Sunday, February 3, 2008

Adélie chicks

Petrel Island and Dumont d'Urville itself are home to a vast colony of Adélie penguins. They are everywhere, on every scrap of rock. They are cute little critters, once you get used to their smell and raucous calls. Many an hour can be whiled away by watching their comic antics, as they come and go from the sea, steal stones from each other's nests and feed their young.

The Dumont d'Urville colony has been under continuous study for a number of decades, and there is at least one marine ornithologist at the base at all times. Today, JY and I volunteered to help weigh some of the Adélie chicks born to the one hundred couples under study this year. Together with the resident ornithologist, we tracked down the correct chicks among the rocks, weighed them, measured the length of their right aileron, and removed their identification tags.

The chicks were all between 42 and 45 days old, weighed between 3 and 4 kilograms each, and had started to shed their downy fur for more sea-worthy feathers. They will soon complete their transformation and take to the sea for the winter. The chick I am carrying in the photo was, at 2.75 kg, the smallest one we weighed today, and still had all of its down. It was very placid and soft to the touch: a pleasure to hold

No comments: