Part II: Birding & Nature at the South Georgia Islands

Many of us love to travel, and when we do, we often enjoy the birds and wildlife of far away places.  We hope you saw and enjoyed Part I of Valerie and Mark Doane’s recent trip to the Southern Hemisphere, where it is spring during our fall.  Along with her narrative, she has included a blog site of many beautiful photos where you will see more examples of birds in love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day!

And if you have taken a trip and enjoyed doing a bit of bird watching, please send us an email as we’d love to share your story and photos!  Thanks!

King Penguins at Right Whale Bay – Valerie Doane

This is the second installment of photos from our October/November Antarctica trip.  These were taken in the South Georgia Islands at various bays and harbors.  Featured are: King Penguins, The Oakum Boys, South-Georgia Shags, Giant Petrels, Grey-headed Albatross, Light-Mantled Albatross, Brown Skuas, Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and a small number of other birds. The entire 14-day expedition we sighted 77 different bird species and 18 different mammal species.

Click this link to view but first read a few factoids below about the Kings and Elephant Seals.

Southern Elephant Seals: live in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters and are the largest of all seals. Males can weigh up to10,000 pounds while females are a mere 2,000 pounds.  When breeding season arrives, male Elephant seals, known as “beach masters,” define and defend their territory of the beach. They collect a harem of 40 to 50 females, and battle other males for mating dominance. Some encounters end with roaring and aggressive posturing, but many others turn into violent and bloody battles. The difference in size between the male and female makes any attempt to resist by the female futile. It’s not a pleasant sight and unlike the Penguins when “love was in the air,” no romance going on here, to be sure!

Oct/Nov is spring and mating season is in full swing, accordingly the beaches are littered with Fur and Elephant seals.

King Penguins: Salisbury Plain is the second largest breeding colony of King Penguins on South Georgia with an estimated 70-120,000 pairs and roughly 12,000 pairs in Right Whale Bay.  The range in estimate varies due to the unique breeding system of 1-2 nesting cycles in 3 years. On average a pair of Kings will take 12-14 months to raise their one chick to fledgling age.  This means all King penguin colonies are occupied and active at all times throughout the year. Some Kings will be incubating their one precious egg while others Kings tend to their newly hatched young and still others will tend to the their large downy brown chicks called “Oakum Boys”.  The name “Oakum Boys” comes from early seamen who thought the King Penguin chicks resembled a tarred fiber called Oakum that was used to pack the seams of their wooden boats.  These notoriously inquisitive big fluff ball chicks were about 10 months old when we saw them. By now they have completed their development by molting their brown down for a beautiful coat of gray, white and black feathers with the bright orange splash that will identify them as King Penguins. The average height of an adult King is about 39” and they are the second largest species with the Emperor’s being the largest.  Breeding is preceded by a molt and like the juveniles, adults cannot fish for food until they have a new fully intact and functioning set of feathers.  Not all Kings molt at the same time and molting takes about 30 days. During this time period they gather in a cluster away from the main colony to conserve energy as the molt period is one of starvation while living on food reserves.

Thanks and enjoy.

Article and Photographs Submitted by Valerie Doane

Author: sibirders

SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting” Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.

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