Nome, Alaska, is a favorite place of mine. I’ve been there three times on birding adventures. Nome is always an adventure, always more than birding. It’s a place of different land forms, plants, mammals, insects (more of the latter, counting mosquitos).
It is changing, however. Alaska is warming much faster than states in the lower 48. Warming is bringing heavy change.
The same can be said about Churchill, Manitoba, the place where birders go — have gone — to see Ross’s Gull in particular, as well as nesting shorebirds. And maybe a Polar Bear.
I’ve been to Churchill once, a marvelous two-day train ride carrying us north through the tundra to Hudson’s Bay. That was a dozen years ago when there still was track, track that rocked the train a boat in rough water. Tundra is not the best place to lay train track, but for many years it worked.
Now, tundra thaw has scattered rail like pickup sticks. The only way to get to Churchill today is by air.
It’s an expensive trip. So is the trip to Nome.
Go anyway. Go soon, before these places lose the special enchantment that comes with the Arctic.
Be sure to take with you a new book entitled “Wildlife of the Arctic.”
It’s a pocket-size 335-page guide to all the creatures that live there — birds, mammals, butterflies. Authors Richard Sale and Per Michelsen cover more than 250 bird species, 60 land animals, and 30 whales and seals. All are illlustrated with excellent photos.
The guide circumnavigates the North Pole, as the Arctic is hardly limited to North America.
It is local, however, once you are on the scene.
During my visits I carried only a bird guide book. I always wished for information on the other creatures seen. This book would have done the complete job.
It’s funny how memory works. So many things so fuzzy. Paging through this book brought into focus the Gyrfalcon nest outside of Nome, the Musk Ox seen at the end of the Kougarok Road at Nome, of the Narwhales in the Churchill River, and the nesting Hudsonian Curlew at near the abandoned radar station at Churchill.
We really are running out of time to enjoy a true Arctic visit. This book, released in April, arrives just in time to help make memorable trips.
(Princeton University Press, part of the Princeton Pocket Guide series, soft cover, $19.95.)