Daily briefing: Explore the world with Leif Penguinson

Nature

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!


The Detroit Zoo joined in on the idea of letting their penguins explore the place — and so did we! The second chance to find our cheeky Rockhopper was in the coral reefs of Papua New Guinea.

Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!


Our cunning Rockhopper penguin then hid among the zebras in the great Serengeti migration. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!


Then, our intrepid Rockhopper penguin was hiding in a stand of dragon blood trees (Dracaena cinnabari) in Yemen. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s 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’.

We also remembered that time when Leif Penguinson went to the Moon with Apollo 15. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!


Next, our intrepid friend hid among the beautiful swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees of Sukko Lake, Russia. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!


Then, Leif Penguinson visited the majestic Kolugljúfur Gorge in Iceland. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer!


Our roaming Rockhopper next took in the stunning Valle de la Luna in Bolivia. Did you spot Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Afterwards, Leif Penguinson went forest bathing on the beautiful Plombergstein, near Salzburg, Austria. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here the answer.


Next, our avian explorer hid among the slightly suggestive rock towers in Göreme National Park in Turkey. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the solution.


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.


Next, our aquatic explorer dried off among the spiny treasures of the Huntington Library Desert Garden in California. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Our Rockhopper master of disguise tried to blend in at the waterhole at Etosha National Park in Namibia. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Next, our playful penguin hid among the limestone ‘tufa towers’ that rise above the surface of Mono Lake in California. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


We warmly recall the time Leif Penguinson chipped in a flipper to help NASA scientists with the James Webb Space Telescope. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


In July, our playful penguin escaped the heat among the snowy trees in Ruka, Finland. Can you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Our intrepid explorer blended in at the spectacular limestone needles of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in northwest Madagascar. Can you find 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.


Next, Leif Penguinson visited the steaming fumaroles of Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


In August, Leif Penguinson paid a visit to an impressive pile of coconuts on the island of La Digue in the Seychelles. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Leif Penguinson pondered the mysteriously twisted trees of Poland’s Crooked Forest. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.


Next, Leif Penguinson pursued some work–life balance in the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan. Did you spot 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.


Next, Leif Penguinson cooled down by a stream lined with volcanic rock at Kipahulu Forest Reserve in Hawaii. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


Leif Penguinson relaxed in the mangrove forest bordering Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


As Autumn loomed, Leif Penguinson spent some time gazing penguinfully out to sea on the Mendocino Coast in California. 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!


Our favourite flightless adventurer warmed up at the thermal springs of Pamukkale in southwest Turkey. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here is the answer.


Next, Leif Penguinson lounged on the stunning limestone rock formations of Tapiutan Island in the Philippines. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here is the answer.


Then, our penguin explorer was ensconced in the terraces of Ein Karem, Israel. Did you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here is the answer.

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.


Next, our intrepid avian adventurer explored the marble rocks along the banks of India’s Narmada River. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the solution.


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.


Then, Leif Penguinson was basking in the autumn colours of Seoraksan National Park in South Korea. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


Our well-insulated wanderer was well hidden in the ice and snow of Fort Erie, Ontario. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


Our peripatetic penguin clung to the catwalks of Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Canada. Can you find Leif Penguinson? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


December came, and our fearless friend meandered through the lily-decked waterways of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Can you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.


Finally, Leif Penguinson was awestruck by the stunning cliffs of Avacha Bay on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia. 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!

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