Every day is a new adventure in the AdeliePenguin breeding colony at Cape Royds,Ross Island, Antarcitca. Our colony has about 2000 breeding pairs of Adelie Penguins and there are two of us who live in a tent about a quarter mile from the nesting sites. Dr.David Ainley is a world authority on Adelie Penguins and the principal investigator for the research team that monitors several colonies on the island. Jean Pennycook is an educator, who shares Dr Ainley's work with the world. They live in a tent for 2.5 months every season learning about these remarkable birds.

Along the way to work each day they pass Shackelton's hut built in 1908 which is now a world heritage site. Besides Adelie Penguins, Emperor Penguins, seals, whales, skuas and snow petrels come to Cape Royds. In the background Mt Erebus, one of three volcanos on Ross Island and the only active one provide a scenic backdrop to the penguin colony. Follow along the daily stories as the season progresses.

Here are links to web-based penguin activities.

Click HERE for additional information about Adelie Penguins and how they are coping with climate change. Click HERE for additional activities you can do in your classroom.

Questions about this page? Email me.

Jean Pennycook jean.pennycook@gmail.com

cape roydscape royds

Cape Royds research station and the Adelie breeding colony, Ross Island.

penguin breeding group

Nicely made penguin nest and the Home Ranch breeding group.

banding penguins.looking for whales

Banding chicks at the end of the season and looking for whales


Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Colony Daily Journal, 2019-2020

Click on any picture to see a larger version

To see daily pictures from previous seasons at Cape Royds Adelie penguin breeding colony go HERE

Nov 4, 2019, We are in our field camp at Cape Royds and the new season has started.

Jan 5, 2020

Skua Family. The Skua build their nests around the penguin colony. This chick is very young but already learning that penguins are a food source. Skua chicks do not stay in the nest, but are able to wander in a couple of days. The parents will still keep an eye on them no matter where they go.

Jan 6, 2020

Our last picture of this lone nest. See the progression Nov 22, Dec 1, Dec 4, and Jan 2. Risky to build the nest so far from others, but this couple has made it. The chicks are big now and we wish them well. I will not be here to see them fledge, but they have a good start.

Jan 2,, 2020

This bird is a good parent and able to defend her chicks. Compare this picture with the nest from our posts on Nov 22 and Dec 4. They are the same nest. I would never have thought they would make it, it is so isolated from other birds. Only a couple more weeks to go. I will let you know what happens.

Jan 5, 2020

We get many flags made by children around the country and we fly them in front of the penguins. This flag was one of our favorites.Each child made a square for this quilt like flag. You can see it flying and all the flags flown in front of the penguins HERE. Thank you to the students at E.T.Hamilton school in Voorhees, NJ, Ms Bland's class.

Dec 29, 2019

Much of our time is spent recording what the penguins are eating, fish, krill or something else. The job is very easy when we see this. Probably a young parent not skilled enought to give her newly hatched chick small amounts. This is krill. Neither the chick or the adult will eat the spilled food, it is wasted.

Dec 31, 2019

Our neighbors. These Weddell seals enjoy resting on the ice near the penguin colony. This year, there are more than usual, there must be plenty of food around for them.

Dec 25, 2019

Penguins aren't the only ones bringing new life into Antarctia. This Orca has a young calf which she keeps very close to her. These Orca are not known to eat penguins, mostly large fish near the bottom of the ocean.

Dec 27, 2019

A nest with three chicks. Do not think this nest had three eggs, they rarely do, but there are 3 mouths to feed and thees adults are doing a great job. We will check on them in a few days.

Dec 21, 2019

The storm is over and we now see how the penugins protect the chicks from the blowing snow. You can see where the adult simply laid down and let the snow build up around her. Now she has a small cave where the chicks are warm and dry.

Dec 23, 2019

Lovely penguin feet. Although these birds are predators they do not have feet like hawks or owls. The strong toes are great for climbing over ice and rocks but serve no purpose in catching food. Nor do they use their feet in propulsion, only their wings, similar to flying birds.

Dec 19, 2019

This lovely flag was sent to us from the students in Carrie Given's class at VangPao Middle School in Fresno, Calif. These penguin flags add color to our otherwise black and white environment here at Cape Royds. If you would like to see other flags that have flown at Cape Royds go HERE.

Dec 20, 2019

The weather at Cape Royds is recorded every 4 hours. Here is the graph of the last strom we had. It was 2.5 days of fierce winds and blowing snow. You can always see what the weather is at Cape Royds by going HERE

Dec 15, 2019

Weddell seal. These lovely creatures live on the fast ice (ice attached to the shore). The last few days there have been well over 20 of these gentle mammals near the colony. There is a large hole for them to get into and out of the ocean when they want to get food. They eat fish, not penguins.

Dec 17, 2019

Penguin Quandry. Look at these two nests. One is made from large rocks and the other from small ones. Penguins are different and each nest shows their personalities and preferences. Do you think one nest is better than the other? In what way? Will one protect the egg and chick better from the Skua? How would you test your idea?

Dec 12, 2019

This is the same group as the one in the picture below. 24 hours later, the snow is gone, mud dried up and nests are all rebuilt. Penguins are hard workers and don't let snow get in the way of keeping their eggs warm.

Dec 13, 2109

First egg of the season ! ! Wahoo. This is our favorite time of year. This egg took 36 days to hatch. Let's wish them luck in raising their chicks. The adults will need to bring back about 60 pounds of food from the ocean for each chick. This is a bird in our study so we can watch him every day.

Dec 11, 2019 (a)




Storm aftermath. The storm finally stopped and I went to check on the birds. (a) This group did well. You can see the snow piled up around the nesting adult and their body kept the egg warm and dry. (b) This bird had too much snow around her and is buried. Do you think she will be able to get out? (c) Now some of the snow is melting and the run-off will be a problem. So far this bird and (d) this bird are managing.

Dec 7, 2019

Skuas are hungry. This pair of Skua has eaten several penguin eggs this morning. You can see the penguins are not far away, the Skua grab the eggs, then bring them here to eat. How many eggs can you find?

Dec 8, 2019

I have spotted 5 Skua nests with eggs in them around the colony. This means there will be hungry Skua chicks to feed soon. We had a small snow storm today and this nest is almost covered.

Dec 4, 2019

This nest is still going strong against all odds. Compare them now to the pictures of Nov 22, and Dec 1. Most of the ice has melted, and although they are isolated from other protective nests, they still have 2 eggs. Let's cheer them on.

Dec 6, 2019

Dec 6, 2019

Today we increase the use of cutting edge technology at Cape Royds. We had a drone fly over the colony so we can count the penguins faster, easier and more accurately. How many do you see in the picture?

Dec 1, 2019

Compare this nest to the one in our Nov 22 picture. The penguin pair have fortified the nest against the ice and are doing well. They are still isolated from others so I worry about the Skua, but so far so good. We will check back in a few days.

Dec 3, 2019

His name is White Patch. Sometimes we see birds with feathers in the wrong place. This bird is an example. For some reason white feathers are growing on his back. It is not a problem, and I thnk it makes him an individual among thousands that look exactly alike.

Nov 24, 2019

We revisit the Ice Group (see Nov 2 and 13). The birds have finally built nests. The rocks had to be carried from a long way a way as the ice is still covering the ground. Some eggs have been laid and some have been lost. This is a difficult year for the birds in this group. We will check back to see how many chicks hatch.

