Readers’ wildlife photos

I had misplaced the email with these great photos by reader Joe Dickinson; thank goodness he reminded me. Polar bears! Joe’s notes are indented.

Here are some photos from a recent trip to Manitoba.

First, some blacktail prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) from a park called FortWhyte Alive in the outskirts of Winnipeg.

I think these are green-winged teal (Anas crecca) on a tundra pond near Churchill (up on Hudson Bay).  The ducklings are quite small compared to what we see in mid-July down here (at least for mallards).

One of the main attractions of the Churchill area in the summer was the chance to see large numbers of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas).  We did, indeed, see many belugas, some quite close up, but they were devilishly hard to photograph.  Unlike other whales (and dolphins) that I have observed, they never seem to maintain even roughly constant heading and speed between successive appearances at the surface, so it was impossible to know where to be watching, let alone pointing a camera.  Recent storm runoff also made the water turbid, so we could not see them significantly before they actually emerged.  The upshot is a very large collection of white backs about to slide back below the surface (not to mention a good number shots with nothing but open water).  With that excuse, here are two samples of what I did manage.  The second is, I believe, a mother with a calf (darker than an adult).

The other main draw is polar bears (Ursus maritimus).  Signs like this were present where ever rocky outcrops bordered the bay (or the Churchill River).  Guides carried pepper spray, noisemakers and, as last resort, guns.

In the end, we had only two bear sightings, both from boats.  (Fall is better for bears but then the belugas are not there since they leave Hudson Bay to avoid being trapped when it freezes over.)  Here are typical shots of what to expect as an initial sighting.

Being in a boat allowed us to hang around and maneuver to get better looks.

Our other sighting was more in the open but at some distance over water too shallow to allow a close approach.

Finally, stretching the concept of “wildlife” (and back in Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo), the polar bear pool featured a transparent “tunnel” offering interesting perspectives.  I resist the temptation to claim we snorkeled with the polar bears.



  1. Randy schenck
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Some very good photos from far away. I remember, as a kid, lived in Scottsdale, Arizona for a couple of years, I knew a kid who had moved to Scottsdale from Churchill, Canada. That is some climate change.

  2. Gnu Atheist
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    “Guides carried pepper spray, noisemakers and, as last resort, guns.”

    – Which is why the local Polar Bear spoor often contained little noisemakers and smelled like pepper.


  3. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    As if proof were needed of the potential dangerousness of polar bears, I like the smear of blood on the cheek still there from the previous meal.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      It looks like a puncture wound. I thought it might be a fight between bears, although feeding is much more frequent than fighting.

  4. Mark R.
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Cool photos. I once saw a school of Belugas in Alaska. I didn’t have a camera, but I could have snapped some great shots as they were chasing salmon on the surface.

    It is odd seeing a polar bear without any snow around. I’ve seen that in zoos, but never in the wild. Polar bears are magnificent.

  5. Paul Matthews
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I believe the ducks are American Wigeon (Mareca americana), rather than Green-winged Teal. Nice photos.

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