Great Bear Lake: A Paradise for Both Anglers and Birders Alike

Harold Written by 

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While it probably comes as no surprise that Great Bear Lake’s legendary reputation is based primarily on the world class angling it offers but having said that the “Bear” and its environs also provides the visitor with many other unique opportunities to do something other than fish, which at first blush may not be readily apparent to those who have a singular focus.

Greg Seegert, who is a regular visitor to Plummer’s Great Bear Lake Lodge, is affectionally known around the lodge as “ Bird Man,” and is one of those individuals who does in fact take time out from his angling pursuits to engage in those “other” activities, which in his case happens to be birding, and I think it’s fair to say that he has been richly rewarded by doing so.

Greg had a remarkable week in July of 2022, where he not only caught some incredible fish, but also achieved, and actually surpassed, his personal goal to identify 50 species of birds.

Therefore without any further comment on my part, I’ll let Greg take it from here.

Like almost all of you, I come to Plummer’s each year to catch giant lake trout, and this year I succeeded by catching a 47 and a 57 pound laker.

I also take a trip to the Tree River each year to catch big Arctic Char. This year I caught 2 massive Char, one 30 and one 31 pounds, which to put this into some perspective, the world record Char is thirty-two pounds nine ounces.

However, there is something else to do at these locations that neither costs anything nor takes away from your fishing time, and that thing is bird watching, or as it is often called, birding.

Because Plummer’s Lodge is above the Arctic Circle, with the Tree River being even further north, you can see birds that you will rarely catch a glimpse of further south, and witness behaviors that you will never observe except above the Arctic Circle.

In early July of 2022, I saw 58 species of birds during the week I was at Plummer’s and Tree River. My cumulative total for the 4 years I’ve visited the lodge is 77 species.

So how do I do this without it interfering with my fishing?

First of all, while on Great Bear, I always carry my binoculars in the boat, and over the years I’ve been rewarded by seeing 20 species of water birds.

This includes 4 species of loons (including the rare, Yellow-Billed Loon on the lower Tree River), all 3 species of Scoters, King Eider, and a good variety of common ducks and geese.

Also, when out on the lake, I’ve seen both Parasitic and Long-Tailed Jaegers.

Second, I always go for an evening walk after dinner. I walk the road from the lodge to the airstrip and occasionally take a detour along the road to the gravel pit.

These walks yield a combination of perching birds, shorebirds (including some calling and displaying from the tops of spruce trees), and water birds in the ponds along the way.

Some of the “good” birds seen along my evening walks are Harris’s Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, White-Winged Crossbill, Snowy Owl, Red-Necked Phalarope, and Hudsonian Godwit.

Third, I do shore lunch one day during the week, and while my guide is preparing the lunch, I walk the low tundra either on either Caribou Point or one of the other large islands, which yields a different suite of birds.

Some of the “good” birds I’ve seen on these walks while lunch is being prepared are Smith’s Longspur, American Golden Plover, Parasitic Jaeger, and Willow Ptarmigan.

Finally, on the day we fly back to Yellowknife, I walk the entire length of the road from the lodge to the airstrip. After breakfast there is plenty of time to make this walk and still get to the plane on time. This year that walk produced three birds that I had not seen previously on this trip, so it was well worth the effort.

In summary, birding is an activity you can engage in at Plummer’s that is free, will not interfere with your fishing, and will provide you with the unique opportunity to see birds that you will rarely, if ever, see in southern Canada or anywhere in the United States.

Greg Seegert

Let me wrap this up by suggesting that if you are planning a visit to Plummer’s take a page from Greg’s book and consider taking some time away from your angling exploits to explore the bounty that nature has on offer in Canada’s Arctic.


Last modified onThursday, 21 July 2022 17:07
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