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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

aurora

Heading North, very north!

After a looong couple of days travelling i finally arrived in Churchill, greeted at the airport by Heidi, it was so good to see her again – unbelievably it’s been three years since i last visited Canada! Headed into town and dumped my bags at heidi’s then we headed to Gypsys for food. Yum!

Flying in to Churchill on the Calm Air flight. Couldn’t get over how remarkably like the Uists it looks from the air! (Meaning so much water and very soggy and boggy looking).

Waking up in Churchill – we have snow!

Heidi had to go off to work but had very kindly lent me her car so i headed off on what was to become my routine for the first 10 days of my trip – birding! I was under strict instructions not to leave the car and wander off. There are polar bears in the area and they will eat you! My daily route took me up to the granary building by the port then along to Cape Merry and back along the coast road as far as the airport then off down Goose Creek Road to the weir. The weather was cold but hovering aound 2’C it was not uncomfortably so.

Snow Bunting, Churchill, Manitoba

Still plenty of Snow Buntings around – the grain train was swarming with them 🙂

I met this guy, a Silver Fox along the road to Cape Merry

Silver Fox, Churchill, Manitoba

So close i didn’t even need the telephoto lens!

I really didn’t expect to see Beluga Whales, they are usually gone well before October, but here they were, still in the Churchill river.

Beluga Whales, Churchill River

Beluga Whales

Lots of geese around still, here are a mixture of Snow Geese and Canada Geese sitting around on the frozen ponds.

Snow Geese and Canada Geese

On the frozen ponds at the granary

I love Snow Geese!

Snow Geese, Hudson Bay in the background

You never quite know what you might find, i’d had a tantalising pico-second glimpse the day before of a large falco, heading away from me at a rate of knots, just a silhouette in the poor light. I had been hoping for Gyr Falcon but didn’t want to call it. Anyway, the next day on my “rounds” i found this sitting on a pile of old railway sleepers and guess it must have been what i’d seen.

Peregrine

Peregrine. Nice!

Same pile of sleepers, a different day. A cross fox this time, no, not angry, a cross between a Red Fox and a Silver Fox.

Cross Fox

Cape Merry – how Hebridean does this look?!

Overlooking the Hudson Bay

Cape Merry always fascinates me

You don’t get this sign in the Hebrides though. And people still ignore it!

A thaw and the temperature went up to around 4’C making the morning very misty and murky but i was happy to find this Bald Eagle sitting on a rock in the pond on the outskirts of town.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Greater Yellow Legs

Greater Yellow Legs

Found this Rough-legged Buzzard on my way out of town.

Rough-legged Buzzard (Rough-legged Hawk)

Goose Creek Road is always interesting to have a slow ride down, i got Redpoll down here and a probable Snipe, Gray Jay was a regular.

Goose Creek Road

Scaup down by the weir, Greater unless you can tell me any different…

Scaup

Returning from one of my rides out the weather had turned pretty nasty – great huge snowflakes so i was heading back home. I thought i would take the “scenic route” so turned off to take the track that follows the coast and takes you near to Miss Piggy, the wrecked aircraft. Something white in the bushes caught my attention and yes! My very first polar bear! It was pretty big but was thankfully looking very sleepy. Managed some rather ethereal looking shots through the snow.

My first polar bear sighting 🙂

Looking rather sleepy…

Towards the end of the week we had an invite to a BBQ, it was held out at Camp Nanuk – a beautiful place out in the middle of nowhere. Bit of a magnet for polar bears – the clue is in the name (nanuk = polar bear in the language of the Inuit people). So we spent a great evening, -4’C burning sausages on sticks over a fire. As soon as it got dark we could see the northern lights which were truly amazing and i didn’t have my camera! Aaarrgghh!! Never mind when we got back to town later on we called back to Heidi’s and i picked up my camera and tripod and was able to get some great shots.

The frozen lakeside setting for our BBQ at Camp Nanuk

Mmmm, toast those sausages…

And just incase a polar bear decided to join us – 4 cracker shots and 2 live shots

The aurora? Well, i’m sorry but words fail me really, i just can’t begin to describe the amazing spectacle that we had that night, easily the best northern lights i’ve ever seen.

Aurora behind the Inukshuk at Churchill beach

The granary on the horizon and the whole sky lit up with flowing, pulsating aurora curtains.

So, the end of a first 10 days, having a fab time so far. Next i’m off to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to do a stint of volunteer work. I don’t quite know how i’ll get on – i’ve never done any sort of  volunteer work that hasn’t been bird-related before. I’ve been told “be prepared to get dishpan hands“. Ooo er!? Ian is always very fond of telling the story that when he first met my mum she told him “I hope you don’t think you’ve got yourself a domestic goddess!” I think, though perhaps i’m wrong here, that he thought no, but she can waffle on endlessly about moult and plumage. Doesn’t help much in the kitchen when faced with the washing up from 85 people though…