Proving the recent Arctic weather may have lasting effects, two king penguins were spotted in Southampton’s Agawam Park earlier this week.
The flightless birds mingled easily with area geese and ducks on the shore of Lake Agawam on Tuesday, when keen-eyed local shutterbug Dylan Doherty snapped a few shots. “While recently on an early morning coffee run I stopped by Agawam Park, and to my surprise I spotted some penguins!” Doherty said in an exclusive email to DansPapers.com on Thursday.
While typically found on the subantarctic islands in Antarctica’s northern reaches, as well as South Georgia and other nearby temperate islands, “vagrant” king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) have been known to appear on the Antarctic peninsula, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It now seems the birds are seeking more glamorous locales.
Southampton marine biologist Vance Ballard confirmed that no penguins are missing from the Long Island Aquarium’s penguin colony (also called a rookery), leaving experts to believe the young birds made the journey here by sea, perhaps riding on the backs of harp seals or other helpful marine mammals. The penguins, which Ballard named Dalton and Craig, appear in good health, though a bit stout and soft compared to prime examples of the king species—second only in size to the emperor penguin of Antarctica.
Doherty said the penguins stayed close together, even as they waddled from the bank of Lake Agawam, past the monument and toward town, possibly in search of some quality Hamptons seafood. “They were having none of the cracked corn and bread that the other waterfowl seems to enjoy,” the amateur photographer said, noting that he steered the pair back toward the less populated lake area and beaches beyond. “I’m hoping they found a safe place to eat and sleep in the dunes—letting them reach Jobs Lane wouldn’t have been good.”
Anyone who comes in contact with these penguins, or any others on the East End, should maintain a safe distance and allow them to safely navigate their new surroundings, Ballard said, explaining that he and his colleagues are keeping a close eye on the situation. “We want to protect the penguins, but we’re also making sure this thing doesn’t get out of hand,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the Department of Environmental Conservation, and they’re keeping hunters on standby in case the population grows beyond a serviceable number.”