We hope you all enjoy our first guest blog report from Churchill and Natural Habitat Adventures guide Moira Le Patourel. Her group of travelers experienced a classic and exciting week in Churchill and the photos and report below give a feel of the adventure experienced!
“The first trip of the summer is always an exciting one in Churchill. Vast Ice floes are visible out in the bay, seemingly close to shore, but just slightly too far away to use the spotting scope to search for polar bears still out on the ice. Bears had already been spotted close to town and our first group of the summer was lucky enough to spot a resting polar bear on the beach, while out on the tundra on their first evening in Churchill.
Things were in full bloom on the tundra in a spectacular array of colours; snow-white from the White Mountain Avens, with their buttercup-yellow center, a carpet of brilliant green from the Sea Purslane, and a vibrant mat of magenta from the Purple Hedysarum. It was certainly a feast for the eyes!
Sea pursalane inhabits the beach areas in Churchill. Moira Le Patourel photo.
Beluga sightings were excellent throughout the trip, with several young calves spotted swimming with their mothers. During our final morning on the zodiacs, the river was all a-splash with beluga activity – pods of feeding-frenzied belugas, young and old, cavorted around the boats in pursuit of their fast-moving prey – capelin. Arctic terns plummeted into the water from the surface, with the white whales pushing the capelin up from below. Quite the sight to behold!
Beluga whales in the Churchill River with excited Nat Hab travelers. Moira Le Patourel photo.
A visit with local sled dogs and their owner was an interesting way for our visitors to learn about what life is like for a musher and his team in the remote sub-Arctic town of Churchill. With the train to Churchill not running at the moment, the logistics have become more complicated over the past month, and the cost of living has significantly gone up for the residents of Churchill. Our group learned about what those changes meant for mushers and dog teams in the area.
Churchill sled dogs are alaways a popular attraction. Moira Le Patourel photo.
Walks in both tundra and taiga habitat allowed us to spot many different bird species; some of the favourites were nesting/dive-bombing Arctic terns, red-necked phalaropes, lesser yellowlegs, Pacific loons and tundra swans with young. Churchill certainly is the place to be in the summer, especially for those visitors in search of feathered friends. Many guests on this trip were able to add several species to their life lists.
Many laughs, smiles, hugs and songs (you can’t leave without singing Baby Beluga at least once!) were shared by all for our first adventure in Churchill this summer. Looking forward to what the coming days will bring!”
Black bear in Churchill with what’s left of a lesser snow goose in his mouth. Rhonda Reid photo.
This close – up photo of a black bear in Churchill with the wing of a lesser snow goose in his mouth has many people excited to see the rarely seen animal. This bear species does reach into the far north but are not often seen at this close range.
Bears of all varieties are becoming more apt at gathering food in the wild. Voracious polar bears in Churchill have been observed on seal – kills all year round and scavenging eggs and tundra berries. Occasionally a beluga whale carcass will feed a dozen bears for a few days. This recent trend in feeding is quite possibly an adaptive survival technique due to the warming climate and reduced sea ice season. Since polar bears have a shorter time on ice hunting seals they need to find alternative food sources in order to maintain a year – round body healthy body weight.
Another amazing Tundra Lodge photo trip this past week with Natural Habitat guides Rinnie and Colby provided ample photography chances for ecstatic travelers. Polar bear season is in full thrust with Arctic weather setting up a winteresque transition into the season’s final two weeks. Although the frigid cold has accompanied the snow and once again cast the annual doubt on how the season will conclude before the Hudson Bay freezes over, nobody seems to want these beautiful bears to vanish just yet.
Polar bear resting in a snowbank. Colby Brokvist photo.
The adventurous start of the journey included getting delayed by a blizzard before charter pilots capably landed in Churchill through a “weather window”. “We arrived to the remote tundra lodge in full whiteout conditions, which really means we got to truly taste what arctic conditions are all about. In the morning we awoke to crisp blue skies, fresh snow, and a big male bear sleeping right outside the window of some of the guest bedrooms. Their first bear was right from their bedroom window!,” reported Colby.
Inquisitive polar bear inspects the Tundra Lodge. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bears get hot and heavy on the tundra. Colby Brokvist photo.
Sunset over the tundra in Churchill,MB. Colby Brokvist photo.
A polar bear greets Natural Habitat travelers at the Tundra Lodge after the previous day blizzard.
Over the next four days of shooting photos, mostly blue skies prevailed, so very rare during bear season, which was a pleasure for photography. Highlights included many sparring bears right at the lodge, several sets of sows with cubs, a couple of charismatic young female bears, and incredible opportunities for colorful landscape shots.
Aurora in the night sky at the Tundra Lodge. Colby Brokvist photo.
If that wasn’t enough, two of the nights the aurora borealis was dancing within openings in the cloudy night skies. What a trip out on the Tundra lodge!