- Magellanic Penguin
- Kelp Gull
- Kelp Gull
- Kelp Gull
- Blackish Oystercatcher
- Environmental Recording
Dee Boersma, Lucas Sinopoli
Field work discussions in sea bird colonies. Includes conversation by Christopher Joyce.
Sight and Sound
Nest site dispute vocalizations.
Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound
Breeding colony. Commentary by Dee Boersma.
Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound
Commentary by Dee Boersma.
Surf blow holes
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
17 Feb 2003
- Punta Tombo
- -44.03893 -65.20241
- Sennheiser MKH 50
- Sennheiser MKH 30
Decoded MS stereo
Log of DAT #:21
Date: February 17th, 2003
Flawn explains they are getting ready to head out to the point, recording with mkh 50 mid, 30 side, no parallel omni, 10 AM.
Ambi of getting ready.
Dee talks about her truck, Consuela.
Stepping outside, loading up truck. Swinging metal sound of ? from wind while getting in truck.
Jess and Chris talk about doing a story on field scientist's most important tools.
Jess is eating an apple.
FX. Truck rolls out.
Ambi. Driving on the road. Sound is from the back of the truck.
FX. Penguin call.
Truck stops for a bit
Ambi of penguin calls (continuous throughout interview).
They get out of the truck.
FX. Truck door shutting.
Getting out gear.
Ambi. Walking sounds.
Dee points out the signs in English and Spanish.
FX. Penguin call. Really sounds like a donkey-good!
FX. Penguin footsteps.
Flawn explains those are penguin footsteps.
FX. Penguin calls.
You can see all the petrels up on the beach now. About 40 of them.
The gulls are fishing.
Yep, those are terns Yep.
They are fishing.
Yep, they're fishing and you can see that means that there's got to be little fish in here, which is really good cause when the chicks fledge that means that they're going to be running into little fish. And these terns have been fishing in here for about three or four days, so the fish have got to be pretty close to shore. See look at how far they're diving down. They're feeding on these small little fish, usually pescarays. Oh, here comes a petrol.
FX. Wave of the ocean.
That tern looked like he was diving on a penguin.
Can you tell me that again?
It sometimes looks like those terns may be diving on the penguins but that's cause the penguins are feeding on the small fish too and so the terns are diving in trying to get those small fish too. But this is really a wonderful sign that there's a lot of food close to the colony which should mean that many of these recent fledglings are going to get have a chance to hunt the fish and get some and so consequently survive. Some years you don't see any terns around here and you don't notice the penguins around here, but the other day when Lucas and Rebecca went swimming they saw lots of small fish really close to shore. So the fish seem to have moved in and theirs probably the reason why there's so many juveniles here moulting.
One of the important things to recognize is that these small fish, whether they're pescaray or whether they're anchovy or young heich, that's what really makes this whole system work. You've got to have a lot of food, obviously, for this colony. Penguins are keystone in a way because what they're doing is bringing nutrients back on to the shore and so consequently there's a net exchange of all of the rich nutrients of the ocean that's coming back to this land and then ends up being nitrogen fertilizer for the plants, which makes the plants grow, which supports the insects, which supports the small birds, so they're really very important in this transfer of nutrients from the ocean back to the land.
Ambi. Ocean, penguins, walking sounds.
FX. Penguin call.
Punta Tombo's unusual for a number of reasons. I mean, one is because you've got hundreds of thousands of penguins here, obviously, it's such a productive place, but the diversity of life is really pretty great here. Everything from the guanacos to the rheas that you've seen, to the hairy armadillos¿
Flawn wants it again.
One of the things that makes Punta Tombo so unique is not only that we have hundreds of thousands of penguins, but is really the diversity of life here. We've got things like guanacos that look a little like camels that are related to llamas, we've got hairy armadillos, we've got rheas that are essentially the equivalent of ostriches that are wandering across the landscape, and of course we have all kinds of sea birds, everything from these giant petrels to terns to gulls to cormorants, a couple of species of cormorants. So it's an extremely rich environment and all of the life here at Punta Tombo, in this desert environment that doesn't get a lot of rain, is really dependent on the nutrients from the sea. All these sea birds couldn't live on land, they had to bring the nutrients from the sea, and it's mostly fish. Almost all of these birds are dependent on small fish, not on big fish, but on bait fish, as we call them. And it's these bait fish, as humans continue to take everything out of the ocean and over-fish, we're taking all of the big fish and we're fishing down the food chain and getting smaller and smaller fish. And once we really start targeting bait fish like anchovies and sardines it's going to be really difficult for not only sea birds, but for a lot of species of fish that we like to eat as well.
