My trip to Antarctica was such a magical and incredibly beautiful experience, I debated for weeks as to whether I should include this album in the collection. But I also felt I needed to tell the whole story. First, for those of you who might ask, "How could you sit and watch this take place and not shoo the skua away?" We were given specific instructions by our guides that we were in no way to interfere with nature...even if we didn't like what we saw. As one of our bird experts explained, "The skua babies needed food too!"
As we landed at one of our stops on the trip, out of the hundreds and hundreds of penguins, I was drawn to one in particular. This parent penguin was warming both a chick and an unhatched egg. We were told that the egg was likely not a productive egg as the majority of the chicks in the colony had already hatched. I felt a sort of bond as I watched this penguin protecting his/her child while, sadly, hoping the egg would produce a second offspring. But then I went and explored the rest of the area.
About an hour later, as I was headed back to the Zodiac with my new friends Paul and Alison, the three of us watched as a skua (the brown bird pictured here) tried to grab his next meal...from the very same penguin I had watched on my way in. Now, with a light snow falling, we pleaded that the skua would take the egg instead of the chick. All I could think about is how that penguin couple sat there for months making their nest and protecting their child.
However, as the photos show, the crafty skua circled the penguin's home, amidst the squawking of most adult penguins in the area...waited for the right opportunity and snatched the baby chick from the nest. The likely unproductive egg remained. In the last picture of the sequence, a penguin chases after the successful skua...I'm thinking it was the chick's parent.
Call me a softie, but this really affected me for the next few days of the trip. I couldn't keep my mind off the scene we had witnessed and couldn't help feeling sorrow for the parents who lost their child. Much like watching a lion catch a sleek gazelle in Africa, nature sometimes presents paradoxes for us...in order for one species to survive, another has to pay the price.
Unlike the other slide shows in the series, I did not put this one on "automatic" as I wanted those who care to watch this scene advance at their own pace. This series is dedicated to that penguin family and to the skua chick that survived because of it.
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