Maybe I have a thing for height-challenged males in tuxedos. Whatever it is, I’m crazy, nuts, gaga, batty, over-the-moon -- about penguins. And I’ve met quite a few of the 17 varieties.
I’ve met Rockhoppers. Their yellow feathers make them look like blonde surfer dudes. They hang out in the Falkland Islands in the far South Atlantic.
I’ve met Emperors, largest of the penguins -- and now stars of a movie -- who brave the chill of Antarctica, huddling together to protect their precious egg, held under the male's front feathers.
And this emerges -- an Emperor chick
And then there are the tiny Galapagos penguins, the only penguins in the northern hemisphere. They hang out on Isabella island in that Equadoran archipeligo, near the cool Humboldt current.
That Pacific sun sure feels good
But most of all, I love the little Magellanics, with their friendly personalities, their full-throated, honking brays, and Charlie Chaplin walks.
I love them so much I traveled to Patagonia –twice -- most recently a year ago in March, to photograph a protected area called Punta Tombo, a wide Atlantic peninsula covered with sand, clay and gravel. Between September and April, hundreds of thousands of penguins come to this site to incubate their eggs, and prepare their offspring for migration - the largest such colony in South America.
The Hamptons for penguins? No, it's their beach at Punto Tomba. Some swim, some sun, some just stand
I spent precious, joyous hours walking and photographing these charming little birds who put up with huge creatures like me who come to gawk.
I'm checking him out. Hmm, a bit short, preening, but maybe age-appropriate
One penguin of each couple stands guards in front of their nest, protecting the eggs from birds and other predators, while the other goes to the sea for food.
Penguin burrows, and guarding penguins dot the peninsula
Couples mate for life.
they chat ...
they flirt ...
they connect ...
And these Magellenics don't seem afraid of humans.
This one is curious, and comes right up to see me ...
This one flops like a dog on the step in front of me ...
And this one, hardly bigger than the rocks, seems to want to follow me home ....