Orchids and Wildlife in Churchill MB - 2004-July

by John Neufeld and Eugene Reimer
with notes by Doris Ames

000 - Richard, Eugene, Doris, Huguette, Lorne, Gilles, Chris, Lawrence, Roberta, John - seven NOCI members, and seven MOS members, for a total of ten.

Day-1 (July13)

101 - Showy lady-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) on Long Point Road.

102 - Lorne using 16x magnifying lens to examine the flower-details of Platanthera species.

103 - Blue-flag iris (Iris versicolor).

104 - Blue-eyed-grass (Sisyrinchium montanum).

105 - Small-flowered columbine (Aquilegia brevistyla).

106 - Large yellow lady-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) on Long Point Rd.

107 - Two immature Pelicans at Grand Rapids Dam site.

Day-2 (July14)

201 - Sparrow-egg lady-slipper (Cypripedium passerinum) - double-flowered plant at Hargrave River.

202 - Sparrow-egg lady-slipper - closer view of that double-flowered plant.

203 - Small round-leaf orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia) at Hargrave River site.

204 - Amerorchis rotundifolia - dark-form from Churchill - shown here for comparison.

205 - Amerorchis rotundifolia - light-form from Churchill - shown here for comparison.

206 - Pisew Falls on the Grass River near Thompson - it is Manitoba's largest accessible waterfall at 42.7 feet high and a really spectacular sight.

207 - Eugene above Pisew Falls - risking his life, by lighting up a cigarette:-)

208 - Via Station at Thompson - we did crossword puzzles while we waited - Churchill can be reached only by air or rail. At present the highway ends at Gillam. Many people take the train north and fly back. Calm Air arrives from Winnipeg and Thompson several times a week. The 1,600 kilometer trip (by rail from Winnipeg) allows you to see the countryside along the way. We did a less expensive variation of this;we drove to Thompson and took the train to Churchill and returned the same way. We explored many sites for orchids, in Jack Pine forests and by the rivers along Highway #6 and saw moose, fox and birds. The view of the tundra from the train was unforgettable. Even though it was the middle of the night there was still sufficient light to see the transistion from boreal forest to tundra. The tundra was all covered with Reindeer Moss (actually a kind of lichen) and growing on top was a blanket of flowers of every colour.

Day-3 (July15)

301 - Churchill - Kelsey Avenue aka "The Highway" and the town's main street.

302 - Churchill Northern Studies Centre - our group arriving - note their Birdfish logo on the doors.

303 - White mountain-avens (Dryas integrifolia) - rare plant.

304 - Northern twayblade (Listera borealis) - rare orchid.

305 - Northern twayblade (Listera borealis) flowers.

306 - Blunt-leaf rein-orchid (Platanthera obtusata) flower detail.

307 - Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) - a rare plant.

308 - Three-toothed saxifrage (Saxifraga tricuspidata) flower - the delicate Saxifrage plants live in cracks on the rocks and gradually break them up, living up to their name which means "rock-breaker" in Latin.

Day-4 (July16)

401 - Yellowlegs.

402 - Bonaparte's gull.

403 - Tundra near the Northern Studies Centre - there is great diversity among the plants and animals in the Churchill area. The reason is Churchill itself lies in the transistion zone between the tundra and the Boreal Forest and the entire area is at the junction of three distinctive ecosystems; the Tundra, the Northern Boreal Forest or Taiga, and the Marine.

404 - Early coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida).

405 - Alpine azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens).

406 - Photographers and Fairy-slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa) - Eugene found this patch of blooming Calypso and a photographer's frenzy resulted. They had never been photographed in Churchill before although reports of them had been received.

407 - Calypso - a pair from within that clump.

408 - Calypso - a closeup of one from that clump.

409 - Snowball-fight in July - Huguette disciplines Doris by giving her a face-wash. This large drift of snow was left over from the previous winter.

410 - Dwarf Labrador-tea (Ledum decumbens) - uncommon in Churchill area.

411 - Velvet-bells (Bartsia alpina).

412 - Heart-leaved twayblade (Listera cordata) - the flowers of this species were very reddish in Churchill.

413 - Bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia) - uncommon in Churchill.

414 - "Captain Hans" - Captain Mike Macri and John Neufeld onboard the Seanorth II, going out to see the Beluga whales on the Churchill River.

415 - Beluga whales above water - note the spout of steam from one's blowhole.