Nov 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving. We are in our tent at Cape Royds and a long way from family and friends on this festive holiday, but we are so grateful for where we are and what we are doing. Our camp appears isolated in the picture above, but we feel connected to the natural world through the lives of these penguins.

Nov 22, 2019

This brave penguin pair has built the nest a long way from their group and on the ice. So far, they are doing well. I do not have much hope for this nest to survive, but what do you think? We will report back on it in a few days.

Nov 23. 2019

Our first Skua nest with eggs. Last year I did not see eggs until Dec 2. Can you find her nest in the second picture?

The parent is trying to build up her nest to keep the egg dry as the water rises, they may survive.

The penguin's warm body melted a hole in the ice, this egg will not survive

The nest did not stay above water. Both these eggs are bathed in the icy water and will not survive.

This egg has lost both the parent and the nest, it will not survive

An update of the birds in the ice groups. (See Nov 2, 2019). 19 days have passed and many of the birds built their nest on top of the ice. On warmer days some of the ice melted and in other places their warm bodies melted a hole in the ice. Now the eggs are in cold water and will not hatch. This is so sad for us to see, but we can do nothing.

Nov 17, 2019

We went to find whales along the ice edge. Orcas are the apex predator here in the Ross Sea and dive under the ice in search of large'fish to eat. This one is a female. We saw many calves, but do not know if she had one. Notice the eye patch, this makes her a type 'C'. There are 4 types of Orca in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nov 19, 2019

Young bird. There is an egg in the nest, but she does not know it needs to be kept warm. If she does not lay down on it soon it will freeze. This is probably an immature bird here at Cape Royds for the first time in an attempt to raise chicks. Today it’s really cold, she does not have much time to figure it out.

Nov 13, 2019

These are the same birds from our picture of Nov 2. The ice has still not melted and these birds have not built their nests yet. In other groups with no ice, nest have been built and eggs laid. This groups is very late in getting started.

Nov 15, 2019

Several years ago this was a thriving breeding group, but in recent years the Skuas have taken every egg or chick. No chick has fledged from here in the last 4 seasons. Most pairs have given up and moved elsewhere. This last pair has returned and built a nest anyway. I wish I could tell them to move, but alas we can not interfere.

Nov 9, 2019

The Skuas have showed up as well. They know eggs will be laid soon and this pair have found a place to watch the colony for a chance to grab one. Perhpas they will make their nest here. I will watch them daily to find out.

Nov 11, 2019

The Emperors have arrived. These magnificant creatures are on a walk-about near Cape Royds. They are not breeding this year, otherwise they would be tending their chicks which hatched over a month ago. Perhaps they are birds too young to breed or perhaps failed to breed. Whatever the reason we are always happy to see them.

Nov 4, 2019

Skua feast. Two dead seal pups out on the sea ice are making a large feast for the Skuas in the area. I am sad for the seals but this means the penguin eggs being laid in our colony are safe for a while. Skuas seem to eat anything they can find. Today it is seal meat.

Nov 7, 2019

Well fought. This penguin had to fight for his nesting site. I did not see the fight and I could not find the 'other guy' but it must have been some battle. Penguins are territorial about their nesting site and sometimes return year after year to the exact same spot.

Oct 30, 2019

What a differene a few days makeCompare this image with the one below. That picture was taken 7 days ago. How many penguins were in the colony then? How many penguins can you find in the picture taken today? Make a prediction on how many will be there Nov 4, five days from now. Check back to see if you are correct. You can see the pictures from our p-cam HERE.

Nov 2, 2019

We have arrived at our field camp at Cape Royds. The day is brillant and calm and after setting up camp I want to see what is happening for the penguins. Every year is different. This breeding group arrived to find their area covered in ice. Very difficult to build a nest here. I do not know what they are going to do. Let's watch and see.

Oct 23, 2019

Flying over Antarctica you can clearly see why maps always show this continent as white. It is completely covered in ice and snow. Less that 2% of the land is exposed and in many places the ice is over 2 miles thick.

Oct 25, 2019

Our penguin-cam (p-cam) is busy taking pictures of the penguins as they arrive at Cape Royds. We are still at McMurdo Station waiting for our flight out to camp so we can start our research year. How many penguins can you find in the picture today? You can see the pictures from our p-cam HERE.

Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Colony Daily Journal, 2018-2019

Click on any picture to see a larger version

To see daily pictures from previous seasons at Cape Royds Adelie penguin breeding colony go HERE

Oct 18, 2018, We have arrived at McMurdo research station to begin a new year of adventures with penguins

Jan 15, 2019

Nest #4 has returned, band #4202. Kyle is back after a very long time at sea. His mate never did return, the eggs are long gone. This is his nest site and he has gathered some rocks, but there will be no more chicks this year. I am just glad he is alive. I can hardly wait to see what happens next year.

Jan 17, 2019

An iceberg has come by Cape Royds. We don't see them very often and certainly not as beautiful as this one. These big chunks of ice break off the Ross Iceshelf or other glaciers that come off the land onto the ocean. This is fresh water and made from 1000's of years of snowfall. 80% of it underneath the water, similar to an ice cube floating in your glass of water.

Jan 13, 2109(a)

Jan 13, 2019(b)

Jan 13, 2019(c)

Jan 13, 2019(d)

A large visitor to Cape Royds. This Leopard seal is the first one we have seen this season, and there are two. Out of the water they pose no threat to the penguins (c), but in the water they are deadly and can eat several penguins a day. Notice his very large head (a) and mouth (b) which makes them easy to identify. This seal's poop (c) is filled with penguins feathers so even if we don't see them, we know they are around.

Jan 11, 2019

Ring Around The Chicks. Most of our chicks are in crechs now. Both parents are out looking for food. But notice all the adults in the area. These are young birds, non-breeders, who have come here to practice nesting and learn how to raise chicks. They form loose circles around the crechs to ward off the Skuas. Notice the Skua on the right.

Jan 14, 2019

The adults have all left ! ! ! This is scary. The chicks are very vulnerable to predation by the Skuas and this makes me nervous. Other groups have the same thing going on. We do not know why the adults are not here.

Jan 7, 2019

The 2nd graders at JM Grasse School in Sellersville, PA, had penguin day. Their Art teacher, Mrs Gross, had each child make a penguin. Their classroom teacher (pictured here) Peg Volak, Skyped with me and the penguins at Cape Royds. It was a great day!

Jan 9, 2019

What is this bird? Notice the white chin. Well, it is a one year old Adelie penguin. We rarely see them here, this is only my 3rd in 14 years. Usually these penguins return to the colony for the first time when they are 3 or 4 years old. Next year at this time, as 2 year old, he will look like all the other adults.

Jan 2, 2019

Orca off the ice edge. We did a flight over the ice edge to find whales and there they were. Wahoo! These great creatures of the ocean are looking for the large fish that live near the bottom, Antarctica Toothfish. This one decided to see what all the noise was about. (We are in a helicopter)

Jan 5, 2019

Another Erebus show. No clouds this time, only the volcanic plume. Today it is huge. I wonder what it would be like to be on the rim of this volcano today. The lava lake must be very active. Even the penguins are watching.

