Churchill Travel Diary|
16 June 2003
Sooner or later, all nature photographers make a pilgrimage to Churchill Manitoba.
Located on the south shore of Hudson Bay at 59º N latitude, this is the edge of the
Arctic - a mix of tundra and taiga. It is here that shorebirds and sparrows, usually
quiet and drab when they winter in the U.S., transform into colorful songsters for their
short breeding season. Taiga, by the way, is a low forest of mostly spruce.
Like tundra it is circumpolar - the word taiga in fact comes from a Siberian language,
meaning "forest of a billion mosquitoes." On a warm day you will decide
that this is a very conservative estimate.
Along with about 20 other airsick passengers, I arrive at Churchill's
airport and am met by Lorraine of Tamarack Rentals with a white Ford pickup - my transport
for the next few days. After settling into a room with a kitchen at Aurora Inn, I
explore the Granary ponds just west of town. The feature attraction here is a
breeding colony of Arctic Terns, who will swoop down and peck you on the head to remind
you that you're too close to their nests.
Common ducks here are Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Ducks, and Green-winged
Teal. Hudsonian Godwits dabble in shallow water, while the tiny Red-necked
Phalaropes spin and dart frantically across the water - they are the ultimate challenge to
17 June 2003
My first full day takes me down Goose Creek Road
near the Churchill river, which empties into Hudson Bay here. The roadside ponds
hold familiar waterfowl - Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler,
and even a Bufflehead. Gray-cheeked Thrushes sing from the tops of spruce.
The Bilindukes, who live along here, maintain a feeder that is popular with such sparrows
as White-crowned, Fox, White-throated, and Dark-eyed Junco, not to mention Gray Jay.
The star for me is the male rose-red Pine Grosbeak, who strikes a typical pose. This
is a very hardy bird. It even winters in Canada, only occasionally venturing south
into New England or the Rocky Mountains.
Diary next page>