January 25 Isla Magdalena
Isla Magdalena is a flat, barren island in the Strait of Magellan. It’s an ideal site for penguins, and there are about 100,000 Magellanic Penguins nesting there. We arrived there early in the morning, in fine weather, and spent about an hour walking around the island in their midst.
Magellanic Penguins live in burrows while they are raising their chicks. All around the island we could see little clouds of dust rising as they cleaned the burrows out.
Almost everywhere we looked there were penguins. Some were going to the water to fish, some were coming back from the water, and others were fighting.
The chicks grow very quickly, and within a couple of weeks of hatching they are the same size as the adult birds. It takes more like a couple of months until they lose their down, though. When we were there, the chicks were just starting to moult the down.
The penguins on Isla Magdalena seem very unafraid of people. When they encounter a person on their way across the path, they look at the person carefully, first with one eye and then with the other.
The island also provides nesting sites for Kelp Gulls, which are very common in the Strait of Magellan and in southern South America in general. Surprisingly, with all the chicks around, we saw very few Skuas on the island.