Dec 29, 2018

Dec 29, 2018

Dec 29, 2018

Dec 29, 2018

The students from Ms Chystal's class came to Cape Royds for a visit and were able to see all the penguins. They tooks notes on penguin behaviour and watched the chicks grow. They even saw some predation. What a fun trip. They are from the Chrysallis School in Palo Cedro, CA.

Dec 26, 2018 (a)

Dec 26, 2018 (b)

The open ocean is close. (a)Foraging trips are short and the adults are bringing back plenty of food. (b) Sometimes too much, and when the chicks are small, the food is spilled and wasted.

Dec 31, 2018

Little Brother. Normally Adelie penguins can raise two healthy chicks, but sometimes a larger chick will bully a smaller one and take most of the food. The result is one big, and one small chick. In this case the parent has no more food for this small chick. You can see how empty his belly is.

Dec 20, 2018

McMurdo Research Station. This is the largest research station in Antarctica and is run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) There are about 800 people who work here doing every job you would find in a small town. It is about 20 miles from Cape Royds and where we get our supplies and pick up mail. Click HERE to see more about McMurdo.

Dec 23, 2018(a)

Dec 23, 2018(b)

(a)The egg in the nest will not hatch. It is a week past the hatching limit for these eggs. The parent is still trying to inculbate, but the chick will push it out soon. (b) only 2 hours later and it was rolled out. The Skuas will be here next.

Dec 17, 2018(a)

Dec 17, 2018(b)

Dec 17, 2018(c)

Dec 17, 2018(d)

Skuas are everywhere now and (a) eating as many penguin eggs as they can get. They have also built their nests nearby (See Dec 2, 2018 below) Yesterday we had a short storm and (b) snow built up around this Skua's nest. Today I saw a hole in the snow drift (c) and when I investigated, (d) it turned out to be the Skuas nest. They have abandoned it, and already one egg is gone. In (c) look carefully for the outline of the Skua's body, the head is pointed towards top right, tail feathers towards bottom left.

Dec 14, 2018

Lonely Nest. This nest did not make the 2 weeks. Did your predict that, or were you hoping (like me) that the nest would survive. They were in a very exposed place and all alone. I walked by here yesterday and saw the egg so it was last night or early this morning that both the egg and the bird are gone. So sad.

Dec 16, 2018

Mt Erebus makes its own weather. This active volcano on Ross Island sits 11 000 ft above sea level - straight up. It creates the most spectacular cloud formations particularly when the winds are high. Today they are.

Dec 10, 2018

Today our first chick hatched. It is always an exciting day. Now the work begins. Parents will be taking shorter trips to the ocean for food because they have hungry mouths to feed.

Dec 12, 2018

This chick is getting its first meal. From where I was sitting I could see it was krill because it was very pink. These chicks will need almost 60 lbs of food to grow and be ready to be on their own. How much food do you think you will eat from the time you are born until you turn 18?

Dec 10, 2018

This is the same bird as the picture below only 4 days later. The snow has melted or blown away but the nest is in the water. I do not know if this egg will make it. The parent is doing their best, but I am worried. I will check everyday to see what happens. What do you think?

Dec 9, 2018

One of the many penguin postcards that come to us from schools all over the country. They are returned with the Antarctic postmark on them. If you would like to take part in this project go HERE. This card has a very important message for all of us.

Dec 6, 2018

We have had a HUGE snow storm. 70mph winds and many large snow drifts. Some of the nests are buried. The birds will not leave their eggs so the snow piles up around them. This bird is stuck and will have to wait for the snow to melt to get out.

Dec 7, 2018

Here is the Lonely Nest on Nov 7, 2018. For those of you who predicted the eggs would last one week, YOU are correct. I am happy to see this and have watched the Skua eye this nest several times. Let's see if it will last another week. Check back on Nov 14th. Make your prediction now.

Dec 3, 2018

The penguin poop squirt. These penguins can not leave their nest for any reason. When they have to poop, they just lift their tail and squirt. Here you see the lines from the nest that form over time. In the next picuture you see the trouble with being a nest in the middle of the colony.

Dec 4, 2018

When you are on a nest in the middle of the breeding group, it is safer from the Skuas, but you may get pooped on. This bird was hit by its neighbors poop squirts from several directions.

Nov 30, 2018

This brave bird has built a strong nest near a large rock. They have 2 lovely eggs. The bad news is there are no other penguin nests around him to help fend off the Skuas. Make a predicition. Will this nest still be here in 1 week (Dec 7), or two weeks (Dec 14)? I pass by here everyday and will check on him, so watch for the Dec 7 and Dec 14 pictures.

Dec 2, 2018

The Skuas have laid their eggs. This is the first Skua nest of the season. They lay their eggs a couple of weeks after the penguins do. Why do you think they do that? What advantage is there for this life strategy?

Nov 28, 2018(a)

Nov 28, 2018(b)

Nov 28, 2018(c)

Nov 28, 2018 (d)

More science on the ice. A year ago we place a current reader into the ocean a) right here. It was to measure the ocean currents for 1 year. Today the dive team went to retrive the logger using b) a chain saw, c) a VERY hot melting device and 2 hours later there is a, d) dive hole in the ice. So sad they could not find the logger, but will leave it there for another year and try again in 2019.

Nov. 2008

This is the Home Ranch breeding group. I watch this group very closely and here is a picture of the penguins 10 years ago, 2008. The next picture is one I took today from the same place. I have marked a large rock for reference. Most things have not changed.

Nov 25, 2018

One of the questions we ask is if our colony at Cape Royds is increasing or decreasing. If you only had these two pictures to use in answering the question, what would you say? Is this enough information? What other information would you want to be sure of your answer.

Nov 21, 2018

Another beautiful penguin flag from the 6th graders in Mrs O'Connell's class at Lake Park Audubon Elementary School. Their school is located in Lake Park MN. It flew through a full on Antarctic wind storm.

Nov 24, 2018

Midnight sun. The sun never sets at Cape Royds while we are here, Oct 29-Jan 20. At almost 78oS we are well within the Antarctic circle. In the winter (April- Aug) it is the reverse and the sun never comes up. I am glad to be here now, so are the penguins.

Nov 19, 2018 - (a)




Ice fishing in Antarctica. This science team is working to solve the mystery of how Antarctic fish can stay alive in sub freezing water. But first you have to catch them. a) Use a power drill to cut through 6 ft of ice to get to the water,b),c) fish,wait,fish,wait, wait, wait, d) catch a fish.

Nov 17, 2018

The Skuas are back. These wily birds are here to feed on penguin eggs and in a few weeks, penguin chicks. They are setting up their territories and securing their nesting sites. We will be interested to see how many pairs make Cape Royds their home this year.

Nov 18, 2018

The reason for the nest. This male has not made a proper penguin nest out of rocks to keep the snow melt away from him, his mate or any eggs that might happen. If he wants to attract a mate, he will have to step up his game.

Nov 13, 2018

Since we can not go into the ocean to see what the penguins are eating, we have to wait for this. Yes we check their poop. This pink quano squit indicates krill.

Nov 15, 2018

Today it snowed all day long. It made the colony clean, white, quiet and peaceful. It won't last long as the penguins will muck through the snow, the sun will melt some of the snow and it will turn to mud. But it is lovely now.

