Live From Churchill: October 23, 2009

Steve Selden October 23, 2009 0

A daily field report on polar bears from our guide Steve Selden in our Churchill, Manitoba office!  Check out our polar bear tours here.

Tundra Lodge Northern Lights

The northern lights are amazing here! Photo: Patrick Endres

The best aurora borealis spectacle of the season happened last night as travelers emerged from our evening cultural presentations throughout Churchill. The greenish glow provided a nightcap to finish off another fine day of Arctic pleasure.

Last night also brought the first cracker shells from Manitoba’s finest Conservation Officers. As I lay in bed, I heard the streamers going off just down the alley and somewhere behind LaDune’s stone hotel which lies like ruins on the Hudson Bay (even though the construction process has been going on for more than 12 years). A polar bear careened toward Caribou Hall. The shells rang louder and more frequent as the bear seemed to be only two houses down. They faded out again down toward the bay and behind the town complex building. It’s a sequence one will never get used to and my imagination once again allows my thoughts to drift into the uncanny possibility of living in a war zone. However, the feeling quickly turns to exhilaration instead of terror. I fall back asleep dreaming of next year’s world championship hopes for the Boston Red Sox.

Today, with temps around 23°F, light winds and light clouds, the sun emerged at 8:12am over a band of darker clouds on the horizon. Morning brings chatter between guides and groups regarding last night’s fireworks in the sky and on land. Before long Guide Brent’s group is witnessing the daytime version of what happened a handful of hours ago in the dark. Just between Jockville, an old coastal camp of small cabins used by port workers to house their families for the summer, up on the northern bluff, and Cape Merry, a large male Polar Bear is being warded off land across the Churchill River by another barrage of cracker shells. Constant monitoring by the bear patrol keeps the town (and the bears) safe as the bears stay away. The thrill is still with the group as they spot a Cross-Fox just over the hill toward the grain elevator. Not a bad morning.

These guys aren't joking! Photo: Colin McNulty

These guys aren’t joking! Photo: Colin McNulty

Reports come in from Chef Joss at the Tundra Lodge later in the morning describing a “smorgasbord” (writer embellishment) of bears. The highlights out there include two males sparring and two three year old siblings together while mom watches from a distance. Flocks of rock ptarmigan also are now being spotted in the willows close to the lodge.

Guide Jared and his group were able to compliment their bear sightings for the trip with a pair of red foxes out at Cape Merry during a Parks Canada guided interpretation of the area. One fox showed off a lemming between his teeth. Later on, down at the weir on the Churchill River, the group viewed bearded and harbor seals basking on the shore ice in the shallows.

Meanwhile, Guides Sue and Paul, out on the Tundra in the WPMA, were taking in a big male polar bear swimming inland from the Hudson Bay. The bear proceeded to come ashore, shake off the icy water, roll around in the snowy kelp beds and head across a frozen pond (thermakarst) to lie in the willows. After munching on some willow branches, the bear spent some time around Paul’s traveler’s rover for a photo session. Both groups also spotted some bearded seals on coastal ice between Bird Cove and the Tundra Lodge. Guide Sue and her traveler’s were fortunate to spot two gyrfalcons and a snowy owl on the way back home via the inland road. I love Churchill.

NHA Director’s note: Seldo must have been fully asleep when dreaming about those Red Sox…

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