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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife photography’

Polar bears prowling, wolves howling, for new Lodge at Nanuk

Wolf howling at New Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Andy MacPherson photo.

Wolf howling at new Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Andy MacPherson photo.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

What an incredible day! Our two local polar bear guides chose to head west this morning to look for Ursus Maritimus, the great ice bear, and it turned into events beyond anyone’s expectations.

Andy, Albert and the two Rhinos take 15 guests on this adventure every day and it always seems to hold something different. It was slightly overcast this morning and from the windows at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge we could see a couple of bears sleeping on sandbars on the edge of Hudson Bay.

The trek west and across the river was exciting; as there were two polar bears we already knew of that we were going to attempt to approach, and spirits were high!

After a brief visit with one of these giants, the group headed west towards the Cross about 5 km away. They had a brief encounter with a beautiful black wolf near this old landmark, but the wolf did not display much interest in sticking around, so farther west they went.

Another couple of km and the stalk was on, with two sets of mothers and coys (cubs of the year), but this ended before anyone could leave the vehicles. This is a common occurrence this year and we suspect it may have something to do with the incredibly large number of big male and female polar bears that have graced us with their presence for the entire season.

At the peak we were seeing up to 14 different bears a day, and even now we’re seeing six to eight bears on our daily rides and walks.

A few hours into the morning and the wolves, moms and cubs seemed to want to be left alone, so the guides decided to start back towards the Lodge for something hot. Jump forward an hour, the group arrived at the river crossing within minutes of Nanuk and out stepped the black wolf.

Wolf meets polar bear at Nanuk. Andy MacPherson photo.

Wolf meets polar bear at Nanuk. Andy MacPherson photo.

The wolf approached to within metres of one of the lazy bears we talked about earlier. This is a level of tolerance we have not yet seen. An older male polar bear not only co-existing with a wolf, but also standing on the same little piece of island real estate, both enjoying the view of the copper penny roof on our brand new accommodations at the Lodge!

This story could continue on, but the Coles Notes version is that the evening did not end until near midnight, and the day included two polar bear moms and cubs, one black bear mom and cub, wolves on the coast and a dinner wolf at the fence, along with three bears on the runway.

The aurora lit up the sky around 10:30 p.m. and the entire pack of wolves behind the lodge began howling. With just two more days this year at this special and magical place, it made our time under the stars that much more special.

With sunrise came more polar bears lying on the beach, and off our guests went with eyes wide open and hearts full joy, anticipating their next adventurous encounter…

With the great white bears of Nanuk.

Forgot to mention our dinner guest at Nanuk last night!

Forgot to mention our dinner guest at Nanuk last night! Chris West photo.

New Dining/Viewing Lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge now complete. First looks!

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

New dining room and viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

The new lunch time at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge!

The new dining room and viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is now complete to rave reviews!

We had only a few minor things to complete when the first guests of the Nanuk season arrived on August 29 for the Polar Bear Photo Safari, and all thoroughly enjoyed dining, relaxing and viewing picture-window wildlife from the new lounge.

The first group of guests were treated to daily visits from black bears just outside the lounge and polar bears were found every day out on Hudson Bay flats. The first group was able to get up close and personal with polar bears, and the second group of guests. All from Australia, had both polar bears and wolves at the compound fence! These were also easily viewable from the new lounge windows, as well as on our daily treks to the flats. And the northern lights cooperated!

Professional photographer Robert Postma led the first groups of guests, got along famously with everyone and went out of his way to be helpful. He also provided us with some great photos of wildlife, landscapes, people and the new lounge (see below).

Eighteen loads of lumber, timber frame, plumbing, electrical supplies, solar panels, inverters, a 45 kW generator and some energetic builders and helpers were required to complete the new lounge. All materials were flown 110 km from Gillam via a customized DC3 Bassler BT67 from Cargo North. It was a real team effort that we detailed in our last Nanuk construction update.

A sincere thank you to friends, family, construction crews, lodge staff, Robert, our wonderful guests (and the wildlife!) for helping us to make the new Nanuk dining lounge and viewing area a huge success.

You are all greatly appreciated!

Arctic fox steals the show on sunny day at Seal River

Arctic fox with guide Terry Elliot at Churchill Wild

Taming the Hunter: The Perfect Pose

by Churchill Wild Guide Terry Elliot

People come to Seal River Heritage Lodge to see the polar bears, but on this occasion the arctic fox obviously stole the show!

Vulpes Lagopus has cyclical population numbers. More prey equals more foxes, and we were seeing lots of lemmings all summer so this was obviously good for the kits (baby foxes). We counted as many as 14 at one time this year, probably a family group with lots of infighting for position in the pecking order.

The arctic foxes have always been bold and inquisitive creatures, but especially so in this photo. Typically they will follow a polar bear out on to the ice and scavenge for the winter. During the summer their coat turns brown, they breed and eat lemmings, eggs, birds, hares, even insects and frogs.

In a prosperous year the females can have as many as 16 kits. Their dense fur enables them to withstand extreme cold temperatures and leave their red-haired cousins behind at the tree line. When sleeping, they will curl into a tight ball with their bushy tail over their nose.

My wife calls this picture “Taming the Hunter”. Unfortunately the photo I was taking here did not turn out as well as the photo of me taking it. It’s a terrible thing when the wildlife is so close to your camera that you can’t get focused. But you have to take the wonderful with the almost-wonderful.

And I did get a decent shot of his ear :)