Pine Nuts: Big win for small penguins |

Pine Nuts: Big win for small penguins

I fell in love last November with some ducks who marched in perfect procession down a red carpet to a fountain in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, and jumped in.

They do it every day, and have been doing it for 85 years. To see it, well, it’s enough to make an ogre smile.

They reside on the rooftop of the Peabody in lavish style, are treated like royals, and are, in fact, the snobbiest ducks you ever saw. They would not shake hands with the governor of Tennessee.

But being a Tahoe duck whisperer myself, I asked one of them what it was like living in the penthouse of the Peabody. He smiled out one side of his beak and whispered, “It’s not what it’s quacked up to be.”

With that he laughed out loud, as did I, and that got the whole flock to laughing — you never heard such a racket.

Should you find yourself within an hour’s drive of Memphis you should make a point to see this grand pageant. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be in a good mood for a week. And, guess what? There’s another parade we have to see.

They are the tiny penguins, only a foot tall, that strut out of the surf at sunset, and march forth in formation to their homes burrowed in the hills. I’m not making this up. I’ve seen photos of the little Caesars marching along as though they are leading the Roman legions.

These loveable little creatures are home to Phillip Island in southeastern Australia, not far from Melbourne, where tourists discovered them and their regimen a hundred years ago, and have been surveying their marches ever since.

As seems to happen, humans started moving into the penguin colonies and building homes on top of them. The penguin population began to dwindle, and it was starting to look like the little guys might not survive the 20th century.

But Australians are super sensitive about environmental degradation, and their state government came to the rescue. They bought out the entire Summerland Estate, removed the houses, and returned the peninsula to the little penguins.

I don’t cry easily, but this human consideration for wildlife makes me want to fly to Phillip Island, grab the first wildlife protector I come to, and shed tears down his back.

I checked, and a round trip ticket from Lake Tahoe to Phillip Island will cost about $1,500. So with those tiny penguins in mind, I’m putting away all the spare change I find in the sofa when visitors leave the house, and will travel to Australia once I have gathered together $1,500, and will bear witness to the march of the little penguins.

I guess my next question, and yours, might be, “If we can be this considerate and kind to tiny penguins, what considerations and kindnesses might we extend to endangered species and human beings faced with extinction?”

Something to think about …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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