On Ice With Penguins in Antarctica

Researcher and photojournalist Noah K. Strycker is an extreme birder

02-01-2010 // NWF staff

Noah Strycker is not a typical birding enthusiast. Though only in his early 20s, the Oregon researcher-photojournalist has looked for birds on six continents and already has accumulated more than 1,600 species on his life list. (As a means of comparison, about 900 bird species range naturally in North America above the U.S.-Mexico border.)

Strycker’s greatest bird-watching challenge came a year ago when he signed on to participate in a long-term study of penguins at Cape Crozier in Antarctica (his sixth continent). For three months during the birds’ breeding season, he spent long days observing Adélie and emperor penguins, and even longer nights sleeping in either a tent or a primitive wooden hut. Even in summer, Cape Crozier is one of the coldest and windiest places on Earth. “I spent half an hour working up the guts to leave my sleeping bag,” he says.

Though Strycker  didn’t see many different species during his adventure, he spent countless hours watching what he calls one of the planet’s “great bird spectacles”—a colony of more than a quarter million Adélies. “Think of the crowd at the biggest rock concert you’ve ever been to and quadruple it,” he says ,“but everyone else there is just two feet tall and smells like fish.” For more about his experiences—and what scientists are learning about potential effects of climate change on penguins—read his story in the February/March 2010 issue of National Wildlife.

Visit Strycker's website to see more bird images from around the world.

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