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10 December, 2000


This is part two of the story. We last left off looking at the penguin chicks. The part of the story I left off was about the Elephant seal. The birders, Matt Irinaga, Heidi Geisz, and Chris Denker, told me to stay clear of the E seals (Elephant seals) because if they get too excited they might go through a penguin colony and destroy nests. When we arrived we noticed that there was one rogue E seal right in the middle of a colony.

As I was filming the chicks on one side of the island I turned to look and I saw the seal move through the colony and push penguins out of his way. After the E seal was a good distance away. We went over to inspect the damage. Through binoculars we could see two dead Adelie penguins and one that was bleeding from its wing. It is unclear how many nests that the huge E seal destroyed. The E seal is rather new to this area, but due to warmer weather in the Antarctic Peninsula their numbers are increasing every year.

We completed our work on Humble and headed for the mysterious Litchfield Island. I say it's mysterious but it really is just a restricted island. To land and walk around that island you must have a permit. Fortunately I was added to the permit months ago. The main reason for the restricted access is due to the moss that grows on the island. The more people that walk on the moss will kill it. We restricted our walking to snow covered areas and rocks.

There we counted a few small colonies of Adelies and looked for Brown Skuas. There are a couple of different kinds of Skuas around Palmer. The Brown Skua and the South Polar Skua. They look very similar to me but the experts can see the difference. There are a limited number of Brown Skuas in the area and the birders watch their breeding habits. We came across a couple of nests and I was able to watch as they pulled the eggs out of the nest. They then measured, weighed and numbered the eggs before returning them to their mother. Heidi got pecked several times as you returned the eggs.

We packed our belongings; climbed back into the zodiac called Tarzan II and headed for Palmer. It was a very exciting and exhausting day. Please be sure to stop by tomorrow so I can tell you about the Leopard seal.


-- Bill

The egg is measured, weighed and numbered.

Elephant seal rampaging through Adelie colony.

Eggs safely returned to a happy Skua.

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