TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
18 - 28 October 2001
Leaders:- Graham Hearl, Mallorca
David Hatch, Churchill
Jim & Candy Irwin, Riding Mountain
Thursday 18th October Travel Day
We all met up at London Heathrow except Peter and Sara Mason as they had arrived at Winnipeg on 15th.
Our flight was excellent, leaving at nine o'clock in the morning and we got through Toronto at immigration and collecting our luggage for only a few minutes - I was worried because of the possible delay but Canadians are good at what they do!
We arrived at Winnipeg a bit late but we were met at arrivals by two good drivers with stretch limos!
We arrived at the Fort Garry Hotel all a bit tired but we ate at seven o'clock and then headed for bed.
Friday 19th October Winnipeg & Churchill
The weather at Winnipeg was fine and sunny but a bit chilly. A morning in Winnipeg visiting the 'Museum of Man and Nature' which was absolutely wonderful - in fact we did not have too much time to see it all.
We had lunch at Branigans which was superb. We then had a short walk to the river and saw many Ring-billed Gulls, and then walked back to the Fort Garry Hotel to catch our bus to the airport. Some of the party saw Bonaparte's Gulls flying overhead. We arrived in time and the customs were somewhat catchy as they certainly looked in to all our hand luggage.
We arrived at Churchill at about six o'clock and got to the Churchill Motel at about half past six. We ate at seven o'clock and again the food was wonderful and we then went to bed in our rooms for a good night's sleep.
Saturday 20th October Churchill Tundra buggy Ride
The weather was rain and snow, cloudy and cold.
We breakfasted early and caught the bus for half an hour to get to the Tundra Buggy Site and to get out on to the tundra. The tundra was clear of snow but some ice on the small lakes and ponds
Our first sightings were lots of Snow Buntings but we saw a female and two large cubs of POLAR BEAR - JUST WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE. However they were kipping against the wind so we just saw them sleeping.
We carried on and saw a Long-tailed Duck and, just afterwards, another female and one cub - Polar Bears of course. These were just wonderful to see as they got up and approached the vehicle and then the mother started to scratch in the low willow bushes and her cub joined her. We watched for about half an hour with them playing and biting - David Hatch said they were in wonderful condition so they were playing well.
We continued on and saw quite a few waders and joined other tundra buggies for lunch when two males started playing, biting, standing up and just rough-housing - they were mates. In fact we saw three young males, and in total we saw twelve Polar Bears including three mothers with cubs.
The day was getting away from us so we returned to the stand for the tundra buggies but did not see an Arctic Fox. We returned just about at five o'clock so that the tour members could relax. We dined at Churchill Motel and again the food was good.
Sunday 21st October Churchill Town Tour
Weather was cold,just 25 degrees Fahrenheit or minus four centigrade, very windy and snow blowing most of the day.
We breakfasted between seven and eight o'clock and left at nine thirty in a bus just to see Churchill town. The driver was excellent giving us all a good experience of various happenings in Churchill seeing 'The Polar Bear Jail', the port and lots of things including quite a lot of sled dogs which were wonderfully cuddly.
The weather was foul so we did not see that many birds. However we did see Black Scoter and, of course, lots of Snow Buntings with a few House Sparrows, European Starling and quite a few Raven.
We returned about two o'clock, did some shopping, had lunch at Gypsy's Café and dined back at the Churchill Motel.
Monday 22nd October Churchill Tundra Buggy Ride
Another tundra ride and again another goody. The weather was very cold with snow blowing and the tundra covered in snow.
We saw another twelve Polar Bears, but all in the afternoon except for two at lunch time. However we did see a male Snowy Owl in the morning and a female Snowy Owl in the afternoon and a lot closer. We also saw a Ringed Seal at the coast giving excellent views plus of course waders including Purple Sandpiper and White-tailed Sandpiper plus again lots of Snow Buntings.
On our way home we stopped for some action by Polar Bears, there was a large male near the coast and he obviously was dispersing the females with cubs. Two cubs with a female came towards us in the buggy and walked right underneath us and getting away from the big male. Another female with one cub started walking on the ice which was getting to a depth as on our first day most of the water was not iced.
We started off for home to the Churchill Motel and everyone was looking for Arctic Fox but there were none around, or perhaps they were, but not in sight.
