More and more shorebirds are arriving into Churchill as the summer takes hold. This time of year is a bird watchers dream in Churchill as new species appear almost daily in the build up to the nesting and foraging season on the coasts as well as inland. every trip outside creates new opportunities for spotting different birds. Depending on your preference you can do a boreal forest hike or stay along the coast or near inland thermakarsts or pools. There’s plenty of these winged creatures for all types of spottings.
Today, in honor of my son Jack’s last day of fourth grade, churchillpolarbears.org is having fan photo Friday! We encourage you to submit any of your favorite Churchill or Arctic photographs to our Churchill Polar Bears Facebook page and they will be published in our blog at churchillpolarbears.org. Please include a brief description of the photo along with any other story you would like to tell about your amazing experience. Thanks to all for contributing and sharing your love of Churchill and the north!
Here are a few of my favorite photographs from Churchill:
The Georgia Aquarium just had an amazing event occur this week. A baby beluga whale was born in captivity. Although always a controversial occurrence, the ability to witness this incredible phenomena can only happen in such a setting. Aside from that the educational benefits to those studying the species and those who cannot travel to the Arctic waters to see belugas in their natural habitat are immense. I am generally not an advocate of aquariums housing wild animals without releasing them but there are some educational aspects such as this birth that cannot be observed in the wild. That alone can stimulate incredible conservation initiatives and support from people everywhere.
In 1976 the Churchill River water flow was diverted into the Nelson River at Missi falls at the mouth of South Indian Lake. This diversion, caused the Churchill River to have 15% of the original flow and created controversy stemming mainly from Cree and aboriginal groups concern over their native lands resources.
Affects on wildlife habitat and communities along the river to the north have never been adequately measured so affects on fish and the beluga whale population are relatively unknown. In Churchill, a weir and marina was constructed as part of the mitigation process by Manitoba Hydro. Although the observation tower the marina gives a nice view of the inlet off the river, the marina gets minimal usage. The weir allows the regulation of water levels south of that point for fishing and boating excursions. The beluga whale population ventures shorter distances up-river in summertime due to the tidal flow and shallow water. This might have had some affects on the population or it may have caused some whales to change habitat location and venture to other estuaries with warm rivers flowing into them. When belugas give birth and nurture their young they have an easier time with the moderate temperature warm waters flowing from the south.
I can’t imagine what the flow of the Churchill River would be like at 85% more pressure. Guiding over a decade of Churchill Arctic summer seasons I have experienced just about every type of conditions on the river and in the Hudson Bay. Although higher water flow would not have a profound affect within the main part of the river, the mouth and inlets would be very different at tidal changes. It’s very tricky at times to maneuver through the mouth of the river due to the currents and topography below. With more flow this could be easier or harder but would most likely have a bearing on fish and whales. Inlets and calving/ nurseries would be larger and deeper farther up-river…that is a surety.
The affects on southern communities associated with the diversion have been quite harmful in many instances. South Indian Lake was forced to relocate and has since lost most of their original one million pound whitefish production…down to 100,000 pounds at last count.In the end, the benefits of the diversion and Nelson River power plants output have not been without issues. Having to ship the power to far southern communities has taken more resources and money than originally planned. The original water levels negotiated by Manitoba hydro have been disregarded and a push to adopt the newer levels by law is underway. One has to wonder, as with all these massive projects that alter our natural environment, are the benefits worth the effects felt by our wildlife populations?
The Metis Heritage Hall in Churchill burned to the ground early this morning. All was lost in the fire including a vast collection of art and historical artifacts. The loss is truly devastating. Mrtyle de Meulles had stored her large collection of Metis artifacts used in her cultural talks and presentations. Unfortunately many of these items are irreplaceable. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Churchill and their terrible loss.