Hola! We have been at the Punta San Juan Reserve for 6 days now, and we are learning a lot about the penguin populations here and what can influence those populations.
t is amazing to look out on the landscape and see nothing but rocks and shining-white guano, but then if you look a little closer you can see hundreds of penguins speckled in the background and even hiding in the guano! These penguins are known to make their nests by digging a hole in the guano, and then laying their eggs, so sometimes you’ll see a tiny face peeking out at you on the sides of the cliffs. This is a special treat to see a penguin hiding in the guano because usually that means there is a chick (usually two) around, and if you look closely, you may even see the babies. Seeing these baby chicks definitely warrants a huge “awwwww….” They are just as adorable as you can imagine. They are tiny, fluffy, awkwardly cute birds who look at you with big curious eyes. It is definitely a sight that will never get old.
Saturday started out with an interesting twist. I walked out to the back of the house where I had hung some laundry to dry, and a juvenile penguin greeted me on the rock ledge by the door. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and to my surprise, he jumped down from the rock ledge and ran toward me.
All of the adult penguins that we have seen here at the reserve have been very skeptical of humans, and tend to avoid us the best they can. However, this little guy came directly up to me and stood by my feet and looked up at me. It reminded me of how the African Penguins act at the Newport Aquarium when you have food. Well apparently, juvenile penguins often get lost from the colony and come to the house here at Punta San Juan, and we are supposed to catch them and take them down to the water to make sure that they don’t get too far from their colony (and also to ensure that the dog they have on the reserve doesn’t grab them instead). So I closed his beak to make sure that he couldn’t bite me, and I picked him up and took him down to the water. He was a very relaxed little penguin. He didn’t really fight me too bad, or try to harm me. He was a bit scared, but once I got him down to the water he was happy. So, just like at Newport Aquarium, the day literally started with penguins!
Afterwards, Ric and I went to the North side of the beaches here to gather census data. The North side of the reserve is where the house is located, and where I relocated the penguin in the morning. So we were at this small beach that was filled with fur seals, sea lions and all adult penguins. Then, out of nowhere, comes this juvenile penguin and he runs to catch up with the other adults. Everyone in our group thought it was probably the little penguin that greeted me in the laundry area, and it felt really good to see that he had finally caught up with part of his colony.
Things have been starting to change around la guanera lately. All the guano harvesters have been arriving, and they are starting to set up the tents and living areas for the workers while they are here. On Sunday we are going to be setting up the parameters for the harvest to show the workers where and where not to collect the guano. They will only be allowed to collect in certain areas to ensure that they do not disturb any nesting birds. Hopefully they will start collecting by Monday morning and we will have some other interesting stories to report!