November 2 – Mild temperatures dominated the day, hovering just below freezing. The skies were mostly cloudy, and short snow showers occurred periodically. The biggest news from the tundra was several sets of sows with cubs, each of which was fairly active. One mother with young was “bullied” by an adult male for a short period, while another pair approached some of the vehicles. Some groups spent the entire day with cubs, while others chose to explore more of the tundra. For the polar bear watchers that were on the move, more adult and sub-adult bears were encountered, including two sparring males. One polar bear was spotted swimming in Hudson Bay. Travelers have also come upon red foxes and a cross fox, which has dark patterned spotting due to partial melanism. In the wider Churchill region, caribou, wolves and wolverine have been encountered over the past three days—this year has had an uncommon number of atypical sightings. Very few people have come across these animals, but they are being seen. The town itself has seen a spike in polar bear activity for several days (half a dozen being witnessed in the past 24 hours), keeping bear patrol officers busy.
A polar bear roams the coast of the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Katie de Meulles photo.
November 1 – It was a partly sunny day on the shores of Hudson Bay, with temperatures just below freezing. The ponds have now all frozen. For a handful of travelers out early, there was an incredibly unique sighting of two wolves moving across the tundra, one black, the other gray. The sighting was fleeting—no one managed to capture a picture. Guides with 15 years of experience in Churchill have never encountered wolves in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area during bear season, though they are occasionally seen from helicopter flights over the adjoining Wapusk National Park. As the day unfolded, many polar bears were seen throughout the entirety of the management area. They were mostly active, occupied with sorting themselves as larger males wandered from place to place. In the afternoon, polar bear watchers observed a sow and cub—they alternately rested in the willows and ambled about. A gyrfalcon was spotted along with many ptarmigan and a red fox. An uncommon sighting of a pine marten by one group rounded off a notable day on the tundra.
A magnificent timeless vista of the boreal forest with creek outlet in the foreground. Katie de Meulles photo.
A polar bear explores the tundra for a meal in Churchill. Katie de Meulles photo.
Churchill weather has been a mix of freezing temperatures, mostly cloudy with intermittent sun, occasional snow flurries and gusting wind. Polar bears were spotted all around the tundra out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Travelers and guides have spotted some curious polar bears near the Tundra Lodge and among the tundra vehicles in the vicinity, particularly younger females. While some bears remained in the willows yesterday, travelers were able to enjoy some more active behavior. A polar bear was seen thermoregulating in the snow, and two large males neared sparring confrontation. Sightings of a snowy owl, rough-legged hawk, gyrfalcon and red fox out on the land spiced up the day’s experience!
Polar bear gnawing on a tasty treat. Jason Luoma photo.
Sun reflecting off a majestic polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Jason Luoma photo.
A polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area conducting morning Polar Rover inspection. Bill McPherson photo.
Polar bear walking along a Polar Rover trail in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. @apalsson photo.
A lone polar bear approaching a Polar Rover in Churchill. Bill McPherson photo.
A polar bear inspects a Polar Rover in Churchill. Bill McPherson photo.
Tundra swans along the coast with the spring melt in full force. Katie de meulles photo.
A gyrfalcon perched in Churchill. Katie de meulles photo.
Two awesome images from Churchill photographer Katie DeMeulles.This time of year in Churchill is when birds are arriving all over the tundra and the landscape is alive. These swans and gyrfalcon are early to the spring party.We can’t wait for the progression of seasons brings more and more species to the region. Enjoy.
The 2017 exciting polar bear season
is moving along with some of the most incredible wildlife in recent years being seen daily. While the fox population, all varieties, is burgeoning, there have been some rare sightings of large caribou herds and even a wolverine…although we are still in search of a photo of this one. These images from Colby Brokvist are from his recent guided trip of Natural Habitat travelers on a photo tour. Some pretty cool and first – time happenings out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area!
White Gyrfalcon perched on a rock in Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
Polar bear cub investigates the polar rover. Colby Brokvist photo.
The group also enjoyed sightings of Arctic, silver and red foxes, a snowy owl and a white phase Gyrfalcon.
A beautiful silver fox prances along the tundra in search of a meal. Colby Brokvist photo.
Aurora borealis was also visible at night
for this lucky group of travelers. While the cold weather is allowing for ice forming on the Hudson Bay it is not unusual for panic to set in for thoses who want to see the polar bears.
Polar bear resting on a kelp day bed. Colby Brokvist photo.
Shaking off the winter cold. Colby Brokvist photo.
A happy group of Nat Hab travelers after a memorable trip to Churchill. Colby Brokvist photo.
In late fall, pre – winter, colors of the tundra and the species that roam the land come to a crossroads of earth tones. This pallet gradually transitions into a great white north we all think of when envisioning the forthcoming and exciting polar bear season. This time is short though one of the most beautiful in the Arctic and surrounding regions.
Multi colored red fox with the colors of the textured tundra behind. Katie deMeulles photo.
Each year during polar bear season in Churchill either red or Arctic foxes tend to be the more prevalent species for that particular season. In recent years there has been an influx of red foxes that have seemingly displaced the gorgeous, white coated Arctic fox population to some extent. Hunting, legal and illegal, has also played a role in lowering the Arctic fox numbers. Warming temperatures facilitate the red fox species to become more adaptive to the northern weather and even ice conditions in winter. The patchwork colors of the red fox in particular meld with the myriad of tundra color splashes.
The colors of the tundra deep into fall in Churchill. Ed Bouvier photo.
Early season photo of a sleepy polar bear. Paul Brown photo.
While snow is imminent in the Churchill region, polar bears will take this time to conserve energy by limiting movement as much as possible. Sleeping bears will soon be wandering restlessly as the snow falls and temperatures drop to freezing or lower by month’s end. Polar bears gazing toward the Hudson Bay in anticipation of a freeze over will become the norm as November marches on.
Lichen growing on rocks in Churchill. Steve Selden photo.
Silver fox scouring tundra for lemmings. Colby Brokvist photo.
The tundra will release the last fruits of its bounty to the scouring animals looking to nurture their bodies with berries, plants or lemmings before the winter hits hard. Changing appearances in foxes, hares and birds foretell the new season that will become a energetic forum of multiple species before the freeze leads to mass exodus lead especially by the king of the Arctic, the mighty polar bear.
Snowy owl on the tundra in the CWMA. Colby Brokvist photo.
A Gyrfalcon in the late fall in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.