Nov 9, 2018

A lost nest. This may be a young bird and was not able to keep the eggs in the nest. What you see here is not the work of Skuas, but they will certainly find these eggs soon. These penguins rarely lay replacement eggs, but we will watch and see what happens.

Nov 11, 2018

This pair has been in a fight, a big one. I do not know if they took this nest from another pair or defended this nest from intruders. Not easy to tell who was here first. There are many fights in the colony this time of year, but rarely do I see this much blood.

first egg

Nov 5, 2018

Our first egg of the season. I have been watching several penguin pairs that arrived early and have strong nests, suspecting them to lay the first egg. Instead I just happened on this one. We will watch it closely and see if this is also the first chick to hatch, 32-25 days from now.

Nov 7, 2018

The first Skuas of the season. They seem to know when the eggs begin to be laid as we have not seen them until now. This one has set up watch near one of the breeding groups. The penguins know he is there.

emperoro penguins

Nov 3, 2018

Another Day with the Emperors. Today they came near me for a closer look. I am as odd to them as they are to me.  As long as I sit very still and don’t make any noise they are not afraid. Interestingly, the noise that startles them the most is the ripping open of my Velcro pockets.

emperor penguins

Nov 4, 2018

Very odd behavior. It is very rare that Emperors will come onto land. Today this group have made the icy walk over the tidal crack and onto the entrance to the Adelie colony. They did not go much further, instead turned around and went back to the ocean.

penguin nest

Nov 1, 2018

When there are only a few penguins around early in the season, there is less competition for the available rocks. This pair was able to create a very large nest.  As other birds arrive, thieving and snatching will occur, and this nest will slowly grow smaller.

emperoro penguins

Nov 2, 2018

Emperors do not breed at Cape Royds, but adult non-breeders wander near our penguin colony early in the season. These magnificent birds are the largest penguin and spend all their lives in the water or on the ice. They never come onto land.

cape royds

OCT 29, 2019

We arrive at our Cape Royds research station near the Adelie breeding colony.  It is cold, -13oC and windy. Setting up the hut, organizing the food and making our first dinner was a challenge, we were ready for bed early.

penguin flag
Oct 30, 2018

Our first penguin flag of the season. This one from the students in Mrs.Kahlweiss’ 3rd grade class at Saint Columban School in Garden Grove. California.

empty colony

Oct 24, 2018

We visit the colony on a day trip from McMurdo. There are a few penguins, but not many. Most of the nest sites are empty. We will come back in a few days to see the change.

first nest

Oct 24, 2018

First nest of the season. This male has come ashore early and has already built his nest. Unfortunately there are no females in the area to show off too. Perhaps in a few days.

land in Antarctica

Oct 18, 2018

Our team arrives in McMurdo. It is a glorious day and we are eager to start the new season. The C-17 carries both passengers and cargo. Today 126 people arrived in Antarctica. It was -21oC.

terra bus

Oct 18, 2108

Ivan the Terra-Bus is our transport from the airfield to the research station. The tires are as tall as I am. This bus goes about 5 miles an hour over the ice roads making it a 45 min ride to McMurdo.


Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Colony Daily Journal, 2017-2018


Jan 14, 2018

Empty Tent. It is time for us to leave Cape Royds. We have packed up all the food, equipment, computers, cameras, radios, clothes and trash. The helicopter is arriving in 20 min and it is time to say good bye.

Jan 15, 2018

Family of Three. This penguin pair was able to raise three heathy chicks.  One was not theirs but they made it part of their family anyway.  Find three other pictures of this family. See Jan 4 for the first one. I did not believe they could do it!

Jan 12. 2018

Skua Attack. Skuas don’t just go after penguins. Here you see one coming after me!  I got too close to its chick (see the fluff ball behind the skuas wing). The chicks hide in the rocks and I did not see it until too late.

Jan 13, 2018

Coast Guard Ice Breaker. The Polar Star is breaking a channel (about 14 miles) from the ice edge to McMurdo Research Station.  Two large ships deliver supplies for the entire next year.  A container ship will bring food, machine parts, science equipment and other materials.  A tanker will bring fuel for heat, airplanes and vehicles.

Jan 10, 2018

Three's a Crowd. Six days later. Compare this photo with the one for Jan 4. These parents have managed to raise all three of the chicks, one of them is not theirs. I am amazed and delighted.

Jan 11, 2018

More Orcas. These magnificant creatures come to the ice edge to hunt for the large fish. Here they are spy hopping to see what is on the ice.

Jan 9, 2018

Can’t Leave. Usually there are only a few hungry penguins waiting to leave Cape Royds for open water and food. Today a very large crowd was hanging near the edge but would not go in.  Then I saw why. The large leopard seal was hanging just underneath them waiting for the first bird to jump in. They will have to stay hungry for a while

Jan 9, 2018

Can’t Go Home. All these penguins have bellies full of food for their chicks who are waiting in the colony and hungry. It is just a few short yards from this ice floe to shore, but no one would make the trip. Then I saw why. That large leopard seal was patrolling the edge and waiting for someone to jump in. Today the penguins are not moving, chicks will just have to wait.

Jan 7, 2018

What a Difference a Month Makes. Compare this picture with the one to the right. They are taken one month apart. Here you see one bird on each nest sitting quietly on their eggs, no other penguins around. How many nests are there?

Picture taken Dec 1, 2017

Jan 8, 2018

Here you see lots of chicks, high energy movement of birds and many extra penguins who are not raising chicks but just being there. Click on the picture to get a larger one and count the nests and the penguins. Much easier in the picture to the left.

Picture taken Jan 2, 2018

Jan 5, 2018

Well Fed Chick. Compare this penguin chick with the one in the picture below. This chick has a belly full of food and is growing fast. The parents are able to bring back enough food which is critical. These chicks need to grow fast, they will be on their own in a few short weeks.

Jan 6, 2018

Antarctic Green. There are a few places where we see plant life at Cape Royds, but not often. In this case a rock overhang for shelter, near a snow field for water, and close to the penguins for nutrients. These simple plants are frozen most of the year and come to life for a short time in the summer.

Jan 2, 2018

Hungry Chick. There are no adults tending this chick. They may be out foraging, but this chick has not fed in a while (notice slack belly) and will need to feed soon. There are many chicks left alone in the colony now and some, like this one, are vulnerable to the Skuas.

Jan 4, 2018

Three's A Crowd. This penguin parent has adopted a third chick. Did the chick get lost? wander in? lose its parents? We do not know, but we hope this Adelie pair will feed it. I will check this nest everyday. The odd chick is the middle one. Feeding three chicks will be a big job.

Dec 30, 2017

Penguin Acrobat. Can you do this? Adelie penguins use their feet to scratch their head.  Who says these birds aren’t cleaver

Dec 31, 2017

On Their Way. Today we saw a leopard seal in the area and the penguins were very jittery about going into the ocean for food, but someone must be first and there is safety in numbers if they go in together. This group made it without incident and were seen swimming away.

Dec 27, 2017

Lost Chick, Happy Ending. This chick has stepped out of the nest and is too small to be away from its parent.  Many chicks like this one will not find their way back to the nest and are lost to the keen eyed Skuas. In this case, although the parent did not move off the nest, it called to the chick who responded and moved back to the nest. 

