Thursday, November 05, 2009

25 October: Churchill - Tundra Buggy Day 1

Note: For the first time, I'm trying the "click on the thumbnail for a bigger picture" approach with the animal photos. I don't really like it as it will take longer for the page to load, but I do feel that these pictures especially deserve it! Plus the "large" version is still only roughly 640x480 (fyi. in case you're worried about clicking on a picture)

We woke up around 6:30am, layered up and then headed off to breakfast (pancakes with bacon and syrup as far as the eye can see is the staple, here in Canada ;) )

Then at 7:45am our "school bus" arrived to take us to meet the Tundra Buggies. We were on Buggy 9 with Pyro-technic Bob driving.

The day was a resounding success! Although it took a while (like an hour & half maybe?) to see our first Polar Bear (and until you've seen them, you really have no idea what to expect or what you're looking for, our eyes being so accustomed to being on the lookout for Lion, Rhino and Elephant).

But over the course of the day we saw quite a few bears ... and we got to spend quite a while watching each bear (which was great because often waiting for them to get up and move about or come and inspect the Tundra Buggy made for the best photos!). It's not that they're lazy (although the big yawn below might have you believe otherwise), it's that they're trying to conserve their energy. They've been without food for a few months now and all they're really here to do is wait out the re-freezing of Hudson Bay. From what I understand, they exit the Bay quite a bit lower down where it thaws last and then walk all the way to Churchill, where it freezes first (see the floating ice as Hudson Bay starts to freeze in the photo on the left), giving them as much time as possible on the ice to hunt their food.

We were especially lucky to also spot an Arctic Hare, Arctic Foxes and Rock Ptarmigan. I spotted the Arctic Hare as we were driving along, must be because my eyes are so accustomed to watching The Boons ;) ps. in case you need it pointed out, that's not an amazing shot of 3 Arctic Hares, I cropped 3 of the shots I got as he/she ran away ... I think it makes for a better photo this way tho ;)

We had 2 separate sightings of Arctic Fox. The first came past as we were stopped watching a Polar Bear. It was interesting to watch how wary the Fox was and although the Bear lifted his head as the Fox ran past, he wasn't too interested.

The second was a brilliant, right-up-close experience. Apparently this Fox was younger, because it wasn't pure white. The foxes fascinated me because I couldn't believe how furry their tails were ... the tail looks almost as thick as their body.

@clairam and I had quite a laugh at the start of the day when, as we were driving along (before we'd even seen our first Bear), our guide pointed out an Artesian Whale. We were thoroughly stumped about what on earth he could possibly be talking about, having never heard of them before and since he was pointing at a pool of water (not connected to any ocean) that was about 10cm deep. It took us a few minutes before we realised that what he had in fact pointed out were Artesian Wells (these were the only parts of the pools surrounding the Bay that had any flowing water, the rest were all frozen over). Ah, accents sure provide for amusement sometimes! And as you can imagine, this became a running joke of the trip to the two of us.

I got some lovely photos with my new camera (sadly I am being very choosey about the ones that I post on here since there really are so many!) and was especially grateful for @tfrayne's telephoto lens! I didn't need the Polarizing lens at all today tho, due to the sheer lack of snow :P

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I'm surviving the chill here (but to be fair I am wearing a pair of fleecy tracksuit pants under my jeans!) and only felt it in my hands a few times when I was leaning out of the window for a while to take photo's.

After our day on the tundra, we relaxed for a bit at The Churchill Motel and then we headed off to dinner at Gypsy's - they've done our packed lunches for our Tundra days which included Hot Chocolate, soup (today was Chicken Noodle which they serve with crackers...), a very yummy sandwich (@clairam and I had the shaved turkey on a Portuguese roll) and a pastry (today's had some sickly lemon filling which I couldn't finish).

I tried Poutine for the first time, which I shared with @clairam (according to her, it's a Canadian standard and had to be tasted at least once this trip - good advice!). It is basically your normal chips / french fries topped with grilled cheese and gravy. It's very rich but was quite yummy! And then we also had a Chicken Cordon Bleu burger each. After the poutine tho, it was just too much food so on the plus side we have half a left-over burger for tomorrow's lunch :)

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AngelConradie said...

What awesome photos, WOW!!

Tamara said...

That pic of the fox is so professional!

I had never heard of Rock Ptarmigan before. Thanks for educating me ;-)

se7en said...

Love the bear photo's... the one wandering in the water is unbelievable! Have fun!!!

tanyadeville said...

lovely pics!!! the walking on water bear is beautiful!!!

those little foxies are super cute!

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