Another amazing Tundra Lodge photo trip this past week with Natural Habitat guides Rinnie and Colby provided ample photography chances for ecstatic travelers. Polar bear season is in full thrust with Arctic weather setting up a winteresque transition into the season’s final two weeks. Although the frigid cold has accompanied the snow and once again cast the annual doubt on how the season will conclude before the Hudson Bay freezes over, nobody seems to want these beautiful bears to vanish just yet.
Polar bear resting in a snowbank. Colby Brokvist photo.
The adventurous start of the journey included getting delayed by a blizzard before charter pilots capably landed in Churchill through a “weather window”. “We arrived to the remote tundra lodge in full whiteout conditions, which really means we got to truly taste what arctic conditions are all about. In the morning we awoke to crisp blue skies, fresh snow, and a big male bear sleeping right outside the window of some of the guest bedrooms. Their first bear was right from their bedroom window!,” reported Colby.
Inquisitive polar bear inspects the Tundra Lodge. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bears get hot and heavy on the tundra. Colby Brokvist photo.
Sunset over the tundra in Churchill,MB. Colby Brokvist photo.
A polar bear greets Natural Habitat travelers at the Tundra Lodge after the previous day blizzard.
Over the next four days of shooting photos, mostly blue skies prevailed, so very rare during bear season, which was a pleasure for photography. Highlights included many sparring bears right at the lodge, several sets of sows with cubs, a couple of charismatic young female bears, and incredible opportunities for colorful landscape shots.
Aurora in the night sky at the Tundra Lodge. Colby Brokvist photo.
If that wasn’t enough, two of the nights the aurora borealis was dancing within openings in the cloudy night skies. What a trip out on the Tundra lodge!
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Churchill, Manitoba is home to the king of the Arctic, polar bears, this time of year for many reasons though weather surely tops the list. You see, polar bears actually love the cold, snowy environment that slowly melds the surrounding tundra into the waters of the Hudson Bay forming a seemingly continuous icy landscape. When this happens, Ursus Maritimus walks out onto the bay and disappears into the white in search of sustenance for survival.
The two-month long period in between is intense and somewhat unpredictable thus the reason for so many travelers making the annual pilgrimage to Churchill, Manitoba.
Here are some recent photographs from Churchill submitted by Natural Habitat guides from their daily treks to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area…a polar bear waiting area for true winter in the north.
Polar bear dance…sparring. Brad Josephs photo.
A sun dog casting its’ rays on an inukshuk. Brad Josephs photo.
Natural Habitat travelers photographing a polar bear from their polar rover. Karen Walker photo.
A polar bear sow with its’ cub of the year. Sean Beckett photo.
Natural Habitat polar bear guide Moire Le Patourel with polar bear tracks. Eric Rock photo.
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A Natural Habitat group led by guide Karen Walker experienced some diverse weather as they journeyed to Churchill, Manitoba this week. Despite the blizzard-like conditions, the group of travelers braved the wind and cold in order to do some exploring on land. “We had a storm on our Town and Area tour day, but the group trekked out to Cape Merry, across the snow-covered rocks to the Battery,” reported Karen. Many guests also got out for several photos throughout the day.
Polar bear aside the Polar rover in Churchill, MB. Karen Walker photo.
Following an exciting week of wildlife viewing and northern cultural encounters, the group experienced a beautiful afternoon on the tundra on their last day in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. The sun came out and highlighted the snow and frozen thermokarsts across the tundra. Calmer weather prevailed toward week’s end and Arctic animals were out and about all day. “We spotted an arctic hare running through the willows and a red fox on both of our drives to and from town. Several polar bears were napping and digging in the kelp, and we also had a couple bears visit our rover,” stated Karen. “On our departure day, another blizzard hit ushering in tremendous winds and blowing snow, but we made it safely out of Churchill with only a half hour delay.”
Polar bear investigating the polar rover. Karen Walker photo.
The group kept high spirits up throughout the trip while experiencing some wicked Arctic weather. Experiencing the harsh environment accentuates how animals in this region need to be opportunistic in their daily lives…every decision makes a difference.
View of the Port of Churchill grain storage building. Karen Walker photo.
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Brad Josephs and his Natural Habitat photography group witnessed some incredible action-packed polar bear sparring. A very severe blizzard moved in and another a few days later as cold air was accompanied by 80 kilometer per hour winds. On the last day of the trip a tantalizing sun dog appeared and the travelers photographed silhouettes of the inukshuk behind the town complex. While doing so an Arctic fox ran up the beach right past our group. An awesome trip with wild weather and many, many great photo opportunities.
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Sparring polar bears. Brad Josephs photo.
Sparring in the willows. Brad Josephs photo.
Spruce trees in the blowing snow of a blizzard. Brad Josephs photo.
Polar bear sniffing around the polar rover. Brad Josephs photo.
A sun dog behind the inukshuk on the Hudson Bay. Brad Josephs photo.
Arctic fox sniffing the tundra for prey. Brad Josephs photo.
“What a trip! The action just kept coming and we seemed to always be in the right place at the right time”, reported Natural Habitat guide Colby Brokvist. Highlights included many cub sightings, including one curious guy right up on our rover. We had sparring males so close that some of the guests on the deck of the rover were hit with snow as the bears tussled!
Polar bears in sparring mode. Colby Brokvist photo.
Other highlights included Manitoba Conservation chasing a large male polar bear out of town, and numerous fox sightings. Topping it off, the aurora borealis came out on Halloween night and the group of travelers and Colby journeyed down to the inukshuk behind the town complex to observe the amazing display around 1 am in the morning.
Aurora shining in the Arctic sky above the boreal forest. Brad Josephs photo.
Shipping News: The last grain ship is out of port and the tug boat brought in the channel buoys this past week.
Manitoba Conservation Blotter: There are currently 13 polar bears in the polar bear compound as of yesterday, including a sow with a cub caught in a bear trap near the cemetery.
Polar bear print in the snow. Karen Walker photo.
Guide Karen Walker
and group had a male polar bear come very near their polar rover, on the spit past the lodge
. The temperature was hovering around freezing, so the snow was soft and left a fantastic foot print for photographs
. “At one point we had a very close bear on the right side of our rover and sparring to the left side of the rover,” added Karen.
A fox den on Christmas Lake esker in Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Karen Walker photo.
Out along Christmas Lake esker
, the group discovered the entrance of a fox den. “We never saw the fox, but we saw lots of tracks,” stated Karen. That evening the wind really picked up and it has become quite evident that winter has set in. Over the last few days, two blizzard-like storms have descended on Churchill