Dec 19, 2017

Lost Chick, Sad Ending. This chick stepped out of the nest and was not able to find its way back. I do not know which nest it came from, but the other penguins pecked at it because it was in their territory. The Skuas will collect this body soon and it will become food for their chicks.

Dec 24, 2017

Beautiful Feet. Notice this Adelie penguin’s strong feet and long nails. Although they are webbed, penguins do not paddle like ducks.  Their feet are used to steer in the water and climb over ice and rock. 

Dec 25, 2017

Penguin Tracks. Merry Christmas 

Dec 22, 2017

Orca at the Ice Edge. Part of our job is to record the presence of whales in the area. We fly in a helicopter along the ice edge where the whales like to hunt. These orca eat the large Antarctic toothfish near the bottom of the ocean and do not bother the penguins. On this trip we counted about 20 whales. Notice the small calf swimming near its mother.

Dec 23, 2017

Double Teaming Predation. Skuas hunt in pairs and this pair have their eye on a large penguin chick. Just the Skuas presence causes the penguin parent to be agitated. One Skua will poke at the penguin and when they see their chance, the other Skua will dive in and take the chick.

Dec 19, 2017

At Home.  Penguins are happiest when they are floating around on the ice. This is what the ocean at Cape Royds looks like today. Masses of brash ice have floated in with the tide, currents and winds. The penguins rest on the ice, their food is underneath it.  Do their feet get cold? No penguins are adapted to living on the ice and do not get cold.

Dec 20, 2017

Leopard Seal. These large seals are the main predator of Adelie penguins. Notice how large their head and mouth is.  They are about 8ft long and this one is a big one.  It is hard for us to see these animals take the penguins as food, but that is the food chain here in Antarctica.

Dec 17, 2017

Skua In A Snow Storm. This skua is on eggs and last night we had a large snow storm. She needs to keep her eggs warm and let the snow pile up around her during the night. I did not see her as I walked past until she called out to her mate for help. He came quickly and I backed away. These birds are protected just like the penguins.

Dec 18, 2017

Perfect Penguin. This picture show how perfect the Adelie penguin is. Smooth feathers, clean and white on the front, black on the back. Strong legs, feet and beak, lovely white eye ring, and perfectly shaped wings. Notice these wings do not fold like other birds, instead remain straight for maximum power in the water.

Dec 14, 2017

Bikes on Ice. This is how we roll around McMurdo. Fat tires work best on the rocky roads, out on the ice, or deep snow.  These bikes are for everyone to try, just please return them to these racks when you are done.

Dec 15, 2017

Survivor. Adelie Penguins are sturdy animals and they are survivors. This bird not only recovered from the loss of a foot, but made it back to Cape Royds, which is a long journey from his normal feeding grounds. It makes me smile to see that this disability is not a disability for him.

Dec 11, 2017

First Chick. This is the first chick of the season. It is not one of our 10 nests but a lovely nest in the Rocks North breeding group. Always exciting to see this as it brings new life and energy to the colony and to us.

Dec 12, 2017

Poop Squirt. Yep! This is how penguins poop. They do not want to leave the nest and they do not want to soil THEIR nest so they lift their tail and shoot the poop as far as they can. It usually hits another penguin close by, but no one seems to care, it is just life in a penguin colony.

Dec 5, 2017

Skua Eyes. Skuas are both scavengers and predators. You can tell from this picture that these birds have sharp eyes. They need to see fish in the ocean, spot penguins sitting on eggs, find morsels of food in the rocks, all from the air. Notice also the sharp beak for tearing their food into bits.

Dec 7, 2017

Quiet Time. It is very quiet in the colony today. Although we expect to see chicks any day, this morning there are only birds laying on eggs. A snow storm has just passed through so penguins are protecting the eggs from both the cold and the snow. They will not stand up until the storm passes.

Dec 2, 2017

Lucky Shot. Sometimes it is fun to sit and just watch the penguins go in and out of the water.  We never know where or when it will happen, but on this day I was lucky to get this shot of a penguin ‘flying’ out of the ocean onto the ice. The tide was out so it was about a 3ft (1m) leap. No they don’t always make it, sometimes they miss-calculate the height, fall back and try again.  

Dec 3, 2017

Skua Game. Skuas can be relentless. This penguin selected a well protected nest site near a large rock, but there are no other birds to help fend off the attacks. Skuas hunt in pairs and this pair is waiting for the right time to grab the egg from this bird. It is only a matter of time, and the Skuas will win.

Nov 30, 2017

Nest Spacing. Penguins build their nests about 1 meter apart, the distance is not an accident. Any closer and they will be able to reach the neighbor and bite them. Any further and Skuas could land in between them and grab the eggs or small chicks.The spacing you see here helps keeps peace in the colony and provides protection.

Dec 1, 2017

Lonely Nest.   Some penguins build their nests away from the others. What causes them to do this? Penguins normally nest in groups because they can help each other fend off the Skuas. Later when they are too big for the nest, chicks can gather in groups called crèches to stay warm and reduce predation. This nest is vulnerable, they have no help with the Skuas and a lone chick will have trouble when both parents are gone. Today this nest has an egg, I will check in a few days.

Nov 26, 2017

Penguins At Home. Penguins are most at home on ice floes like these out in the ocean. They go where the wind and currents take them. Their food is underneath in the water so they are happy. Just like the birds in your area live in trees, penguins live on the ice. If the ice disappears, the penguins will have to go someplace else.

Nov 28, 2017

Pink Feet. This penguin has just returned from the ocean. I can tell because he is very clean and his feathers are still wet. When penguins are sitting on their eggs, or wandering around the colony usually their feet are white. Why do you think this bird’s feet are pink? What causes them to be pink?

Nov 22. 2017

Katie Makes A Friend. These penguins are not our pets, we do not feed them, play with them or hold them. However they are not afraid of us and frequently they come up and explore our clothing and especially our shoes. Today this one would not leave Katie alone and followered her everywhere. What was he thinking?

Nov 24, 2017

Penguin Postcard. We get hundreds of student made penguin postcards every year from students all over the world, this is one of them. I send them back with the true Antarctic postmark on it. It’s a great way to combine Art, Geography, and Science. If you would like your class to take part in our postcard project go HERE.

Nov 20, 2017

Why The Nest. A pile of rocks does not seem like a soft cozy nest for penguin eggs or chicks, but they are important because they keep the eggs out of melt water that trickles through the colony. Nest depressions fill up with very cold water and if the rock pile does not raise the egg above the water, it will not survive. These pictures show two nests that will not keep eggs dry, and two that will. Can you tell which one is which?

Nov 17, 2017

Do Penguins Fight? Yes they do. Usually it is over nesting territory or a mate with some disputes fiercer than others. Most do not draw blood, but result in pecks, jabs, flipper bashing and one bird being chased away. This bird has lost a large patch of skin on his neck and there was considerable blood loss. I checked on him a few days later and he was fine.These are sturdy birds.    

Nov 14, 2107

Open Ocean at Royds. This satellite image was taken Nov 8, 2017 and shows how different a year makes. Take a look at the exact same image taken Nov 12, 2016 at the bottom of this page. Last year at this time the birds had to walk 50 miles to get to the colony. This year they can swim.

