Windy Bay

I’m lying on the snow, emperor penguins all around. Once you get used to the

sight, the sound and then smell are probably the most noticeable things. The

constant cooing, deep throttle cooing: da da da daa di da da daa di da da daa

daa. A rattle and a coo, constantly starting and ending, sometimes in unison,

a chorus, sometimes a chant, always in surround sound. On top of this is the

sweet demanding chirrup of chicks, almost a trill. "Feed me." "Where

are you?"

The chicks are now getting quite big and plump. Some of them almost up to

the height of their parent’s shoulders if they stretch. These ones should make

it. There are little ones too, not necessarily abandoned, just later hatches.

These will make it as long as the ice stays for long enough and, of course,

that both parents keep returning with food. Then there are the tiny ones, occassionally

fostered by chickless adults but not fed. Finally, there are the dead chicks,

of all sizes, frozen into the ice.

As I stay still and write this, inquisitive adults approach. Never so close

that I could touch them easily but within reaching distance. The recent warmth

(~ -20C) makes an amazing difference since I can lie here and observe, writing

in thinnies [glove liners]. The downside however, is the stench. Fishy ammonia,

green-brown penguin poo streaks all across the ice. Not dissimilar from pigeons.

Birds is birds I guess.

One is now so close I see his reptilian feet, gnarled toes, long hard nails

for pulling out of the ice. He is standing very still, rounded back, dark black

stripes graffitied down his neck. He moves out of the way and a parent and chick

move in. The chick, fluffy grey, runs off like a toddler exploring and the parent

patiently follows through the crowd. I could stay here for hours but have been

told it’s time to go.

Da da da daa di di di daaa di di di daa daa.

16 thoughts on “Windy Bay

  1. What are the cliffs on the horizon? Have you gotten there yet? How far are the penguins from Halley? Got a good map over there of your area you can take a digitial shot of and show us?

  2. Excellent as ever, and you would laugh if you saw the ads that Google is throwing up alongside your latest post – ‘Penguins:ebay fantastic low prices’, ‘Emperor Penguin for sale’ and finally ‘Fresh Citrus scent’ – to deal with those everyday avian odours no doubt!

  3. You have no idea how wonderful it is to see the penguin photos after feeling so blue all week. The big apple is in a dark cloud. It makes me smile like gangbusters when I see the penguins. Life seems so simple for a moment, penguins/ice, ice/penguins. Soothing for a troubled world. Thanks!

  4. Rhian marry me and we can have penguins together.

    Ps the picture is of me lying down in the penguins.

    media darling No.2

  5. will you sell me a penguin? and if you wont do you no how i could purchase one i would really like to have one cz my little sister has cancer and one of the last things she wants is a penguin. plz email me!

  6. Hi, I was wondering if you were near the Phoenix area…we are promoting MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, a documentary about Emperor Penguins and wanted an expert to come speak to our audience about the topic…if not perhaps you know of someone who could help us out? Thanks!

  7. Lovely photos and descriptions.

    After seeing “March of the Penguins”, I had a question–what happens to the eggs and chicks that die and freeze? Are there scavengers? Do the starving penguins themselves ever eat their own dead? In such a harsh environment, it seems that some creature would recycle any fresh-frozen meat lying about.

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