The Adelie chicks are growing up fast, with most now losing down at a rapid rate, showing a hint of the glistening blue tuxedo. After a blizzard last Friday and several days of high winds, the air has been thick with down. Probably not many people can say they have inhaled penguin down, those lucky few who have would join me in recommending other hobbies. The three chicks monitored here have all started to lose their down, though the chick at Nest A, who is the youngest, has only lost the down around his/her face, while the other two are starting to look half dressed.
The colony has thinned out a lot in the last week, with fewer adults around. There are still some non-breeding birds that have taken delight in the emptier colony, collecting all the stones and making the biggest nest they probably ever will. Shame they have missed the breeding season, but boy are they looking proud of themselves.
Fashion was all the talk this week at Beche, with neck accessories all the rage for the sub-adults who are part-way through moult. Perhaps it wasn’t snow causing the blizzard the other day, rather penguin feathers.
Ok… so we shouldn’t name wild animals, but somehow after seven weeks on the island, it seemed like a good thing to do and the skua chick I’ve been photographing each week has picked up the name Hagrid. He is starting to look more like a bird and less like a feather duster these days, however the chick squeak coming from him will still be a giveaway even when he has lost all his down. The skuas are regularly seen swooping on chicks to see if they can grab a startled one. When they do, it is hard not to be in awe of them. They are very clever birds and sometimes use team work to successfully attack a chick.
The snow petrels have been neglected in these weekly ramblings, so I thought I had better rectify that. Snow Petrels nest in rocky crevices and clefts under boulders on the islands around Mawson and also high in the mountains. Birds lay a single egg late November/early December, with chicks hatching around mid–January. Chicks are brood guarded by an adult for around eight days, before they are left alone while the parents forage. At present, the chicks are a few weeks old and look like balls of fluff; they will fledge around six to seven weeks of age. On Bechervaise Island, there are approximately three hundred breeding pairs.