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Antarctica Picture Gallery - Snow petrel (Pagrodama nivea) courting pair

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A courting couple. In the Austral spring the males go looking for mates, and the females put them through their paces to assess their suitability and tenacity.  

The courtship ritual consists initially of a male snow petrel following a female as she flies around the nesting area which is frequently a rocky outcrop or cliff with suitable ledges or nest holes. The female then leads him around the cliffs in a high speed aerial ballet, climbing and diving, flying almost into the cliff face at full speed before changing direction with an imperceptible twist of the wing. The poor beleaguered male not only has to match this aeronautical master class, but he has to do it as close as possible to the female and without a script. Many seem to give up and get left behind, certainly in the early days. In this picture the male is calling to the female during a relatively relaxed moment.

Photographing this requires a lens on fixed focus, bright light, fast shutter, small aperture, a pile of film and much cursing. Even then, it all happens so quickly that you don't really know what you've got until the film is developed.

Paul Ward - Pentax equipment, 80-210mm lens, 35mm film, E100
This picture may not be copied or used in any manner without prior written permission.
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