On a beautiful, calm day the sun struggled to come out…then finally relented as the temperatures dropped from -5c to -15c throughout the day and the wind started slowly and blowing ground snow signaled the start of another incoming storm predicted for later this evening.
Guide Amy and group enjoyed their last day on the tundra and came away feeling elated from the experience. Most of their time was spent near the tundra lodge where a sow with two coy’s were watched for awhile and three males playfully spent an hour around the rover. Not really sparring – they were just rolling around on the tundra like kittens….very big, very dangerous kittens…that could kill a human. Lasting photos, videos and memories were made here.
On the way back to launch the group stopped by Bird Cove. They discovered one young polar bear on the leeward side of the rocky ridge, burrowed in, slowly being covered with snow. Watching this incredibly strong, dangerous animal lying under the soft, falling snow is quite the sight.
Half a mile from the launch the group got their first look at a flock of ptarmigan with their stunning white coats against the equally stunning white snow covering the tundra.
Meanwhile guide Leah, off the tundra lodge for the first time this season, had her band of travelers out between Gordon Point and first tower. Several sub-adult males approached the rover and curiously sniffed footwear through the grated back observation deck. At Gordon Point, an arctic fox hunkered down on the coastline oblivious to the photographs being taken. Grease ice starting to form in the inlets stretches away in the background.
Guide Karen and group started their day witnessing a bear lift out at the Polar Bear Compound by the airport. A sow with two yearlings, totaling 800lbs, were placed in three separate cargo nets and taken to the North for release. One of the last lifts of the season most likely as the freeze should come fairly quickly now.
Later, the group boarded a few of Hudson Bay Helicopters finest machines and headed out on their own excursion ultimately to land at a polar bear den. Heading North at the outset of the flight, the group flew over Button Bay just North of the Churchill River. They could clearly see at least five seal -kill areas- most on the intertidal ice and one closer inland near the spruce forested area. Further evidence of a season to remember by a marked increase of polar bear seal -kills. A mother nursing a cub along the treeline was another highlight of this view.
As the choppers headed to the Southeast over the weir and along the Deer River, they caught glimpses of two recently used polar bear dens as they headed toward another vacant den. The high eroded banks of the Deer River exposed the layers of sphagnum moss …a light brownish color. Two large bull moose close to the river paid no attention to the onlookers going about their business of foraging. A mom and calf were also seen in the willows…disguising their frames somewhat.
On the ground at the now vacant den, the group felt the damp moss that formed the ceiling and spent time crawling inside the semi-circular den for a photo or two. One can see how the snow help completes a safe shelter in which to ride out the long, cold Winter. Foraging a bit under the snow -covered tundra, the travelers were able to discover some of the plants, now dormant, that comprise the fragile ecosystem of the Northern tundra. Cranberry and crowberry plants as well as Labrador tea and caribou lichen hide beneath the snow only to surface again next Spring.
On the way back into Churchill, the flight took them over Cape Churchill where about 17 bears were visible and then over Knights Hill esker rising from the land. Following the coast, over the Ithaca shipwreck and then touching down back in town the group ended a flight to remember forever.
Out in the CWMA, Guide Scott and group were enjoying a remarkable day indeed. On their way out to Halfway point in the morning, a polar bear greeted them and walked right by their polar rover. Once they arrived at the point, they came upon an arctic fox curled up in a ball nestled in the rocks just 10 meters off. With the cold, he had his nose tucked in tight under his furry coat. In the distant tidal zone, a few polar bears wandered at the edge inspecting the border of the slowly forming ice.
As the rover fired up and headed out, a sow with two cubs was sighted heading in from the rocky point jutting into the bay. The family was heading directly toward the rover before they were headed off by a large male pushing them farther to the East. Subsequently, the male then made his way to the rover to see what was going on with the even more curious band of travelers.
As the group headed toward the lodge along the ridge which extended into the bay, they saw a sow with two cubs napping in a fairly inaccessible location across a frozen lake. As luck would have it however the contingent found another sow with two coy’s deep in the willows just 500 yards South of the water crossing to the lodge. A good place for lunch as they camped there for about two hours observing the family unit only 20 meters off the deck in this secluded location. The cubs periodically lifted their heads and climbed atop mom while slumbering the afternoon away.
As the cold crept in throughout the afternoon, the group was able to observe some sparring as well as they stayed near the sow and cubs. Spotting scope looks of three sets of distant sparring males made for excellent contrasting behavior from the napping bears at hand. With the looming storm , this certainly was a great day on the land.