Posted by: ahallatt | January 20, 2009

Penguin Watch

I’ve found my calling as a volunteer: penguin watch! There is a colony of little blue penguins on St Kilda Breakwater, about 3 km from where I live and Earthcare St Kilda was looking for people to help keep look after them when they come in at night. It has become quite an attraction, with crowds of people on the breakwater wanting to watch the penguins swim in and hop up the rocks, but they can disrupt penguin activity by blocking their paths, taking flash photos and even handling them.

So I get to wear a luminous yellow vest and repeatedly say “no flash, please”… over and over again. Most people are compliant, but I had a bit of aggro from a Scottish woman one time when I made the request

“No flash, please.”

“Nah” she grunted and I had trouble distinguishing what she said



“Please don’t take flash pictures, the flash hurts the penguins’ eyes” I said, calmly.

“Don’t tell me what to do!” she retorted, threateningly.

“I’m not telling you what to do, I’m asking that you don’t take flash pictures of the penguins, as it can hurt their eyes and prevent adults from returning to the nest to feed their chicks”

“You can’t tell me what to do” she said as she leered towards me, clearly the worse for wear after a few drinks.

“No, I can’t,” I said, as I don’t have any powers and would have had to call the police if she persisted, “I’m just looking out for the penguins”

At that, she took one more (flash) photo to show me who was boss and walked off.

I wish I had thought to take a picture of her, at close quarters, with flash.


Little Blue Penguin chicks (photo taken without flash...)

Little Blue Penguin chicks (photo taken without flash...)


  1. That’s impossible! Scottish people don’t Drink!

    (PS – How many disagreements can you say have started with “Hey, I’m just looking out for the penguins.”)

    • RE: PS – not enough.

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