Friday, July 01, 2011

Flying with Penguins in the Galapagos

June, 2011Although they sometimes seem almost comical on land as they waddle from the sea and onto the lava shore, it is here in the water that the true grace of a Galapagos penguin becomes apparent.
With a speed and agility that surprises me, this small group of Galapagos penguins is trying to capture small baitfish. Time and again the penguins would try to separate out an individual fish from the school. The sea lions would join the chase, not for a meal, but just for the fun of it!
Of course the fish are well versed in the game, and no fish wants to be anywhere near the beak of a hungry penguin. Beautiful patterns are created by the fleeing fish as the penguins struggle to isolate one of them.
Stopping for a brief moment to check out its own reflection in the dome port of my camera, this penguin shows us how well adapted its eyes are for the task of underwater vision.
So many fish and so little time!
Here a juvenile Galapagos penguin stretches and preens on lava. These penguins are the only species in the world that venture into the northern hemisphere.
Galapagos penguins are neither drawn to or repelled by our presence in the water with them. I don't believe they see us as either a threat or competition for food...probably just ungainly animals in the water!
Population fluxes are sometimes extreme for Galapagos penguins as they rely so heavily on constant food sources near the Galapagos Islands. A severe El Nino event can have drastic results for the entire population, as witnessed by the massive reduction in numbers in the 1997-1998 loss of perhaps as much as 40% of the total number of these penguins in the Galapagos due to an El Nino event.

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