November 13 – Snow and fog dominated this morning as groups departed for the tundra. By late morning visibility improved greatly, and strong, cold winds came up from the north. The bay has begun to freeze again and some polar bears have moved back onto the ice. One bear near Gordon Point commanded most of the attention from bear watchers, with tundra vehicles taking turns to see it on the ice. Late in the day, a sow and cub were seen walking across on the ice from Halfway Point by a number of vehicles. It was an excellent day for smaller critter sightings including Arctic and red fox, gyrfalcon, Arctic hare and ptarmigan. An impressive sunset finished off the day as groups headed back to town.
Polar bears sparring on the frozen tundra in Churchill. Discover Churchill photo.
November 14 – A big storm blew in from the north. Visibility was limited throughout the day as snow blew sideways. These conditions are always tough for bear viewing and today was no exception. Travelers returned to town having managed to find ptarmigan and an Arctic hare, but polar bears remained elusive. The bay is now frozen again. Tomorrow is expected to bring sunny skies and milder temperatures; a positive forecast for a fresh perspective on the tundra.
Stygge Creek in Churchill frozen over. Alex De Vries – Magnifico.
November 9 – The winds died out overnight and the morning temperatures were still cold, just below 0°F. Without the windchill, however, the air felt mild relative to the past several days. Bear watchers reported the highlight of the day was spending the morning with two polar bears along the coast, which were alternating between feeding on kelp and visiting various tundra vehicles. The afternoon was slower for bears, though smaller creatures like American pine marten, ptarmigan and red fox were all spotted. There were more polar bears seen on the sea ice than on land today. The ice bears were viewed from both the tundra vehicles and helicopters. Helicopters reported that more ice had formed in the bay overnight. In just three days, the Hudson Bay has gone from being totally ice-free to having heavy coverage along the coast. The ice now reaches several miles out from the land and is broken up in places by open water.
A polar bear and two coys peruse the ice of the Hudson Bay. Discover Churchill photo.
By mid-afternoon, strong winds kicked up from the northwest, causing temperatures to fall. About that time, folks from town gathered at the Polar Bear Holding Facility to watch the release of a sow and two yearling cubs. These bears were flown by helicopter further north and away from town, where they can’t get into any more mischief. With so many locals present, the conversation naturally turned to the quickly changing ice conditions. There were many hopeful comments about how early freeze-ups have occurred in the past during bear season, only to have the ice blown back out by strong winds several days later.
A mom and cub polar bear keep a watchful eye on the tundra. Discover Churchill photo.
November 10- Today was extremely cold with a high of -27°F. Windchill made it feel more like -35°F, and the strong, cold winds persisted throughout the day. Conditions alternated between cloudy and foggy, with periodic whiteouts and blowing snow. The weather made for tough bear viewing. Bear watchers found one bear on the eastern side of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. It was present all day, resting and rolling around to clean its coat. Many smaller animals were encountered by the tundra vehicles, including Arctic fox, red fox and ptarmigan. A real highlight for some travelers was a sighting of an ermine that had just killed a lemming. It appears from shore that the ice has consolidated more since yesterday. Helicopters were unable to corroborate, however, since they were grounded due to the high winds. Southern winds are expected soon—this often blows the ice out, bringing polar bears back to shore.
A red fox in the wind and cold in Churchill. Discover Churchill photo.
November 11 – Cold temperatures dominated again today, though, at only -16°F, it felt mild compared to previous days due to less windchill. Winds have shifted to come from the west. Helicopters were back in the skies this morning and pilots reported several polar bears on the ice. Polar bear cubs and a seal kill stole the show, along with a moose cow and calf near the shoreline. By early afternoon, helicopters were reporting that the ice had pushed away from the shore, and polar bears were spotted on land in various locations. From the tundra vehicles, a few bears were observed on the ice from Halfway Point early in the morning, best seen with spotting scopes. By late morning, the tundra machines made it out to Gordon Point to find a sub-adult bear. They watched it for hours as it ate kelp and walked among the vehicles. A red fox was seen on the tundra by several groups, a snowy owl was spotted from the Tundra Lodge, and there have been many red and silver fox sightings right in town. Winds are expected to shift to arrive from the south overnight, and local chatter is that this is the best-case scenario for potentially moving ice out of the region and driving more bears back to shore.
