Written by Allison Reimer
Most of our Churchill Wild guests visit us for the rare experience of walking with polar bears, but they also enjoy observing beluga whales, and the thrill to watch wolves, moose, Arctic fox, wolverines and a variety of other wildlife. However, we also host some very serious bird aficionados at our polar bear lodges and they love what they discover!
We see all kinds of birds on the polar bear safaris! And the birds of Churchill Wild are some of the bravest on the planet when you consider that they’re taking to the sky just south of the 60th parallel. It’s chilly up in that Arctic sky.
My favourite bird is a snow bunting and they’re the most fun to observe during the winter. Snow buntings are chubby, have a pretty fawn-like colouring, and are amusing to watch as they unsuccessfully try to perch their round bodies on frozen sea lime grass.
During the summer the Churchill Wild lodges really become a birder’s paradise. The Birds, Bears and Belugas departures have a myriad of birds migrating up and down the coastline. Starting with our waterfowl, we have plenty of common eiders, mergansers, different species of scoter and more. Of course, being Canada, there certainly isn’t a shortage of Canada geese or snow geese either.
All our guests are equipped with a birding checklist when they get to the lodges. This is because there are too many possible bird sightings, to sum up in a few sentences. The Ptarmigan is another famous Canadian bird found at our lodges, sporting brown plumage during the summer and donning snow-white feathers for the winter. These interesting characters have furry feet and love to hang out in the willows like Christmas ornaments.
If you have an interest in loons, we have sightings of red-throated loons, common loons and pacific loons.
Pro Tip: Start brushing up on your loon call before your trip.
We also see predatory birds including osprey, golden eagle, bald eagle, gyrfalcon, peregrine falcon, northern goshawk, rough-legged hawk and the fabulous snowy owl.
In the summer, hearing the calls of sandhill cranes becomes akin to background music on the daily excursions. The tidal flats are also rolling with different breeds of sandpipers, their gangly legs darting them back and forth among the rocks. Guests have also spotted yellow rails, Sora, Wilson’s snipe and two types of phalaropes.
Growing up around the Churchill Wild lodges, we spent a lot of time searching for plover and killdeer nests amidst the gravel. Careful to just observe them, it was our version of a treasure hunt to spot their speckled eggs, and we made sure never to disturb them.
There are three types of jaegers in the area, an abundance of Arctic terns, and half a dozen or more species of gulls including herring gulls, ivory gulls, and glaucous gulls.
Birds of prey, also called raptors, have an acute vision for spotting smaller prey and powerful beaks and talons (foot claws). Catching a glimpse of gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons hunt is also a rare treat for guests, especially when viewed from the dining room window. Or watching a snowy owl skimming across the snowscape in search of mice or lemmings as winter approaches is a sight to behold.
While we may not have the incredible plumage of the Amazon, there are more birds on the Hudson Bay coast than some might think, and there are plenty of opportunities to view them while out on a hike, or from the viewing decks at the Churchill Wild lodges. Make sure to watch closely.
You never know who might fly in for the day.