Crystals in the wind

I love snowshoeing. Because I can travel anywhere. I am not restricted to being in a ski track. I can follow wildlife tracks and trails. I can walk over frozen surfaces (with at least 6 – 8 inches of ice) to get to beaver ponds, and access places that would be much more difficult to get to in the summer and fall months.

Snowshoeing is easy to do. It offers good cardio-vascular activity, and it helps me to keep learning more about nature. Each time I go out snowshoeing, I am noticing and learning something new. Perhaps where a woodpecker has been active, or where wolves have made a kill of an elk, or where there is enough running water that has not frozen.

What I love most is the unexpected. Then, I really take notice. Like when the wind from a south breeze moves light crystals of snow on the frozen surface of a lake in Riding Mountain National Park. These crystals are moving along the ground in undulating waves. Take note of these golden waves of snow crystals behaving similar to northern lights, picking up the light intensity of the setting sun, moving in broad patterns with the wind, and moving in undulations that take your breath away. This is HD video. Make it full screen to get the full impact of it.

Being in the right place at the right time is an act of commitment. Going out daily to snowshoe is like a meditation. It helps me to be present.

Owl watching season

Owls fascinate me. They are definitely a passion of mine from a photographic perspective. But, I think that what I love most about owls is their behaviour. We learn lots from just simply sitting and observing them. This is a time of year when there are three owls that I look for – great gray owls; northern hawk owls; and great horned owls. Great grays and hawk owls are both active during the day time. Because the the leaves are off the trees, they are easier to see. Northern hawk owls can be seen in Riding Mountain during the winter months.

How to watch for owls

What is involved in looking for owls? A good pair of eyes – knowing what to look for, and learning to look at the landscape to distinguish the shape of an owl; being out at the right time of day for nocturnal owls (great horned owls, or spring arrivals of saw-whet or boreal owls); having a pair of bright field binoculars and a spotting scope; a field guide – either book or electronic editions; and being warmly dressed. Often, you are standing outdoors for short periods of time. By being warmly dressed, you’ll be able to persist and watch.

Great_gray_owl_Riding Mountain_©Celes Davar

Great gray owl in spruce

Here is a photograph of a great gray owl I noticed, as I was driving along. It swooped low across the road and then up into a spruce tree. If I had not noticed its flight, I likely would not have noticed it in the tree. It is very well camouflaged.

Earth Rhythms creates small group photo safaris to learn how to use your digital camera in new ways. Along the way we spot birds, photograph tracks, and share stories about Riding Mountain wildlife. Bring your family or friends. Combine it with a stay at a local resort or a visit with friends in the area. Call us at 1.888.301.0030, or visit Earth Rhythms online. Happy owling!

Shades of white

This is a time of year I absolutely love. It is delightfully quiet. In the last 15 years, I have noticed that we have a much greater prevalence of moisture in the winter months. This is often deposited in the form of hoarfrost, which I had previously written about. Here is a short slideshow of some recent images taken in Riding Mountain National Park. Call us if you are interested in a short outing to learn how to use your digital point and shoot, or your digital SLR to catch winter at its best. 1.204.848.4680 Earth Rhythms.

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My neighborhood and Eliza Gilkyson, bridged

One of the things that I enjoy about living next to Riding Mountain National Park is the exposure to nature’s wildlife, daily rhythms of hoarfrost, sunshine, winds, and moisture conditions. They are the local weather sensors that I use to monitor what it’s like “in my neighborhood” each day. I use these sensors in addition to the weather report.

As I drive into the park, up to Dauphin, or out to Erickson, I regularly see muskrat, deer, moose, coyotes, and sometimes elk and the odd Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, or Great Gray Owl (Manitoba’s bird). This video is one that I recently shot of muskrats over a couple of days. Their area of swimming and movement was being reduced daily by colder temperatures and the formation of ice.

This is an important two-week window in 2010, when over 15,000 people are gathered in Cancun, Mexico for COP16 (The Conference of Parties and Climate Change) to discuss, develop policies, and share new information about the impacts of human activities that are creating climate changes at an unprecedented rate.

I was looking for a music track to fit to the muskrat behaviour captured in the video. Eliza Gilkyson recently offered up a CD of rare quality called Beautiful World, about our planet. I used her song Unsustainable, as the background track for this video. I hope that you enjoy the bridging of my neighborhood with that of Eliza Gilkyson’s song, the planet. She muses about our pathway to “unsustainability”, and wonders how we go back to the drawing board to engage humans in making our communities, economy and life support systems truly sustainable. I have reproduced the lyrics to her song below.

Unsustainable, by Eliza Gilkyson

unsustainable, unmaintainable
we’ve gone too far and now it’s uncontainable
let’s tear it down and start all over again
reprehensible, indefensible
the way we are is truly incomprehensible
back to the drawing board
start all over again
madly, we loved you madly
we would have gladly maintained the status quo
badly, we’ve behaved badly
and now, sadly, we’ll have to let you go
you’re so
unforgivable, results unriddable
to make a perfect garden so unlivable
back to the drawing board
start all over again
madly, we loved you madly
we would have gladly maintained the status quo
badly, we’ve behaved badly
and now, sadly, we’ll have to let you go
you’re so
unsustainable, unrestrainable
our rationale is simply unexplainable
let’s tear it down and start all over
back to the drawing board
start all over
let’s tear it down and start all over again

An Austin, Texas songwriter, I invite you to listen to Eliza’s songs.