Nov 16, 2017

Tonight’s Dinner. So many people ask us “what do we eat there?” Well this is a typical meal. Pasta, some scallops, some pesto sauce and some spinach. Yumm. We have a 2 burner camp stove and limited supplies. Remember, everything taste good when you are camping, and in fact it does.

Nov 12. 2017

Mystery Tracks. Today I found these tracks in the snow out on the sea ice. They are too big to be Adelie penguins, too small for a seal. I followed them for a while to see what could have made them. What do you think?

Nov 13, 2017

Emperor Penguin. And there he was.These birds breed about 40 miles from Cape Royds,and most of them are currently tending to their chicks. This one was alone and on a walk-about. The tracks in the pervious picture were his and indicate he was sliding on his belly and using his flippers to help move along.

Nov 10. 2017

The Internet is Here. We have been in camp for 2 weeks without being connected to the outside world. Today the crew from the Comms (Communication) shop showed up and connected us. YEAH ! !

Nov 11. 2017

Snow Coat. In a snow storm the penguins put their backs to the wind. The feathers act as insulation for the bird's body and do not let any heat escape. Snow piles up on their feathers but does not melt. These birds are well adapted to this harsh environment.

penguin egg

Nov 8, 2017

The First Egg of the Season. YEAH, a wonderful day for us. This marks the begining of new life in the colony. We are excited to witness this event and now start counting the days until we see chicks.

ice art

Nov 9, 2017

Royds Ice Art. The wind and cold in Antarctica is fierce and over time can create wonderful ice sculptures and patterns that are more fantastic than any artist could dream up or create. It reminds us of the power of nature and   keeps us humble. This magnificent piece of ice will be gone in a few weeks and next year another different one will take its place.

Nov 4, 2017

Tide’s Out.  The penguin have as easy hike to the colony this year, but the difference in height between the sea ice and the fast ice (ice connected to the land) is too high for them to climb or leap. This group of penguins will sit here, only 20 meters to their nests, until the tide comes in.

Nov 5, 2017

Tide’s In.  The sea ice moves up and down with the tide, the fast ice does not. Here the height between the sea ice and the fast ice is an easy step for the sturdy penguins, even the seals. The penguins have left the sea ice and continued their journey to the breeding groups. Did you know? There is only one tide a day in McMurdo Sound.


Nov 2, 2017

Road to Royds. In the background you can see the open ocean. Since we arrived, the water in front of the colony has frozen because the air is so cold. The penguins have to walk a short bit. Here you can see their tracks in the snow to their nests at Cape Royds.


Nov 3, 2017

The Penguins Arrive.  The open ocean is only a couple kilometers away, so it have been and easy walk to Cape Royds this year.  Now the problem is the wall of ice that faces the birds before they can get to their nests.  If the ice they are standing on was water they could leap out onto the ice, but in the last few days it have frozen over giving them a new challenge.

cape royds

Oct 30, 2017

Cape Royds Comes to Life.  Our first day at camp. The tent is cozy and warm, our food is packed in ice chests between the blue box and the yellow tent and we are ready for the season. The carpenter have built us a new outhouse. It is much larger and more weather proof than the old one.

cape royds

Oct 31, 2017

The Penthouse Breeding Colony. This breeding group at Cape Royds is the largest and the highest.  Today the light was perfect for a lovely picture. When we arrived Oct 23 it was open water, but the last several days have been so cold, the ocean has frozen over again.

Cape Royds

Oct 23, 2017

Open Ocean for the Penguins. Compare this picture to the satelite images of Nov 12, and Dec 22, 2016 below. We are several weeks earlier than these picuters and already the open water is south of the penguin colony. Good news for the penguins, Last year they had to walk 50 miles to their nesting sites, this year they can swim.

penguin flag

Oct 24, 2017

Our First Flag. This is the first flag of the season flying in front of the penguins at Cape Royds.  Not too many penguins are here now, but they are on their way.  This flag is from the students at Saint Columban School, Garden Grove California.


Oct 22, 2017

McMurdo Research Staion. This small outpost on Ross Island is the hub of the United States Antarctic Research program. Today there are over 700 people who are working and living here, about 200 of them scientists who are unlocking the mysteries of Antarctica one at a time.


Oct 23, 2017

Our First Trip to Cape Royds. A quick helicopter flight to Cape Royds lands us near the colony. We want to see how many have returned early in the season. Today there are 54 birds. Not very many. We expect the numbers to climb quickly in the next few days. In two weeks this picture will have 60 birds.

Antarctic storm

Oct 20, 2017

Didn't take long. Antarctic weather can change in the matter of minutes and today was no exception. 35 mph winds, horizontal snow, T= -18oF, all started in the space of an hour. Had to wear our heavy coats, big boots and warm hats just to walk to the next building for a meeting.


Oct 20, 2017

Since today is a storm day, we are working in the laboratory, cleaning, fixing, sorting, packing and labeling our equipment. When we get into the field, there will be no way to get things we forgot, and it is much harder to fix things.

good antarctic weather

Oct 17, 2017

Best weather EVER. Antarctica greeted us with this beautiful day when we arrived. No wind, no clouds, blue sky and brilliant sun. Hard to believe we are on the harshest continent in the world. Temperature = -14oF. This is the view from my window in the Crary laboratory, McMurdo.

weather closing in

Oct 19, 2017

We spoke too soon. Just as we were beginning to enjoy the weather, ominous clouds began to cover the mountains in the distance. We could feel the shift in temperature, the wind begin to pick up and our sun and blue sky disappeared. Checking the forecast told us a storm was on the way.

land in antarctica

Oct 16, 2017

Arriving in Antarctica. This is the outside of the large C-17 Air Force cargo jet that brought us to Antarctica. No asphalt or concrete here, the runway is made of ice. About 100 people and 5 pallets of cargo made the 5 hour flight from New Zealand.

hagland crossing

Oct 17, 2017

Only in Antarctica. This traffic sign indicates the crossing of a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle. These track transporters are used in Antarctica to move groups around on the sea ice and glaciers. They are very slow moving and not very comfortable.


Oct 15, 2017

Christchurch New Zealand. The International Antarctic Center is a wonderful attraction here and a place for tourists to learn about penguins, Antarctica and how people live in this harsh environment. This statue of an Emperor penguin and chick welcome you to the center.

fly to antarctica

Oct 16, 2017

Finally our turn. It is time to board the Air Force C-17 and fly to Antarctica. This is a no frill flight. No food service, no in-light movie, it’s cold, loud and uncomfortable.  Most people read or sleep, some work on their computers.  Five hours long, we fly over the ocean for 2.5 hours before we begin to see ice.


Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Breeding Colony Daily Journal, 2016-2017

click on any picture to see a larger version

Jan 10, 2017

Some of our smaller breeding groups were wiped out. This picture and the one on the right shows a penguin who found one of these places. He took all the rocks from the 10 or so nests that were there, and built one big one (see Dec 8 and 15 for the stories).

Jan 11, 2107

This is the biggest pile of rocks I have ever seen. Unfortunately his work will not last. When the males return to this colony next year they will take all their rocks back.


Jan 8, 2017

Nest #1, banded male #1050 and his mate have returned to their nest. Even though they will not be raising a chick this year, this is still their home for the seaon and they will rest here between feeding. Both are very clean and well fed so have been in the cracks recently.