The evening dinner was at Traders Bar just across the road from The Churchill Motel when everyone had a really good time including wine plus Caribou steaks and a wonderful chocolate pudding.
Tuesday 23rd October Back to Winnipeg
Our collection was at ten fifteen so after breakfast we all went to the Post Office to get a polar bear stamp in our passports and then went to the Eskimo Museum which was fantastic.
We arrived at the airport with of course lots of snow and we headed for the plane to take us to Winnipeg. The runway was quite snowy and icy but the plane, a propeller- driven one, took off very nicely.
On arrival at Winnipeg we were taken to Fort Garry Hotel, we booked into our rooms and some of us went for a short walk to the park. We saw lots of Ring-billed Gulls, two White-throated Sparrows and a party of Black-capped Chickadees. On the way back I spotted a Downy Woodpecker, a female, and a male White-breasted Nuthatch
Some of us dined at Fort Garry whilst others went out.
Wednesday 24th October Winnipeg to Riding Mountain
We breakfasted and then went out at various times. Joy saw two Dark-eyed Juncos and we saw yet another White-throated Sparrow plus of course, Ring-billed Gulls. Candy Irwin phoned me and our pick up was going to be at one o'clock but by the time the porters had loaded our luggage we left at two o'clock. Due to snow and icy rain we went straight to Riding Mountain Guest Ranch. In fact it took us five hours to get to Riding Mountain Guest Ranch and we arrived at seven o'clock . Just about a third of the way to Riding Mountain on large fields we saw at least a thousand Snow Geese with three quarters of the total Blue Snow Geese.
We also saw quite a few Red-tailed Hawks and lots of Ring-necked Duck on lakes or as they call them sloughs (slews) as we approached Riding Mountain. We dined at about eight o'clock and the dinner was excellent.
Thursday 25th October Tours around Riding Mountain
The weather was very snowy, cold and cloudy. We started off after breakfast with Jim Irwin and Candy driving at seven thirty ish and drove into Riding Mountain N.P. For a start off we saw Bald Eagle a juvenile and an adult and then thirty odd Bison plus a female Moose. We carried on and saw three more female Moose and young. We continued on to Lake Audy and saw Red-necked Grebe, Bufflehead, a female and Goldeneye females. This took some time so we went back for lunch, incredible soup plus sandwiches etc. However when we arrived at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch for lunch we saw Evening Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrow, Gray Jay plus two female Hairy Woodpeckers who were having a go at each other. We also saw a Downy Woodpecker and Harris' Sparrow.
For the afternoon we walked from Riding Mountain Guest Ranch and saw very little but it was a good walk through the snow.
At three o'clock we then went on yet another drive to see Moose and we saw quite a few duck including a flock of Bufflehead and including males and three Common Loons. We also saw on the way back a Fisher (a large marten) which Jim had only seen once before in Riding Mountain N.P., so we were all very happy.
Friday 26th October Riding Mountain driving tours
The weather was very sunny but cold in the morning so we saw a fabulous scenic display of snow and ice on trees with lots of snow on the ground. We left at seven thirty and saw female moose and of course ducks.
We then had lunch which was, of course, fabulous and went on a small walk with the dogs hoping they would spring some Ruffed Grouse. However we saw none.
We then left for another drive at three o'clock and went for a walk for one km seeing very little except Red-breasted Nuthatch, in fact quite a few.
On the way back we saw five female moose, four beaver very close to the road where everyone got good photo shots. Joy spotted TWO Black Bears (and they were black!) including one large cub very close to the road, Jim Irwin said that they had just got out of their den as they were very sleepy so we did not stay too long so they could get back to their den.
Saturday 27th October Travel Day
We started off at six o'clock after breakfast and it took us four hours to get to Winnipeg for the three-hour flight to Toronto. Peter and Sara had caught a flight to Montreal where they were then headed for London. At Toronto we caught the evening seven thirty flight to London Heathrow, arriving on Sunday 28th October.
To all the party for being such good company. To David Hatch for being a wonderful guide at Churchill and Corrine frrom The Great Canadian Travel Company who looked after us well. To Jim and Candy Irwin for looking after us very well and making us so welcome at Riding Mountain.
