Located on the Southeast side of South Georgia with the Bertrab Glacier hanging over soaring cliffs,img_1287 Gold Harbor is as beautiful as the metal, but not named for it. Instead, the moniker originated from sentimental sealers for the brilliant aura the sun casts on the cliffs in the morning and at sunset.img_1412

Waddling about in the bright green tussock grass are male Gentoo penguins searching for just the right color or shape of rock to offer his beloved(s). Some lonely females swoon with pleasure, when baby penguin daddy takes his turn to feed at sea. Pretty rocks are very tempting.

Drag your eyes from this telenovela, and listen to the crescendo of trumpeting King Penguins . Many stand tipped back on their heels with fur poofing over the egg balanced on their feet. Parents hatch one chick. It takes over a year (14 months) from egg to fledge, that’s a long time for a bird to be a parent. Usually long-lived animals are monogamous, but divorce for King Penguins is high. Time is of the essence when they return to breed. The survival rate for chicks is higher for early hatches. If last years mate is late–there ain’t no date.

Brown, fluffy juveniles hound their parents for food. Another interesting fact: in winter the juveniles live in “creches” and don’t eat when food is scarce, relying on their fat reserves. In spring, the parents resume feeding their young.

Molting makes the kid penguins look a wee rough. Too grungy. Strung out and seeking solace. Many act kind of goofy, running around in circles. Adolescence is hard on everyone, but flipper-flapping is exercise for when they can finally swim.

Closer to the beach, “weaner” elephant seals roar and wrestle, becoming strong too. They’ll be mature in four years, but it takes six to eight before they can fight hard enough to become beachmasters, and control an average harem of 70 cows. Being a ladies man requires hard work, resulting in a short life.

Patrolling the beach are bird predators: Skua (related to gulls) and Giant Petrals, with the illustrious reputation of  ‘vultures of the Antarctic’ for how they gorge on dead carrion.

 

 

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