Jan 9, 2017

Compare this satellite image of our region with the one for Dec 22, 2016 below. The ice has not moved. We are winding down our time at Cape Royds and winter is on its way. If the ice does not blow out this year it will be stronger next year.

Skua chick

Jan 6, 2017

This Skua chick is about 10 days old and does not remain in the nest like the penguins. Their parents keep an eye on them and if I get too close they will dive bomb me, but these chicks wander the area even when they are small.

penguin chick

Jan 7, 2017

This penguin chick is well on his way to fledging. Notice his long wing and big feet. He is also very well fed and almost as big as the adult. The remaining nests at Cape Royds are doing well.

Jan 4, 2017

Maris Wicks slept here. When visitors come to see the penguins at Cape Royds they need to bring their own sleep tent. Maris is a cartoon artist who writes science comics. What an interesting career! She melds science and art and makes it fun. Our latest storm made sleeping not so much fun.

Jan 5, 2017

Sometimes one of the chicks is much smaller than the other. This makes it harder for them to compete for food with the older, stronger, bigger sibling. In this nest we see the parent favor the stronger chick and only feed the smaller one when the larger one is full.

Jan 2, 2017

Our ice crack has expanded and lengthened. This crack has saved Cape Royds penguin breeding colony. What chicks are left are getting fed with food from here, it is only 1 mile away. We are so happy and are starting to see fat chicks that are growing fast.

Jan 3, 2017

Part of our research is to find out what the penguins are eating. Normally I sit and watch them feed the chicks and mark what I see. In this case the bird brought his meal onto the ice as it was too large to swallow in the water. Tonight, fish is for dinner.

Dec 31, 2016

Happy New Year!. This is how McMurdo Research Station celebrates New Years Eve. Everyone who can play a musical instrument puts together a band and they create Icestock. It is cold, it is windy, but it is a fun day, complete with chili cookoff.   Jan 1, 2017 Happy New Year

penguin swimming

Dec 29, 2016

Penguins are very good swimmers and unlike a duck use only their wings to propel themselves. Here you see a penguin resting on the surface of the water using his wings to move around.

penguin swimming

Dec 30, 2016

This penguin is getting ready to dive. They sit on the surface taking several short breaths and then blow out the air under the water creating these bubbles. They will do this several times then dive for 3-5 min. holding their breath as they look for food.

Dec 27, 2017

When a nest fails and eggs are lost, many penguins still feel the need to 'brood' something. The instinct is very strong which helps in the larger picture for species survival. This penguin has chosen a rock about the same size as an egg to nest, keep warm, rotate care for.

Dec 28, 2016

YEAH ! ! Some of our parents have found the crack and are bringing food back to the nest. These chicks have full bellies as you can see here. This is great news and we are hopefull that many chicks will survive. In this nest there are 2 chicks getting fed, a rare event this season.

geo locator

Dec 25, 2016

Very little is known about where the penguins go in the winter (Mar-Oct). To find out we are putting these small geo-locators on the legs of a few selected birds. They will wear them for a full year.When they return to Cape Royds next season we will download the data to see where they went.

Dec 26, 2016

Attaching the geo-locator to the penguin is a two person job. One person holds the bird while the other attaches the band to the leg. It's like wearing a bracelet and does not hurt the penguin in any way. Now we have to wait 8 months before we can find out where they go. That is the hard part.

penguin feeding

Dec 24, 2016

Part of our study is to record what the penguins are eating. There is no way for use to tell unless we see them feed the chicks. Here is an exmple of krill being fed to the chick. Notice the pink globs of food in the rocks infront of the bird.

Skua chick

Dec 25, 2016

Skuas are doing well this year. With so much easy food in the penguin colony there are more Skua nests and more Skua chicks. These are long lived birds, we have a few who have been around Cape Royds for over 30 years.

Dec 22, 2016

Not all the Adelie penguin colonies are having trouble. Here is a map of Ross Island. You can see where Cape Royds is and how far our birds have to walk to the ocean (see also Nov 12). There are 30 000 Adelie penguins nesting at Beaufort Island right on the ocean. They are doing very well.

Beaufort Island

Dec 23, 2016

This Adelie penguin breeding colony on Beaufort Island is thriving. They are footsteps away from open ocean and all the food they need to raise their chicks.

Dec 20, 2016

Another problem of so many lost nests. This nest used to be in the middle and well protected from the Skuas. Notice all the empty nests around her that have failed leaving this one isolated from the rest. Everyday she has trouble with the Skuas, she is an easier target now.

Dec 21, 2016

The next day. This isolated nest was predated by the Skuas and both chicks are gone. She lingered here for a few hours and then left, her breeding season is over. In a few more hours the rocks will disappear as well and there will be no sign of this nest. Perhaps she and her mate will try again next year.


Dec 18, 2016

Today we re-visit the crack in the ice. It is about 20ft across, but mostly frozen over. There are a few holes for the penguins to get into the water, here is one of them. We do not know how much food they are able to get from this place, but about 100 birds were feeding here today.

penguin dive

Dec 19, 2016

This penguin is happy to jump into the crack in the ice. Food at last. Who knows how long this bird has gone without food or water. Some of our birds are well over 3 weeks.

Shackletons Hut

Dec 16, 2016

Shackleton's Hut from his Nimrod expedition, 1907-09. This is a World Heritage site at Cape Royds and represents a great story of early Antarctic exploration, brave and bold men, hardship and honor. If you would like to learn more go HERE

storm penguin

Dec 17, 2016

Today we are having a real Antarctic blizzard. We will not be leaving the tent as it is driving snow with winds over 35 mph. The birds are happy they live and thrive here. This parent is protecting the chicks from the wind, snow and cold and will not move until the storm is over.

snow petrel

Dec 14, 2016

Snow petrels. These magnificant birds fly around Cape Royds and feed on fish. They love the wind using it to swoop around the rocks and cliffs. Hard to catch on film, this was a lucky shot. Notice the coal-black eye.

Dec 15, 2016

And then there were none. This breeding colony has been competely wiped out. There are no more nests, eggs, birds, and there will be no chicks this year (see Dec 8, 10, 12). Other groups are also small, but many are getting very low in numbers. It will be harder and harder to protect from the Skuas.

Dec 12, 2016

And then there were two. Two more nests have failed in this breeding group. (see Dec 10 and 8 below) We are very sad, and can do nothing about it.

Dec 13, 2016

The crack we visited (see Dec 1,2 below), has largely frozen over. There are a few holes for the penguins to get in and out of, but it would be better if the crack were much larger. This seal can only put his nose through to get air.

Dec 10, 2016

And then there were four. This colony has lost two more nests (see Dec 8, below). As the birds leave it will be harder and harder for the remaining nests to protect the eggs.

Penguin chick

Dec 11, 2106

Our first chicks of the season, always a happy day. New life, new energy, and a new generation of Adelie Penguins for Cape Royds. This will be a difficult year for the adults to feed these chicks, the open ocean is still almost 50 miles away.

