November 19 – Warm temperatures and light winds continued today. As the day progressed, conditions became foggy for periods and ultimately soft snow fell near the end of the day. On the tundra, many seals were spotted along the coastline. Polar bears, however, were not seen either on land or on the sea ice. An unusual sighting of an enormous flock of more than 150 ptarmigan kept photographers busy for quite a while. The highlight today, though, was an early morning sighting of two tundra wolves, one black and one gray, seen by groups leaving town at first light. This bear season has been exceptional for wolf sightings; most years no wolves are spotted.
November 20 – It was another snowy day with high winds and cold temperatures. Visibility was reduced to just a few hundred feet for much of the afternoon. Polar bears were not spotted, and very few smaller animals were encountered in the storm. Helicopters were grounded, and all but the main roads in town were closed due to drifting. The storm stopped abruptly at 8 pm, and by 10 pm, groups were gathered outside to enjoy a beautiful northern lights display.
November 17 – Last night the aurora came out for a short period, and many people came out to witness it. Added to the experience were brief sightings of Arctic fox, red fox, silver fox, and even a pine marten. Today, low clouds, heavy snow, and periods of fog made for a difficult day of wildlife watching. No bears were spotted and smaller animals generally remained elusive. Some helicopters were able to get up early before the storm in the morning and reported more than 20 bears seen out on the ice, including family groups.
November 16 – It was a great time for everyone out on the tundra today. There was one male polar bear out at the ponds near one of the Tundra Lodges that made the day. It came over to each and every tundra vehicle and smelled everyone’s feet through the metal mesh decks. Then it napped for an hour or so, got up and did it all over again. Ptarmigan and fox were also spotted. It was an exceptional day for those riding on helicopters as well. Countless bears were seen on the sea ice and several families were spotted. A silver fox has been observed for the past several mornings in town. Very light winds made the wildlife viewing very manageable, with temperatures above 0°F.
November 15 – Churchill was greeted with partly sunny skies today, with mild temperatures and light winds. Travelers spent the entire day watching bears on the ice. There were nine in total, including two families with cubs. Mostly they were at a distance, but the action was good. Some groups witnessed a male bear kill and eat a seal. Another male polar bear was following the cubs around. The day ended with red fox and gyrfalcon coming very close to the tundra vehicles.
November 13 – Snow and fog dominated this morning as groups departed for the tundra. By late morning visibility improved greatly, and strong, cold winds came up from the north. The bay has begun to freeze again and some polar bears have moved back onto the ice. One bear near Gordon Point commanded most of the attention from bear watchers, with tundra vehicles taking turns to see it on the ice. Late in the day, a sow and cub were seen walking across on the ice from Halfway Point by a number of vehicles. It was an excellent day for smaller critter sightings including Arctic and red fox, gyrfalcon, Arctic hare and ptarmigan. An impressive sunset finished off the day as groups headed back to town.
November 14 – A big storm blew in from the north. Visibility was limited throughout the day as snow blew sideways. These conditions are always tough for bear viewing and today was no exception. Travelers returned to town having managed to find ptarmigan and an Arctic hare, but polar bears remained elusive. The bay is now frozen again. Tomorrow is expected to bring sunny skies and milder temperatures; a positive forecast for a fresh perspective on the tundra.
November 12 – Churchill awoke today to a view of an ice-free coastline thanks to prevailing south winds overnight. Morning helicopters confirmed that this was the case along the length of the Cape Churchill coastline. The day felt only mildly cold due to the relatively warm winds. Out on the tundra, travelers encountered polar bears throughout the day, and there were several instances of polar bears walking among the tundra vehicles. Other reports, from helicopters and locals, told of bears moving along the coastline throughout the Churchill area. These sightings included several family groups and adult males. Sightings of gyrfalcon, ptarmigan and red fox rounded out the day. The ice moving out today is good news for bear watchers. Though cold temperatures will ultimately freeze the bay again, a hard freeze-up has been delayed and polar bear watching continues to be productive.
November 9 – The winds died out overnight and the morning temperatures were still cold, just below 0°F. Without the windchill, however, the air felt mild relative to the past several days. Bear watchers reported the highlight of the day was spending the morning with two polar bears along the coast, which were alternating between feeding on kelp and visiting various tundra vehicles. The afternoon was slower for bears, though smaller creatures like American pine marten, ptarmigan and red fox were all spotted. There were more polar bears seen on the sea ice than on land today. The ice bears were viewed from both the tundra vehicles and helicopters. Helicopters reported that more ice had formed in the bay overnight. In just three days, the Hudson Bay has gone from being totally ice-free to having heavy coverage along the coast. The ice now reaches several miles out from the land and is broken up in places by open water.
By mid-afternoon, strong winds kicked up from the northwest, causing temperatures to fall. About that time, folks from town gathered at the Polar Bear Holding Facility to watch the release of a sow and two yearling cubs. These bears were flown by helicopter further north and away from town, where they can’t get into any more mischief. With so many locals present, the conversation naturally turned to the quickly changing ice conditions. There were many hopeful comments about how early freeze-ups have occurred in the past during bear season, only to have the ice blown back out by strong winds several days later.
November 10- Today was extremely cold with a high of -27°F. Windchill made it feel more like -35°F, and the strong, cold winds persisted throughout the day. Conditions alternated between cloudy and foggy, with periodic whiteouts and blowing snow. The weather made for tough bear viewing. Bear watchers found one bear on the eastern side of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. It was present all day, resting and rolling around to clean its coat. Many smaller animals were encountered by the tundra vehicles, including Arctic fox, red fox and ptarmigan. A real highlight for some travelers was a sighting of an ermine that had just killed a lemming. It appears from shore that the ice has consolidated more since yesterday. Helicopters were unable to corroborate, however, since they were grounded due to the high winds. Southern winds are expected soon—this often blows the ice out, bringing polar bears back to shore.
November 11 – Cold temperatures dominated again today, though, at only -16°F, it felt mild compared to previous days due to less windchill. Winds have shifted to come from the west. Helicopters were back in the skies this morning and pilots reported several polar bears on the ice. Polar bear cubs and a seal kill stole the show, along with a moose cow and calf near the shoreline. By early afternoon, helicopters were reporting that the ice had pushed away from the shore, and polar bears were spotted on land in various locations. From the tundra vehicles, a few bears were observed on the ice from Halfway Point early in the morning, best seen with spotting scopes. By late morning, the tundra machines made it out to Gordon Point to find a sub-adult bear. They watched it for hours as it ate kelp and walked among the vehicles. A red fox was seen on the tundra by several groups, a snowy owl was spotted from the Tundra Lodge, and there have been many red and silver fox sightings right in town. Winds are expected to shift to arrive from the south overnight, and local chatter is that this is the best-case scenario for potentially moving ice out of the region and driving more bears back to shore.