Ambi. Penguin calls.
Dee announces a penguin fight.
FX. Penguin fight. Continue fighting as Dee gives commentary.
This is a really good demonstration of the penguin rule of not living too close to your neighbors. I mean, you can see there's two pairs here that are mating and they're fighting over this fairly meager nest sight.
Penguin fight even louder.
And it's just like humans when we say good fences make good neighbors. Well, here you can see both of these pairs are right next to one another. There's two nesting sights, but they're almost connected and so they're fighting over how close they both are and so they don't want to be this close. And we've found that if birds are nesting closer than about two feet from one another, about .8 meters, that they tend to have lower reproductive success. And that's because these fights continue. I mean, they do not agree where the boundaries are so they fight over and over and over again, often losing their eggs, or they're losing their chicks. So that's why, even for penguins, they've got to have good property lines. And they're trying to establish good property lines for next September when they came back to be.
FX. Fighting continues.
Okay, so you've got, see the face-off right here, I mean these guys are right in the middle of the nest and these ones are trying to enter it on this side, even though there is a crummy nest sight that they're kind of occupying there. But they're trying to enter right in here so that they don't agree on what's the nest.
Gee, did you see that? The male rushed right in.
So now they've come right in and managed to come in and really move the neighbors to the very edge of this nest.
And you can see that penguins have rules about fighting. The males are fighting with the males and the females are fighting with the females. Very rarely do they cross males fighting with other females, or other females being aggressive, except to another female. They have very strict rules about fighting.
They're all males?
And this could go on all day.
They trail off mic, speaking Spanish, fighting continues.
Ambi. Penguins. Walking sounds.
This is the secret spot. This is where the penguins come down in the morning or in high tide to take baths and scrub. There's rounded rocks under the water and so you can often see then swimming on their side or on their back and they just seem to love it, especially in warm weather or when they've been in a burrow for a long time they just frolic. And they porpoise swim in here and it's just the most wonderful thing to watch.
Ambi of penguins at swimming hole.
12,000 just in this one area.
Just in this one area. This is the high-density area, as we call it. Op! You can see copulation going on over there. So, even though they not going to lay eggs, they're getting ready for next season. And as far as you can see in here it's almost a nest per meter squared. But we've counted this, censuses it, and that's about 12,000 breeding pairs here. And that stays pretty stable cause these are very high-quality nests.
The closest I can compare it to is of the prairie dogs coming right out of the ground just every where you can see. As far as the eye can see, just about.
It's and like moon-like with all these holes.
Well, it usually looks much more like a moonscape because this year we have goosefoot, and introduced weed that's just taken over and we've had so much rain that it's just taken off. So like most introduced species it's managed to dominate the landscape, but it usually is quite bare here, just with the burrows. And of course now you can see all this greenery. Now, this is the greenest I've seen it in 20 years, that's how much rain we've had this year.
Rebecca talking off mic
What she's talking about is, um, these penguins that look like they're drunk. What they do is they king of walk in circles and sometimes fall backwards. And we think this is related to toxins that they've actually picked up some toxins from some food that they're eating. And in 2000 we actually had 11 of our satellites tagged birds that never came back. Most of them the last place they were heard from was 150 kilometers out to sea. Mostly around Puerto Madryn. Looks like there was a bay at Puerto Madryn where there was a big toxic algae bloom. And the birds picked up the toxins and actually died form them. And occasionally we've, through a number of years, we've seen a few that show these symptoms. Most of the times they recover, they just act drunk for half a day and then they recover and go back. We're pretty sure that it's actually related to what they're eating because we did by accident a bit of an experiment and I found some squid in the colony and I fed some of that squid to the chicks and they displayed all those same symptoms. The head goes back and they become really kind of tonic and it's clearly a neuro-toxin of some sort that they did not do well with. We quite feeding the squid, fed the chick on other fish and it recovered.
So the squid had been exposed to the algae?
