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Birdwatching at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Guest Post and Photos by Christian Artuso, PhD
 Bird Studies Canada – Manitoba Program Manager

Seal River Heritage Lodge lies 60 km north of Churchill, right on the Hudson Bay coast. Below is a view of this superb lodge… oh yeah and a big furry white thing.

Seal River Heritage Lodge, Manitoba, Canada

Polar bear relaxing in front of Seal River Heritage Lodge.

This is arguably the best place in the world to watch polar bears, like the mother and cub in the photo below, and these massive animals are certainly the biggest draw for most visitors, along with the beluga whales.

Polar bear mom and cub at Seal River

Polar bear mom and cub at Seal River.

Nonetheless, along with the big mammals, there are many opportunities to view other fascinating wildlife around Seal River, and the birdwatching is excellent. This area, for example, represents the southernmost range limit for certain Arctic species like the Arctic ground-squirrel below, famously known as “Sik-Sik”. These fascinating animals don’t occur south of Seal River and hence are not found in Churchill, but they are very common around Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Arctic ground squirrels, commonly referred to as "sik-siks"  are common around the Lodge.

Arctic ground squirrels, commonly referred to as “Sik-Siks” are abundant around the Lodge.

Seal River Heritage Lodge is further from the trees than Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, and most of the birding is therefore along the coastal strip. For most birders, having dinner in the main dining room and watching the tide roll in, pushing massive flocks of waterfowl and shorebirds to within easy viewing distance, along with the accompaniment of passing raptors and jaegers and other northern specialties, is the main attraction.

Nonetheless it is well worth going slightly inland towards the treeline transition for excellent birding, with a whole host of specialties. Rocky peat land such as that in the first photo below taken just west of the Lodge, is breeding habitat for the beautiful Smith’s Longspur (second photo below). This area is one of only a few places where you can witness this avian gem on its breeding grounds in spectacular breeding plumage.

Treeline transition: Excellent birding territory!

Treeline transition: Excellent birding territory!

Rocky peat land is prime habitat for Smith's Longspur.

Rocky peat land is prime habitat for Smith’s Longspur.

The treeline transition is also the best place to find the superb Harris’s Sparrow (North America’s largest sparrow and always highly sought after by visiting birders).

The treeline transition is the perfect place to find  Harris's Sparrow.

The treeline transition is the perfect place to find Harris’s Sparrow.

Birding around the small lakes near the Lodge is sure to produce many waterbirds, shorebirds and the thrill of seeing the northern loons up close and personal. The first photo below shows a Pacific Loon with her chick and the second photo shows a Red-throated Loon (both breed locally).

Pacific Loon with chick at Seal River.

Pacific Loon with chick.

Red-throated Loon at Seal River.

Red-throated Loon.

Another northern species with great appeal for visiting birders is the Willow Ptarmigan. They breed near the Lodge and are usually fairly easy to find, although many will leave the area in fall (in late fall Rock Ptarmigan move down into this area from further north). The first photo below shows a male Willow Ptarmigan displaying to a female and the second photo shows a young chick.

Willow Ptarmigan displaying to a female at Seal River.

Willow Ptarmigan displaying to a female.

Willow Ptarmigan chick at Seal River.

Willow Ptarmigan chick.

Short-eared Owls also breed on the open peatland here and are sometimes seen from the Lodge. With considerable luck, it is possible to find other species of owls here, such as the juvenile Northern Hawk Owl (you’ll need to walk back to the trees to find this species). Other owls are few and far between, although Snowy Owls are possible, especially in late fall.

Short-eared Owl Seal River.

Short-eared Owl.

Northern Hawk Owl Seal River.

Northern Hawk Owl.

Most of your birding will occur close to the coast, where the waterfowl and shorebirds congregate. If you enjoy the spectacle of massive flocks of waterfowl such as the Snow Geese shown below, you’ll love the Seal River area.

Snow geese at Seal River.

Snow geese at Seal River.

Common Eider breed here and also occur in large flocks in the fall. All three species of scoter also occur. The photo below shows White-winged Scoter and Common Eider.

White-winged Scoter and Common Eider, Seal River, Manitoba, Canada.

White-winged Scoter and Common Eider

In the fall, flocks of Brant move along the western coast of Hudson Bay. This species is rare anywhere else in Manitoba.

Brants over Hudson Bay.

Brants over Hudson Bay.

