16th June 1989 - 23rd June 1989
From Kansas City a flight to Winnipeg in Manitoba, then another to Churchill on Hudson Bay, arriving in the afternoon. After checking into the hotel I had chance to look around the town.
Much of Hudson Bay was still frozen over, but it was breaking up, especially along the shore and at the mouth of the Churchill River.
I saw American Herring Gull, Scaup, Pintail, Long-tailed Duck, Canada Goose, American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Redpoll, 2 Black-throated Divers, Bonaparte's Gull, a Willow Grouse or Ptarmigan, a female Rough-legged Buzzard sat on a nest, and towards evening, heard Chorus and Wood Frogs.
Photos: view of Hudson Bay from Churchill.
A meeting with Professor Fred Cooke, from Queen's University in Ontario, and some of the research team, prior to our trip into the middle of nowhere. They had a camp in the tundra from where they could monitor the breeding success of Lesser Snow Geese, a long-term study.
The calls of Snow Geese, adults and chicks, on the nesting grounds was why I was here, but first I had to go and buy some waders!
Shopping over, I had chance to have a proper look around Churchill seeing 2 Pomarine Skuas, American Herring Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Long-tailed Duck, Green-winged Teal, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Pintail, Scaup, Gadwall, 6 Red-necked Phalaropes, a Rough-legged Buzzard, a Northern Harrier, a Black-throated Diver, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, a Semipalmated Plover, Arctic Tern, White-crowned Sparrow, House Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, a Spotted Sandpiper, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Eider, Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, Harbor or Common Seal, Red-throated Diver, Goldeneye, American Wigeon, in the mouth of the Churchill River 2 Beluga Whales with more seen by other people, a Short-billed Dowitcher, an American Golden Plover, Raven, American Tree Sparrow, Redpoll, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Horned Lark, a Least Sandpiper and a Ross's Gull.
Mouth of the Churchill River.
American Golden Plover.
La Perouse Bay area.
An early start, meeting the research team we drove to the airport, there half of us boarded a small helicopter and set off for a location near La Perouse Bay, about 40 kilometres to the east. We landed on a small strip of dry land in the middle of the tundra, there to greet us were several other members of the team and a sleigh come boat thing to put the luggage and supplies in. We had to wait for the others on the second helicopter trip, then began the several kilometre walk/wade to to the camp, known as 'Camp Finney', on a small dry island in the Mast River. It was slow and exhausting going through terrain as pictured above, finally arriving at a couple of wooden huts and a few tents surrounded by an electric fence, which was there to keep out Polar Bears. I was told that if I wanted to go outside of the fence I must take an armed person with me, however short a distance. Luckily, the season was late and most bears were still out on the ice, the only report was of one over twenty miles away, heading away from us.
On the journey and around the camp I saw Snow Geese, Willow Grouse, Savannah Sparrow, Arctic Redpoll, Eider, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Arctic Skua, American Herring Gull, Tree Swallow, Pintail, Least Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, White-crowned Sparrow, 2 Hudsonian Godwits, Raven, 2 Black-throated Divers and Wilson's Snipe.
Spent the first part of the morning sorting out equipment, then, with one of the researchers carrying a rifle, made several walks away from the camp in different directions to record atmospheres and whatever we could find. Nearby there was a very tame Willow Grouse with a female on the nest, I also saw Eider, Hudsonian Godwit, Lapland Bunting, Savannah Sparrow, 4 Tree Swallows, American Tree Sparrow, a Lincoln's Sparrow, a Yellow Warbler, Wilson's Snipe, 2 Least Sandpipers, Pintail, Shoveler, Snow and Canada Geese, a Pomarine Skua, 2 Short-eared Owls, Raven, Chorus Frog, Wood Frog, Arctic Redpoll, a Sandhill Crane, 2 Mallard, a Red-necked Phalarope, American Herring Gull and an Arctic Tern.
