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Penguins Come To Oakhurst In January

OAKHURST – Three years ago Kristen Boysen, now the Sierra Foothill Conservancy’s conservation project manager in Mariposa, was in a far different place from the Sierra foothills. She was studying penguins in Antarctica.

A 2010 graduate of Pomona College in Southern California, where as a senior she did field research on murrelets on offshore islands, Boysen traveled in October 2010 to King George Island in Antarctica.

There she spent six months at Copacabana Field Station as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) penguin research team.

Boysen was awed. Shortly after her arrival, Boysen posted on her blog, “The penguins are just starting to lay eggs, so we go out every day to look at our sites to see if any of our penguins have laid. I have come to adopt the penguins’ techniques for standing still in the Antarctic weather. Fuzzy inner layer, waterproof outer layer, slightly hunched posture, Zen with my surroundings. Which isn’t hard, as it’s gorgeous all the time! I would be much more efficient with my penguin rounds if I wasn’t constantly distracted by the cliffs and glaciers and seals and the penguins themselves. ‘Wow! Look at that!’ is my new mantra.”

Kirsten Boysen - photo Sierra Foothills ConservancyOn Jan. 9, Boysen will share her mantra with local residents in a slide presentation, “My Life with Penguins at the Bottom of the World,” at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society’s (YAAS) monthly program at the Oakhurst Methodist Church, 49223 Road 426, at 7 p.m.

During her stay at Copacabana, Boysen also communicated, via the research team’s blog, with second-grade students in Wilmington North Carolina.

In answer to a student’s questions, “Do penguins get cold?” and “Why do penguins live in Antarctica?” Boysen replied, “Penguins are great at staying warm—they have very dense and thick waterproof feathers. When they swim, these feathers trap air bubbles to help the penguins stay warm in the water. It is important for the birds to keep their feathers in good shape, so they spend a lot of time preening and grooming themselves with their beak.

“The penguins seem to love the cold weather, whereas I am always bundled up in a lot of clothes. Because penguins are so good at staying warm, they can live in Antarctica where a lot of other species couldn’t survive. Antarctica is a great habitat for the penguins—they have fewer predators to worry about and they are close to the cold Southern ocean, where there is a ton of krill for them to eat! Yum! Penguins live all over the Southern hemisphere, though. You can find them in Australia and New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, and even South Africa!”

Boysen will answer these questions, and many more, in her presentation.

Like all YAAS programs, Boysen’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter’s local activities are appreciated.

The YAAS will also offer its monthly birding trip on Saturday, Jan. 18, to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. Participants will meet at 8 a.m. at the Mariposa Rest Area adjacent to the Mariposa Museum and History Center just off Highway 140.

Suitable for beginners, the trip is free and the public welcome. Dress in layers and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars, field guides, snacks, lunch, beverages and rain gear.

Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for additional information about either the program or the birding trip.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. The YAAS is dedicated to educating and inspiring others to help protect those resource values.

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