Archive for September, 2014

Spend Your Friday Penguin Counting (Perhaps Saturday Too)

September 19, 2014

No one wants to be at work on a Friday. But today, instead of spending all your precious procrastination time on Facebook or Twitter, spend it looking at penguins.

The Penguin Post has learned that It’s pretty simple: In Antarctica, remote cameras (shown above) are monitoring more than 30 colonies of penguins — populations that are in decline because of climate change. It’s more practical to leave recording devices there than it is to drop researchers long-term, given how distant and inhospitable the area is.

Researchers at Oxford University now have over 200,000 photos to sort through, and counting. That’s where you come in: When you log on to Penguin Watch, you’ll be presented with random photos from the collection.

All you have to do is properly tag the adult penguins, baby penguins, eggs, and any other animals in the frame. By helping the researchers turn penguins into data points, you’ll help them analyze how many penguins there are —  and how their colonies are organized.


Where do they keep the eggs? Do young penguins hang out with old penguins? What happens when mating season comes around? Is that a rock, or a potential penguin predator? Scientists want to know, but first they’ve got to analyze a couple hundred thousand photos.

Eventually, all of this human input can be used to create a computer algorithm to do the job more quickly. But for now, get clicking. And don’t worry about mistakes —  multiple people tag each photo, so someone else can make up for your penguin-tagging oversights.

Penguin Molting: The Not So Cute Part About Being A Penguin

September 18, 2014

Many birds undergo two very energy-demanding processes at this time of year: molt and migration. For adult penguins these fall immediately on the heels of another very demanding activity: nesting. Consequently, birds have evolved various strategies for keeping their energy budgets balanced. One common strategy is the temporal separation of energy-demanding activities. For example, birds generally do not molt while they are nesting or migrating.

But, the feathers that make up birds’ plumages do need to be replaced if they are to continue to serve the important dual purpose of providing insulation and, for most species, the ability to fly. This is where molt, the process of shedding old and growing new feathers, comes in. Molt intensity (the number of feathers molting at the same time) and rate (the speed of individual feather growth) varies greatly among species.

Migratory songbirds, which have comparatively little time between the end of the temperatesummer nesting season and the beginning of fall migration to distant tropical wintering grounds, have various molt strategies: Some molt intensely and rapidly, replacing all of their feathers in as little as five weeks; others start and then interrupt their molt, completing it later on the wintering grounds; a few delay molting altogether until after they reach their wintering grounds. In contrast, birds such as hawks and eagles, which hunt on the wing, have evolved a low-intensity, slow-paced molt strategy, in which individual feathers are gradually and continually replaced over many months, even during nesting and migration.


Of course, the birds living at the National Aviary molt, too. One species exhibits a very unusual molt strategy. Our African penguins undergo what is called “catastrophic molt,” which involves the rapid, nearly simultaneous shedding of all their feathers over the course of just a few weeks. They have been described as looking like “an exploded pillow” during this time. But, there is a good reason for this strategy.

For penguins, whose outer covering must be insulative, waterproof and hydrodynamic (the underwater equivalent of aerodynamic), the annual molt imposes a monthlong fast on dry land. When they are molting, African penguins lose an ounce of fat and a half ounce of protein every day to meet the energy demands of their intensive molt. To balance this, a seven-pound African penguin gains an additional 20 percent body mass, or 1½ pounds, in just a few weeks, and then sheds those extra pounds during its molt-induced fast. That’s like a 200-pound person gaining and losing 40 pounds in two months.

Visit the National Aviary during our fun-filled “Party With the Penguins” Sept. 27-28, and you will see our African penguins looking very sharp and sleek in their newly molted plumages. Special weekend activities will include taking selfies with our penguins, getting an opportunity to win your own birthday party with a penguin, and, for our younger visitors dressed in black-and-white party clothes, the chance to march in a penguin parade.

