Penguins Strike Back / by Jerry

The freezing cold gales bely the fact that spring is approaching in the south. Gentoo penguins have been around in small numbers all winter, but the breeding season is on its way and they need to find their partners and build up their nests. The last week has seen a huge increase in numbers coming ashore in the evenings to spend the night on their chosen beaches.

Out to sea there's an increased amount of splashing and black shapes are seen jumping between the waves.

They disappear from view and then, in an instant, there's an almighty splash and dozens of them emerge from the sea. Some leaping straight out, others scrambling, others slipping on the wet stones.

Once on the rocks they pause for breath and to check they're in the right place. One of the penguins in the above photo certainly is not.

One brave individual decides they're in the right place and starts off across the slippery rocks. There is an easier route, straight up onto the beach but it may be harder access under the water and it means finding a way past the fur seals. While they're not really a genuine threat to the gentoos, it's probably in their best interests not to antagonise them.

Negotiating some of those rocks is not so easy, particularly the slippery, algae-covered ones. This individual was pretty capable but more than one fell over and then climbed up slowly using their beaks for support.

Once the rocks are crossed there's the mass rush up the beach.

A few get delayed by the line of kelp - a confusing trap.

But all manage to head up to the nest site near the top of the beach.

Reunited at their nest. Gentoos are monogamous but pair-bonds rarely last more than a few seasons so there's plenty of courtship - birds bowing to each other individually or symmetrically - and starting to build up their nests.

It's still early in the season and there's ice all over the beach. That'll soon melt, giving them access to the nesting materials and they'll start to get underway seriously.