Last Lifeguard at the Beach

I spent the weekend at our house on Cape Cod and once again had time to enjoy being outdoors each day in some beautiful fall weather.  Today we stopped for one last look at the Atlantic Ocean at Red River Beach.  I saw this lonely sea gull perched on the lifeguard’s tower.  It made me think of the skuas in Antarctica, and how they will be the only bird of flight I’ll see for several months.  Skuas are related to the sea gulls I saw today, and are one of only a few birds found in the McMurdo Sound/Ross Sea region of Antarctica.

Skuas are scavengers and will take something right out of your hand if you’re not careful.  They’ll hover above, squawking and are always on the lookout for their next meal.  Their diet consists mainly of fish, scraps, carrion (dead and decaying animals) and they often look for unguarded penguin eggs and weak or isolated penguin chicks.  Here’s a random fact for you…at McMurdo Station (where I’ll be headed in late November to work with scientists) there are large bins called “skua bins.”  They are places where people in McMurdo put their discarded or unwanted items for others to scavenge through….just like the scavenging skuas on the ice!  Last time I was down there I actually got a couple of “presents” from my friend Myrna…courtesy of the skua bins.  One person’s trash is another one’s treasure!

Of course I hope to be lucky enough to see Adelie and Emperor Penguins, which are the two penguin species found in the Ross Sea region near McMurdo Station.  These flightless birds waddle on land/ice and also toboggan along on their belly.  When tobogganing they use their feet and stiffened wings to push themselves forward on the ice and snow.  They are agile swimmers and very at home diving into the water and rocketing through the ocean in search of krill or fish to eat.  Their streamlined bodies and stiff flipper-like wings make them perfectly adapted for their marine environment.  Predators can include orcas (killer whales), leopard seals and skuas. Penguins use their superior swimming skills to out maneuver their predators in the ocean and make it back to the ice/land.

Follow my friend and colleague, Jean Pennycook and scientist David Ainley, as they study the Adelie Penguins nesting and living at the rookery at Cape Royds, not far from McMurdo Station. Jean is headed to Antarctica very soon and she will have plenty of excitement to share with you!  Click on the Penguin Science link in my blogroll.

7 responses to “Last Lifeguard at the Beach

  1. hi Mrs. Trummel i think its cool and funny how skuas just take what they want and steal it from people so random i like these kinds of birds i’m not sure if this is right but if there are emperor penguins take some good pictures because they’re really extraordinary and are Adelie look exactly like penguins or what and i’m guessing you can’t touch these animals i really like your blog it’s exiting and fun from Seif

  2. Hi Mrs. Trummel,
    We really enjoy reading your blog and can’t wait to hear about your adventures in Antarctica. We are wondering what Adelie penguins look like. What other animals do you expect to see in the water? If you see any interesting animals in the water while you’re on your trip would you please take a picture for us? We were surprised to hear that the skuas eat baby penguins and penguin eggs. It was funny to imagine a skua swooping down to take something out of your hand.
    We’ve been thinking about how you’re a present day explorer. We have some schema, or knowledge, about other early explorers. Most explorers have a motive for traveling. What would you say is your greatest motive for traveling to Antarctica? Also, most explorers find some kind of new product. Is the hidden lake the new product you’re looking for? How will you overcome the challenge or hardship of being away from your family during the holidays? Will you still celebrate with presents at Christmas time? We hope that you’ll be able to call your family on Christmas. Please know we’ll be thinking of you.
    We hope you find the hidden lake you are looking for and that you have a great time on your trip.
    The students of Mrs. Harrold’s 5th grade Dual Language class, North Elementary

  3. Hi Betty,
    You always take the best photos. You have such a great eye! I liked the story. I will make sure to have the students check it out.
    Miss you!
    Penny B.

  4. Hey Mrs. T,
    I absolutly LOVE; your blog so far!!!!!!! I hope to learn more science this school year. ( ; Antartica is so, pritty don’t you agree?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s