An overcast day in Churchill provided the perfect setting for some beautiful photographs of the natural surroundings of the region. Birds are nesting and the wildflowers are blooming all over the tundra. Beluga whales are arriving in the Churchill River in pods and we will be posting photos soon from some Natural Habitat Adventures trips in July. Enjoy these Awesome photos!
Arctic tern in a nesting area. Rhonda Reid photo.
This exquisite close – up image of an Arctic Tern incubating eggs on its nest shows just how camouflaged their eggs are. It took me awhile to even see the one egg in front of the tern since it blends so well into the tundra. Arctic terns lay 1 – 3 eggs and both the male and female incubate the eggs for up to 22 days. After birth the parents supply small fish up until they fledge at three to four weeks old. Female and male Arctic terns mate for at least a year and can mate for life. Females lay eggs once a year. Terns live on average up to 34 years.
The photo of the three Arctic tern eggs illustrates the magnificent camouflage adaptation the eggs have developed over many years. The way animals and their eggs adapt to the environment using camouflage is fascinating. Survival of species depends on these slight changes over periods of time. The faster a species can adapt the longer they can survive in nature.
The Precambrian shield rolls down to the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Rhonda Reid photo.
Precambrian shield with a bog and krumholz spruce. Rhonda Reid photo.
These two photos of Precambrian shield rolling toward the Hudson Bay show how the rocks have been smoothed over in previous eras by ice and water covering them. If you look closely you can see marks or “striations” caused from rocks embedded in the bottom of glaciers that were dragged over them during the slow movements of the massive ice formations. It’s quite interesting to search out these striations while hiking over the shield in Churchill.
Eider duck female and her brood of five chicks. Rhonda Reid photo.
Experiencing Churchill in the winter months potentially can shock one’s physical system. Weathering the weather is really a ‘mind over matter’ concept. However, the beauty of the landscape and the shimmering northern lights soothe the pain of occasional frigid temperatures. Amazing beauty in the Churchill region has a way of heightening one’s pleasure under any circumstances.
The addition of Natural Habitat’s Aurora Pod on the Hudson Bay coast now provides another option for experiencing the many facets of natural beauty in Churchill. The frozen bay, precambrian sheild, boreal forest under the aurora borealis in one location enables travelers to experience the Arctic feel in a panoramic setting.
Natural Habitat photographer under the northern lights in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
Natural Habitat staff member Alex under the amazing aurora borealis in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
Incredible northern lights above the boreal forest in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
Northern lights with the warm aurora pod in the foreground in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
Northern lights above the Wapusk Adventures dog yard and teepee in Churchill, Manitoba. Brad Josephs photo.
Aurora borealis above road to Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
Here are some landscape photo’s with Natural Habitat travelers enjoying the solitude of summer in the sub Arctic. Churchill, at the south end of the Hudson Bay is an accessible place to experience the wonders of a world that remains secluded to an ever growing shrinking planet. Development continues to erode our most iconic and beautiful, natural environments…though the Arctic remains a place where the mind can be free and open to endless possibilities of the unexplored natural world.
Natural Habitat travelers enjoying the Hudson Bay coast. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
The coastline around Churchill has been developing over millions of years. The precambrian sheild that frames the bay is some of the oldest rock on the planet and continues to emerge from the land. Isostatic rebound is the process of the land rising up from the enormous weight of the past ice age. Even though the weight of the ice is long gone, the land or sheild, continues to rise up from the event. Incredible when you think of the slow process.
Photographing the rocks from a past era. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
With thousands of beluga whales migrating to the Churchill River estuary in the summer, the opportunities abound to experience wildlife in a pristine environment. A short zodiac excursion on the river presents pods of whales feeding on capelin and often curious enough to approach the boats at arms length.
Zodiac excursion onto the Churchill River in search of beluga whales. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
Polar bear season in the fall is one of the most scintillating experiences on Earth…a dramatic encounter with one of the most fascinating creatures to live. The mystery of the north adds to their beauty by capturing the imagination of an unexplored world. Seeing bears in the summer is an even more singular event defined by a feeling of isolation.
Polar bears on Eskimo Point. Stephanie Fernandez photo.
Enjoying a BBQ on a journey to the coast via polar rover. Stephanie Fernandez.
Natural Habitat guide Karen Walker and group arrived in Churchill last week and quickly were offered a taste of the Arctic. On the curving road through, what locals call “graffiti alley”, precambrian rocks are sporadically emblazoned with words of wisdom or love edicts from local Churchillians that have long since moved on to live in the city. Nestled in amongst these rocks ,quite close to the road, a red fox was curled up and half asleep. Travelers excitedly absorbed the experience with awe.
Red fox along the coast in Churchill,MB. Brad Josephs photo.
Heading back to town and gazing out at the Hudson Bay ,cluttered with icy chunks now, the group lingered around the inukshuk before heading over to the port. With two ships in port and another awaiting departure in the bay, a tugboat was poised in the mouth of the Churchill River monitoring the path of departure for the remaining vessels. This is the latest in recent times for container ships to be filling their hulls with grain. Just wondering if Omnitrax, port owner, is trying to to make a case for extended shipping and the ability to ship oil from the port in the future?
Polar bear explores a polar rover with awed travelers on board. Brad Josephs photo.
Out on the tundra in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area the following day, the group had many varied polar bear experiences. Sleeping bears, a sow with coy walking along a frozen lake, a couple of big males near first tower …all were prelude to magnificent sparring out toward the coast of the bay. Three bears were by a frozen thermokarst in the distance with two of them sparring. After watching from a distance the rover moved closer to get an intimate look at the battle. A fourth bruin approached and quite soon all bears were intermingled with sporadic sparring. A couple of the bears approached the rover and one even nosed up through the steel grate of the back deck thrilling those brave enough to brace the cold wind of the day. What a scene to witness in the north. Unforgettable experience for all!
Sow and cubs along the Hudson Bay. Brad Josephs photo.
Arctic foxes also peppered the day with sightings here and there as the rover inched across the land. One pure white animal danced along the shore looking for food as another did the same through the short willows on the edge of a frozen pond. This year has been a bountiful one for these creatures here in Churchill. There is surely a cycle to of seasons for these magnificent creatures. This year is an up year on their numbers.
Arctic fox moves deliberately across the tundra keeping a watchful eye on a rover. Brad Josephs photo.
Another fine spot came on a tip from another rover driver relaying an Arctic hare sighting in Ptarmigan Alley. After lunch the group headed over and spotted twitching black-tipped ears in the willows giving away its’ cover. These black tips are sort of a reversed camouflage to distract predators in the air. The birds go for the more apparent black rather than the more easily targeted white body. When they miss the slight ear-flaps, the hare runs for cover in the willows. Karen wryly remarked that it was, “a good hare day”.
On the way back in near first tower the rover pulled to a stop and Karen pointed out about 15 furry legged ptarmigan scattered about the willows. A nice finale to a most incredible day of wildlife sightings out above the permafrost.
Aspirations for the next tundra day were high as news of a mom with twins was observed out near L5 by another Natural Habitat group led by Melissa. A thrilling afternoon watching the three interact was incredible luck being in the right spot at the perfect time. Looking for bears around the boreal forest near Churchill can be like hunting for treasure in the sea. A little luck goes a long way!