Dorota Walkoski of Great White Bear Tours captured this harbinger of spring image in Churchill. Caribou, snow geese and Canada geese fill the landscape and feed on the bounty which the north provides this time of year! Bountiful Churchill summer will be upon us soon and avid explorers will flock to town for birding excursions, beluga whale charters and tundra exploring in search of fox, polar bears, Arctic hare and even wolves. This summer on the Hudson Bay is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent years. Stay posted for all the news and photos from the north!
Some of North America’s largest caribou herd – females only- are heading north toward Nunavik. The females head out of Quebec’s boreal forest a few weeks ahead of males to get settled in and have their calves. Averaging 20 km per day, the caribou will used their scoop – shaped hooves to dig for lichen deep beneath the snow to keep energy for the trek. Once they arrive in the north they will feast on a plethora of grasses and plants.
This amazing footage was captured by Wild Canadian Year film crew lead by filmmaker Justin McGuire. The crew flew by helicopter into the barren tundra region and placed a 360 degree camera ahead of the herd and hoped for the best.
“You find yourself in another world. It’s a landscape of quietness and caribou tracks – a vast expanse of compacted snow formed by thousands of moving animals.” stated McGuire . “We watched hopefully. After all our efforts, it would still take a bit of luck to get a our shot. And then – success! The migrating caribou passed right by the 360-camera, seemingly inquisitive of this foreign arrival in their land.”
The never – before – seen footage is truly unique and intimate!
Caribou grazing on the tidal lowlands out at Cape Churchill seem content and calm. Arctic summer is the greatest time of year in Churchill in my opinion as various wildlife moves into the region and everywhere you look there’s some kind of action. Polar bear season has the big draw here though the bountiful Churchill Arctic summer is by far the most exhilarating time for seeing the abundance of northern life forms. From tundra, to hundreds of migratory birds, to the Hudson Bay, incredible experiences are there for any nature enthusiast! Journey to Churchill this summer!
National Geographic wildlife photographer Nansen Weber has been going to Cunningham Inlet by Canada’s Somerset Island in the high Arctic with his cameras for 16 years. Every summer thousands of beluga whales join him for an amazing spectacle in the shallow inlet. For about a month, the beluga whales gather for what is a very social time as well as molting period and nursery time for newborns. The Cunningham River is a northerly version of the Churchill and surrounding estuaries in the southern Hudson Bay in that its’ temperatures average eight degrees F warmer than the surrounding ocean waters. The warmer water is a welcome respite for the whales and facilitates the behavior mentioned.
Weber and the whales seem to coexist in the inlet with the belugas approaching him closely as if they remember him from the year before. The drone footage of the whales, polar bears, and the incredible rugged landscape lends perspective to the massive wild region that is largely unspoiled.
That notion could be changing however with climate change and federal policy allowing research and transport throughout the Arctic. Shipping channels around the Northwest Passage are becoming more accessible with ice reduction due to warming temperatures. This will allow large ships in the region and they, with all the noise they produce, will undoubtedly have an affect on the animals echolocation faculties.
“This might be the only place on Earth you can enjoy the beluga whales like this that is still wild like it’s been for the last 500 years, but maybe it’s going to be changing. Just in my lifetime of being in the Arctic for 20 years, I’ve seen climate change. There’s new birds that are migrating up north that I haven’t seen before, there’s mosquitoes now where there shouldn’t be mosquitoes, the ice patterns and weather patterns are all weird. It’s kind of a dilemma that’s always there in the back of your head while you’re enjoying the beluga whale spectacle in front of you,” Weber says.
Weber’s videos and photos shed light on how ship traffic and resulting noise pollution may alter the beluga whale population’s migratory routes. “There has been scientific evidence that the ship traffic—the sonar—affects the communication between the belugas, so that could definitely be a problem for the future for our belugas in Cunningham Inlet.”
All of the Arctic region and all of its inhabitants will be affected with changing climate. “It’s not only about the beluga whales. I mean, we have polar bears, there’s narwhals and bowheads along the Northwest Passage, arctic char that run in the rivers. Inland you have the musk ox, the caribou that graze, all the migratory birds that fly up every summer to enjoy the short arctic summer, the snowy owls, the falcons. It’s just a huge ecosystem that’s all tied together,” states Weber.