Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The start of Icebar Orlando was a fascination for the Florida and California natives with the land of ice and snow. Our partner, Wylie is back in Antarctica for another round of chilling adventures. Here are some of his photos, and the link above takes you to the webcam of the US Government research facility Palmer Station, manned in the summer by scientists and interns to study the area.
A view of the ship in the background, getting ashore is by zodiac, and sitting on the side in the water is COLD!
Rockhopper penguin and her baby, or it could be His baby, they take turns getting food and keeping the chick warm.
They are little guys, but the do eat a LOT of fish, and they smell, well, pretty fishy.
This is south of where our adopted penguin lives, Ice Ice Baby is a couple of hundred miles north of this location.
Inside the arctic circle it is the most hostile environment on earth, the weather changes very quickly. This looks lovely, but yesterday it was 60 mph winds and chill factor in the minus degrees.
Take care Wylie, we have a cold one waiting in sunny (relatively speaking) Florida.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Dear Icebar Orlando
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Ice Ice Baby, and all of us here on Magdalena Island in Chile. Egg losses here have been high this year, due to the continuation of the drought which is now entering its second year.
For more than a year Magdalena Island has been in the grip of a fierce drought which has killed off virtually all the grass. The loss of most of the grass means that loose soil is now being blown across the island day after day by the strong Patagonian winds, and the penguin burrows gradually get buried by the loose sandy soil. With winds of up to 140 km per hour, burrows can disappear completely during a single night, and in some areas, the situation is so bad that small sand dunes have formed where penguin burrows used to be.
The adult penguins don't get trapped, because they are able to dig themselves out, but the nest becomes abandoned when that happens. The adopted penguins like Ice Ice Baby are truly fortunate in being visited and protected on a regular basis during the current conditions.
Regular visits to each of our adopted penguins means that we are able to clear away the accumulating soil each time we visit the nest, but only a few hundred burrows are actually marked as adopted penguins. Magdalena Island as a whole had around 65,000 nests at the start of the season, and there is no way that a handful of people can regularly visit more than a few hundred burrows. Indeed, we have been trying to expand our adoption programme this season, so as to be able to do more on Magdalena Island during this drought.
It is not just the man-power required either. Adopted penguins have their nests marked with 24" aluminium poles bearing the name chosen by the adoptees, such as yourself. Preparing and locating the poles is a lengthy process, but in addition to enabling us to identify each penguin, these poles allow us to find burrows even if they have been buried by drifting sand and soil. Without such markers to show the location of the burrows, it is not even possible for us to know where the burrows were prior to being covered, making rescue impossible, even if we did have enough manpower to visit all the non-adopted burrows.
But with regular monitoring to keep the burrows free of soil, and markers to locate the burrows if they become buried, our adopted penguins have still fared well. The eggs have hatched, and the nest belonging to Ice Ice Baby now contains two small chicks.
Now that the chicks have hatched, they are at the most vulnerable time of their lives. Just like human babies, penguin babies are unable to move around by themselves, and depend entirely on Ice Ice Baby for warmth, protection and food.
Chicks as small as this are unable to produce their own body heat, so they have to be kept warm by Ice Ice Baby lying over them, just like with the eggs. However there are dangers involved with this. Whilst the eggs are round and protected by a hard shell, making them difficult to stand on, the chicks are not. It is quite common for penguin parents to accidentally stand on their chicks whilst squabbling with a neighbour, or defending the nest from a predator. It can occasionally be like having a small baby lying on the floor in a very small boxing ring, whilst the boxers are too involved in the fight to think about where the baby is.
The parents also remain in the nest with the eggs and small chicks for such long periods of time, without food because their food is at sea, that they spend much of the time dozing to save energy. They are sufficiently alert to awake if a neighbour or predator gets too close to the nest, but sometimes fail to notice if a chick has rolled away from the centre of the nest, leaving it exposed to the cold. Being unable to move around themselves, the chicks are unable to save themselves when that happens, and rely entirely on the vigilance of the parents.
But the chicks grow very rapidly, and within 10 to 15 days they have changed considerably. Firstly, they have developed the ability to walk, which enables them to get out of the way of their parents' feet to avoid being stood on, and enables them to seek warmth and protection underneath the parent whenever they feel the need. Secondly, the chicks are now able to produce their own body warmth, which means they no longer rely on the parents for warmth. Finally, the chicks are now much more robust, and are able to withstand being stood on without sustaining injury. As a result, chick mortality can be quite high during the first two weeks of life, but that reduces considerable once the chicks are a couple of weeks old.
For the reasons explained above, we are not yet able to take photos of the chicks.
To manoeuvre the adult penguin around in the nest to get a photo of the chicks hiding underneath would put the chicks at risk from being trampled, and it would also be almost impossible to get good photos like that. So we wait until late January to take the photos of the chicks. In this respect we are like doctors, following an oath to first do no harm. Our first priority is always to do nothing that could harm the penguins we are monitoring and protecting.
The drought has been unique to Magdalena Island, caused by strange weather patterns within the Straits of Magellan. Our colonies in Argentina have not been suffering from any drought, and they have so far shown the lowest egg losses ever recorded since records began, so that is really good news from those colonies. Hopefully this success will continue throughout the chick-rearing stage. The last two years in Argentina have been excellent, with very high breeding success and chick-survival, and this year could be even better if things continue.
I will write to you again in about four weeks, by which time your chicks should be taking short walks outside of the nest, enabling us to get a photo without causing a disturbance. In the meantime, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
It's almost time for ICE BALL
And we are OFF to ring in the New Year in Icebar Orlando style once again. Last year's party was great, this year we are adding a LOT of value for the buck. It's our stimulus package for a great year in Orlando.
For $40 you get the whole party, midnight buffet, Icebar, use of cape and gloves, your picture in a keychain to take home, the sounds of Docta Dawe Orlando's #1 DJ, and Nate Hill, our #1 video DJ - who just last night installed another new screen - it's a great show of sound and fun.
We are also toasting the new year with champagne, your choice of brut or rose' and if you like, there is an option to upgrade to an open bar package.
Questions? Call 407-426-7555 and talk to us! Book early, we are selling out quickly.
No Groupons or coupons on this night and you Must be 21 to enter all night long. Sorry young 'un's but this is a night for the Majors!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
It's the season for giving, and we are hosting our second annual Cell Phones for Soldiers party at Icebar Orlando. Bring a gently used cellphone, and we will give YOU a free entry into the icebar ($19.95 regular price). We will also have snacks, music, dancing, prizes and a heck of a party all night in honor of our troops.
Each phone is sent to be re-used or for parts, and the company gives a calling card that is sent to a soldier far from home. The gift of hearing the voice of their families is very much appreciated by these soldiers.
DECEMBER 11 STARTING AT 8:00 PM
News from the Charity www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com
Dear friends and supporters,
As we position Cell Phones for Soldiers for future success, we felt that a regular e-newsletter was in order…so welcome to the first edition!
At least quarterly, Cell Phones for Soldiers will issue updates on the many activities taking place to support the men and women serving in the U.S. military.
In 2011, a challenging yet achievable goal of serving 750,000 soldiers has been set. With your help, that goal is possible so please donate today. Cell Phones for Soldiers thrives on cash donations and the recycling of gently-used mobile phones.
Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided more than 90 million minutes of free talk time to the troops and kept more than 7.5 million cell phones out of landfills.
This mission could not be fulfilled without the generosity and dedication of our friends and supporters. We truly appreciate you and look forward to another successful year.
The Bergquist Family Founders, Cell Phones for Soldiers