Photos: Right & below
A trip out, with the team, to one of the Snow Geese breeding sites. They had hoped to ring lots of chicks, but many were too young and some nest still had eggs in them, however, I was able to collect lots of sounds of adults and chicks.
During the day I also saw Eider, Savannah Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Arctic Redpoll, Canada Geese, Willow Grouse, Hudsonian Godwit, Wilson's Snipe, American Herring Gull, Raven, Pintail, Mallard, Arctic Tern, a Sandhill Crane, White-crowned Sparrow, Hudsonian Whimbrel, an Arctic Skua, a Northern Harrier, a Short-eared Owl and a Common Redpoll.
Right: Adult Lesser Snow Geese.
Below: Snow Geese eggs and chicks.
An early start for the trek back to the helicopter landing site, I was the only one leaving, but some of the team gave me a hand with the luggage and were picking up supplies.
From the camp and on the walk I saw 2 Sandhill Cranes, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Yellow Warbler, Willow Grouse, Snow and Canada Geese, Savannah, White-crowned and American Tree Sparrows, Eider, Pintail, American Herring Gull, Raven, Hudsonian Godwit, 3 Tree Swallows, Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, 2 Green-winged Teal, Wilson's Snipe, Least Sandpiper, 2 Turnstone, a Dunlin, Lapland Bunting, Horned Lark, 18 Caribou, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Arctic Tern and Semipalmated Plover.
Back in Churchill, I hired a car at the airport and travelled a short distance east to my accommodation at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. I was surprised to find a cage surrounding the front door, and was told that Polar Bears had in the past waited behind the door for people to come out! So a wise precaution.
Later, I drove to Churchill and then took the road south which follows the Churchill River to an area of conifers, the ground coated with a thick layer of Reindeer Moss. Here, I met other birders who showed me a pair of Hawk Owls, a male sat on the top of a pine tree and a female sat on a nest, at a very odd angle, a new bird for me. Nearby, was another new bird, in a nest box a Boreal or Tengmalm's Owl.
On this drive I also saw Shoveler, Pintail, Slate-colored Junco, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Mallard, Eider, Scaup, Canada Geese, Redpoll, Wilson's Snipe, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs and American Wigeon.
Right:Male Hawk Owl.
Below: Female Hawk Owl on nest.
Coniferous forest near Churchill.
I spent the whole day in and around Churchill, looking for another bird on my recording list, which I found not far from the town, Smith's Longspur, there were 3 of them in this area and I got some nice recordings of their song.
Also seen today were Pintail, Shoveler, Scaup, a Bufflehead, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Canada Geese, Savannah Sparrow, 2 Short-eared Owls, Arctic Tern, Least Sandpiper, White-crowned Sparrow, Wilson's Snipe, Long-tailed Duck, Hudsonian Godwit, American Herring Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, 5 Gray Jays, 2 White-winged Scoters, Redpoll, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, American Robin, a Three-toed Woodpecker another new bird, a Merlin, 2 Semipalmated Plovers at their nest and giving a distraction display as I approached,
2 Horned Larks, 3 Black-throated Divers, 4 American Golden Plovers, 3 Whistling or Tundra Swans and I heard Sandhill Cranes.
Right & below left: Smith's Longspur.
Below right: Semipalmated Plover nest & eggs.
Below: Semipalmated Plover distraction display.
My last day in Churchill, I had another go at recording Smith's Longspurs and there were now 4 birds. Then visited several other spots, seeing Savannah Sparrow, Redpoll, Canada Geese, Arctic Tern, 2 Black-throated Divers, 3 Hudsonian Godwits, 2 Least Sandpipers, 5 American Golden Plovers, Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, American Herring Gull, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, a Tree Swallow, Hudsonian Whimbrel, 2 Gray Jays, 2 Snow Geese and a Bonaparte's Gull.
Later, I packed up all the equipment and drove to the train station, there I boarded the overnight train to Winnipeg. In the morning the only birds I remember seeing are several Merlins sat on roof-tops as the train approached Winnipeg.
American Golden Plover.