In March, with its doors closed, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, let its Rockhopper penguins explore the place. Nature media maestro Tom Houghton (who illuminates the Nature Briefing) was inspired to enrich your day by hiding a Rockhopper in a scientifically fascinating location. Thus was born the legend that is Leif Penguinson and the very first “Can you spot the penguin?”.
Since that day, our penguin protagonist has travelled to an incredible 38 scientifically interesting (and eye-poppingly beautiful) locations around the world.
Many readers have asked how a penguin — even one this exceptional — can achieve Leif’s feats, including climbing trees and clinging to sheer cliff faces. The credit goes to the huge team of bird wranglers, crane operators, net holders and ladder steadiers at work — all off camera, or course. (And the fact that Leif is completely fictional.)
Now, on to the fun! In each case, to see a bigger version of the image, click the link in the text. Or skip straight to the bottom to revisit the hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge of all time.
We start with the very first penguin hunt, in the Škocjan Caves in Slovenia. Can you find the penguin? (Click the text link to see a bigger version of the image.)
When you’re ready — click here to see the answer!
Our penguin was becoming a much-loved recurring character, and so needed a name. After a close-fought vote among monikers including Sven (short for Spheniscidae), Passepartout, Heidi (a personal favourite) and Guino the pinguino, our Rockhopper was officially dubbed ‘Leif Penguinson’.
In April, our flightless feathered friend in formalwear hid among the surprisingly tightly packed rocks of Hickory Run Boulder Field in Pennsylvania. Can you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.
Sir Leif of Penguinson then visited the verdant chasm of Lud’s Church in England, which might have inspired the Green Chapel where Sir Gawain faced shenanigans in Arthurian legend. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.
Then, our bashful bird buddy Leif Penguinson was out enjoying the spectacular views at Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.
Leif Penguinson was chilling out in the frozen Chute-aux-Galets in the Shipshaw river in Quebec, Canada. Did you find the penguin/avez-vous trouvé le pingouin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer/voilà!
I also asked you whether you’d rather face a Chihuahua-sized tyrannosaur or a tyrannosaur-sized Chihuahua (inspired by the first known fossils of embryonic tyrannosaurs, which showed that they were about the size of a Chihuahua when born). In a landslide, 78% would take on a tiny tyrannosaur in preference to a really very huge dog. I don’t think you’re taking temperament sufficiently into account here, folks.
Leif Penguinson found joy and calm among the alpine lakes and golden larch trees of the Enchantments basin in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.
The hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge of all time (so far)
Over the August break, Leif Penguinson and four friends created the hardest ‘spot the penguin’ challenge yet. Leif, Passepartout, Heidi, Guino the pinguino and Bosworth the Buoyant (I knew that naming poll would come in handy!) were in Fantasy Canyon, Utah. Did you find the penguins? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.
Whew, what an adventure! Before we go, here’s a little tip for all you penguin hunters. Don’t imagine that my short introductions to Leif’s hiding places contain any clues as to where to find the penguin. I’m rubbish at finding Leif, and I don’t see the answers until you do!