After two good days of travel, lost luggage, delayed luggage, flight changes, and all that makes travel what it is, we all are basking in the afterglow of our wonderful adventure.
With 37 bears one day on the tundra, 20 plus on another, Arctic Fox, Willow and Rock Ptarmigan, Snowy Owl, Spruce Grouse, and Common Ravens galore, one must say that the wildlife certainly was all that we had hoped. Our sled dog experience was superb, the two young boys very pleased that they got to ride the snow machine too.
The food was great as was the service in Churchill. Pat, our local guide, was, as always, the king pin of our trip. Above all, the travelers were a wonderful collection of interesting people, resulting in much stimulating conversation, endless humor, and moments of great delight. I wish we were all still there! I will miss each one of them (you) but trust that we will be together again in the near future. Thanks to all for being such patient, kind, easy to please participants, and good friends.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Departure from Churchill
There always comes an end to a great trip and this one was and is particularly sad. Our superb local leader Pat Rouseau took us to the airport, stopping along the way at my request so we could make a presentation and let him know of how we appreciated his tireless efforts, incredibly interesting wealth of knowledge, and unequalled kind ways. A trip to Churchill without Pat would be half the experience. We all are privileged to have witnessed this incredible migration of the world's largest land carnivore and to have spent time with Pat.
We had a great Farewell Dinner in Winnipeg, including kind words from travelers, and my deepest appreciation to the travelers for their great spirit, patience, and for being such interesting people with which to be. I hope we will all be able to get together again for another adventure.
More will come to this blog with a trip summary and photos. Eventually a book of the photos will be available on line.
Thanks for reading the blog and thanks to all the families of the travelers for sharing loved ones with us. We hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure and will perhaps be able to join us next time yourselves.
Our Great Group!
Back Row: Duke, George, and Paul
Middle Row: Delice, Joan, Charmagne, Linda, Marilou, Pattsy, and Chuck
Front Row: Alex, Hatsy, Sam, Andy, Pat, and Tony
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Bears and a Sun Bonus
Every trip to Churchill one hopes they will get at least some time with sun and bears, giving the best chance at good photos. Well we lucked out with more than a few hours both yesterday and today.
We were out on the tundra by 830AM and you could tell the sun had a good chance of breaking through and giving us that all so desired low angle light that makes photos good photos even better.
It wasn't just bears but a flock of about 40 Willow Ptarmigan flew right up to the rover and hung by for about 10 minutes allowing for photos and giving us a great listen to their what can only be described as a "really weird" call. The only way I think of telling you what it sounds like is perhaps frogs trying to do a rap song. Click below to listen: www.kiwifoto.com/galleries/birds/willow_ptarmigan
Regretfully, we leave here tomorrow and back to Winnipeg. We may have few moments in the morning for a little scanning of Hudson Bay and the surrounding tundra and then off to the airport for the 3 hour flight.
Everyone is tired but happy.
Bear Behavior: making prints, sitting, sniffing, rolling, and sleeping.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Out in the Sun and Snow
More bears in town today; one removing some trash from the can in front of our breakfast spot about 45 minutes before our arrival. New snow overnight added to the wildness of our outpost on the border of Manitoba and Nunavut.
The Chirico Family
With a little more sleep and a day of sun, something we had not witnessed for a while, we departed for exploration of the boreal forest. Churchill marks the northern extent of the forest and is the place where it meets the tundra or taiga habitat just below the Arctic Circle.
The sun put a new perspective on the landscape, every surface covered with a crystalline fringe of ornamentation. Black spruce, white spruce and tamarack, dominant species of the boreal forest, were covered from lower bough to upper stem. The light was magical and a welcome break from the grayness of earlier days.
Always in the back of our minds was the possibility that we would meet a Polar Bear. We saw many fresh tracks so were vigilant in keeping an eye out. Fox, Snowshoe Hare, mink, and bear tracks were prolific, painting the fresh snow with tales of earlier travelers.
The sled dog ride was far better than all had hoped, with great information about the hard work involved for the musher, breeder, and the dogs. Travelers had the opportunity to meet the "wheel, team, point, and lead" dogs up close and feed the local "Whiskey Jacks" or Gray Jays, one of the many characters of the north and Churchill.
Sleds ran with two people per sled, musher in the rear. Teams of eight dogs had no trouble getting the sleds up to speed and giving participants an idea of life out in the wilds.
On one run, one of the dogs showed the musher that there was something in the trees which turned out to be two Spruce Grouse. The sled dog team ran me back out to see it they were still there and to see if I could get a picture.
The birds sat like they had no concerns and let me photograph them until I began to get a bit worried about a Polar Bear perhaps making me a point of interest. I walked back toward the dog yard for about five minutes, examining all trees that I thought one could scale to avoid a bear. I was happy to see a snow mobile come out to bring me the rest of the way.
Duke and George
Unfortunately, the clouds have not cooperated long enough for us to see northern lights, overcast sky the norm; maybe tonight.
Another full day out on the tundra rover tomorrow. We are still looking for a Gyr Falcon. More bears tomorrow.
I will have to remember to tell you about the evening in the caribou skin tent drumming and singing with the local Inuit; a priceless experience that gave us all a greater appreciation for the many that came to this continent before us and the hardships they endured.