Field Journal: Churchill – Cape Merry

Sitting on the opposite side of the mouth of the Churchill River from the Prince of Wales Fort is Cape Merry. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group stopped here twice and we were able to get out and explore the rocky landscape, while staying close together in case of polar bears. The short boardwalk leads up to a stone battery which overlooks Prince of Wales Fort and the water between the two landmarks were full of beluga whales. Standing at the stone wall and looking through the lower levels in the wall, I could see regular white mounds continually breaching out of the water. As I noticed earlier, at a quick glance they could be mistaken for whitecaps on the rough river, but a longer look easily revealed them to be the small, white whales. They were often accompanied, side-by-side, with smaller whales of varying shades…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Sloop Cove & Prince of Wales Fort

To get to Sloop Cove in Churchill, Manitoba, you have to cross the Churchill River on a zodiac. Our Churchill Northern Studies Centre group all squeezed into the boat and skimmed across the surface of the river for the short ride to the beach landing near the cove. We were met by our Parks Canada guide and bear spotter who would lead our tour from Sloop Cove to the Prince of Wales Fort two miles up to the mouth of the Churchill River. The weather was decent enough and we walked up to the top of a rocky hill where we were shown names etched into the stone. This wasn’t modern graffiti though, the names were carved in the 1700’s by employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and now kept clear of lichen by Parks Canada. Among the names are…

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Field Journal: Churchill – Rocket Range and Ramsay Trail

In the middle of August I took a solo adventure trip to Churchill, Manitoba. It was my first time away from my five year old daughter and I was quite excited to return north after being in the Finnish Lapland earlier in the summer. I had discovered the Churchill Northern Studies Centre earlier in the year, and found they offered learning vacations. In addition to being a full research station, they held several themed learning vacations throughout the year. Choosing was extremely difficult as they all sounded fascinating, but I ended up opting for the Wild Planet vacation because if offered a little bit of everything with plenty of walking involved. 

To say Churchill is remote is an understatement. It’s in the subarctic and the only way to arrive is by train or air and after a monster flood which wiped out some of the railroad track,…

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Field Journal: Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Part 3

On our third and final day at Pyhä-Luosto National Park we once again found ourselves heading towards Isokuru and again I heard the cuckoo. Just like the previous days it tricked me again and I never did get to see it. We descended the same set of stairs we were becoming quite familiar with and turned left walking over the lichen covered boulders again. We followed the path toward Noitatunturi Fell, the highest peak of the Pyhä-Luosto fell chain at 540 meters. While I would have loved to see the view from the top of the fell our group opted for a less strenuous destination before the climb, a lake named Oravalampi. 

The path quickly became rocky with many foot-tripping roots and although it was level the walk was challenging. The landscape was similar to the early parts of our previous walks, pine forest with a…

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Field Journal: Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Part 2

Our second day at Pyhä-Luosto National Park in the Finnish Lapland began with me pointing out that we had not yet seen the bird on the park’s logo, a Siberian jay despite descriptions of the park saying they were very common and regularly investigated visitors. No sooner had we entered the park that morning, than the eldest kid in our group pointed out a bird, which was none other than a Siberian jay. They are curious birds, like other corvids, and this one came closer and closer, tree by tree, until it was literally sitting above us. A second joined in surveying of the human visitors and we had the luxury to admire the subtle red wing feathers as they blazed in flight backlit by the sun. They perched so close I could see a patch of beige feathers curling up and over the base of their…

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Field Journal: Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Part 1

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each, 
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, 
And dark and true and tender is the North. 
                                            – Alfred Tennyson

When I last visited Finland I stayed only in Helsinki. This time I was eager to travel north, as far north as possible and see the Lapland. After exploring the western coast of Norway, followed by the Scottish Highlands, I found I was developing a strong draw to the north. So we set out looking to see how far we could go on the train from Helsinki and decided we’d travel as far as Oulu, located on the northeast side of the Gulf of Bothnia and not terribly far from the Swedish border. I began searching for cabins to stay in, widening…

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Field Journal: Viikki Nature Reserve

One of the most memorable places I visited the last time I was in Helsinki was the Viikki Nature Reserve and I wanted to return again this trip. Although we spent time exploring the Kivinokka area this summer, it isn’t technically part of the nature reserve. There are many different habitats in the nature reserve and last trip I walked through the north part of Viikki which is fields and some woods. I thought I remembered walking on a boardwalk through reed wetlands, but couldn’t remember where that was. I made my best guess and we decided to walk from Klädesfabriksparken towards Kuusiluoto which was shown on the map as a boardwalk. 

Before entering the reserve, we walked through a park where we saw a group of barnacle geese with goslings and then crossed over a bridge. From the bridge I noticed a small group of hooded crows…

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Field Journal: Late Summer Dragons at Magnuson

A month ago I attended a dragonfly class at Magnuson Park with dragonfly expert, Dennis Paulson. He talked about the dragonfly’s life cycle during the class portion, then we went out to Magnuson Park in Seattle to look at the odes. The season had already begun to fade as many he had seen just a week ago were no longer flying. We did see many blue-eyed darners, cardinal meadowhawks, eight-spotted skimmers, blue dashers and western pondhawks. A single black saddlebag patrolled the pond. There were a few tule bluet and California spreadwing damselflies as well. I spotted one unfortunate blue-eyed darner which had become trapped in the water, only its head was above the surface as it tried to fly out, unsuccessfully. Paulson said that happens sometimes when the males fight, one will become stuck in the water and die. Some of the ponds had dried out, as they…

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