Ya, probably they were eating some zooplankton that had feed on that algae, or small fish and then they, of course it gets concentrated up the food chain. And then, most penguins are not affected by it cause they can regurgitate the food, but sometimes they don't regurgitate the food soon enough and they get a toxic dose and then it kills them. We found a number of birds that looked parti, well, they looked healthy except they were dead. And when we did necropsies on them we found all of them had empty stomachs, but when you looked a the mucus, they had a lot of excess mucus in the stomach and you could see that it looked almost burned, very inflamed and so red, almost like you had taken an acid across the stomach. Although we'll never know what happened to those birds we think it was related to some sort of toxin they picked up in the environment. And it only occurred during a relatively short period of time all of our birds died within about three weeks and at that time they found about 3000 dead penguins along the same shore in the same area. So fairly localized, but affected a lot of birds. And that's the first time we've seen that in 20 years. But of course toxic algae blooms are becoming more common across the world and in years where you get a lot of rain you're more likely to see that just because the nutrients running off into the ocean, if conditions are right, then those algae can take off and produce the toxins.
Ambi. Nat sound, gulls, walking.
We're going to go around this beach and see all those green bushes? That's what we call penguin islands cause they're little islands of penguins, that's where the penguins breed, just under those bushes. They can't dig burrows out here because the soil's not right. There' just too much sand, they would just collapse, and so they have to nest under bushes and hence why we call them penguin islands.
After 20 years out here you must know every nook and cranny.
No, I don't feel like I do. I feel like I know the area well, just like you'd know your neighborhood, but there' still always new surprises.
Ambi. Walking sounds. Loud crunching as they walk.
Dee, off mic, under crunching, talks about cleaning up the beach with Lucas.
Ambi of penguin calls underneath Dee's discussion.
There was a penguin nesting here on the tourist trail that had a coke bottle in its roof for a long while. It's actually kind of holding up the top of that nest. Oh here's one of your plastic bottles we're talking about now. They're just everywhere. The pollution along these beaches just keeps increasing.
They continue to talk off mic.
Okay so what we're going to do is just spread out, just kind of as we walk out to the point and count left flipper bands again. Oh no, you thought you didn't have a clicker.
I'm getting over this.
My thumb is a little sore, but I think I can do it still. I guess I'll just switch hands.
So we'll just spread out and so we're not counting the same birds and just kind of walk along these bushes. If you find a banded one then call out and we'll mark it.
Any and all birds?
Any and all birds, left flippers, doesn't matter if it's a juvenile or an adult, but mostly it'll be adults in here.
She explains again to Lucas.
Ambi of counting birds. Nat sound, penguins, walking around sounds.
Dee off mic asking Chris if he's getting any.
Off mic conversation about how many banded penguins seen.
It's hard to believe, but this is an old dead fumai bush. We got one dead penguin under here. But 20 years ago you'd get about 15 nests in this bush. Here's one that's marked form the old days, and this was put right above where the birds layed their eggs. And so in some cases there were three pairs deep just to get to the middle of the bush and so it's hard to imagine, but now one penguin here.
Ambi. Nat sound, wind, penguins (faint)
FX. Penguin call.
FX. Some unidentifiable sound.
Dee off mic
Can you see this is why we call it penguin island? Cause there's just penguins all around these bushes. This is the first bush in penguin islands and we've worked this one for the last 20 years. Now, how many penguins do you see under this bush?
They're pretty quiet, too, they don't let you know where they are.
There's one here. Another one here. You see all these nest sights, they're vacant.
There's a whole bunch in there, but they're not necessarily nesting.
No, those are just standing around, but here's another bush. These are all juveniles moulting. There are no adults here.
Twenty years ago, you can see these old tags that are still in places in some cases, but there were like 30 nests around this bush. They were there, they were there, and in some cases they were three deep. So you had birds that were nesting out here pretty much in the open, you know, where there's not much protection. So penguin islands have changed dramatically. When I first started out here underneath some of these bushes we'd have to take cardboard boxes out of the bushes and we'd take them all and weigh them and put them all back in. Now there'd be no need for this. So the number of birds at penguin island has just drastically changed and dropped. Now the center part of that colony, the zonemas densa, that hasn't changed. But that's because these nests were kind of substandard nests, not nearly as much cover, so they've moved in to those burrow nests and as a consequence the peripheral part of this colony has seen the biggest decline.
