Weather-wise it was an awesome day in the Churchill region as cool light breeze pervaded under dark luminous clouds. The Hudson Bay seemed ominous under gunmetal gray calm water as Fall seems perched firmly on Winter’s icy doorstep.
With the sun setting about 4 pm now not much light remained for guide Amy and her travelers’ night rover tour to the tundra. However, the silhouettes of three bears crossing a frozen thermakarst just a half hour from launch was enough to heighten the group’s excitement for the coming days. Unable to capture the animals with photographs due to lack of light, binoculars were the next best thing….freezing the images in the mind forever. Then, one of the bears caught sight or maybe smell of the rover and diverted from the others and headed directly toward the machine. In about seven minutes he was under the back deck greeting the newly arrived guests…all eyes looking down at him through the grated platform and he sniffing curiously at boots. He seemed content to stay until the rover started up and moved away to give the two other rovers behind a chance for similar interactions.
Out around the lodge for an evening meal and drinks, there were polar bears all around the lodge area….Amy’s group counted at least ten. The highlight of the night was a big male approaching their rover and hopping up to take a closer look through a window and the guest looking back out the window into the bear’s big, black eyes. Not a bad start to the trip.
Guide Karen and travelers arrived in Churchill and on the way from the airport back into town they took the coast road. A great view of a red fox and a jet black fox in the rocks framing the Hudson Bay behind was quite a start to their adventure.
On the evening tour of the tundra in the CWMA, Karen’s rover was third in line waiting to get closer to the aforementioned polar bear that was under Amy’s rover. When the next rover pulled up, the bear seemed to really take a liking to that one. As the second rover pulled off, the bear began loping after it with its’ legs swinging out slightly as he ran for a good several hundred yards…… keeping up a very good pace following the back of the rover. Pretty unusual behavior…must have smelled something pretty good on that machine. Finally, the bruin stopped and headed under the back deck of their machine. The entire group of ten was out on the back deck in a circle all watching the bear through the grate in the middle. Then he followed their rover for a good distance as well as they headed in the direction of the tundra lodge.
At the lodge, there around seven bears of which a couple were quite large. Numerous interactions were observed between bears under the lodge kitchen and as they moved in and out of the area some came quite close to their rover in the darkening twilight. Some of the guests were lucky to catch a fleeting look a at an arctic fox scurrying off into the willows and another few heard bears growling as they were competing for positions around the lodge. Ample energy in a small area.
Aside from a good day of diverse bear interactions, Guide Eric and his enthusiastic photo group were quite fortunate to be out at Halfway Point and see six polar bears around a seal kill by the Hudson Bay. With very good light to highlight the scene, shutters clicked at fever pace to record a rare meal shared by the bears at this time of year. This seal was spotted last night in the tidal zone by Guide Paul and group as they came into the area. Dubious thoughts regarding the seal’s survival were passed on to Eric and sure enough the omen proved true. What the bears didn’t get was picked at and carried off by a group of opportunistic ravens.
Later on the enduring incredible light continued as the group found an arctic fox at close range. A good part of the remainder of the day was spent with a sow and coy which also presented some fantastic chances for unique photographs and family interaction observation.