African Penguin Awareness Weekend in New Jersey

September 18, 2014

Penguin Awareness_942x380

Waddle on down to the Camden New jersey Waterfront this Columbus Day Weekend (October 11 – 13) for Adventure Aquarium’s African Penguin Awareness Weekend festival, an annual celebration dedicated to everyone’s favorite little flightless feathered friends. This event features an array of “penguin-centric” activities, all of which raise money for the conservation of African Black-footed Penguins. Visitors will have the chance to meet African penguins up close during special appearances, enjoy live chats with biologists who will give the 411 on these adorable sea birds, watch custom penguin painting demonstrations or adopt one of our feathered friends in the Gift Shop.

The best part? 100% of the proceeds from the sales of Penguin Paintings and other fundraising items will go directly to support the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a non-profit sea bird rehabilitation center based in Cape Town, South Africa that aims to conserve and protect South Africa’s threatened sea birds. For each purchase during Adventure Aquarium’s Penguin Awareness Weekend that benefits SANCCOB, Adventure Aquarium guests will receive an “I helped save a penguin today” sticker (while supplies last).

Prehistoric Penguin Population Roller Coaster Ride

September 18, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a recent study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast.


An international team, led by scientists from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes. Looking at the 30,000 years before human activity impacted the climate, as Antarctica gradually warmed, they found that three species of penguin; Chinstrap, Adélie and southern populations of Gentoo penguins increased in numbers. In contrast, Gentoo penguins on the Falkland Islands were relatively stable, as they were not affected by large changes in ice extent.

A report of the research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author of the paper, Gemma Clucas, from Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton comments: “Whereas we typically think of penguins as relying on ice, this research shows that during the last ice age there was probably too much ice around Antarctica to support the large populations we see today. The penguins we studied need ice-free ground to breed on and they need to be able to access the ocean to feed. The extensive ice-sheets and sea ice around Antarctica would have made it inhospitable for them.


“What is particularly interesting is that after the ice age, all of these penguin populations were climate change ‘winners’, that is to say the warming climate allowed them to expand and increase in number. However, this is not the pattern we’re seeing today. Adélie and Chinstrap penguins appear to be declining due to climate change around the Antarctic Peninsula, so they’ve become ‘losers’. Only the Gentoo penguin has continued to be a ‘winner’ and is expanding its range southward.”

Dr Tom Hart of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, an author of the paper, continues: “We are not saying that today’s warming climate is good for penguins, in fact the current decline of some penguin species suggests that the warming climate has gone too far for most penguins.
“What we have found is that over the last 30,000 years different penguin species have responded very differently to a gradually warming world, not something we might expect given the damage current rapid warming seems to be doing to penguins’ prospects.”

To estimate changes in penguin genetic diversity, the researchers collected feathers and blood samples from 537 penguins in colonies around the Antarctic Peninsula. The scientists then sequenced a region of mitochondrial DNA that evolves relatively quickly. Using the rate of mutation of this region of DNA as a calibration point, the researchers were able to chart how the size of these populations has varied over time. The team working on the project included scientists from the British Antarctic Survey and also US scientists from Oceanites Inc, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

“During the last ice age Antarctica was encircled by 100 per cent more winter sea ice than today,” says Dr Tom Hart. “As ice retreated, these penguins had access to more breeding sites and more open ocean to feed.”

Another Flippers Up Noodles & Albie Book Review

September 5, 2014

Noodles & Albie Review

“I wonder if she’s all right. I wonder if I’ll ever see her again. I wonder where Albie is right now,” Noodles questions in Eric Bennett’s children’s book, Noodles & Albie.

This unnumbered over-sized thirty-two page hardbound targets children from preschool to early elementary school ages. With no scary scenes except being lost, it promotes information on penguins, having friendships, and not being afraid to try something new. Due to some multi-syllable words and its length, the story would be best read aloud to beginner readers. Albie’s answers to children’s questions about these creatures along with the author and illustrator’s biographies complete the book.

Illustrator Bannish’s designs are colorful while covering the full page to two-thirds of two open pages, making it easy to follow the storyline. With all conversations set apart in a dark blue color, the wording is usually printed in a simplistic font on a light blue background opposite the drawing. Bennett Front Cover

In this tale, the young Emperor penguin named Noodles is afraid to swim, even though he has been coaxed by his parents to jump in the water. When he finally is brave enough to venture the water’s edge, he gets knocked into the ocean and immediately drifts out to sea.