But the reason that they used the substandard nests in the first place was that presumably there population was so large they had to move out so, so this is an indication in general that the population is shrinking.
That's right, so we've got it from our census data, but we've got it from looking a these peripheral areas and seeing the number of penguins have drastically dropped.
Ambi. Waves of the ocean.
Off mic says: Look at these feathers here. You can see this has been a moulting ground.
FX. Penguin call.
FX. Penguin call.
Flawn speaking. Intro dead bushes.
Ya, so where we've got dead bushes like this predators can get them more easily. I mean there are high density places where there are more burrows, but all of these new bushes 20 years ago there were hardly any bushes in there and they were very small and now they've grown up and there are penguins in there but still not of the density that was here. But you can imagine if you're a new breeder that's coming in it's a lot easier to move in to a live bush like that and make your nest in a live bush like that than it is to dig a burrow cause digging a burrow you've got to move about a half meter of dirt and sand or something to be able to construct it. So moving in and just forcing your neighbor to move over is a lot easier solution.
So where do we go from here?
Right out here through penguin islands to the point.
Ambi. Walking sounds. Ocean.
Flawn announces the next segment of recording is of wind in the grass.
Ambi. Wind in the grass.
Ambi while waiting. Ocean, wind, gulls.
FX. Chris whistling.
Ambi. Wind, gulls.
Chris and Dee off mic.
Ya, it's a sea lion pup. Well, you know we've had these high tides these last days and so their island probably went under water. And so this is a pup that's up. Let's go down this way and see if there are more adults. But he's, he's pretty far away from the island. There's an island out her that probably has about a thousand sea lions that are breeding on it and sometimes they come up here on the point. But it's pretty rare that we get pups because the island is often under water and so of course pups wouldn't be able to survive that. These are mostly non-breeding sea lions. But clearly some female breed there.
Ambi of walking to the point (this sound continues as they discuss sea lions, etc.)
Here, can you see the island out there? Look at all the little flow tides, so you can see it, but do you see all those little dots, those brown dots? Those are all sea lions.
Wow, there must be hundreds of thousands of them.
Ya, a lot.
The closer I look the more I see it's covered in them.
Careful of the penguin over there.
Another one here.
So my guess is that sea lion got washed off, got on shore here, and then he's walking off onto the ocean over on that side.
I just want you to notice how diverse this habitat is cause this is grass and small, kind of shrubby steeple grass that grows all over the point. This is a place where sometimes you see pompous cats as well as a lot of foxes. Guanacos come out here and are foraging on the, or browsing mostly, on the bushes and on this grass. This is where the rheas often breed. So very different from the dense bushes of the penguins, but still very important for a lot of species of wildlife.
But you'd never know it because it's pretty, it looks pretty spare and pretty severe. It looks like clumps of saw grass. So that's to support all those different animals.
Well I'm glad that storm came so late in the season because we'll see if the cormorants were affected, but those winds were so incredibly strong and the waves, if there were any chicks. My guess is the waves washed right over the point. It's pretty low. So if the sea level rises they're pretty much gonna have to move.
Oh that box? More garbage. That's a fishing box. They're all along the shore, almost everything that you see here is dropped overboard, washed overboard from fishing boats. We try to pick it up but it's almost an impossible task to keep up with it, and of course every year it seems we just get more and more garbage.
Flawn sets up for recording of gulls.
Ambi. Gulls (there is some talking off mic at first)
Flawn says he's approaching a shore area.
Ambi. Gulls. Good!
We're standing at the edge of the gull colony. These are kelp gulls and they breed here at Punta Tombo. Now whenever you see wild pristine area like this you think it's not really touched by humans, but everything on our planet is in some way modified by humans. What we don't manage we manage by default any more. And this gull colony has been growing in large part because of dumps close to cities. And so open dumps allow these gulls to forage in the winter and so they have higher survival. And fishing boats throw off the fish discards and the gulls benefit from that and so the gulls are increasing and that's often at the expense of other birds that do not benefit from living so close with humans. So birds like gulls that can take advantage of humans, what we consider more of the trash species, flourish. But ones that don't benefit so much, like cormorants or penguins, it's really to their demise because as the gulls increase pernicion goes up often on eggs and chicks and so you see an affect and a feedback into the penguin population or the cormorants, or the dolphin gulls, etc.