416 - Whale below water.

417 - Grain-terminal from water - in 1997 Omnitrax bought the Port of Churchill and the railway and renamed it the Hudson's Bay Railway. They deal with grain at present but want to diversify, as grain alone will not indefinitely sustain the port. They want to put different commodities through the port and eventually trade with Iceland, Europe and Murmansk.

418 - Ft.Prince of Wales - built in the 1700's, the fort's outer walls were five meters high and its inner walls were three meters high with enough emplacements for forty cannon to protect it from every side. However this fort was never properly manned and in 1782 a French naval force of 3 ships appeared in the Bay. There were only 40 men at the fort and the governor of the day, Samuel Hearne, surrendered without a shot being fired. The French sacked the fort, blew up the cannons and part of the walls and took Hearne to France as their prisoner. The next year he returned and rebuilt the fort but it never served a real military purpose again.

419 - Jaeger chases Tern.

420 - Krummholz trees at sunset - these white spruce trees can barely survive in the cold wind, ice particles and salt spray coming off the Bay, so they remain stunted and only have branches on the side away from the water.

Day-5 (July17)

501 - Miss Piggy - the Lambair side - this Lambair C46 cargo plane crashed on the rocks along the Coast Road in 1979. It must have been a rough landing but everyone survived. It remains a much-photographed landmark now, referred to as "Miss Piggy" by the locals. One side is painted grey because it was used as part of a movie set.

502 - Large-flowered wintergreen (Pyrola grandiflora).

503 - Northern hedysarum (Hedysarum mackenzii) - these beautiful flowers were everywhere, lining the gravel roads in places, much like roses in a formal garden.

504 - Polarbears.

505 - PolarBear.

506 - Caribou look-alike - these sled dogs spend all summer camped on the tundra. The puppies are in a cage but each adult dog has its own house. They are fed and exercised regularly so they can compete in the sled dog races later in the year. We happened upon "dog city" on a cloudy afternoon and, seeing these large animals from a distance, certain members of our party, who shall remain nameless, got excited and thought they saw caribou:-)

507 - Cards at CNSC.

508 - Reading at CNSC - every evening after being out in the field we would compare notes, look things up in our field guides and do our journaling.

509 - Doris and bughat - there is more than one way to keep your head-net on in the wind.

Day-6 (July18)

601 - Flame-tipped lousewort - there are many different species of Lousewort in Churchill, and unlike the common ones down south these all have gorgeous flowers. They seem to serve the same function as the marsupials in Australia. It seemed as if every flower in North America was represented by either a lousewort or a willow.

602 - Rocket-range ruins - from the end of World War II through the 1960's the US-airforce conducted metereological and other research in Churchill. When the station closed the US-government left everything there and the Federal Government gave the barracks to the Northern Studies Centre for their research centre. The old rocket launching tower and tunnel remain but they are collapsing slowly. There are bits of old rockets and machinery everywhere.

Days-7,8 (July19,20)

701 - Photographers and Ptarmigan.

702 - Willow ptarmigan.

703 - Willow ptarmigan chick - these chicks ran over our shoes as we were taking pictures.

704 - Rocketman-Richard.

704b - Women and dream-catcher - we met this Dene woman and her Inuk daughter-in-law in Churchill. They sold dream-catchers that they made out of willow, hide and duck feathers.

705 - Sparrow-egg and Blunt-leaf clump - at a site to which we were directed by the eminent photographer from Germany, Norbert Rosing.

706 - Lorne - our spiritual leader.

707 - Group at Cape Merry - Cape Merry was named for Captain James Merry, the Deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1712-18. A wooden trading post was initially constructed here by the HBC at that time followed by more substantial ones later. It was also the arrival point for Jens Munck a Dane, who was the first European to land and overwinter in the Churchill area in 1619. Henry Hudson was the first to sail into Hudson's Bay in 1610 and Sir Thomas Button was the first to explore the western coast of Hudson's Bay in 1612.

708 - Strict primrose (Primula stricta) - this species resembles the Greenland primrose (Primula eglikensia) except that it has a hairy calyx and toothed leaves whereas the calyx and the leaves of the Greenland primrose are smooth.

709 - Purple paintbrush (Castilleja raupii) clump.

799 - Sunset - in July the sun goes down about 11:30pm and gets up again around 3:30am.

For further enlightenment, see Doris's travelogue:  North of 58.