They seem a little tentative, but of course that's just my point of view.
Well they are a little bit, I mean these are pretty good size waves. Watch how he dives in there. He has to dive underneath, otherwise he gets hit pretty hard by that wave. So that, as you'll notice, they try to time it.
And so they're headed out as far as, how far do they go?
Hundreds of kilometers, even when they have chicks. They're foraging out there hundreds of kilometers away from the nest sight. During incubation period these guys will go seven or 800 kilometers away from their nest sight.
Now you've been tagging some of these and to tell how far they go. What's the point of doing that?
Um, because we'd like to know, here's a chick that's gonna go in. We'd like to know where they're foraging and if there are certain parts of the ocean that are really much more important to penguins because one of the things that's going to become increasingly important is reducing conflicts between wildlife and people and of course it's going to get increasingly difficult because as human numbers continue to grow, and as human consumption continues to grow, we just use more and more of the worlds resources and so one of the questions we have for penguins is if you want to maintain this sort of wildlife spectacle, what do these penguins need, and can we in fact use the ocean in such a way that we can still have penguins and still do some of the things people want to do as well. So we want to know are there important foraging grounds that these guys use year after year? Should we worry then about zoning these areas so that we might protect them at some extent from fishing at certain times when it's most important for penguins to be fishing there and raising their chicks.
And the fishing just is a competition for their food source. It's not that the fishing hurts them directly, it takes their food away?
Well sometimes the penguins get caught in nets and we don't know about what's the mortality of penguins in fishing, but we do know that in Brazil they do get caught in nets. Many of our penguins here in Punta Tombo have been caught in nets in Brazil. Particularly set nets. We don't really know anything about competition between penguins and fisheries, but we do know that we're using the oceans in increasingly intensive ways and there may come a point where we come in direct competition with penguins. Certainly there have been conflicts with oil, tanker lanes. And we've looked at that for a number of years and how that's affected penguins and so by knowing where the penguins need to go we can move the tankers so they don't have to be on the penguin highways. So that's what I mean by reducing competition and that's what I mean by reducing conflict so that we can actually know where these birds are using the ocean and then worrying about trying to not harm them in those areas that are most intensively used.
Okay, so can you just see down here? This is what I wanted you to see in terms of some of these spectacles. All these groups of, ya there's probably in this area alone there's probably 1500 penguins. But do you see all those little brown dots right on that burn? Those are giant petrels. We've got about 25 giant petrels that are sleeping there and those are one of the major predators on these penguins. And in fact this morning here, this is where I watched the young going into the sea for the first time, which we call those red rocks, um, we were counting how many birds were going down, and counting how many birds are along this beach, there were four giant petrels out there that are waiting for the fledglings to come in and then they try to attack them and eat ¿em.
So they try to get them while they're in the water?
Yep. And they really are looking for the young because they're so naïve. You'll see them going in and they'll try to keep their heads up and they will often paddle quite close to a giant petrol so that they can try to grab them. It's interesting once you see the giant petrol try to grab one of those chicks they'll immediately dive and then they'll be much more wary, but at the beginning they really don't know, I think, to fear.
Will they pull them out of the water and onto the shore or do they just peck ¿em to death?
Um, they hold them under water usually and then drown them.
Uh, it's interesting because I, right there, I mean right there obviously the predator knows exactly where the prey is, the prey knows where the predator is and they go about their business and it's sort of the luck of the draw.
It's always amazed me. I mean, you'll look at hurt animals in Africa, and they know, but that's just the way it is.
And the adults avoid these giant petrels. They'll dive under and swim around them, but it's the chicks that are naïve and so that's the most dangerous time, I think for the chicks going in.
Okay, so let's walk down the rest of the kind of...
Flawn wants to get sound of the ocean.
Ambi. Sound of the ocean. Penguins.
Ambi. Ocean, penguins.
FX. Male penguin mating call.
Ambi. Ocean, penguin mating calls.
FX. Male penguin mating call.
Ambi. Ocean, mating calls.
FX. Mating call buildup, long.
FX. Loud mating call.
FX. Loud mating call.
Well, one of my graduate students, Alan Clarkson, doing his dissertation on vocalizations in vigilantic penguins and one of the things we're trying to learn is what is given off in that call. Is there enough of a signal there that the female can not only recognize who that individual is, which we know that they can from play-back experiments, but also does it tell anything about the quality of that individual so that the female will know that this male is going to be good at providing food for the young or not? So we've been recording a lot of the known age birds, since we have so many of them, since we've been banding them over the last 20 years, we can go through the colony and record the birds that are three years old, five years old, 10 years old, 15 years old, and 20 years old, as well as ones that we know are more than 20 years of age, to see if, um, the calls really differ by age or the past patterns of reproductive success.
So genetic fitness is revealed, so through it's singing?
Well that's what we're really interested in. You're going to have to move out of the way. Can we walk by you?
They're nesting, carrying some sort of sticks and things, they're putting them into a hole.
Well, you can see there's not really a lot of nesting material around here to be used. I mean this is kind of a shrub, steppe, desert sort of an environment. Ya, there's a little bit of bushes and stuff, but you'll see what they have in most of these nests is a little bit of grass, a few bones, sometimes some feathers, and sometimes a bush that's ripped off. One year we working on these penguins I was marking nests with flags and I had all these nice lines of these flags marking individual nests. The next morning we came back and it looked like somebody had exploded something in there. Almost all the flags were gone and I stopped and watched and saw this bird coming up to one of the flags and grabbing a hold of the wire and carefully pulling it to the end to get to the flag, pull off the flag and then take it to his nest, then he came back and got the wire. Uh, one guy had 25 of these flags in his nest. So there's not a lot of nesting material. Mostly what you see are rocks and bone, and just little bits of sticks and bushes.