So in a sense we're redesigning the particular balance of nature or the ecology of the area simply by being what we are and certain organisms profit from that and certain organisms suffer?
Exactly and I guess the part that often bothers me is that we think that places that look pristine are in fact, and in fact there's almost no place in the world. I mean, you find DDT in Antarctica, which is certainly still one of the remotest parts of our planet. But here we think it's remote, but in fact it's not really remote at all in terms of effects from humans. So if humans don't manage we're just managing it by default.
Ambi. Waves and gulls.
Now there's a spot here where we see cormorants?
Yep, we're going out there next. I just was waiting for¿
Ambi. More gulls and walking.
You'll see a number of human artifacts out here. This little stone circle Pablo Urio built cause he was marking gull chicks and so he was keeping them in this area till he got them marked and could put them back in their nest and so that's why it's here.
Ambi of gulls, Chris and Dee off mic at beginning.
Flawn and Jess off mic
More ambi of birds, walking sounds, ocean waves.
FX. Blackish oyster catcher making peeps.
1:18:25-continues through interview.
Ambi. Ocean waves get louder, it's the blowhole sound, other ambi continues.
Dee off mic.
Ambi of blowhole.
FX. Big crashing wave from blowhole.
Flawn sets the recording for more ambi. He explains one part was the actual blowhole, the other was an opening in the lava.
Ambi. Walking, wind, gulls.
They look for a good sight for interview.
What are we looking at Dee?
Well, we're at the end of Punta Tombo, this little lava spit that projects out into the South Atlantic. And again you can see just the seabird diversity here is just amazing. There are three species of oyster-catchers that breed here, you can see a pair of blackish oyster-catchers over there on the top, and then two species of cormorants, the blue-eyed shags, and the rock shags that are nesting on the side, and gulls of course, and we've seen big groups of terns. But the thing that's happened is this point has changed rather dramatically in the last 40 years. In the 1960's in the cormorant colony, instead of being isolated to the top of that little rock, which is where it is now, used to extend all the way back to us and across. There used to be something like 30,000 cormorants here, at least by some of the pictures. Certainly thousands of cormorants and now maybe there's 300. So down by a couple of order of magnitude. The interesting thing is not that rock shags, they haven't changed at all. They feed in the kelp beds and on small fish, but these blue-eyed shags are communal fishers so they go out to sea and dive and eat small fish. So again these bait fish, so these anchovies and small silver sides, pescaray, things like that, anything they can get their bills around. And those are the ones that have dramatically declined.
Any idea why they may have declined?
Well, presumably because of food. But we really don't know. It could be because of oil spills as well. I've seen birds oiled. But probably the fate of the penguins and the fate of the cormorants are pretty closely linked because they do often forage together and although they forage somewhat differently, both of them are divers and pursuit divers. You know, they chase after their fish that they¿
When people, I mean the idea of watching a population of an animal, or a plant is an indicator of something going on in the ecosystem on land is an old idea. What's the difference between doing it on land and doing it with creatures that live in the sea, on the sea and near the sea?
Well, I guess my sense is it's a lot easier if we use seabirds to tell us things about the environment because they're like oceanographic platforms. Unfortunately we don't use them nearly enough to tell us what's going on in the environment. But we've been able to show that fork-tailed storm petrels will detect oil spills more than 200 kilometers from their breeding sight just by looking at their stomach content because what they're doing is they're feeding at the surface of the ocean, they're having to pull out of the surface, and that's where a lot of the pollutants get concentrated. So whether it's oil, or I mean you could do that with heavy metals, and certainly you could do that with cormorants and penguins. And certainly that's what we're trying to do with our satellite tagging of penguins. Learning more about the oceanography of this area and what's important oceanographically to support the kinds of colonies that we have here of seabirds.
When you say oceanographically you mean where they go, how deep they go, how far they go, how fast they go, that sort of thing?
Well, also where the hotspots are. And also are the hotspots consistent from year to year? So are the fish always found in one place and where are those places? That's what I mean by ocean zoning because there are some places that are going to be really important year after year to support this kind of wildlife. And of course if we go and fish those places out then the problem is they're not going to exist there any longer. And so you want to look at those nursery grounds or those important areas and actually make sure that they're going to exist for the longer term.