Although all three species of jaeger have been recorded in the Seal River area, only the Parasitic Jaeger is regularly occurring. The jaeger show is always a special treat as they perform extraordinarily acrobatic flight maneuvers in order to steal food from other birds such as gulls and terns.

Parasitic Jaeger are seen regularly at Seal River.

Parasitic Jaeger. A regular at Seal River.

The Lodge offers truly superb shorebirding. In July, local breeding species don their breeding colours and may be observed with downy young. By late July the migration is already underway and the flocks start to build. If you hit the tide right, the mudflats can be just teeming with shorebirds. One of the big attractions is the magnificent Hudsonian Godwit. The first photo below shows a Godwit in breeding plumage and the second shows a juvenile feeding on worms in the Hudson Bay mud.

Hudsonian Godwit at Seal River

The magnificent Hudsonian Godwit.

Hudsonian Godwit feeding on worms at Seal River Lodge.

Breakfast time!

A July visit to the area offers a chance to see shorebirds breeding, including observing downy young and juvenal plumages. Below a recently hatched Semipalmated Plover chick crosses the tundra (first photo) and eventually finds shelter underneath a parent along with other siblings (second photo).

Recently hatched Semipalmated Plover chick at Seal River.

Recently hatched Semipalmated Plover chick.

Semipalmated Plover Seal River.

Semipalmated Plover. There are chicks under there!

The next two photos show another local breeding shorebird, the Dunlin, in full breeding colours (first photo) and in juvenal plumage (second photo).

Dunlin in breeding plumage.

Dunlin in breeding plumage.

Juvenile Dunlin at Seal River Lodge.

Juvenile Dunlin hopping across tundra.

Shorebirding in late July and August in the Seal River area is all about finding the flocks feeding on the mudflats. Shorebirds gather here in the tens of thousands to feed in the very productive inter-tidal zone. This is a truly fantastic location to wait on a boulder and photograph shorebirds. It allows you to observe quietly in close proximity to the birds and to witness an array of fascinating behaviours.

Most of the shorebirds here are feeding on the high quantity of worms and other invertebrates available in the inter-tidal mud, as shown in the photo below of a juvenile American Golden-Plover pulling a worm, and again by a Pectoral Sandpiper that has also found a tasty morsel.

American Golden-Plover at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Manitoba, Canada.

American Golden-Plover pulling a worm.

Pectoral Sandpiper at Seal River Lodge, Manitoba, Canada.

This Pectoral Sandpiper isn’t missing breakfast either!

Shorebirds are typically less shy than waterfowl, and sitting quietly in areas where the shorebirds are feeding can allow for fantastic close-up photos, such as this portrait of a Pectoral Sandpiper that walked to within a foot of me as I was conducting shorebird counts.

Pectoral Sandpiper close-up at Seal River.

Pectoral Sandpiper close-up.

In addition to foraging behaviour, you can also observe aggressive interactions, responses to predators, and preening and bathing, as demonstrated below by a juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper.

White-rumped Sandpiper takes a bath at Seal River Lodge, Manitoba, Canada.

White-rumped Sandpiper enjoys a bath.

In this next photo, a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper stretches in preparation for flight away from the busy mud flat.

Baird's Sandpiper juvenile prepares to take flight.

Baird’s Sandpiper juvenile prepares to take flight.

There are also shorebirds a little further inland on the coastal flats that are grazed by Canada Geese and Snow Geese. In late July, August and early September, this is the best place to look for one of the avian stars of fall birding here — the magnificent Buff-breasted Sandpiper. They are masters of camouflage however, as you will note from the photo below.

Buff-breasted Sandpipers

Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Camouflage experts!

If you spotted three Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the above photo, well done! If you spotted any less, go back and take a second look. The two photos below give you a closer look at these beauties!

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper poses for the camera.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

As did this one!

Other species that forage on these flats include American Golden-Plover, Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark, as shown in the photo below.

Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark and American Golden-Plover. Seal River, Canada.

Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark and American Golden-Plover on the flats.

Below is a close-up look at one of the Lapland Longspurs in fall plumage. July is the time to see Lapland Longspurs in their magnificent breeding colours, but in August and September there are flocks of thousands near the Lodge (Smith’s Longspurs depart earlier than Lapland Longspurs).

Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspur in fall plumage.

