Penguinologist

Catherine Stein is a French ornithologist who recently spent 13 months living next to a royal penguin colony on a remote island which is five days by ship south of South Africa. She has written a whole series of short articles with pictures which show her work from the eyes of her friend Antoine minibear.

If you would like to see more, and to test your French, have a look at Catherine’s website at:

http://www.antoine-miniours.com

Published on the 16th of August by 2014 by Antoine Minibear

Since the month of September, Cathy has been thoroughly studying various couples of royal penguins. These penguins have been wearing electronic transponders for several years. This allows scientists like Cathy to follow the comings and goings of individuals within the colony.

ours 1

This four meter long stick permits the detection of transponder signals without disturbing the colony.

I tried too!

I tried too!

When a transponder signal is detected, the scientists have to check the number of the penguin and the location of its nest. Back at the office, this data is entered and we receive everything known about that particular penguin. Then, a little alarm is activated which goes off every time the penguin enters or leaves the colony.

penguin #123

penguin #123

From December to February, Cathy watched the travels of various penguins from dawn to dusk. She captured several and wrote a number on each with Magic marker so that they could be easily identified.

Here is # 49 with its chick

Here is # 49 with its chick

A few minutes later the penguin is released and can go into the sea to look for food. On its return, it will return to the nest to care for the egg which its partner has been protecting. Each penguin has a particular song and this is how they recognize each other before exchanging the egg. Cathy has been recording and studying various penguins and their songs all during the breeding season. When the alarm goes off, she goes to record the exchange, making sure that her back is to the wind and that she is about 12 meters from the nest.

We await the arrival

We await the arrival

In January, the first chicks are born. After about 12 days, it is possible to attach a “fish-tag” to them which contains a number and a little flag to enable us to identify them from a distance.

And here is the chick of couple # 128

And here is the chick of couple # 128

32 chicks have been marked. They are all  marked in different colours.

Here is a map of their locations

Here is a map of their locations

Several times a week we tour the colony trying to locate these chicks and their parents. Some die and others lose their little flags. Today we have about fifteen that are still identifiable.

Today, we are touring the colony to say hello to Max, my favourite chick!

Today, we are touring the colony to say hello to Max, my favourite chick!

 

 

 

 

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