Monday, 4 August 2014

Otway Sound Penguin Colony

Definition of sound from Wikipedia: " In geography a sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord."

As you can see in the map the Otway sound lies between Brunswick peninsula and Riesco island. It is connected the open Pacific ocean through the Strait of Magellan via a narrow passage that cuts into Andean massif. Also the sound is connected with Skyring sound by the Fitz Roy channel.

The name was given in honour of Robert Otway, an English vice-admiral of Royal Navy and scientist who became famous as the captain of HMS Beagle second voyage to Tierra del Fuego and Southern cone.

Although the Otway sound is famous for its lovely Magellanic penguin colony, its local fauna is very rich: 14 birds in the sea and beach environmental, 16 birds and 2 mammals in the steppe, 14 birds and 1 mammal associated to fresh water body. It is one of the most easily visited penguin reserve in the world, is only 60km north of Punta Arenas and corresponds an area of about 45 hectares of hasplains and slopes with herbaceous vegetation.

The reserve was created to protect mainly the penguins, Sphenicus magallanicus, that comes every year for courting, mating and laying the eggs through that protected area.
The toilet facilities, handcraft and coffee shop and the 1800m footpath have been designed not to affect the colony. During the one hour easy walking the visitors observe the colony as a whole, the route the penguins follow to go to the sea and back, observe the location and distribution of the nests.
Also the visitors can have a panoramic view of the beach and the sea of Otway sound and eventually can observe different species of beach birds and some mammals like tuninas (small white dolphins) and sea lions.

Few information about  Magellanic penguins:

The Magellanic penguins belong to the Sphenisciformes order and the Spheniscidae family.
Male and female have no external differences. The adults are about 70cm tall and average weight is 4kg.

The world population of these sea birds is estimated one million five hundred thousand couples, considering about a million individuals in Region de Magallanes.

The basic food of these penguins are small fishes, cephalopoda and crustaceans. They feed during the day diving after their prey.

Most of them dive between 20 and 50 meter deep, but they can reach even 90 meter deep.

Dangers threatening penguins:
rapacious birds, seagulls and skua, which destroy eggs and newly borns,
depredation of juveniles and adults by sea lions, leopard seals, killer whales or giant dolphins,
accidental death during first trips into the sea,
wild dogs attack.
human actions: collection of eggs for food and hunting for oil manufacturing, use of penguin meat as bait for king crab traps, fishing nets, water contaminated with hydrocarbons.

More informations about the Otway sound tour:

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