On Sunday, January 25, after lunch, we arrived at our first landing
spot. Barrientos Island is in the Aitcho Island Group in the South
Shetland Archipelago, which is just northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Also called the H.O. Islands after the Admiralty Hydrographic Office
, Barrientos Island is too small to have a permanent ice cap, so
it was a great place to observe penguin colonies along the shoreline.The
island is home to about 22,000 penguins,both chinstrap and gentoo
colonies with their very young chicks, as well as elephant seals
and old whalebones.
penguins can be easily recognized by the black line under their
chins. They build their nests up on mounds with stones that they
pick up one by one. But due to guano and snow melt, their nests
can become muddy messes. Since parents coming back from feeding
in the ocean find their own chick by their voice, there is alot
of noise with both parents and chicks crying out for recognition.
The smell and sounds cannot be seen in photographs so you will have
to use your imagination!
Penguins can be recognized by their white "top hat" and
bright orange beak. They are more inquisitive than the chinstraps
and seemed to have no fear of people. Their
chicks were so cute with their downy fur coats which were just beginning
to molt. It was fascinating to watch as a parent would come back
from feeding in the ocean, find their chick and begin to feed them.
Often other chicks would run after an adult who was not their own
parent in the hopes of getting some food but it didn't work.
the penguins were the main attraction, the elephant seals were a
close second. Only the females were left on the island, with the
males having gone back out to sea after doing their work in impregnating
saw many species of birds on our trip. But the one that no one likes
is the Skua. This bird preys on baby penguins and is often found
near the penguin colonies hoping to snatch up a chick. We watched
as they tried and were chased back by the parents. Still the Skua
chicks were awfully cute, too.
For more photos of Aitcho Islands, go to Aitcho
Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to
Locations Visited Photos