Ya, I find it interesting, it's interesting that a lot of attention is being paid to right now of over-fishing and how it depletes fish docks, but you have to think again to know that if the fish disappear that has secondary and tertiary effects.
Absolutely. And I guess one of the things I worry about that this sort of spectacle of nature, in my view, enriches all of our lives whether we get to stand on this point or just know that some place in the world there's some place like this that is not completely dominated by humans. And certainly it's enriched my and gives a lot of meaning, I think, to a lot of people. And I guess my worry is if no one gets to experience this, how are they going to know what they've lost. It's like a rare gem. If you've never seen it I guess you're not going to worry about it, but we have rare gems all over the world and if we're not careful we're going to lose them.
You know, you've been coming here for 20 years doing this and when I first thought of that I thought that's a lot of sacrifice, it's a hardship. What do you think?
I think I'm one of the luckiest people around. I mean, this is so enriching to me and so rejuvenating to know these creatures they have tough lives, just like a lot of humans have tough lives. I mean it's not an easy go to be a penguin or a tern, or a cormorant. But to be able to experience this and see how other forms of life manage it is not only interesting but I find really rewarding. So it's not a sacrifice.
So if you had it to do all over again you'd do it all over again?
I'd do it in a minute. That's why I keep coming for 20 years. I mean I thought I'd do this for 3 or 4 years, but now I'm so invested in trying to make sure that these penguins get to stay around long after I'm gone. I mean you can see the timeless quality that Punta Tombo has. It was hard for me to explain that it was better 20 years ago because there were lots more creatures here then than now. I mean, anybody that still comes is still overwhelmed by the numbers. And I guess I want to have a few places at least around the world where humans can be overwhelmed by another form of life.
Ambi. Waves, gulls. They walk to a new location.
That's a huge male South American sea lion. I didn't see him there.
He's enormous. He was as much scared by us as we were by him, I think.
You can see why they call them lions, though. I mean the mane on these South American lions is huge. They do look like lions.
So where should we go?
Ambi. Walking and gulls. Checking out the sea lions and birds as they walk closer to shore.
Looking for quieter area.
In order to make this study possible it's just not one person that does it. Even though I've been coming for 20 years, there's literally hundreds of students and volunteers that have helped band birds and work on not only the penguins but other species. I've trained several Argentine students and the exciting thing is they are all now gainfully employed in Argentina doing conservation and American students gainfully employed, most of them related to conservation as well. And so you hope that what you do is open people's eyes to seeing things in different ways and recognizing the importance that wildlife. And they spend the rest of their lives, you hope in trying to save it and teach other people to see in different sorts of ways.
What kind of person does it take to be able to do this kind of work and for the length of time it takes to do it right?
Well I guess I think almost anybody could do it. It just takes somebody that does appreciate other forms of life. So if they really like bars and discos this is not the place for them. But of course we have our own singles bar, it's just a penguins singles bar and we have television, but it happens to be penguin or cormorant TV. But it ¿s the way people probably used to live in the United States decades ago, and I think it's much more rewarding that some of the ways we live now, in the U.S.
Jess mentioned something that we wanted to do also, if you'll bear with us a minute. We're talking to a lot of people about the tools that they use. You know, right down to the goncha, to the duct tape. What do you think are the essential tools to do research on penguins here in Patagonia?
Well, as technology gets more advanced, there's more technology that we use, I mean like satellite tags and things like that, but you know really still a lot of good biology can be done with your eyes, sometimes binoculars to help your eyes, but a pencil and a notebook. Here one of the most key things that we have are scales cause we weigh a lot of penguins, and calipers cause we want to know how big they are, how heavy they are in relationship to how heavy they are so we can get some idea of their condition. And of course duct tape and wire and strapping tape. You can't live without those things cause it seems you can fix almost anything with duct tape and apoxy.
What about Dulce de Leche?
Well that's one of the riches of Argentina. I love their Dulce de Leche.
I mean, those are the essential tools for dealing with the animal you're studying, what about the tools for keeping yourself going, you know, month in, month out, alone a lot of the time? What do you need for yourself?
Again, I think it's just having your eyes open. It's new everyday. Look at that! A cormorant just flew up behind you and is walking up the rocks. Now that's just incredible. That doesn't happen to me in Seattle. See, he's just curious, looking you over?