And of course, there are still a variety of northern songbirds to observe, even in the fall here. Below an American Pipit that has already moulted out of its pink breeding plumage interacts with a begging youngster.

American Pipits

American Pipit interacts with a begging youngster.

Amongst several warbler species present, the Northern Waterthrush is a common breeder in the willows around the Lodge. In August I managed to photograph the individual below foraging on rocks in the bay near the Lodge, offering an unusually clear view of this often skulking species.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush foraging on the rocks.

The birds pictured here represent just a small handful of the many species found in the Seal River area. Diversity is very high in the summer and you might record over 100 species on a trip if you encompassed various habitat types. Especially if you were present during the migration, when the high Arctic shorebirds join the local breeders.

Fewer species can be seen in the fall, but that is nonetheless a superb time to watch the spectacle of massive migratory flocks, or to search for rarities, and, of course, to view polar bears and other amazing northern wildlife.

 For more information and photos from Christian Artuso, please visit his Web site at http://artusophotos.com. You can also read Christian’s photo essays on his wildlife blog at http://artusobirds.blogspot.com.

Polar Bear Marathon 2013 Recap, Sunrise to Sunset, Churchill, Manitoba

Guest Post by Albert Martens, Organizer, Polar Bear Marathon

Blisters and frostbites have healed, the clothes have been washed and dried, and all 13 of the competitors in the second annual Polar Bear Marathon that took place in Churchill, Manitoba on November 22, 2013, are now home safe and warm, including the Europeans!

As a bit of background, the Polar Bear Marathon is sponsored by Churchill Wild in support of Athletes in Action (AIA) work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 km west of Churchill. AIA has done baseball camps in two different First Nations communities for the past eight years.

The idea for the Polar Bear Marathon came to me via another runner who suggested we do something in the North. It became a reality in 2012 for a number of reasons: to create a running experience in a uniquely extreme environment; to network both local and international runners and inspire them physically, emotionally and spiritually; (We do the runner’s shop-talk one-to one to get to know each other.) and most importantly, to raise awareness and help find funds for First Nations camp costs.

Thirteen competitors brave icy elements and -40 C temperatures

Thirteen competitors braved the icy elements and -40 C temperatures for the 2013 Polar Bear Marathon including myself, two international runners, four from greater Manitoba, three from the town of Churchill and three Dene First Nations runners from Tadoule Lake. All came to know about the Polar Bear Marathon in slightly different ways.

2013 Polar Bear Marathon Runners, Churchill, Manitoba

2013 Polar Bear Marathon Runners. Photo Credit: Harold Cooper

2013 Polar Bear Marathon Runners

  • Albert Martens – Steinbach, Manitoba
  • Sven Henkes – Berlin, Germany
  • James Buhler – Winnipeg, Manitoa
  • Philippe Simon – Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Simon Cutlip – Tadoule Lake, Manitoba
  • Lawrence Flett – Churchill, Manitoba
  • René Nüesch – Obfelden, Switzerland
  • Rickie Cheekie – Tadoule Lake, Manitoba
  • Cory Cheekie  – Tadoule Lake, Manitoba
  • Sara Scales – Churchill, Manitoba
  • Lee Siemens – Altona, Manitoba
  • Doug Gatey – Virden, Manitoba
  • Danielle Sinclair – Churchill, Manitoba

 
Among those from greater Manitoba, I first met transplanted Quebecer Philippe Simon of the University of Manitoba and James Buhler of Wallace and Wallace Fence Corporation through my Run AIA Booth at the Manitoba Marathon. Lee Simons of Altona came up to help me years ago with the first trip to Tadoule Lake for a baseball camp. And Doug Gatey, a funeral director from Virden was here for the run last year. I got to know him through the Manitoba Runners’ Association.

The three Dene First Nations competitors, brothers Ricky and Corey Cheekie, and Simon Cutlip, were persuaded to run by their Band Councilor at Tadoule Lake. Danielle Sinclair of Parks Canada in Churchill found out about the run via the Churchill Administrative Office. Sara Scales of Churchill saw the run advertised locally, and Lawrence Flett, also of Churchill, saw the Polar Bear Marathon poster in town and was running in the event for the second time.

René Nüesch of Obfelden, Switzerland, learned about the race through a search for Polar Bear Marathon on Google and Sven Henkes of Berlin, Germany, saw an advertisement I ran in Runner’s World Magazine in Germany.

