Wolf and bison relax at -40C in Manitoba

Sometimes, things happen to be perfectly aligned.   Today, it was absolutely beautiful out with no hint of the surprise wildlife sighting that you often wish for – seeing a wolf in the park.  We had bright intense sunshine with azure blue skies that is so typical of a day in Manitoba between December and February.  I was out looking for wildlife with colleagues Jennifer Gustafson and Brett Smith from Riding Mountain National Park.  Parked and in conversation, Brett gestured towards an animal in the distance.

As we watched, it became obvious that this was a sighting that is all too rare in the park.  A grey or timber wolf loping along on the frozen surface of a pond, alert, looking around, stopping as nearby ravens called and then sniffing the surface of the snow for quite some time.  Finally, he moved out across the lake in front of us, as we stayed motionless in our vehicle slightly hidden behind cattails.

Tips for identifying a wolf, based on what you notice in this video:

  • The slow, loping gait
  • The long legs in proportion to the body mass
  • The overall grey colour on the back in contrast to the white legs
  • The grey face
  • The large paws – noticeable as it walks

When it is -40C, everything is noticeably different.  From the breath that freezes into moisture on my beard, to the bright sunlight reflected off the snow surface, to the squeaky sound of snow underfoot from the bison that leaves our presence.

I think that this is one of the reasons that our Earth Rhythms team loves to provide short outdoor experiences in the winter months – they are so amazingly full of sunlight, or beautiful night skies; we hear things that are so different; you know that you are alive, and when you return to the spa or your dinner meal, you feel very comfortable and somehow, “right with the world”.

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Riding Mountain Christmas Bird Count December 22

One of the traditions that we have come to enjoy at this time of the year involves outdoor walking or snowshoeing and driving, while participating in a North American event to count birds.  This will be the 110th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  The Audubon CBC website describes this unique event in the following manner:

“From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission – often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.”

Pileated woodpecker - often seen on the Christmas Bird Count

Ken Kingdon, at Riding Mountain National Park, coordinates the count. He has sent out his annual note to traditional “counters” and invited others to participate.  If anyone is interested, please contact Ken Kingdon at Riding Mountain National Park.  The park is also providing a pre-bird count orientation session for new birders. You can contact Jennifer Gustafson, park interpreter.  She just sent out a note this morning..”

“Hello Everyone,……For all of you who are not  regular birders or want a refresher on the birds we will be seeing take part in our pre-count orientation session.  The Christmas Bird Count Orientation Session will be held at Friends of  Riding Mountain Learning Centre before we head out at 9:00 AM.  Feel free to join us.  Call me at 848-7226 for more information.  We would love to get as many  people out as possible.” – Jen

We spend most of the day walking, hiking, driving, snowshoeing and/or skiing and counting birds by hearing their calls or seeing them.

This citizen science contributes to one of the most important annual snapshots of bird populations and provides important trend information about bird populations in North America.  Ken Kingdon provides a good overview about the Christmas Bird Count in this short video after we had finished last year’s count.

The day is finished off with a great potluck supper and a collaborative addition of all counted species.  A great way to celebrate the spirit of family, a celebration of wild nature, and a reminder to cherish this planet in every action we take.

The business case for sustainability, an interview with Bob Willard

The Business Case for Sustainability – What’s in it for you?

Bob Willard PresentationI recently attended the Manitoba Conservation Districts Annual Convention in Brandon.  The Conservation Districts are doing some great work on the conservation and sustainability front.    I attended a session on the Business Case for Sustainability and had the opportunity to meet Bob Willard, author of several books including most recently The Sustainability Champions Guidebook (How to Transform Your Company), The Next Sustainability Wave,The Next Sustainability Waveand The Sustainability Advantage.

Bob’s presentation was straight-forward.  If you can get an opportunity to see his presentation, do so.  It is well worth it.  I went twice, to both of his presentations, because the information was so compactly presented and in a way that over 200 farm producers and rural folk were able to understand.  That’s really good, because this is a challenging topic no matter what your profession or experience is.   The ability to connect the dots and clearly communicate about the risks, responsibilities and rewards or benefits of becoming a more sustainable enterprise is something that has been needed for a long time.

I interviewed Bob right after his presentation, because I was inspired by what he provided, and interested in his perspectives about sustainability and tourism.  Grab a coffee, or a juice and put your feet up.  This guy has some really neat ideas.  Check out his website Sustainability Advantage. In particular, see the 90 second video introduction from Bob personally.  Well done!

Interview with Bob:

Bob has helped me to articulate  a framework that helps me to bridge my passion for tourism with the business case for sustainability.  I hope that this interview will help you to shift your business towards sustainability.  The planet needs you to do it.  Climate change needs us to act in more innovative ways.  And, wouldn’t it be great to be able to do it in ways that actually increase your profits.

Sharing

What are some suggestions that you have about improvements in your tourism business that have led you forward on the pathway to sustainability?   I would be really interested in hearing your suggestions or examples, so that we can help our entire tourism industry to begin taking the small steps toward sustainability.

Travel and tourism will be tremendously affected by the outcomes of the Copenhagen Climate negotiations, as well as by forthcoming cap and trade legislation that will be passed both in the US and subsequently in Canada.  Not IF, but WHEN.  I think that it behooves all of us to start building in a smart, small-steps approach to sustainability into our annual business plan for our tourism companies.  What do you think?