It's as if they've never seen humans before, which makes them both vulnerable and brave.
That's right. And don't you feel like you're suddenly a part of it here more than any other place? Cause you can really be close to the wildlife here.
Ya, I can see why you're, I mean, you're quickly rewarded. Some places you have to sit for weeks and here you can sit for three hours and see a vast amount of animal behavior.
Amazing things everyday, but you have to teach people to look. And unfortunately our culture wants things in 30 second blocks and here it takes longer.
I'm Dee Boersma and I work on penguins on Punta Tombo Argentina and the tools that I use are varied, but mostly low-tech.
There are few other places in the world that you can come where you can just be overwhelmed with wildlife and Punta Tombo is one of those places. It just takes your breath away. There's such a diversity of life and the exciting thing is you can be a part of it. You can meld in and wildlife will approach you and surround you. And I guess that's to me one of the most exciting things and enriching experiences, for me, is to be able to have that happen. And there seems to be fewer and fewer places around the globe where humans are not totally dominating the landscape and the wildlife. And here, at least, quite a bit of the wildlife is still intact. And my worry is how much longer it will be intact, and our passion is to try to figure out ways to at least reduce the conflict that the wildlife has with humans and at the same time be able to maintain it without getting into so much political difficulties that it would be impossible to have happen. But of course as human consumption and human numbers grow this is going to be an increasingly difficult task. And it's going to be people that understand and are enriched by this responsibility to save it. And I guess the reason I keep coming here is these penguins have really enriched my life and I feel like I owe them a debt and if we can do anything to keep them around here I feel like we should do it.
Jess off mic about war in Iraq.
Well, you know, I mean we'd walked out here and one of the first things we saw were two pairs doing battle over a nest sight. It's a war. I mean penguins have their own little fights. It's just that fortunately they don't do nearly as much damage as humans have been able to do. I mean we've escalated our technology to such a great extent that we can blow each other up and ruin and incredible number of people's lives that don't even want to be involved in the war. But the wildlife, I mean just the whole destruction I find apalling. I don't understand this, except to say that when you see those penguins fight we've just blown it up bigger and why can't we find ways to reduce it?
One of the best things, one of the best things in the world for whales, as we all know, and that was really true in Argentina, was the war because that stopped the whaling. Interestingly enough, one of the best things for penguins was the war in the Falkland Islands because it stopped the tanker traffic for a year in the early 80's. And so not nearly as many penguins got oiled. Now we've moved the tanker lanes, that certainly has helped, but chronic oil pollution, still even along this coast is still a problem. And now what we're hearing from people in Brazil and Uruguay is hundreds of penguins are coming up on their beach every year. That's a war against penguins in my view. That's aggregious. These helpless little penguins, minding their own business, swimming in the ocean and running into pollution that ends up killing them. There's no reason to have that kind of oil in the ocean anymore. There's no reason for us to be harvesting the kinds of fish to fee to chickens. I mean, why harvest anchovies to feed to chickens so humans can have chicken? Just the whole thing I find incredible. So the only way to stop this is to become certainly more educated, but also to try to get the cost accounting right so that we're paying the real cost of our pollution and use of our environment. And right now most of us aren't paying the real costs.
So this is the Punta Tombo.
This is the far expanse of Punta Tombo, but Punta Tombo is this whole four kilometers of spit that sticks out into South Atlantic, but we're just at the end of the point.
It's spectacular, really spectacular.
Oh, there's a cormorant feeding it's chick up there. It's about ready to fledge and you can see many of them are already flying, but it's just about the end of the season around here. And you see these gulls around here, that's also a big change. Kelp gulls didn't use to breed on this point, it was all just penguins and cormorants. So that's another thing that's happening to wildlife it's death by a thousand cuts. So as the cormorants decline, the kelp gulls increase, they eat more of their eggs and small chicks, which drives the cormorants numbers down further. So we think by doing nothing we're okay, but we've in fact caused the gulls to increase and so really we're causing the cormorants decline.
So we're causing the cormorants to decline.
There are two species of cormorants out here, the blue-eyed shag, sometimes called the king or imperial cormorant, and the rock shag sometimes called the magellanic cormorant.
Chris and Dee banter about the guano.
Ambi. Gulls, other birds, wind.