Birding and Churchill go hand in hand! If you have ever been to Churchill in the spring or summer you must like birds to some extent. Churchill boasts nearly 200 species of mostly migratory birds during these seasons and many of these are “lifers” for serious bird enthusiasts. This video by Sparky Stensaas (firstname.lastname@example.org.) from a recent trip to Churchill highlights some of the incredible avian species even a casual birder can see while exploring the diverse landscape of Churchill! Natural Habitat Adventures guide Bonnie Chartier is one of the authorities on Churchill birding. You might see her in the willows if you venture to Churchill at some point.
These field notes are from Natural Habitat Adventures guide Eddy Savage from Churchill where he is enjoying guiding travelers around town and primarily out on the tundra of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. The Tundra Lodge is an amazing place to observe polar bears and other Arctic wildlife while becoming immersed in the tranquil feeling of the open tundra of the north! This first-hand description of the Lodge’s welcoming warmth is spot on. The wildlife details as well are quite incredible with activity all over the land!
“This was my first visit of 2017 to the Tundra Lodge. It was great to connect with the fantastic chefs Shayne and Shelley. These two make a seriously incredible team. They have an air of calm and professionalism and quickly make our guests feel at home with their delicious food choices. Sinking your teeth into one of Shelley’s fresh baked cookies, or sipping on Shayne’s miraculous yam soup, you will forget you are miles from a town and sitting in the middle of a rugged and beautiful landscape. They make you feel at home in their dining room. It’s a great feeling.
When I was guiding Churchill Arctic Summer trips for Natural Habitat Adventures with local birding expert Bonnie Chartier, one common goal we always strived for was spotting the elusive and rare Ross’s gull.
The bird, named after the famed Arctic explorer James Clark Ross, has a signature black – necklaced stripe around its’ neck and would randomly appear out of the mist on the Churchill River along the flats to the east of the grain port. This was a nesting ground confirmed by researchers since around 1980. In fact I cannot remember ever seeing the prized bird anywhere else in Churchill. Northern Siberia still exists as the gull’s predominant breeding grounds with seasonal homesteading along the Arctic Ocean’s ice pack.
Bonnie Chartier is world renowned for being an expert on the birds of the Churchill region and has a published guidebook (out of print at present) called A Birders Guide to Churchill. We would bring the entire group down to the Churchill River banks by the port and have all looking through binoculars, scanning the water and gravelly flats for smaller gulls with that distinct black stripe around the neck. Another distinguishing mark we always looked for was a rosy – washed colored underbelly.
A funny occurrence at the outset of a trip happened just along the stretch of road near the port and flats. Our group of 10 or so was searching the shallows and distant Churchill River for the gull when a independent couple just next to us had a set up a tripod with a spotting scope. They had in their possession a copy of Bonnie’s book and were in dire need of finding this prized bird for their “lifelist”. They began asking Bonnie if she knew anything about the bird and it’s whereabouts in Churchill when she subtly revealed whom she was and that the book they had was written by her. Needless to say we all had a good laugh and although no Ross’ gulls were spotted that day, the couple left with a signed copy and we all departed with a funny memory and story.
Here’s the bird list..Bonnie Chartier would be proud…
Gulls, arctic tern, osprey, raven, white-crowned sparrow, Canada goose, greater yellow legs, surf scoter, parasitic jaeger, sandhill crane, common eider, lesser scaup, American robin, whimbrel, mallard duck, red-breasted merganser, trumpeter swan, snow goose, Wilsonian godwit, horned grebe
The five polar bears for July is quite a bounty. Here’s what Natural Habitat guide Stephanie Fernandez came across with her travelers. An adult male, A sow with two yearlings out at Eskimo Point and a snow white sow and cub out near halfway point while the group was on their polar rover excursion.
The colors of summer in Churchill are not in the sky but on the ground in the form of wildflowers. A continuous cycle of color explodes throughout the short growth season and then morphs into the earthen colors preceding fall. Life of the earth.