Dec 8, 2016

Our colony is having a rough year. This is the 'Exit' breeding group. Normally there are about 20 nests with eggs here. As you can see, today, there are only 6. The adults are leaving which means the Skuas have an easier time pulling the eggs off the other nests

Mt Erebus

Dec 9, 2016

Mt Erebus, the southern most active volcano on this Earth. Today the plume is particularly large and visible. There is a lava lake in the crater of this volcano that spits out lave almost twice a day.

Dec 6, 2016

Many of our birds have been on the nests without food and water for over a month. I first thought this bird was dead, although he is just very thin and hungry. The next day he was gone, I hope he made it the 50 miles to the ocean for food.

bold skua

Dec 7, 2016

In every situation there are winners and losers. This year it is the Skuas. There are so many eggs for the taking in the colony the Skuas do not have to work hard for their dinner. Here one is very bold in sitting in the middle of a breeding group and waiting for the eggs to become free.

abandon penguin nest

Dec 4, 2016

Every day we are loosing nests. You can see this breeding group has many empty nests and since this picture was taken we have lost 2 more. We hope the ice breaks out soon, or the crack we observed will have enough food for our Cape Royds penguins.

Dec 5, 2016

This is the first flag of the season. We are so excited to fly it at Cape Royds. It was made by the students at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Thank you for sending us this beautiful flag.

abandoned penguin nest

Dec 3, 2016

It is a sad time at Cape Royds. Many of our brooding adults can no longer wait for their partner to return from the ocean. Some have been here a month without food or water, and are too hungry to stay.They are leaving their eggs behind: #1, Male has given up brooding, #2, he has left the nest, and the eggs have rolled out, #3, he is on his way to the ocean.

Picture #1

Picture # 2 and #3

ice crack

Dec 1, 2016

Today we spotted a crack in the ice about 2 miles from Cape Royds. If the crack is big enough for the penguins to feed in, that will save them the100 mi round trip to the open ocean. Here is a picture, it is big enough! Looks like some of it has frozen over in this cold weather. Notice the breathing holes

swiming penguin

Dec 2, 2106

The penguins are using this crack to search for food, this is good news. Here you see a penguin swimming along, notice the ice is about 3 ft thick. One thing we do not know is if there is enough food in the water for them here.

Nov 29, 2016

The Skuas have had an easy time of feeding on penguin eggs this year. Normally they need to snatch them from underneath a sitting bird, this year there are plenty of abandoned nests. Here you can see a place where they bring the eggs to eat. I have never seen so many eggs in one place.

Skua perch

Nov 30, 2016

This Skua is just waiting for another male to get up and leave. The males get too hungry and give up incubating for food, which is still a 50 mile walk away. From his perch the Skua can monitor over 50 nests. It is hard to watch this, but we are here as observers only and cannot interfere.

emperor penguins

Nov 27, 2017

This Emperor family is together for a brief time on the frozen sea ice. You can see the chick is almost as big as the adults. The chicks can stay warm in the coat of feathers they have, but cannot stay dry in the water.  We hope the sea ice does not melt before these chicks are ready to swim.

lost nest

Nov 28, 2016

Many of our males have been in the colony for over 3 weeks and have been without food or water for the entire time. The females have 50 miles to walk for food and 50 miles back before they can relieve the males. Some of the males have left their nest and eggs to the Skuas.

emperor colony

Nov 25, 2016

We take a Thanksgiving Holiday from Cape Royds to visit the rest of our team and the Adelie penguin colony at Cape Crozier. In addition to Adelies, the Emperor penguins breed here. These birds never come onto land, instead they incubate the single egg on their feet during the Antarctic winter. They are protected by winds in the crevasses of the ice shelf. Here you see their colony out on the sea ice near the shelf.

emperor chick

Nov 26, 2016

The Emperor chicks hatch in Aug-Sept so by Nov. are large enough to be left alone. The chicks have plenty of feathers to keep them warm and are too big to be bothered by the Skuas. Both parents are out in the ocean finding food to feed this hungry chick.

wind graph

Nov 23, 2016

We were stuck in the tent for two days while a large storm came through the Ross Island area. You can see the record of the winds here. At one point the winds were so strong the snow was coming up through the floor in our tent-hut.

Antarctic storm

Nov 24, 2016

During the storm it was very cold and with the strong winds, our small heater had trouble keeping the tent-hut above freezing. This is our senior scientist Katie Dugger keeping warm at her desk as the storm rages on the other side of the canvas.

Nov 21, 2016

The Skuas are back. When egg laying starts at Cape Royds the Skuas show up and eating is easy. Many of the penguin nests will lose their eggs (see Nov 20) and the Skuas will clean up the colony by eating them. This is the way nature works.

Nov 22, 2106

The brood patch. These penguins lay and nest only two eggs. The reason is the brood patch which you see here which is only big enough for two eggs. The feathers are not warm, it is the penguin’s body that is warm so this patch of feather-free skin is where the eggs sit to incubate. There is only room for two.

injured penguin

Nov 19, 2016

An update on our challenged penguin. Here he is on a nest with an egg. He will be here for several days before he returns to the ocean to feed. I hope the ocean will be closer by then so he will not have to walk so far. These are sturdy birds and this one will not let his handicap get in the way of his life or what he wants to do. A good lesson for all of us.

lost nests

Nov 20, 2016

These two nests will not hatch eggs. The upper nest has been abandoned. The male left as he was too hungry to stay on the nest. Plus he stepped on the egg on his way out so this nest is lost. The lower nest are young parents who do not quite understand they need to sit on the egg. This nest is lost as well.

hurt penguin

Nov 17, 2016

This bird has lost his foot. We do not know when or how. It may have been an accident, a predator, or perhaps he was born this way. It doesn’t seem to bother him, he made the complete 50 mi trip over ice to Cape Royds and his nest here. Penguins are strong sturdy and determined birds.

penguin nest

Nov 18, 2016

Compare this nest to the one in the picture of Nov 16. They are the same one. As predicated the adult is now sitting on eggs and will not get off them to defend his pile of rocks. He can only defend as far as he can reach. What you see is the result of other birds stealing the rocks outside of his reach. He will have to make do with this smaller version of his record breaking nest.

cape royds camp

Nov 15, 2016

A new tent for our research station at Cape Royds. It is larger and warmer than our tent last year which was destroyed in a storm. Our power is supplied by the solar panel you see on the left and the internet antenna is on the hill. We sleep in the Scott tents around the corner. No they are not heated, yes we do sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag, yes it is cold.

penguin nest

Nov 16, 2016

This is the biggest nest I have ever seen at Cape Royds. There must be hundreds of rocks. The penguin has worked hard to create such a lovely home, but it will not last long. When he is on eggs he will not be able to defend any rocks beyond his reach from the nest, my guess in a few days most of them will be taken by other males looking for easy rocks to find.


Nov 12, 2016

This satellite image shows the ice edge almost 50 miles from Cape Royds. The penguins would prefer to swim, but will need to walk this entire distance to get to the breeding colony. On their way, they pass Cape Bird where 30 000 penguins will stop and build their nests. What makes Cape Royds penguins do this extra distance?

Nov 14, 2016

This is a young pair of Adelie penguins and they may never have had a nest before. It seems they do not realize they must keep the egg warm. Today it is -14oC, too cold to leave the egg unattended. This egg will probably not hatch.
To see daily pictures from previous seasons at Cape Royds Adelie penguin breeding colony of HERE