Salisbury Plain

After a couple of days at sea, we woke up to a rare, mostly-sunny day at South Georgia. The chance to see this island was one of the main reasons we’d booked this particular trip, and we were lucky enough to get an extra day here because the ice kept us away from the South Orkneys.

One of the glaciers turned out to be made not of ice, but of King Penguins:

penguinglacier1

Because of the slightly rough sea, only a few of the passengers actually managed to land. Soon the lucky few of us were mingling:

touristssealspenguins

The most laid-back residents were the elephant seals. This was their gestation and moulting period, so the males were mostly out at sea, while the ladies could air their bellies:

airingthebelly

And exfoliate:

moultingelephant

The fur seals were decidedly less mellow. The older males spent most of their time guarding their turf:

furguard

While the “teenage” males were decidedly frisky. They’re feisty, have long sharp teeth laced with lurgy, and can run faster than humans by bringing their rear flippers forwards, so it was reassuring to have the expedition team to guide us through them: furteen

The stars of this landing were undoubtedly the kings, however:

kingportrait

 

On closer inspection, the colony was divided into areas populated by adults, and separate creches for the chicks:

colony

And producing balls of brown fluff is what this colony is all about:

kingfluff

The king reproductive cycle takes more than a year, so at any one time there are always birds at different stages in the process in the colony. As they reach adulthood, the down is gradually  replaced:

kingstarting kingalmostdone  moultingking3

Many of the birds in the colony are non-breeders, either because they are between reproductive cycles or because they are too young to breed. The colony is still a fine place to socialise and preen, however:kingsquawk  kinscratch

The birds go through an energy-intensive moulting before they start breeding:

moultingking moultingking2

Then it’s time to start some lovin’….

kinglove

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