Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pingüinos!

King Penguins.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of our day today was seeing the adorable King Penguins at Parque Pingüino Rey (King Penguin Park), located on the island of Tierra del Fuego.

From Porvenir, it was about an hour and a half long drive to get to the park, which is really a private reserve, that has been set up to not only protect the small colony of penguins but to also enable researchers to study them.


Our drive took us, on a bumpy, gravel road, along the shores of Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay).  The landscape here is pretty flat but also very rugged.


At points, we could see all the way across the Strait of Magellan to Patagonia.  Somewhere in that distance is Punta Arenas.  I had to imagine what it must have been like for Magellan to have traveled here all those centuries ago - so remote and desolate.



We made a couple of stops to see some wildlife.  I noticed the flamingos right off the bat but then....


....the ducks and geese came in to view.


Although the most common duck we spotted was the brown  pintail, there are in fact a lot of different varieties of duck and geese that call the island home.


We also spotted some guanacos grazing.  I had to capture this shot of three juveniles grazing.


And the mother with her two babies which would correctly referred to as *chulengos*.  I had to Google "what is a baby guanaco called" to figure that out :-)


It was around 3p when we arrived at the park.  Three trailers constitute the research facility itself, the ticket office, and the bathroom facilities.


That's the flag of the Magallanes and Antártica Chilena region flying.

I sent Bro inside to get our entry tickets as he's the one that holds the money purse :-)  On every trip, he's in charge of money, keys, and maps.  I handle all the other trip logistics.  The split in responsibilities has worked out very well for us over all the trips we've done together!


After everyone got their tickets, we had a brief intro by one of the park rangers who gave us some background information on how the park was built shortly after the discovery of the penguin colony.  She then pointed us to the path that led down to near the water's edge where the penguins congregate.


As I strolled down the path, I spotted another wild animal - an Andean fox that appeared to be shedding it's winter coat.  It was so well camouflaged against the grass and the rocks, I didn't notice it at first.  See it in the photo below?


The photo below captures a view of the park trailers as seen from a distance.  As you can see, we had to walk quite a way's out to get to the penguin viewing area.


A large wooden was set up to essentially cordon off visitors from the penguins.  Understandable you don't want people wanting in and around the birds.  I hate to think of the harm that would come to these creatures if you let people anywhere close to them. Sorry but there are some very stupid tourist out there!


It's not along stretch of blind but thankfully, there weren't all that many tourists visiting the park today so everyone was able to get a spot to see the adorable birds.


This is the view I saw.  Penguins.  Water.  Mountains.  Beautiful.


I don't know what the distance was between us and the penguins but I pretty much had to use the full length of my zoom lens (300 mm) to get a decent view of the birds. 



The park ranger had told us that if we paid very careful attention to the birds, we would likely see chicks as this is the season for young to born.  She told us to look for pouchy feet i.e., fur pulled over the feet to keep a chick warm.  I spotted the pouchy feet but also a few hungry chicks.  Can you spot the two chicks in the photo below?

Find the two baby penguins!


They did have box viewers that were effectively binoculars available for people to us.  A fellow tourist showed Bro how to use the viewer and his camera to get close up shots of the birds.  It wasn't easy to do but Bro managed to get some decent images.



For the most part the penguins hung out together in a group but occasionally, you would spot the lone traveler.  The way this bird strut along the ground made me think he looked like many a suited man I've seen on their way to work.


This is a bird on a mission!


I shot a bit of video.  It's not all that great as the microphone picked up quite a bit of the sound of the wind but I wanted a reminder of seeing the birds moving around and also the noises they make.  They are so cute!



Can you spot the hungry chick?



A little distance away from what I would describe as the main group of penguins was a smaller group.   The path led past a small field of yellow colored grass.  I enjoyed the short stroll, surrounded by all the beautiful scenery.

The second group of penguins were resting far closer to the shore.  Again, we had to watch them from behind a wooden blind.





All in all, we were at the park for about an hour and that was plenty of time to see the penguins.  We had traveled a long way to get here but for me, it was so worth it!!

King Penguins
Panoramic view of the King Penguins at Parque Pingüino Rey. Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire photo.

From here, we had to make our way back to Punta Arenas but we did not double back to Porvenir.  We would cross the Strait of Magellan at a different point.  It would be a much shorter ferry ride though the drive would be longer.  More on this in the next posting.