We went to the Mystic Aquarium's Penguin Contact Program, which Adam desperately wanted to do in lieu of having a birthday party. We got to pet two different penguins -- one which wandered around our circle in a classroom for half an hour while the caretaker talked about penguin diet, behavior, etc., and another which we took turns playing vet with, listening to its heartbeat, inspecting its beak and checking its wings.
As you can see, the penguins were allowed to jump up on benches with participants and people could pet them as they came by.
And we got to play vet with them, the way volunteers get to do sometimes at the Baltimore Aquarium with dolphins, which the trainers say helps them get comfortable with doctors for when they need them. Here is Paul bonding with a penguin.
All the penguins are named for their assigned colors by which the biologists keep track of their diets and activities. This one is Redbrown. The blue bead at the bottom of his ID bracelet indicates that he is male (some penguins have white beads there because it's so hard to tell without a blood test!)
The penguins were brought in inside cat carriers, which they proceeded to bite as soon as they were released. One of the penguins was nervous and had to be coaxed out.
We got to get up close and very personal with these birds. They were extremely amusing -- one was chasing a fly and tried to groom the legs of a couple of participants (there are only ten in each group). They were very close to us and curious and not at all aggressive.
This penguin kept walking over to Daniel, who had to put his arms out to stop it from sneaking out of the circle.
Not that Daniel minded.
The birds also had toys to play with.
After the private meeting with the penguins, we went to see the rest of them get fed. (The greedy gull at right kept trying to steal fish.)