Becoming lost, he worries if he will get home before it gets dark. He asks an elderly eel, a sleepy squid, a cranky crab, and a confused starfish which way the penguin colony is; no one can give him an answer.

When a fish named Albie asks why Noodles is so sad, he tells her it is his first day in the ocean and he has been separated from his friends. Albie knows the sea, offering to show the penguin the way home.

As they swim toward the Antarctica, the two new friends share stories and laugh. However, afraid that a leopard seal is hunting them, Noodles bursts onto dry land but does not know if Albie was harmed.

Noodles is glad to be back home but misses the friend he found in the sea. Seasons later when he is in the water again, he searches for Albie. When he finds his baseball cap floating, he recognizes his dear friend wearing it. Both are happy they get to see each other again.

With the educational information about penguins, this book not only teaches children about this unique animal, it promotes to try new experiences and make long-lasting friendships.

Thanks to the author, publicist Carol Hoenig, and Bookpleasures for furnishing this complimentary book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s honest opinions.

By Conny Crisalli for


This review will be posted on Bookpleasures and Amazon with links on, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Noodles & Albie On The Radio

September 4, 2014

ericlizwhmpAbout two weeks ago Liz Bannish and I walked over to the studio’s of WHMP for a taping of the Noodles & Albie story on the Bob Flaherty Morning Show.  Bob was great and the interview ranged from the origins of the story, to Liz coming on board, her influences when it comes to children’s picture book illustrations, and the story turning into a book, as well as our upcoming readings.  The actual interview probably went on for about 20 minutes, and Bob edited it down the broadcast version down to about 7 minutes, which accounts for some strange, but subtle pauses and quick draws on some other answers. So here’s the interview with a little Noodles and Albie slideshow to go along with it.  Enjoy.


Beer Loving Penguin On The Lamb

September 2, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that ten cans of Stella Atois beer that costs about 8 pounds sterling has been pilfered by a suspect wearing a penguin costume in Durham, Northern England. The beer loving penguin-man purloined the booze on Monday of last week, and police released a CCTV video of the crook as he waddled out of the store in the hopes that somebody would recognize him or his costume.


Durham Police had previously hoped that somebody would have noticed a man in a penguin suit carrying a ten pack of beer in his flippers, but obviously not as nobody has reported it.  Obviously, this penguin has friends.  Police have asked the local fishermen to keep an eye out, possibly in the hopes that after robbing a liquor store the penguin man might get hungry.

Little Laughing Penguin Just Happy To See You

September 1, 2014

This little penguin became an internet star not too long ago. You may have seen him — getting tickled. Watching this tiny little penguin, who is a “mascot” at the Cincinnati Zoo and whose name is “Cookie,” giggle with seeming delight as his human handler tickles him all over was so endearing, the video has rolled up more than 8.5 million views on YouTube.


If you aren’t one of those 8.5 million viewers — or if you are but you’d like to see this super-cute penguin getting tickled again — we suggest you watch this video now, before reading any further.

Why? Because the Penguin Post is going to tell you a secret about what’s really going on here, a secret that’ll make you look at this penguin tickling video in a whole different way.

We’ll give you a minute…

(Tick tock, tick tock…)

Okay! We hope you enjoyed that. Now, the truth.

According to zoo spokesperson Tiffany Barnes, Cookie is not giggling at all. In fact, this little penguin is not laughing, he’s just happy to see you (in a very instinctive way).  You see he thinks he’s flirting with that hand, or trying to anyway.

The sounds Cookie makes are mating calls, and what you’re seeing here is the behavior of a male little penguin courting a potential partner.

“Some penguins are more vocal than others,” said Barnes.  Ain’t that always the case?

There — now how do like this penguin video? Seems a little awkward, doesn’t it?

By the way, while cookie is obviously a little penguin, “Little Penguin” is also the name of his species. As you might expect, Little Penguins are the smallest kind of penguin there is, standing between a foot and a foot-and-half tall when fully grown.  Although Cookie does have some big time “laughs”.