Churchill aurora.

Photo: Katherine Hamilton

The aurora was hiding behind cloudy skies last night though visible somewhat far out of town near the weir off Goose Creek Rd. along the Churchill River. Guide Eric escorted his entourage of travelers out in the darkness away from the big city lights of Churchill. Once you get past the few residences of Goose Creek sub-division( where Bill Calnan resides), there’s not much out there besides boreal forest and the town water pumping station at the end of the long dirt and gravel road. A fantastic birding destination in the Spring and Summer months..sometimes an odd polar bear can be rooting around the tall willows anytime of year. It’s an strange feeling when the darkness surrounds you and you’re outside your vehicle….imagining what could sneak from the willows.

Eric and group were out near the tundra lodge most of this day and witnessed a number of bears sparring sporadically…not going at it too long but then returning and pawing each other some more. A really clean, white arctic fox yesterday had come on the scene yesterday with the soft light illuminating his coat …. no sign of him today. Later in the day a sow with a coy approached from far out on the inland plain to the Southeast. The pair moved to within a quarter mile away on the perimeter of the large lake close to the lodge. Always a thrill to watch bears approach from far away and come into focus nearby.

Guide Steve and his photo group were in the same vicinity and the very end of the day provided for what Steve characterized as “one of the most amazing photographic experiences he’s seen in Churchill”. Two bears were sleeping next to each other and they rose up just as the light became glorious. They interacted a bit then moved in front of the lodge to the lake ending up at the back end of the icy surface. The scene, especially in this light, was worth the wait…

Guide Scott and group found sparring action just as they were pulling close to the tundra lodge near the trail crossing to the South. Nearer in by the lodge a sleuth of bears moved about at times and two bears were spotted out near the coast by the tidal flats. A large 800lb male soon arose from his nap in the willows and pushed out a smaller bear just for fun and moved under the rover’s back deck ..looking up curiously through the steel grate. Awhile later two bears behind the lodge were sparring pretty intently when a third bear joined the fray and then all three were slipping and rolling at times on the ice of the lake just to the South. Reminds me of the Boston Bruins in the playoffs the past few seasons.Churchill polar bear.

The rover headed out to Halfway Point and soon viewed a sow and coy through the scope heading directly toward them. As they neared the large thermakarst nearby, a male cut them off and the two walked around the edge of the lake a bit unsure of the lone bear. Without incident the mom led her coy Northwest a little and they settled in rolled and pushed back at each other with their paddle-like feet. the coy seemed to mimic her mom’s actions then finally got up on her back to sleep. Great interactions.

On Guide Amy’s first day out with her group, the excitement of  their first polar bear sighting was eclipsed by continuous sightings throughout the day. Amy noted that the bears had incredible energy as they rolled, wiggled and interacted with renewed interest as the temperatures cooled somewhat from the previous days. Numerous bears were observed rolling over on their backs and stretching their paws to the cloudy sky. A major highlight was the mom and coy that Scott’s group witnessed on the frozen lake. the coy was imitating mom’s behavior of snow -plowing and rolling..eventually tiring and nestling onto mom’s back buried in her fur coat as they lay on the shore. Occasionally she would look up, peering through fur to keep a watchful eye. Mom has taught her well.

All were happy upon returning  to the lodge area and photographing mud -outlined paw prints on the rear frame of the rover. These bears will leave their marks.

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