This thrilling footage of orca whales coordinating a seal hunt in Antarctica exhibits the collaboration these animals rely on to maximize their potential to capture prey in the harsh conditions of Antarctica. Orcas have been spotted more regularly in the Arctic waters this past decade and are increasingly hunting those waters with more ice – free days. The Hudson Bay waters around Churchill have been frequented by orcas within the last few years. It will be interesting to see how these animals interact with polar bears as they compete for prey during the ice free or even semi ice – free seasons.
Churchill in summertime is a magical sub – Arctic paradise! Three short or long months, depending on how you look at it, pack in a vast and diverse pallet of nature. The tundra and Hudson Bay come alive as tributary rivers ignite with life and small boats of eager travelers seeking the vibe of the beluga whale pods. The “Arctic Riviera” is shelter for belugas to nurture young, molt their old skin or just enjoy the “warm” waters of the southern Hudson Bay.
Beluga whale underwater in th Churchill River. Alex De Vries -Magnifico photo.
As a guide returning to Churchill each year, I was drawn naturally like a migrating animal and the annual sojourn just became instinctual. Each spring I would start to feel the pull of belugas out on the Churchill River and Hudson Bay. After trolling among the pods, kayaking and snorkeling on a daily basis for over 10 years, the feeling takes root in one’s psyche. The draw to migrate for whatever reason is real. The belugas are the main attraction here for sure!
Although belugas, birds and sometimes polar bears are the main draw for the summer season, there are some lesser known features or entities in and around Churchill that have been hidden jewels over the years. Here are some that I really was drawn to.
-Boreal Chorus Frog – One of the jewels of the north and so much fun to search for around the edges of an Arctic pond.2.- Jellyfish– There are a number of jellyfish that thrive in the cold water of the north. On clear water days the sight of them suspended around beluga whales is ethereal.
Aurelia, a jellyfish found in the Churchill River. G. Young, Photo copyright.
3. Sandhill Cranes – Over the years these birds are usually spotted along the railroad tracks where grain drops from rail cars.
Two Sandhill cranes mixed in with Canada geese in Churchill. Rhonda Reid photo.
4.- Orca whales – A rare sight indeed in the Churchill area. Though, over the last few years they have been seen more often.
Orca’s in the Hudson Bay. Dwight Allen photo.
5. – Pack Ice on the Hudson Bay– If you visit Churchill early enough in the Spring there’s a good chance there will still be some pack-ice in the bay and even in the Churchill River. The ice draws wildlife to it such as bears, whales and birds.
6.- Polar Bear Seal kill – The shorter ice season has produced more seal kills in both summer and fall. These kills will often draw up to 10 polar bears to the scene. This is a kill from later in the polar bear season.
Polar bear and ravens scavenge a seal kill carcass in Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Brad Josephs photo.
7. – Ross’s Gull – A true incredible check on the life-list if this beautiful bird unveils itself along the Churchill River. Another fun treasure hunt!
Ross’ gull along the gravelly shore. Brian Small photo.
8. Orchids – One wouldn’t think these delicate plants could survive the harsh Arctic weather though these flowers are opportunistic and make the most of their northern environment.
Round – leaved orchid in Churchill. Steve Selden photo.