Friday 21 June 2013

Churchill Part 3 Some Final Thoughts

May 31 2013 Churchill Manitoba.
What are some of the things I learnt from my trip to Churchill? A good set of clothing for a start, a sturdy pair of boots and lots of layers of clothing, the same combination I would wear on a cold frosty or wet day in Vancouver. Even though I was out on the Tundra for ten hours at a time I was never cold. One moment the wind off Hudson Bay would be bitter cold then the winds would drop and the temperatures would rise several degrees. There were no bugs during my visit but by mid-June onwards you'll need both insect repellent and sunscreen.
As for photography the most important was to have at least three sets of batteries, one in camera, one ready to go and another in an inside pocket keeping warm. It wasn't always that cold, there were days of sun and there were also snow flurries so an exposed camera sitting on a tripod soon had depleted batteries. Whenever I changed locations I would put the battery packs on the truck dash to warm up, it seemed to work. I would also take along a plastic garbage bag or two, one to lie on and to get lower angles of your subject and one to cover your camera when not in use or between locations. The same as you would on an African Safari as the Churchill roads were beginning to get a little dusty and you don't want to have to clean your sensor every night.
As for timing your trip the best time is when you are there. Weather can be unpredictable. This year Spring was late but the birds still arrived on time, they were just less active and hungrier. The first day I could hardly find a bird, but slowly I began to see the little movements, hear the warblers singing and spot the Ptarmigan. I believe patience is the key.

Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)

Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus Lagopus) in spring moulting phase.
Packing for these types of trip can be problem as Calm Air have a restriction on the size of bag that can be taken into the cabin. I was lucky as my plane was half empty but during the Polar Bear season space can be more limited so pack wisely. You could always go with Via Rail for about $1000 return (private cabin) and baggage isn't such an issue. The train does offer less expensive options. Plane return is about $1300 but perhaps more in Polar Bear season. The one advantage about the train is the opportunity to edit files and rest after a strenuous shoot (I can hear my wife laughing)
I learned that there is much more to Churchill than just cute Polar Bears, there's plenty to keep the history buff happy, the best First Nations museum in Manitoba and genuinely friendly people. There are also Beluga Whales in July, Northern Lights in early Fall and Polar Bears in Oct and November. There were none on my visit but I was warned to keep close to my vehicle in case there was a straggler around, sometimes an old bear who hadn't left could pose danger.
I will be going back for sure but with more knowledge and confidence.

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)  Boreal subspecies with white crown and dark nape.
Good Birding

1 comment:

  1. Nice and informative series John. I would like to get there someday.