If you don’t want to feel depressed, stop reading now.
Because this is a post about a depressing story — and one that is likely to become more common as we deplete the oceans of life.
This story is about the penguins of Phillip Island, an island south of Melbourne. It’s a popular tourist destination for the penguin parade — in which Little Penguins return to at dusk their nests.
Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Experts had forecast a record number of chicks this year, but things took a turn for the worse when the parents were unable to return in time to keep them fed. Says the article, half of a chicks have starved to death. Their parents, chasing an elusive fish population, were away for far too long.
Penguins have only a few days to go out and catch the food and return to their nests. It’s a fragile ritual, so easily disrupted. And although penguins can go fast and far, sometimes it isn’t far enough.
Of course, there is no proof that the fishing industry is to blame. There is never any proof. Perhaps this was a simple matter of fish migration. Or ocean temperatures changing — also a threat to penguins.
But all that really matters is that the parents didn’t return in time. As the naturalist said, “It’s a bit like working in a hospital, you see it over and over again and yeah, you do get upset.”
It is all too easy to assume that penguins are clumsy animals.
After all, we typically encounter them on land, where they spend roughly half their lives. And boy are they awkward on land. But they are not built for setting land speed records. They are built for the sea. For evading other creatures that swim, such as leopard seals.
And this isn’t just a one-time trip either. This is a regular commute — like going to work. They swim 80 miles in search of food, for themselves and their chicks. Which is why ocean trawlers, with nets that stretch for miles, are so dangerous to the future of penguins, as well as so many other wildlife. The nets take all the food, as well as anything else in their path. Penguins go where the trawlers go and vice versa. Sometimes penguins don’t make it back from their commute.
In Seattle, you don’t have to walk far to catch glimpses of nature going about its business.
But today I was fortunate enough to catch an eagle and seal going about their business — and catch them on camera.
I had gone for a walk along the Sound, or the Salish Sea, with the goal of taking pictures of a grain ship leaving port. We have a view of a grain terminal from our apartment and I’m kinda obsessed with watching the ships come and go. The process requires two tugboats and I’ve never actually watched the process up close.
As I was making my way along the trail I heard commotion above. Seagulls and crows flapping around and making lots of noise. Living here over the past year, I’ve figured out that when both seagulls and crows get riled up about something a raptor isn’t far away. Sure enough, I spotted a bald eagle in front of the Seattle PI globe.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an eagle and not had my camera let alone zoom lens ready. But I was ready this time. Eventually he returned and perched over some food he had caught. You can see the crows hovering nearby. They were not in a good mood.
Eventually the eagle got tired of the harassment and moved on…
And I did the same. I kept in an on the water because ever so often I see a seal peaking out. Sure enough, one was only about twenty feet away from shore.
And now here are pictures of the ship leaving town. First the ropes fell, then the tugboats pushed the ship away from the pier.