A dusting of snow and frost settled on the tundra overnight. Numerous ponds froze, and now only the largest still contains open water. The day began bitterly cold and foggy, with strong winds coming off Hudson Bay. By early afternoon, however, the fog gave way to blue skies and sunshine. Polar bears are currently being seen all along the coast within the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, with a concentration of polar bears out east between First Tower and The Flats. Two males were spotted sparring in the afternoon, and some younger females were quite active, approaching several tundra vehicles. An array of birdlife was encountered, while foxes have remained elusive for several days.
Polar bear resting on the Precambrian Shield in Churchill. Drew Hamilton photo.
A content Arctic Hare near Cape Merry in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
A regal polar bear roaming the Hudson Bay Coast in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
Polar bear crossing the tundra in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
Natural Habitat Adventures guide Brad Josephs and his band of travelers enjoyed an exciting start to the polar bear season with good bear sightings along with some other fantastic wildlife encounters. The group also witnessed an iconic landmark coming to the ground out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area.
Polar bear with a dirty snout. Brad Josephs photo.
Veteran guide Brad reported warmer than average temperatures for this time of year though that didn’t deter polar bears from revealing themselves on the tundra. A pair of snowy owls perched on Precambrian rocks searching for lemmings or Arctic hares made for prime viewing and photo ops. A small group of willow ptarmigan made their way from the willows, imagine that, into sight of the excited group. A good look at an iconic northern species.
Willow Ptarmigan displaying furry, insulated feet. Brad Josephs photo.
Arctic hare stoic ly waiting for the protection of snow. Brad Josephs photo.
Brad described the falling of an iconic landmark out in the CWMA.; “A strange thing happened while we were on the tundra. We drove by an old military observation tower built in the early 1950’s for cold weather training, and when we drove by it again a few hours later it had collapsed in the high winds.” The landmark was dubbed “first tower” since there were two of these structures built for military training observation in the 1950’s and this one is the first one that polar rovers encounter while searching the tundra for wildlife. It’s quite a ways out on the trail and served as a landmark for rover drivers, especially in snowy conditions. Sad to see it go!
The demise of first tower in the CWMA. Brad Josephs photo.
While exploring the tundra out near the fallen tower, the group had an amazing encounter with a red fox carrying its ptarmigan prey in his mouth. Surprised by being “caught in the act” , the fox paused to take in the curious onlookers gazing at him in wonderment of the laws of nature and the survival chain of life in the Arctic wild. What an exciting start to the 2016 polar bear season in Churchill!
A red fox with a tasty meal of willow ptarmigan. Brad Josephs photo.