Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adelies, Baby Skua, and Skua Bath Time

Eleven of the most inert Adelies I have ever seen.

Open Water!

Late last week, fun pages were being sent all over base. Penguins. Penguins at Hut Point. Lots of them. I went down and saw eleven Adelies. Unfortunately, they were napping and their personality comes out when they are moving about. Luckily, they have stuck around and recruited friends. Everyone has been seeing them. My roommate, Brooks, was lucky enough to catch them while they are swimming. I'm definitely heading back out there to try and see that.

The cavalry arrived a day later.

One of my favorite events of the year is watching baby skua grow up. I don't know if there is always a nest near Hut Point, but there has been for both of my summers. It is so amazing to see something as fragile as a baby growing up in such an inhospitable environment. As far as I can tell, there is no real nest, just a small depression in the rocks. I don't know if all skuas are raised like this or just the ones near McMurdo. It might be different at a skua colony.

Baby skua and its parent.

Claire trying to reason with parent skua.

Another blustery day to toughen up baby skua.

A skua.

After we had visited baby skua, we headed back down to Hut Point where the penguins were. They hadn't moved yet. However, we did catch a skua, possibly the other parent of baby skua, taking a bath. I don't know how skua can get wet and not freeze. I feel like we are better built to handle the cold because we have more fat, but obviously I'm wrong. They evolved in the Antarctica. We did not. Maybe, I'm just discounting their body fat ratio because I think of birds as lightweight. Anyone know how fat non-dinner table birds are? (Edit. Feathers are a great insulator, but I thought that down lost its ability to keep us warm once it got a little wet. Thanks to Lisa for some great editing!!)

Shake it out!

Splish splash, I'm taking a bath!

Time lapse of bath time.


  1. Very cool.

    I've watched birds bathe in zoos and such, and the oil on their outer feathers makes the water slide off, so they actually stay dry on the inside. Down jackets use the fluffy inner feathers (and they're probably also shampooed pretty well) so those can absorb water and mat down if they're not protected by a waterproof outer layer.

  2. fantastic!

    you know why i love reading your posts? because you're forever learning, thirsty to see more and learn more...and i suppose i am learning vicariously through you.

    one of my mentors took his entire family to antarctica this year for a family vacation. i wonder which spot they went to specifically and whether it was anywhere near you.