Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Volunteer with John

At the end of September, we finally found a window where John didn't have to work, the kids weren't meant to be anywhere and we could get someone to look after Fergus for the day. I wanted to get John well away from MPA where no one could contact him about work related isssues. The kids wanted to go to Sea Lion but J still hadn't been up to see the kings at Volunteer so that was the final destination. We headed out on the Brintel on a rather blustery and grey day with the slight chance of rain.

We had to head into Stanley first to pick up the wardons that were going to be welcoming the three heli trips out to Volunteer that day. It was bizarre to fly along the road that take each week and see it from a different angle.

As we left Stanley we flew over the Lady Liz with the airport and Cape Pembroke in the background.

The view back across to Stanley, Mount Kent, Mount Longdon, Tumbledown and the Two Sisters in the background.

When we landed we realised that the movements crew had forgotten to put our rucksacks on the aircraft. Thankfully I had the small rucksack with the food in it but all our hot drinks and spare clothing were in the ones that had been left behind. We were assured that they would be brought out on the next flight and left up at the house if we needed them. We wondered down to the beach and watched the heli depart.

The magellanics are making their return back to the nesting grounds and were out in full force on the beach.

Hanging about around their burrows and generally giving us quizzical looks. I think I have said before that they are called Jack Ass Penguins because of the noise they make but they also have a strange head movement when they look at you. From the burrows they tilt forward and then almost twist their heads upside down to look at you moving it from side to side. Euan had great fun believing they were trying to copy his movements, who am I to tell him otherwise.

As we wandered down to the beach we could see a large animal in the water and we are not sure whether it was a seal or a sea lion. It is the time of year where they pick off weak penguins, the young of other animals or just the older injured birds.

It was a rather fresh breeze on the beach but it was nice to just be away from the hussle bussle of life on camp here and all together.

Can you believe how big my kids are getting, it only seems like yesterday I was carting them around in a baby car seat. There is always lots of pointing going on at the beach with false cries when we think a piece of seaweed might just be a seal of whale!

Shell hunting is a favourite past time of Euan and Maddie's.

I am not quite sure what Maddie is up to in this photo, I left J with the camera and got back some very strange shots and face poses. She could of course just have been a bit cold.

About two thirds of the way down the beach we decided to head in land and try to find the Kings. The first bunch we came across were the chicks I saw a few months ago. They are now malting and loosing all the baby fluff, the place looked like a fake fur factory, the ground was littered with feathers and downy fluff.

and as you can see the penguins didn't look much better.

We wandered past this little group and made our way over to the chick colony. There seemed to be more here this time than when I went with Jayne and the kids. They were also alot more inquisitive. The came rushing over when we arrived and didn't seem the least bit worried about us.

I had my long lense fitted and was frantically trying to change it over to capture them being so close. Then they wandered off to see some other people and I decided I need to put my long lense back on. I sat down to do this and no sooner had I changed them out, than they came right back up to me to see what I was doing, changing lenses again by the looks of it.

One of them decided that my bag was rather interesting and went to check it out. First a look,

then a quick taste test. I figured I should send this off to Crumpler and tell them they had a fan!
Once it was verified that it wasn't food they came back over to me to see what my camera tasted like. Literally, they got so close I couldn't get the camera to focus.

Please make your mind up, either that or I should have brought my old camera and put the other lense on that.

The kings as well as other penguins and birds of prey here have two eyelids. They have the normal one which closes when they want to go to sleep and they also have another one which closes in the opposite direction that is almost clear.

The adult kings were still busy wandering backwards and forwards between their chicks and the feeding grounds. Photos of the adults always look like you have cut them out from something and then pasted the badly back in front of a different scene.

I had taken my sketchbook along for a play but never managed to get it out as I found myself as usual just taking photos and staring at them. The girls did however manage to get some drawing done and had some pretty aimiable subjects to study.

Meanwhile I had a fresh bunch of troops coming over to check me out.

We tried to take a family shot with the tripod and timer which is theory should have worked. However you can only set the timer to 10 secs max and since I didn't want to run around and scare the birds trying to get in the shot, I kept on missing the photo. John found this incredibly funny after the third attempt of me trying to fast walk past the youngsters in the front.

Eventually they wandered off and I managed to make a straight run from the camera to the shot.

John, Euan and Maddie decided they were getting cold so they headed back to the porta cabin where there is a gas fire to warm up. Ellie wanted a play with my camera so I said yes as long as she got a shot of me with the penguins.

Soon enough it was time to face the wind and walk back to the landing site. It always seems to be a head on wind on the walk back when you are against the clock. The heli will only give you an approximate pick up time so you need to be back early enough in case it is ahead of schedule. Plus which fact however long you think it might take to walk back it always seems to take twice as long.
A view back across to the beach and the white porta cabin. The main King Colony is to the back right of this. The colony you can see in the foreground is a gentoo colony.

John was happily playing with his new watch in the heli and was rather excited when the altimeter worked. His breitling broke a few weeks ago when the catch the holds the strap to the watch face snapped. He was very lucky he didn't loose it as he was sat on the side of an airborne sea king just about to be winched over the sea when it went.

Lots of chatting and explanations followed with the kids in loud voices that could be heard over the engine noise and earphones.

We had some very tired but very mellow children on the way back and the sun was just starting to go down and cast a beautiful golden glow on things.

The obligatory silhouette shot from the day :)

To return home just in time for the last of that nights sunset glow.

All in all a successful day with a Mummy that was much happier with her shots than the last time she went to Volunteer.

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