The Race

We sang O Canada the True North Strong and Free before the start, and followed it up with a prayer. Then a shot from a bear gun and we were off and running into the sunrise. The sun rose at 8:15 a.m. and arched over the horizon, creating an absolutely breathtaking and almost surreal picture throughout most of the day.

Polar Bear Marathon 2013 Start

Off we go into the sunrise for the 2013 Polar Bear Marathon! Photo Credit: Ron McPherson

This year’s Polar Bear Marathon was about as extreme as it gets, especially running back into the town of Churchill against the wind. Beards iced up and our balaclavas froze to them, frostbite developed, the perspiration in our mitts froze and our outer pants iced up on the inside due to the moisture created. (Which then ran down our pants into our shoes and froze.)

I had already cut off the extra jeans I had brought along and put them on under my running gear. The cut-offs were a last minute improvisation in the restaurant just before the start of the race, when I realized the biting cold wind was going to be a huge challenge. My derriere was still cold even with four layers!

Some runners counted and weighed their clothing and found they were wearing over 30 items and carrying an extra 5-8 kg. My 25 items added up to an additional nine kg and that was dry! By the end of the run the under layers were all wet, so my weight was increasing as I went along.

By mid afternoon the sun began to set and the second half of the marathon was a real challenge. We were now running into a biting cold wind. My Smith Goggles totally fogged up and I couldn’t see anything, but I couldn’t run into the wind without them.

Polar Bear Marathon 2013 Sunset

Almost home as the sun sets over Churchill. Photo Credit: Ron McPherson

We were wearing normal running shoes, but the webbing at the top of the shoes allowed the cold air in, so I used duct tape to close up the shoes. At the 36 km mark the tape came off my left shoe and I had to find a quick solution. There was no tape to be found in my gear, but Lee Siemens gave me an extra sock. I pulled the sock over the shoe, but I couldn’t get it on all the way, so the end of the sock flopped around as I ran. The effect was a bit clown-like.

I started to complain to myself coming back, fighting the wind and the cold. I was getting tired and very low on energy, but the fantastic views of Hudson Bay overlooking the horizon to Nunavut kept me going.

I thought of bears only a few times. The bear concern was real because of the fresh tracks and because of what had transpired in Churchill during the tourist season. It was in the last 5-10 km that the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspect of this chilling run seemed to be reaching a breaking point, but by then I could see Churchill.

At the finish Mrs. Polar Bear, the mascot, gave each finisher a big “polar bear” hug. Lee, my running partner, had to get his balaclava off his beard so his face would not freeze. A few other runners had frostbite under their eyes and under their chin. We all wanted a challenge, but would not have wanted it any colder.

Polar Bear Marathon Hug

Polar bear hugs were definitely welcome after 42 km in -40 C! Photo Credit: Harold Cooper

Sven Henkes from Berlin ran free and fast, coming in first with a time of 4:14. The second place runner was James Buhler from Winnipeg with a time of 4:19. In third place was Philippe Simon of Winnipeg and fourth place went to Simon Cutlip from Tadoule Lake. Sven said he had never run a tougher marathon in his life, with the second half of this event being his most difficult ever. Many other crazy stories were told by the runners.

One thing I appreciated was that the runners truly became friends and supported one another. We had a mix of very experienced runners and relative beginners and the veterans offered encouragement to the less experienced.

Sven Henkes already had a sub three hour marathon to his credit, and René Nüesch had done the Yukon Arctic Ultra, the coldest and most difficult Ultramarathon in the world at 300 miles in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. In contrast, I was really excited about the three First Nations runners that had come from Tadoule Lake to run in their first ever full marathon. Another young man from Churchill also decided to join us at the last minute, but he decided he’d had enough after seven km. He had no running shoes, just warm, heavy boots.

I was pleased to hear that Lawrence Flett from Churchill had encouraged Danielle Sinclair at the halfway point when she was thinking of quitting. Lawrence’s kind words were enough to get Danielle through the icy headwinds that faced us as we approached Churchill. Danielle was so pleased, full of joy and satisfaction when she came in. It makes for the ultimate experience when runners help each other through difficult times. All are rewarded at the end, having given their best and persuaded and pushed through some huge challenges.

And we all finished before sun set!

Forever watchful polar bear, Churchill, Manitoba.

