Rays of sunlight on the sea
In the morning we went to Salisbury Plain, a long pebbled beach full of king penguins. Like 150.000 pairs!! There is a rookery with the chicks and a plain with non-reproducing birds and seals. The view of all these penguins together is very impressive: a sea of them! There chicks are molting and some still have their full brown down, while others are looking pretty unkept with tuffs of down interspersed by adult feathers. This seems to itch them because they all peck and groom constantly. In the rockery most penguins look filthy with mud and poop, but a short dip in the water and they are "spick and span" clean. The white thoracoabdominal feathers of the king penguins in particular have a beautiful iridescent sheen under the right light incidence.
There are also a bunch of skeletons on the beach, both penguins and seals. I like to check the bones with their differences to human bones. Elephant seals have a synostosis of the tibia-fibula, and their femoral head is on a very short neck. The skulls are harder to compare.
King penguins in full regalia
Emerging from the waves
The white patch on the right in the middle of the image is the Lucas Glacier and the entire grayish area below is the rockery (See below close up)
The Brown Skua... the bad guy that eats the eggs of the penguins and steals the fish from seabirds by attacking them
A sea of penguins
This is part of the colony mentioned above. It also extend on the flank of the mountain on the right.
River from glacial melt of course
Juveniles have a thin yellow highlight on the top of the head. Note the pupil too.
Pretty pattern !
Moms have 4 abdominal retractile nipples...
.... and the pup nurse from one after the other. Seals do not follow the rules of most mammalians: twice the number of nipples then the typical litter
Leucistic pups are due to a recessive loss-of-function mutation in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) affecting the G-protein. A substitution of a serine (a polar amino acid) by phenylalanine (an hydrophobic amino acid). The pup has to be homozygote for this allele. A loss or impairment of MC1R function shifts the balance of pigment production in favor of pheomelanin (yellow) from (brown) eumelanin, and is usually expressed as yellow or red coat or hair. Cream‐colored pups are unlikely to suffer disproportionately from the harmful effects of inbreeding depression because they don’t have reduced genome‐wide heterozygosity. The prevalence of "blondies" among pups was 1.6%, among breeding female 0.06% and 0.04% in territorial males, thus survival is not affected since with only 1/450 male pups reaching territorial status, the presence of 1/1940 territorial male means no handicap.
"Mom got me a pajama that is too big !"
Sleeping with the beak under the wing
Almost adult !
The colony extends up the green hill and to the white patch on the left middle third !
Older chick... many different ages are mixed in the colony
The "woolly" penguins
Taking some fresh air and watching the activity in the neighborhood
Those up the hill have a long hard climb to go!
Carrying an egg over the feet
Not cold !!
Raising kids is so tiring !
"Eewww... mud everywhere!"
"I don't look like mom and dad :( I must have been adopted !"
"I love you !"...
..."Me too !"
"Let's go to the tailor get you new plumage!"
"You can share my mud lump if you want"
Penguins in the snow
"Let's make a race !"