Churchill Travel DiaryButtercups & lichens (64809 bytes)

16 June 2003
Sooner or later, all nature photographers make a pilgrimage to Churchill Manitoba. Located on the south shore of Hudson Bay at 59 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.

 




Red-necked Phalarope (50208 bytes)
A
long 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 a photographer.

 

 

Pine Grosbeak (84633 bytes) 
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. 

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