Were the polar bears watching us? We saw tracks. Photo Credit: Ron McPherson

At the end of the race there was definitely some competition, even though I stressed the aspects of a fun run and the fact that we needed to stay together because of safety (polar bears). We did not see any polar bears, but as I mentioned previously, we did see fresh tracks, and that was a concern. The polar bear safety was definitely something people in Churchill were highly alert to, as a result of two very serious incidents that happened during the tourist season.

The Polar Bear Marathon is an Athletes In Action event under my mandate of Run AIA, and thus it is my avenue to connect with runners, connect runners to runners, and to mentor those who would feel the need to be mentored, emotionally and spiritually.

Since I also do summer camps on remote First Nation communities, the runners from Tadoule Lake were very special to me.  We have been to Tadoule Lake for the past eight summers and have enjoyed getting to know these fine people. I felt a real connection to these men and I was excited for them to finish well.

Tadoule Lake Polar Bear Marathon Runners

Tadoule Lake runners. A deservedly proud group! Photo Credit: Harold Cooper

The Polar Bear Marathon is really starting to come to life and it is with much gratitude that I look back at this run and how the competitors gelled together. Additionally, it was through one of the runners who joined us, Philippe Simon, my French-Canadian friend, that the French CBC took note and sent their film crew up to capture the event. From there it was picked up by CBC National and a number of additional news outlets.

The camaraderie, the new friendships, the learning experience of running in the extreme cold, and the fact that we had a mix of veteran and beginning runners, both international and national, including the First Nations runners from Tadoule Lake, made the second annual Polar Bear Marathon a very special experience. Many of the runners were already making plans for next year.

A sincere thank you goes out to all the competitors, to Athletes in Action, to Churchill Wild, to the press who braved the elements to bring the event to the world, and to the people of Churchill, for helping to make the race a success.

Fond memories such as this can never be replaced. They keep us all running well into the future, and carry us through those grueling final kilometers.

In races we’ve yet to run.

Related Stories:

Who made Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge a success this year? Everyone.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Polar bear Mom and cub checking out the new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Dennis Fast photo.

Polar bear Mom and cub checking out the new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Dennis Fast photo.

Well, once again we find ourselves in the off season, so that means sitting around the office drinking coffee and Baileys in our pajamas and telling stories.

Kidding!

Sure there is some storytelling going on, after all, you helped us create some wonderful memories once again this year! But there are more exciting projects on the horizon for next year at Churchill Wild, and that means work, enjoyable as it may be.

Some great things happened this season, especially at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. I can’t help thinking back to the seemingly endless flights, the hauling of building materials, the long hours and the extraordinary teamwork that resulted in the construction of our beautiful new viewing and dining lounge.

Morning, afternoon and evening we were treated to wildlife outside those big picture windows overlooking Hudson Bay. And what a fabulous place to dine and socialize after a day of walking with polar bears!

Lunchtime! In the new dining/viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Lunchtime! In the new dining/viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Robert Postma photo.

It was all worth it.

The wolves, black bears, polar bears, moose and the crazy list of birds that followed us from June until September has my head spinning, not to mention the fascinating guest that followed us along the Hudson Bay coast, trudging through the mud and scanning the horizon for movement. Or just sitting in the willows eating berries and laughing at us like nobody was watching.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge was a delight to be involved with this season and I look forward to many more Arctic Safaris in the seasons to come.

The Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake started up after a short stint back home with my wife Doreen and the boys, and then I was off again, this time prepping camp for our time “playing” in the snow with polar bears and Arctic Foxes.

Our resident polar bear “Scarbrow” appeared early in the season, which shocked all of us, as we were sure he wouldn’t be back to tolerate us again. Thankfully we were wrong! Scarbrow came and went all season and posed for many fabulous photos.

Scarbrow the polar bear, Dymond Lake Lodge, Manitoba, Canada

Scarbrow was back again at Dymond Lake Lodge!

The Arctic Foxes this year at Dymond Lake were phenomenal. When Terry and I closed up camp we counted 20 plus on the lake and around the compound. There were also a couple of snowy owls and an awesome gyrfalcon that joined us in the evenings as the northern lights put on some incredible shows.

I thought I would be back to sitting around in the office for the winter, but Mike (Reimer) has already moved me off my chair and aimed me at a construction project at Nanuk that could only be rivalled by last year’s feat. So off I go again with a brain full of everything from airplanes, windows, carpenters and polar bears. It’s shaping up to be another awesome year at Churchill Wild and we have not even rung the bell for 2014 yet!

