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Published: December 22nd 2008
I watched families walking through the penguin colony, families of humans... and I thought, what would it be like as an Argentinean kid to grow up thinking 200,000 breeding penguins are just a regular summer vacation experience. Cool... Normal vs. extraordinary, depends on your perspective and life experiences I guess. I also kept thinking of the lone wolves I´d seen scavenging empty beaches in Alaska - this place would be a banquette. You can walk up to many of these penguins and they really don´t seem to care. There are predators here, and apparently some are serious problems but I saw no sign of predation.
With all the juveniles and offspring there are maybe as many as 800,000 Magellanic penguins
in the Punta Tombo
colony. They nest mostly in the scrubland so you don´t see them in one place all at once. As you walk the scrubland trail towards the beach you start seeing penguins here and there. Then more, then one under every bush, then several under each bush, then burrows dug out in the open. As you walk around in the blazing sun it becomes obvious that shade is a premium commodity which affects nesting success. In the open parents
stand over the chick shading it. Under the thickest shrubs the parent and chick lie on their bellies in the shade. It was hot. As the day progressed there were times I wanted to crawl in with them.
You only get to visit a small portion of the colony. And you have to stay on a well defined trail most of the time. But the penguins are nesting right up to the edge of the trail so you get to see them as close as you´d ever want. You can´t go on the beach where they enter the ocean but you can stand on a rock outcrop to watch. For animals highly adapted to the water they act a lot like Alaskans at the beach - they go down to the water and get a little wet, then scamper back up the beach a little and look back... what were we thinking!!!
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