Saturday, 17 January 2015

Everyone Loves Penguins!

I'm not sure what it is about penguins, but I haven't met a single person that doesn't love them! 

It has been a few years since I visited Cape Town and the penguins at Boulder's Bay so was very excited to be going back there and going with Chris for the very first time. However, we didn't go to Boulder's Bay this time as some very good friends suggested a different location somewhere much less touristy and very much quieter, in fact it is the same place that I photographed the Rock Hyrax.

African penguins (Sphensicus demersusare adorable birds also know as black-footed penguins and jackass penguin due to its call, they are only penguin species that breeds on the African continent with the majority of breeding sites located on offshore islands. There are only a handful of mainland breeding sites two of which are located in the Western Cape. Interestingly there is no fixed breeding season for the penguins with breeding peaking in Namibia between November and December and in South Africa between March and May, they build their nests in sheltered locations in depressions under boulders or vegetation. These wonderful penguins pair for life and return to the same nest site year after year with records showing some penguins being together for ten years! 

We visited in April so there was quite a bit of activity and a few baby penguins around being looked after by one of their parents while the other was out at sea feeding. 

Seeing the chicks was a first for me as all the other times I've been it has been just at the beginning of the breeding season or just at the end so it was a real joy to see these little bundles. 

But I also wanted to captured some different images of their lives on this rocky coastline from getting to the sea and getting in it to dealing with the slippery rocks. 

Unfortunately these beautiful penguins are struggling and are currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Redlist with only 18,000 breeding pairs left in South Africa with the population plummeting by 70% between 2001 and 2013. These penguins face numerous threats including oil spills and increased predation, but by far the biggest threat is over fishing. The parents must travel out to sea to forage but are having to travel further and further to find enough fish to feed their chicks due to depleted fish stocks, but many are not able to travel these distances before their annual moult begins. This means chicks are abandoned and often starve to death, but there are people out there rescuing these chicks and hand raising them ready to be released back into the wide. If you would like to learn more about their plight and what is being done please visit SANCCOB.

They are such wonderfully charismatic birds and I could spends hours, days, months watching them come and go and all their antics but we only had a short time in Cape Town and there was much more we wanted to see, but I will definitely be going back for a much longer period soon!

For now it's bye from me and the penguins. Have a lovely weekend, next up will be a little chameleon we found on a visit to the bush. xx

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