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Back to life in the US

Well, for those of you have been keeping up, you’ve noticed I’ve been out of touch for quite some time. Things got busy at the end of Australia and then we got to go to Thailand for my cousin’s wedding. Pretty excellent!

I’m not going to try and talk about everything that happened in Australia. Instead, I’ll just focus on a few interesting things. The first thing is our trip to Kangaroo Island, where we did a bit of birdwatching. We brought our binoculars and a bird book, but really hadn’t put them to much use. We decided we needed to remedy that, and we had our first chance to do some legitimate birding on Kangaroo Island, right before leaving Adelaide. Like many islands, there are a number of endemic birds. Although we didn’t see the Glossy Black Cockatoos, we did manage to see Crescent Honeyeaters, Purple-gaped Honeyeaters, Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, Silvereyes, Cape Barren Geese, and Little Penguins! We actually went on a tour to see the penguins, but it was a really excellent tour, and well-worth it. These penguins (the smallest penguin of all, hence the name) stay out at sea feeding all day. At night time, once their eggs have hatched and they have little chicks waiting in the nests, they return to feed their babies. Getting onto shore, however, is not easy and quite dangerous. Seals think little penguins make great dinners, and they are able to catch them when they get close to the surface as they come ashore. So, the penguins have to be careful and sneaky. Once they’re on shore, as long as they’re not being chased by a seal, the only thing they have to do is climb what must feel like Mt. Everest and feed their starving chicks. These penguins can only waddle, but they have to climb up steep, slippery rocks and cliffs in order to get to their nests. It takes them quite a while, and they seem to climb in spurts, resting regularly. However, they are amazingly cute to watch as they waddle up to a rock, and then hop up to the next spot.

They must have an incredibly strong desire to successfully pass on their genes, because the greeting they receive when they finally make it to the nest is not a friendly one. The chicks essentially mob the parents begging for food. It’s especially bad if there is only one parent, as the chicks really start to compete with each other for the food. All I can say is that if my kids attacked me after I had spent all day looking for food, risked being eaten by a seal, and then hiked up a serious mountain just to feed them, they would be learning to cook for themselves. In short, the penguin tour was excellent, and Dave and I stayed watching the penguins even after the guide left. In fact, we stayed until the flashlight battery started to die, and we could no longer see them in the dark. If you do get to Australia, and you want to see the Little Penguins, I can highly recommend the tour out of Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. It does mean you have to get over to KI, but it’s a very informative, reasonably-priced tour run by the South Australian agency that does wildlife (I don’t actually know their name). It’s not an over-priced touristy gimmick, which I have a feeling some of the penguin tours might be, and is definitely worth it.

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