Ambi. Penguins and ocean
Very bright green poop.
That's because of the bile in it. That happens when the birds have been fasting for a long period of time they end up passing mostly the bile and so it gives it that green coloration. If they've been eating fish recently you'll see that it's really white and if they've been eating squid you'll see that it's almost blue-black from the ink sacks. You can tell what they've been eating in many cases just by the color of the guano.
Ambi. Penguin sounds
Now here's a couple that's actually having a little discussion with another fellow that's in a nest sight and they kind of would like to be in that nest sight so that pair is probably trying to get him to move out of the way so that they can move in
Who's nest sight is it?
Well that's a good question. That's one of the reasons we follow individuals cause then we can tell you who's owned it and for how long. Um... I don't know in this case.
They turned their heads to side and then cock their heads to the other side. Is this common behavior?
Ya, that cocking the head back and forth is called alternate stare and what that really means is that bird is aggressive. He's really telling the other bird ¿I'd like you to move out of the way', and they'll do it to people as well as to penguins. So, as you can see, on this tourist trail you don't, you only see alternate stares toward other penguins. They don't even see us because they're so habituated to people, but if we went to a place where there weren't tourists going through, they might do those alternate stares when we'd be several, well, tens of feet away from them, like 50 feet cause they'd be concerned about our presence and so warning us away.
Here's a whole group of juveniles that are standing under this bush, going through the moult again. They'll be here for 20 days cause these birds have to come up and fast, drop all their old feathers, and grow new feathers. So it's kind of like the weight watchers approach. They go out and just eat way too much and then they gain all this extra weight then they stand around and grow new feathers and lose all their weight and go back really skinny. And you can see the breast bone almost because they have almost no storage reserves left and then they have to go back in and eat really quickly to be able to build up their weight again. In fact, some of them lose so much weight that they actually digest some of the muscle around the breast bone.
Do they shiver the way that some other mammals shiver?
Mostly I've seen them actually shiver when they're somewhat nervous. A bird gets too close to them, or people get way too close to them they do that, but I wouldn't say that they shiver just to stay warm, I wouldn't say that they don't do that, but I've mostly seen it when they're nervous. Cause you can see, I mean, right now I don't think any of these birds are cold, they wouldn't have to shiver to stay warm because even though they're losing their feathers, they still have these new feathers that are growing in. So they're losing that fat layer, they're digesting that fat layer, but they still have the feathers. That's why they stay out of the water, cause they can still stay warm, they can still stay warm on land. If they were in the water they'd get cold because number one the feathers are no longer really water proof. They're just kind of lying around. They quit taking care of their feathers, their old feathers, they don't oil them anymore. That's why they get so brown in color. And then the new feathers come in and then they start oiling them and they get nice and black and then they get water proof and it's not until they get nice and water proof that they can go back in. So it's kind of like they've got to grow another new wet suit.
But you can see that they really have busy lives. I mean, they're coming and going. Some of them are in pairs, some of them are single, you see a lot of them kind of going up to other birds and trying to court them or at least, uh, come close or interact with them or do bill duels. They spend an awful lot of time preening, like this fellow is doing, getting all the feathers in the right order so that they can be in good condition when they go back in. See they're pecking one another. They kind of like to stay beak length away from everyone. And you can see this is one is suddenly standing up really tall and looking skinny because he doesn't want to be pecked by those other two. So he's basically saying, ¿don't bother me, I'm not going to harm you, so don't bother me either'. But there's just as much language here as what you'd see in New York City, with how people walk down the sidewalks and pass one another and you know interact. And to me that's one of the things that's so incredible about Punta Tombo because once people get here and see it, they can't see themselves as all that different from other forms of life, and certainly they can't help but draw some of the similarities between people and penguins.
This certainly meets the definition of a colony. It does look as if kind of a campground, if you were to anthropomorphize a bit. And they sort of spread out in the terrain, a lot of bushes in the habitat, and it's a takeover and then wander around and make a space for themselves, socializing but then going back to their own particular hole.
Well certainly it's a megalopolis for penguins. It's just about as dense as you can possibly imagine.
Oh ya, we've got some down here. It looks like they found a nice spot to go into the water there without the waves. A lagoon, a tide pool.
Yep, and you'll notice that they often will swim around there rolling back and forth, they're taking baths, you can see them shake the tail, move their flippers, they'll do that often for several minutes before they move out to sea, and sometimes even for several hours. Then they'll come back up and preen. So they're getting all those feathers in order and they're presumably in part (really loud wind here) and so they're getting out all the dust and feathers that they picked up on land.
They saw something there, it must've been a giant petrol or something that bothered them. See how they all ran back up on land? Oh ya, see look, or you're going to get to see a giant petrol herd them These giant petrels are just incredibly big, and they weigh about 10 pounds, about the same size as a penguin, and they often come up and test them. I mean talk about the true stereotypic villain. They've got big bills and you'll see him...
There he is, he's moving in close.
Spread out his wings and lumber up to them, which frightens the penguins, needless to say, cause he's looking for someone that's vulnerable and so they're trying to keep out of his way.
So where do we go from here?
This is the end of the tourist trail so, um, we can go back around and then I thought maybe we'd go back to the other side.
Decision made to change tape soon