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  • Writer's pictureHazel Prior

The First Penguins!

First, an apology. I was fully intending to publish this blog while I was still across the other side of the world. But the combination of super-slow WiFi, a complex and expensive system of accessing it, my uncooperative, luddite brain and too much time spent with the actual penguins (I am joking - you can't spend too much time with penguins!) prevented me. I did, however, manage to scribble some words with pen and paper fairly often, so I'll start typing it up now. Since this blog will lack the immediacy of posting as I go, I'll do a shortened version of events, but the photos will hopefully keep you entertained! Wow, it will be hard choosing. I took literally thousands.

Here are a few from Day One...

And this is what I wrote that evening:

13th Jan

I am here, and I have seen it! My very first penguin in the wild! Ursula and I had placed our bets. I thought it would be a gentoo and she thought it would be a magellanic, but in fact we were both wrong. It was (and I couldn't be happier) a southern rockhopper. My favourite! In fact it was a large cluster of rockhoppers with their crazy hairstyles, complete with loads of fuzzy chicks, gathered in a clifftop colony. How thrilled I was!

To backtrack a little, the 18-hour, cramped flight in addition to many tedious hours of waiting and, to top it all off, a fire alarm at 3 am this morning had left us über-exhausted, but it was worth it. Our first day in the Falklands dawned bright and breezy, and we were taken in a Land Rover by a friendly local called Carrot (!) to Cape Bougainville. This country is notable for the scarcity of human beings and on the two hour drive from Stanley we passed only one other vehicle, a quad bike with a farmer and dog. We also passed an abundance of sheep, geese, two hares and some dotterels. The land is barren, rocky and knobbly, and for much of the route we bumped across open moorland with no actual road. The coastline here is the thing, exquisitely patterned with bright mosses and lichens, craggy rock formations and a wonderfully clear, azure sea.

We were both overjoyed to see the penguins, but they were completely unbothered by us. It seems to be normal for rockhoppers to share a site with King cormorants, who were busy feeding their chicks too. We also saw a single macaroni penguin, who was very mellow about being among all the rockhoppers.

The macaroni has a sunflower-yellow crest that starts above the beak, as opposed to the rockhoppers' paler yellow eyebrows and sprouts. The chicks are getting big now... these are nearly 2 months old.

I'm pleased to report that the rockhoppers are every bit as bouncy and funny and endearing as I was expecting. There may have been a tear in my eye, but, like my heroine, Veronica, I'm going to blame that on the wind...

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