These recent photos from Natural Habitat Adventures guide Colby Brokvist are some fantastic polar bear shots out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Polar bear activity has been increasing out in the CWMA with the recent seal – kill out at Gordon Point. Sparring at the Tundra Lodge and around the area has continued to peak as well. Northern lights have been exceptional this season and hopes that the trend will continue through the second half. In fact this evening presents incredible viewing potential even down through some of the United States due to solar storms produced through intensified reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere. Lets hope that the sky is clear in Churchill and wherever the lights might be visible!
Polar bear close – up on the tundra. Colby Brokvist photo.
Sparring polar bears in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Colby Brokvist photo.
Majestic polar bear on a chilly, frosty morning in Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bears in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Colby Brokvist photo.
A seal kill out near Gordon Point attracted nearly 30 polar bears looking for a preseason meal. The congregation of polar bears in this one area has made the viewing incredible for travelers on polar rovers.With snow covering the tundra now the rest of the season will have that wintry look and polar bears will be moving about the land more frequently with decreasing temperatures. While the bay always threatens to freeze up early due to cold, we always seem to make it through to the third week of November. Northern lights have also been an added bonus this year with more action than normal in October. Hopefully the trend will continue. Tomorrow will bring another experience from the north in Churchill!
Polar bear wandering the tundra near Gordon point. Drew Hamilton photo.
Alert polar bear keeping an eye on the other bears in the area. Drew Hamilton photo.
One of the polar bears post seal kill. Drew Hamilton photo.
Polar bear after seal kill with raven. Drew Hamilton photo.
Polar bear licking at the remnants of a seal kill. Drew Hamilton photo.
With reports coming in rapidly from Natural Habitat Guides in the Churchill area, wildlife sightings are diverse and plentiful all across the tundra.
Guide Rinie Van Meurs sends his first Tundra Lodge report with inspired enthusiasm from what he says is the best trip ever for this time of the year polar bear-wise in nine years of working out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area.
Mother and cub polar bear in the CWMA. Brad Josephs photo.
With a overall count of at least 16 different individual bears, including two different families with two cubs of the year (coys), there was all kinds of varied behavior. Some interesting interaction between sows and other male bears was a thrill to the group as mom made all efforts to avoid the young males with her cubs….sheltering them from potential harm.
Mother polar bear and cubs heading for the high ground. Brad Josephs photo.
Every day there were a few polar bears around the lodge, with times up to four animals at the same time. And as previously reported by Colby some of them sparring in the evening under the stars and lights off the lodge. “There seemed to be a group of buddies which liked hanging out together, hopefully they stay in the area” reported Rinie.
Two polar bears spar in front of a pond, Brad Josephs photo,
On their first polar rover trip away from the lodge out toward Gordon Point, sparring polar bear juveniles grappled right next to the Rover. Luckily another Natural Habitat group in their rover was in the area as well and quickly maneuvered close to the action. Otherwise, several single bears between the Tundra Lodge and first tower were observed as they meandered across the tundra in stoic fashion.
Bonnie Chartier’s Bird Tracker:
18 Oct, Snow Buntings-10
19 Oct Brant Geese 6, pretty big deal for the province, Black Scoter 6, Gyrfalcon- Gray Phase 1, Ptarmigan mixed flocks- many, Snow Buntings 20+.
21 Oct Long-tailed Duck, Snowy Owl 2 ( didn’t see the snow owl)
22 Oct Churchill- Glaucous Gill 1, Common EiIder 8, Snow Buntings 20+, Common Ravens daily, 6+.
Snowy owl perched on tundra near the coast. Brad Josephs photo.
On another rover expedition from the lodge, two regal Golden Eagles flew close to the rover, as well as a fairly rare bald eagle. A snowy owl perched along the coastal plain near the willows and many other bird species. “Every day we saw Arctic Fox and as this was not enough we had an Arctic White Wolf !!!!! This was my first wolf ever!” stated an elated Rinie.
Come see bears, owls, Arctic fox, and wolves in Churchill with Natural Habitat Adventures.