Exploring the Boreal Forest of Manitoba

Tomas Koeck shares stories from his travels north.
Northern Lights

I recently returned from a 24-day long expedition to Manitoba, Canada filming for the Flyway of Life project, a film that I am producing with support from the National Audubon Society and Canon USA. The project will focus on the Atlantic flyway and will profile many of the bird species and animals that make up its vast chain of ecosystems and environments. For this Manitoba expedition, I was able to see true wilderness, making it quite a challenge to get there. But four plane rides later, I was met with breathtaking views, charismatic wildlife, explosive northern lights, and an amazing group of people who call this place home. 

For this trip, my team and I partnered with Churchill Wild, an ecotourism group based in northern Manitoba that specializes in polar bear tours. They help outdoorsmen, expeditionists, photographers, and nature lovers alike get amazing views of polar bears, wolves, and other wildlife. Churchill Wilds was a natural fit as their focus on sustainability and experience with northern wildlife made them the perfect guide to help us tell the story of the flyway and give an overview of the northern wilderness. 

The salt flats and boreal environment along the Hudson Bay serve as one of the northernmost points for bird migration in the Atlantic flyway and filming many of the birds before the big migration was a major subject for the film shot list. When we arrived, many of the birds we observed were preparing for the journey south. It was breathtaking to see the sheer volume of our winged friends as northern Manitoba is a convergence point for not only the Atlantic flyway but for the Mississippi and central flyways as well. This is why protecting this habitat is so important. Lesser Yellowlegs, American Black Duck, and a whole cast of other waterfowl and shorebirds are present here. By the time I departed by plane on Sept 23rd, many of the birds had also begun their long commute to the south, a path we would essentially share all the way home. 

Once we arrived by Cessna plane with Adventure Air, we met the team: two guides, Adam Reimer and Tyler Warketin, and National Geographic veteran photographer Jad Davenport. We did not need to travel far from the lodge to find many of the wolf adults lounging in a thicket. After a six-hour wait, one of the pups poked its head out from the brush to examine the landscape. What came after that was an hour of filming the amazing scene that lay before us, among the most breathtaking wildlife experiences that I have ever witnessed. 


While not a target of the film, polar bears quickly became a common sight while out on the mudflats. Pictured above is a frame of a beautiful polar bear with Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in the backdrop. The lodge serves as a sanctuary for us during this trip and is surrounded by eight-foot-high fences to deter large predators (such as polar bears) from making an unexpected visit!

If you are interested in following along and learning more about release details for Flyway of Life, be sure to check out flywayfilm.com and subscribe to the newsletter. Until next time, this is Tomas Koeck wishing you many birds, amazing landscapes, and maybe even a wolf on your next adventure!