Monday, May 14, 2007

One, if by hand, and two, if by sea. (Three if by pan.)

If he were still alive, I hope Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wouldn't mind me "borrowing" a line from his poem - Paul Revere's Ride. We don't hang lanterns along the shoreline of Penguins' Rock, but we do feed them one of three ways. And when you visit, you'll have a chance to see them chow down each way. Every morning the penguins are each hand fed at least one special fish. A vitamin is tucked inside the mouth of this first-fed fish. It's my job to make sure each bird gets one. That's no easy task when you have twenty hungry penguins crowding around you. Sometimes we'll use hand feeding as a way to build trust, and other times we do this to get a close up view of each penguin. The second way we feed is by tossing fish into the water, or water-feed. This is really fun to watch. The penguins are zooming all over the place trying to snatch up a fish before someone else gets it. Sometimes one penguin is successful at grabbing the capelin or smelt, but then changes direction and loses it. It's finders keepers if that happens. As soon as one penguin drops a fish, another one nabs it. The third way we feed the penguins is by pan. Mounds of fish are simply served up in two trays we leave out on the beach. This can be quite funny to watch as well. Occasionally one penguin will have a fish all picked out, and another will pluck it up before the first one can reach in and grab it. Some rather noisy exchanges will follow as the two birds seem to quarrel over who had "dibs" on the tasty morsel in question. Believe it or not, there's usually one Paul Revere in the crowd. As soon as one bird hears me approaching the door from outside, the charge is on from the rest of the penguins. Because they know that most of the time when the door opens - "The big-fish are coming! The big-fish are coming!"

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