Eight Cool and Unusual Things You Might See in Churchill’s Arctic Summer

Churchill in summertime is a magical sub – Arctic paradise! Three short or long months, depending on how you look at it, pack in a vast and diverse pallet of nature. The tundra and Hudson Bay come alive as tributary rivers ignite with life and small boats of eager travelers seeking the vibe of the beluga whale pods. The “Arctic Riviera” is shelter for belugas to nurture young, molt their old skin or just enjoy the “warm” waters of the southern Hudson Bay.

Beluga whale Churchill, Manitoba

Beluga whale underwater in th Churchill River. Alex De Vries -Magnifico photo.

As a guide returning to Churchill each year, I was drawn naturally like a migrating animal and the annual sojourn just became instinctual. Each spring I would start to feel the pull of belugas out on the Churchill River and Hudson Bay. After trolling among the pods, kayaking and snorkeling on a daily basis for over 10 years, the feeling takes root in one’s psyche. The draw to migrate for whatever reason is real. The belugas are the main attraction here for sure!

Although belugas, birds and sometimes polar bears are the main draw for the summer season, there are some lesser known features or entities in and around Churchill that have been hidden jewels over the years. Here are some that I really was drawn to.

  1. -Boreal Chorus Frog – One of the jewels of the north and so much fun to search for around the edges of an Arctic pond.boreal chorus frog2.- Jellyfish– There are a number of jellyfish that thrive in the cold water of the north. On clear water days the sight of them suspended around beluga whales is ethereal.
    Aurelia, a jellyfish found in the Churchill River. G. Young, Photo copyright.

    Aurelia, a jellyfish found in the Churchill River. G. Young, Photo copyright.

    3. Sandhill Cranes – Over the years these birds are usually spotted along the railroad tracks where grain drops from rail cars.

    Sandhill cranes in Churchill, Manitoba

    Two Sandhill cranes mixed in with Canada geese in Churchill. Rhonda Reid photo.

    4.- Orca whales – A rare sight indeed in the Churchill area. Though, over the last few years they have been seen more often.

    killer whales in the Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba.

    Orca’s in the Hudson Bay. Dwight Allen photo.

    5. – Pack Ice on the Hudson Bay– If you visit Churchill early enough in the Spring there’s a good chance there will still be some pack-ice in the bay and even in the Churchill River. The ice draws wildlife to it such as bears, whales and birds.

  2. Pack ice on the Hudson Bay.6.- Polar Bear Seal kill – The shorter ice season has produced more seal kills in both summer and fall. These kills will often draw up to 10 polar bears to the scene. This is a kill from later in the polar bear season.
    Polar bear seal kill in Churchill

    Polar bear and ravens scavenge a seal kill carcass in Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Brad Josephs photo.


7. – Ross’s Gull – A true incredible check on the life-list if this beautiful bird unveils itself along the Churchill River. Another fun treasure hunt!

Ross' gull

Ross’ gull along the gravelly shore. Brian Small photo.

8. Orchids – One wouldn’t think these delicate plants could survive the harsh Arctic weather though these flowers are opportunistic and make the most of their northern environment.

Round - leaved orchid Churchill

Round – leaved orchid in Churchill. Steve Selden photo.

Churchill Video of the Week – Polar Bear Seal Hunt

Some rare footage of a polar bear hunting seals on the ice. This video is from the far northern Arctic as you can see by the mountains portrayed. Polar bears display incredible patience while hunting seals on the pack ice. Some researchers have documented the bears covering their black noses with their paws to avoid detection as they lay patiently on the ice near a seal blow hole or den. Because the seal – kill incidents are very infrequent it’s particularly difficult to capture these interactions on film. This one is pretty cool!

Awesome Polar Bear Seal Kill Photo

Brad Joseph’s caught this polar bear image at just the right time as ravens were descending on the carcass. The seal kill drew around 30 polar bears last week to the the area around Gordon point in the Churchill wildlife Management Area. Seal kills have become more prevalent on the coast in the time leading up to the Hudson Bay freezing. Polar bears are using their cunning hunting skills to adapt to a longer time off ice. without the ice platform bears are unable to hunt seals in their dens or emerging from blowholes.Learning to find sustenance on land during the shoulder seasons has enable hungry polar bears to sustain their robust population in the western Hudson Bay.

Polar bear seal kill in Churchill

Polar bear and ravens scavenge a seal kill carcass in Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Brad Josephs photo.

Churchill Polar Bear Update – Seal Kill

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 in Churchill

Polar bear wandering the tundra near Gordon point. Drew Hamilton photo.

polar bear in Churchill

Alert polar bear keeping an eye on the other bears in the area. Drew Hamilton photo.

polar bear in Churchill

One of the polar bears post seal kill. Drew Hamilton photo.

Churchill polar bear.

Polar bear after seal kill with raven. Drew Hamilton photo.

Churchill polar bear

Polar bear licking at the remnants of a seal kill. Drew Hamilton photo.

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