South America Update – July 2017

Dear PenguinPromises


The penguins, along with Promises, have now travelled as far north as they will go this year. They have been sighted off the coast of Brazil in large numbers since last week. Most of the penguins are now spread out along the coast of southern Brazil as far as Rio De Janeiro.


We are now into our southern winter, and back here in the colony we have been suffering extremely cold weather with lots of snow. The whole of Patagonia has been hit by extremely cold weather, with temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius. That is the coldest ever recorded. The previous lowest was minus 21 degrees back in 1963. So the weather here is not normal at all. Within a few weeks Promises will be heading back home to begin egg-laying, so I hope the weather improves here soon.


The further north the penguins travel, the further they have to swim to get back home, so Promises will not be going any further north this year. Some years the penguins do reach further north, but this year they had a later start leaving the colony, and once they reach Brazil there is not much advantage in going too much further.


The daily temperature in southern Brazil is around 25 degrees Celsius at this time of year, which is very pleasant. There is also good bright sunlight for catching fish underwater. Back here in the colony not only is it much colder, but the days are also short and gloomy, making it difficult to see fish under the water. That is the main reason that the penguins migrate northwards each year, to find brighter sunlight and longer hours of daylight for catching fish under water.


Such a huge difference in temperature is not usual and is not usually a major factor in migrating north, but on this occasion it is fortunate that they do migrate. Magellanic penguins are not Antarctic penguins, and Promises would not be happy in such colds conditions.


Life is very peaceful for Promises at the moment. Magellanic penguins don’t have any real predators, so they do not need to worry about any nasty animals. Some sharks eat penguins, but the sharks that attack penguins live in the tropics, for example around the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Leopard seals also kill penguins, but they live much further south near the coast of Antarctica.

None of these animals live anywhere near to Promises, so life is peaceful.


The only task for the penguins at the moment is eating. Everything else is just rest and play. It all sounds very nice, and it is, but it only lasts for a few weeks each year. Soon they have to start heading back home to lay eggs, and then the real hard work begins, feeding the chicks.


Most of the penguins stay out at sea the whole time when they visit Brazil, but there are exceptions. A penguin called Dindim was forced to go ashore in Brazil

6 years ago when he got himself badly oiled. Thankfully a 72 year old fisherman called Joao rescued Dindim. The fisherman cleaned the oil off his feathers and fed Dindim until he got better. Ever since then Dindim has returned to visit his fisherman friend every year during the winter migration. Instead of staying out at sea with the other penguins, Dindim spends his time in Brazil ashore with his friend Joao.


I attach a photo of Dindim with his human friend. I also attach a map which shows the journey that all the penguins make from our colony at the tip of South America to Brazil. As you can see it is a very long way.


I will write to you again in a few weeks when the penguins are heading back home to the nest. I will also include a summary of last season’s research results.


Best wishes, Mike


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