I would like to thank everyone involved at our lodges this year, whether you were a boss, staff, wife and kids, contractor, photographer, guide, culinary genius, pilot or guest. You all made this year little bit easier; the impossible possible; the hard work worth it; and certainly a lot more fun!

I look back now at what we’ve accomplished; at the lives of those we have touched; and the memories we’ve created; with humble thanks, and I can’t help but get excited about doing it all over again next year, with all of you…

and the polar bears!

Polar bear standing at Dymond Lake Lodge, Great Ice Bear Adventure.

Where did everybody go?

 

Thanks for the polar bears, caribou, arctic foxes, northern lights… and thank you to our guests!

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Qamanirjuaq caribou. Out for a stroll at Seal River Lodge. Dennis Fast photo.

Qamanirjuaq caribou. Out for a stroll at Seal River Lodge. Dennis Fast photo.

Hello fellow adventurers!

The long awaited ice has finally arrived and the world’s largest carnivores have moved back to their favourite hunting platform, the rugged sea ice, to begin the “fattening” period. Our friendly summer-fall polar bear visitors will spend the winter dining contentedly on yummy seals.

Polar bear outside Seal River Lodge

Hmm… no seals here. Dennis Fast photo.

We were blessed this year at Seal River with the return of thousands of Central Barren Ground Caribou. These photogenic creatures provided many bonus hours of “shooting.” The caribou herd pictured here is known as the Qamanirjuaq. Numbering an estimated half a million animals, the Qamanirjuaq herd takes part in one of the last great wildlife migrations on the planet, and certainly the largest of its kind in North America.

Qamanirjuaq caribou herd stops by for lunch. Dennis Fast photo.

Qamanirjuaq caribou herd stops by for lunch. Dennis Fast photo.

The caribou ventured south from their summer home in the barrens and are heading into the tree line to find shelter from the harsh winter winds. Most of them will overwinter in the North Knife Lake region of Manitoba, feeding, resting and avoiding wolves until they begin their trek north in the spring, back to the calving grounds.

Arctic foxes have been seen in abundance this year

Arctic foxes were seen in abundance this year!

Not to be outdone, the arctic foxes were back again in record numbers with 40 to 50 in sight at any one time. And of course, the northern lights have done their part and provided many a great light show for bleary eyed but happy photogs.

Lonely Zodiac at Seal River Lodge awaiting the return of summer and another chance to frolic with the belugas on Hudson Bay RJ Payne photo.

Lonely Zodiac at Seal River Lodge awaiting the return of summer and another chance to frolic with the belugas on Hudson Bay. RJ Payne photo.

Thanks to the polar bears bears, the caribou, the arctic foxes, the northern lights and nature, for providing Churchill Wild with yet another great season of adventure travel at our northern Manitoba lodges.

Polar bear says goodbye at Seal River Lodge

Polar bear saying goodbye to Seal River Lodge guests.

But most of all, a sincere thank you to our wonderful guests. You make this all so worthwhile.

Helicopter at Seal River Lodge

Time for a helicopter ride!

Young photographer learns “Fast” on polar bear photo tour at Seal River Lodge

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild. Photos by Elijah Boardman.

Relaxed but intense gaze from Arctic Fox at Seal River Lodge.

Relaxed but intense gaze from Arctic Fox at Seal River Lodge.

Thirteen-year-old Elijah Boardman, the youngest photographer ever to join one of our professionally guided polar bear photo tours, is proving himself to be a very adept, capable and enthusiastic “shooter”.

His boundless passion and energy serves as a catalyst to all, encouraging the team to spend every possible moment in what is at times a rather harsh Arctic environment. Eli’s persistence and dedication, along with some coaching from on-site professional photographer Dennis Fast, has resulted in the capture of some wonderful images and lifelong memories.

Caribou running windy cold!

Caribou running windy cold!

Eli was kind enough to allow his mother and father, Karen and Joseph, to accompany him to Seal River Lodge this year, in his quest for the great white bears.

Judging from the quality of his images and the zeal he has for this type of “work” we expect to see Eli back here again sometime in the near future. We’re looking forward to it.

Nice work Eli!

Polar bear says, "I know you're in there." to windsock at Seal River Lodge.

I know you’re in there…