Belly Time for the Emperor Adults

Image: Adult Emperor penguin resting on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 280 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

After spending 28 hours with the Emperor penguins over 3 days, I learned quite a bit about their behaviors and habits. To my surprise, they spent a lot of time on their bellies performing a variety of activities! As you might guess, they spent some of that time sleeping.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin sleeping, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 420 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

This was often followed by a nice stretch of their wings. I caught several images of one wing out or the other, but occasionally, we had the special treat of an overhead double wing stretch!

Image: Adult Emperor penguin stretching on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

They really got into their stretches by opening their mouths and the one below even added in its legs to the full body stretch!

Image: Adult Emperor penguin stretching on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 390 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 400.

Because the temperature was abnormally warm the three days we visited the colony, we saw many penguins lying down in the ice to eat it!

Image: Adult Emperor penguin eating ice on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 220 mm, f/8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400.

They drove their heads into the sea ice and then lifted their beaks to get the ice down their throats. It gave us a chance to see inside their beaks and get a view of their pink tongue as well.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin eating ice on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 310 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400.

Another main reason for belly time was its value as a mode of transportation. They alternated between walking upright and gliding on their stomachs. We learned from the ornithologist on the ship that when the penguins grew tired of walking, they laid down on their stomachs and propelled themselves along on the ice.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin propelling itself on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

If they were going downhill, they allowed gravity to move them; but the majority of the time, they used their wings as well as their feet to propel them over the ice.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin propelling itself on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 220 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

Occasionally, they approached us on their stomachs before standing up. It was a fine balance between using this belly method to move faster and being careful not to wear down the feathers on their stomachs that protect them from the harsh cold weather.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin propelling itself on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

I also worked on capturing scenes of Antarctic land in the background to give a sense of place. It was not always easy to isolate a penguin and capture the landscape in the background, but occasionally, I got lucky.

Image: Adult Emperor penguin propelling itself on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

And of course, this series of images would not be complete without seeing the backside of an Emperor leaving me! 🙂

Image: Adult Emperor penguin propelling itself on its stomach, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400.

As we end 2018 and look forward to the coming new year, I want to thank you for your support. I enjoy reading the comments and feedback and responding to them. I plan to continue posting more throughout the coming year and hope you will follow along.

You can view these images individually and more not posted here in my portfolio located here.

Author: Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

7 thoughts on “Belly Time for the Emperor Adults”

  1. Your pics make me so happy Amy but I’m running out of adjectives…thank goodness you aren’t because the accompanying narrative is just as enjoyable! Fabulous work. and Gary and I both love our calendars. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww. Thanks Chris! The words just spew out of me when I look at the photos. I like to try describing some of the emotion I felt around these amazing creatures. I’m so glad you and Gary like the calendars! 🙂

      Like

  2. Great commentary on an aspect of their lives I hadn’t given much thought to! Thanx for all your wonderful blogs and photos this year – you’ve had outstanding experiences and I appreciate you sharing them with everyone! Best for 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gah! So many adorable photos! And I love learning all these little tidbits and facts about penguins and penguin behavior. Thanks for continuing to share your photos and stories. 🙂

    Like

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