This Churchill Sunday Photo by Great white Bear Tours owner Don Walkoski reminds us that winter doesn’t give way to summer in Churchill so quickly. Soon enough we will be seeing beluga whales frolicking in the Hudson Bay and Churchill River. What a beautiful Arctic Fox!
After the red fox photos we posted yesterday this red fox hunting video is a perfect follow -up. The hunting sequence of both red and Arctic fox on the tundra is one of the most phenomenal natural hunting techniques in the world. Foxes sense movement under the snow with their large ears which can be subtly tweaked in different directions to hone in on the exact position of lemmings or other small rodents. Although not always successful, the thrill of the hunt alone is worth watching. For the fox it is a skill that gets better as they age. Learning to locate and anticipate the prey’s movement takes incredible practice and is a key to their survival. The Arctic pushes animals to unique behavior that is truly incredible!
A snowy tundra was the perfect setting for an Arctic fox greeting Natural Habitat Adventures guide Moira Le Patourel and her group of travelers. As snow fluttered to the ground the inquisitive fox seemed indifferent to the rover’s presence. What beautiful colors melding together in an Arctic landscape!
Caught between the search for lemmings and waiting for the Hudson Bay freeze, this gorgeous fox will patiently wait for the latter in order to feed off the left -overs of polar bear seal kills. A fascinating existence for sure. Polar bear season in Churchill reveals the subtleties of survival in the far north.
Later, out on the tundra of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, a sow with two cubs of the year (coy) revealed themselves on the horizon and explored the ground close to the polar rover. The three moved confidently across the thermokarst landscape while circling the group observing from the rover. Purely incredible to witness these polar bears in their natural environment.
The persistent unseasonable moderate temperatures have polar bears resting and conserving energy for the most part though we are still seeing magical behavior across the tundra. Surely the snow and cold will escalate and we will see more sparring in the coming weeks. Until then we are not complaining about the number of family interactions so far this year as well as the variety of other wildlife sightings.
The group was charmed with a first – night orientation of some fantastic northern lights which they took in down by the large inukshuk behind the town complex. What a display squeezed in between the clouds and snow squalls.
The following day Moira brought her travelers back for an iconic group photo from the head of the Hudson Bay. If the incredible aurora displays this polar bear season are any indication, we are in for quite a northern lights season in January through March.
A fresh snowfall greeted the first ultimate polar bear trip for Natural Habitat Adventures guide Moira Le Patourel and her group of travelers to Churchill. The fresh, light snow allowed for wildlife track sightings of fox and polar bears and even a lone wolf trail heading into the boreal forest. Typical temperatures for October, hovering around freezing, have allowed for more active polar bear activity on the tundra.
A quite intriguing polar bear interaction a couple of days into the expedition was witnessed by a few groups out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA). A large older juvenile, about 3 years – old, was interacting intimately with what appeared to be mom. Polar bear cubs usually spend around two years with their mother
Another unique, although more common sighting this season, was a onyx – colored fox, typically referred to as a silver fox scouring the snow covered tundra searching for lemmings below. This blackish and silver mix is a color morph of the common red fox and the contrast on the white covered tundra is striking. No camouflage here like the pure white Arctic fox. This guy won’t be sneaking up on any prey soon.
Other sightings of a traditional colored red fox as well as an Arctic fox completed the trifecta. A grouping of white coated willow ptarmigan were spotted heading into and out of the willows by the rover trail. On another rover trip to the tundra and CWMA the group witnessed a male polar bear with a purplish marking on his white back – end. The bruin most likely had been snoozing in a kelp bed with some purple – hued varieties intertwined. A funny and unusual sight for sure.
Equally as rare and unusual was a polar bear gnawing on what appeared to be a snow goose wing. A small amount of energy exhausted to gain a few vital grams of protein. Any sustenance between now and the freeze over of the Hudson Bay will be crucial to survival for any polar bear.
The exciting news from Churchill is polar bears have been spotted out at the Tundra Lodge in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) and they are becoming more active as the season begins here. The first Natural Habitat Adventures group at the lodge guided by Colby and Eric came quite close to a big male bear out by first tower as their group explored away from the base lodge on a rover. A few others lounged around the lodge moving about the willows.
More exciting news from polar bear season Churchill is there are still at least 30 – 40 beluga whales still lingering around the mouth of the Churchill River and along the coast in the Hudson Bay. Some travelers took a helicopter journey and spotted the beluga pods below..what a sight for this late in the fall! I imagine there will be some more time for beluga’s here though soon they will depart for the Hudson Straits up north.
Other sightings by our friends at Polar Bears International (PBI) included numerous black foxes- a color morph of the red fox – as well as traditional colored red foxes. A couple of Arctic fox have been spotted as well. Ptarmigan, Arctic hares and numerous bird species have also filled out the wildlife sightings for travelers over the past week. PBI travelers also were surprised by a large moose galloping along the tundra between ponds out in the CWMA!
Northern lights made an appearance on a couple of nights and were some of the best since last aurora season in February. Greens and pinks shimmered across the tundra in the darkened sky of the CWMA.
Perhaps the most incredible sighting was also by the PBI group. They witnessed a Peregrine falcon feeding on a gull on the fringe of the willows. They observed the web of nature and the life-cycles of these hearty creatures firsthand!
We are only in the first full week of polar bear season and already are witnessing surprises from every area out on the tundra!