Graham Hearl, Mallorca
Polar Bear Ursus maritimus
Twelve near Churchill on 20th including three females and two cubs plus one each. Twelve on 22nd from lunchtime, including a big male dispersing females from the beach
Black Bear Ursus amercianus
A female with large cub by the side of the road at Riding Mountain N.P. on 26th
Fisher Martes pennanti
One seen by side of road at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Red Fox Vulpes fulva
One by side of road at Churchill on 22nd
Eastern Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
One and three at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd and three plus at Riding Mountain N.P. on 24th
American Beaver Castor canadensis
Five on each day at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th
Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus
Ten plus at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th
Elk Cervus canadensis
Three females on 25th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Moose Alces alces
Three females and five females at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th
White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus
Six plus and small flocks of three plus at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th
American Bison Bison bison
Twenty plus at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Ringed Seal Pusa hispida
One at Hudson Bay on 22nd
Pacific Loon (Diver) Gavia pacifica
One seen flying near Churchill on 20th
Common Loon (Great Northern Diver) Gavia immer
One seen on 25th and six on 26th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
One seen on a lake at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens
About a thousand seen on the way to Riding Mountain from Winnipeg on 24th and at least three thousand on the way back to Winnipeg on 27th
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Many spotted from 24th to 27th
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Seen at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd to 26th from Winnipeg to Riding Mountain N.P.
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Many seen on 24th to 26th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Three on 25th and a flock on 26th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Common Eider Somateria mollissima
Eight plus on 20th and forty plus on 21st near Churchill
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
One female near Churchill on 20th
Black Scoter Melanitta nigra
Six plus at Churchill on 21st
Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
Six plus and twenty plus on 25th and a big flock on 26th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Many seen at riding Mountain on 25th and 26th
Common Merganser (Goosander) Mergus merganser
Three plus seen on 25th and 26th at Riding Mountain N.P.
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
A juvenile and an adult seen at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Joy Lyman saw a male at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Four seen on the way to Riding Mountain on 24th and two at Riding Mountain N.P. on 26th
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus
Three and one at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th and one on the way to Winnipeg on 27th
FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconidae
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Seen at Winnipeg on18th and on 23rd
Willow Ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus
Forty plus seen near Churchill on 20th and again on 22nd
Black-bellied Plover (Grey Plover) Pluvialis squatarola
Four seen near Churchill on 20th and 22nd
Lesser Golden Plover (American Golden Plover) Pluvialis dominica
Up to five seen near Churchill on 20th and 22nd
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima
Sixteen plus near Churchill on 20th and 22nd
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Thirty plus near Churchill on 20th
Sanderling Calidris alba
Four plus near Churchill on 20th
White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis
Twenty plus near Churchill on 20th and 22nd
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
One seen at Churchill on 20th
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Twelve plus seen at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd and at Riding Mountain N.P. on 24th and 26th
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Seen at Churchill on 20th and 21st
Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia
Six seen at Winnipeg on 19th and six at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
TYPICAL OWLS Strigidae
Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca
One male and one female near Churchill on 22nd
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
One female at Winnipeg on 19th and one female at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Two females at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th
TITS & CHICKADEES Paridae
Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
Two and twenty plus at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd, and flocks seen at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch and Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th and 26th
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
One male at Winnipeg on 23rd and two at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
One seen at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch and six plus seen at Boreal Wood, on 26th
JAYS & CROWS Corvidae
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Two seen at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
(Black-billed) Magpie Pica pica
Two at Winnipeg on 19th and two at Riding Mountain N.P. on 25th
Gray Jay Perisoreus canadensis
Two plus at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Two at Winnipeg on 19th
Common Raven Corvus corax
Seen on six days from 20th at Churchill to Riding Mountain to 26th
Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Six and twenty plus seen at Churchill on 21st and 23rd
Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
Lots of flocks of this species at Churchill and the tundra from 20th to the morning of 23rd
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Two seen at Winnipeg on 24th and many at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator
Two seen at Boreal Walk, Riding Mountain N.P. on 26th
Evening Grosbeak Coccothraustes vespertinus
Twelve plus seen at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Twenty plus at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd the same at Churchill from 20th to 23rd
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Seen at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch and N.P. on 25th and 26th
Harris' Sparrow Zonotrichia querula
A singleton seen at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch on 25th and 26th
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Two at Winnipeg on 19th and 23rd and one on 24th