A Polar bear wandering the coast of Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
A cross fox loping along the tundra in search of prey. Colby Brokvist photo.
A curious polar bear up on a polar rover in Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
High above the tundra with the aurora blazing above. Colby Brokvist photo.
An Arctic hare making good use of its camouflage. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bears awaiting the ice forming on the Hudson Bay. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bear season is winding down however the wildlife sightings are even better than ever. These fantastic shots from Natural Habitat Adventures guide Colby Brokvist are an indication that we still have some treasures left in this 2017 season!
We had a scare last week when the Hudson Bay was on the brink of freeze – up but then the south winds prevailed, allowing for the ice to be pushed north for the time being and thus keeping some energetic polar bears around for a bit longer. What a season it has been with so many fox sightings and even a wolverine.
Polar bears have been up to their usual sparring displays lately as well as numerous sow and cubs interacting on the tundra. With only a week or so left for travelers venturing to Churchill to see the King of the Arctic, we have fingers crossed that the weather will allow for polar bears to linger in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area!
The 2017 exciting polar bear season
is moving along with some of the most incredible wildlife in recent years being seen daily. While the fox population, all varieties, is burgeoning, there have been some rare sightings of large caribou herds and even a wolverine…although we are still in search of a photo of this one. These images from Colby Brokvist are from his recent guided trip of Natural Habitat travelers on a photo tour. Some pretty cool and first – time happenings out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area!
White Gyrfalcon perched on a rock in Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bear cub investigates the polar rover. Colby Brokvist photo.
The group also enjoyed sightings of Arctic, silver and red foxes, a snowy owl and a white phase Gyrfalcon.
A beautiful silver fox prances along the tundra in search of a meal. Colby Brokvist photo.
Aurora borealis was also visible at night
for this lucky group of travelers. While the cold weather is allowing for ice forming on the Hudson Bay it is not unusual for panic to set in for thoses who want to see the polar bears.
Polar bear resting on a kelp day bed. Colby Brokvist photo.
Shaking off the winter cold. Colby Brokvist photo.
A happy group of Nat Hab travelers after a memorable trip to Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
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.
A polar bear basks in the cold with visions of ice on the Hudson Bay. Bonnie Chartier photo.
Krys, the Tundra Lodge Manager is on top of every problem and really assures our groups that they are his most important priority. Every detail is looked after and he keeps a sharp eye for wildlife around the lodge as well. On more than one occasion this season he has been the first to alert our group of approaching polar bears. A serious asset!
Jason is our talented rover driver. Moving our groups on and off the tundra every morning and afternoon. He has over 16 years experience driving rovers and has memorized the shape and shades of the land. His eye is sharp and often spots hard to see animals like snowy owls, ptarmigan, or Arctic hare far before any of us can see it. You can tell he loves being out in the rover with the groups as he is often ecstatic when we have a good wildlife encounter!
The team at the lodge is remarkable and they really give more than expected on a daily basis. As an expedition leader, working alongside Shayne, Shelley, Krys, and Jason is as good as it gets.
We have had a wide variety of sightings this year. As posted by Colby Brokvist, we had an incredible encounter with what we suspect to be two young Arctic Fox. Chasing each other too and fro across piles of kelp tossed ashore by humongous Hudson Bay seas, our entire Tundra Lodge group was privy to what was certainly a world class moment. Bonnie Chartier, a founder of eco-tourism in Churchill and Natural Habitat Adventures Expedition Leader said that was something she had never seen before. That really says something about the experience.
There seems to be a real abundance of lemmings around this year and sightings of snowy owls, red fox, and Arctic fox are high. Many groups have seen fox hunting for lemmings. Zig-zagging across the tundra listening and watching for movement. When they hone in on a lemming they leap fully into the air and land square on top of them. They are catching more then they can eat and caching them for later access.
When we look at our polar bear sightings, well it is hard to offer an all-encompassing description. Sightings have been great. We seemed to have “dinner bears” regularly. We had two nights where as soon as all of the group was served their entrees, a polar bear would come by and visit the lodge. They would peer into the lodge, seemingly curious about all of the shuffling and lights. It is important to note that these bears are not coming to the lodge to eat food, but instead, intrigued by the interesting sounds, lights, and smells, have come by out of curiosity. We do not feed the bears and will not tolerate that behavior. Our guests were ecstatic. There are few better ways to be interrupted during a meal than to have a polar bear sitting 10 feet below you. Cool.
Polar bear by the tundra lodge. Eddy Savage photo.
On our second night at the lodge, the aurora borealis came out for us. It was partly cloudy but it still managed to be strong enough to see. Just another cool thing our guests got to see!
Our days on the rover were exciting too. We had ample polar bear sightings with many coming right past the rovers. On top of that, the other arctic wildlife in the area was out in force. During our day rovers on the tundra, our groups saw a silver fox, cross fox, and arctic fox hunting for lemmings. We had a few up close visits from the cross fox where one even cached a lemming about 40 feet from the rover. So amazing. All of our guests saw multiple snowy owls and had a great sighting where one sat close to the polar rover trail and allowed our group take some incredible images.
A cross fox seems content after catching a lemming. Konan Wendt photo.
After our few days out exploring the tundra and enjoying the comforts of the unique Tundra Lodge, we had to fly back to Winnipeg. On our last morning, we set off at 7 am and maybe 50 feet away in the headlights was a snowy owl perched on top of a tree. An awesome farewell to an incredible trip.
When in Churchill, we went dog sledding with the founder of the Hudson Bay Quest, Dave Daley. Everyone had a blast!”
With fresh snow on the ground in Churchill, these polar bear images are an indication that winter is creeping into the region. Polar bears are being spotted out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area as well as along the coast road and near the Mile Five area too. The early snowfall has contributed to more active polar bears along access roads and areas accessible to travelers. We will be posting more frequent field notes and images now that the polar bear season is roaring with bears! In the meantime enjoy these fantastic photos from Churchill!
Polar bear family huddles together near the willows along the coast. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Polar bear mother with her two healthy cubs in Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
A polar bear looks curiously from a snowbank near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
“Oh no, not another photo.” Polar bear in the snow. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Another great close up of a polar bear near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Resting polar bear out near mile 5 in Churchill. Jodi Grosbrink photo.
Polar bear checking out a polar rover in Churchill. Dorota Walkoski photo.
Polar bear season is underway and the photos and stories from the field in Churchill will start coming in day to day. Polar bears are already gathering around Natural Habitat Adventures’ Tundra Lodge out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and the action will only get more exciting as the season goes on. Stay tuned for our regular northern updates from Churchill!