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!

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.

Raccoon fishing in creek

Raccoon fishes in creek ©Celes DavarIt was a perfect fall morning.  Still, temperature a -3C˚frosty chill – the kind that even with gloves on, goes right into your bones. But, it was sunny. Five bull elk were bugling around us. Tracks and scats of moose, elk, and coyotes were on the trail. Several side trails led to locations where elk had been active in their harems during the previous night. Their smell was pungent and present everywhere. I love mornings like this. I had primed myself at 5:30 AM on an espresso, a banana, and a peanut butter sandwich. Joining a friend from Wisconsin, who has been returning to Riding Mountain National Park for over five years (we had guided her on her first wildlife photography excursion in 2005), we were meandering – looking for wild nature to photograph and video.

Earlier this spring, we had the privilege of hosting a number of tour operators and travel writers from India, China, England, and Japan. One of them, Hiroko Yoshizawa, who loves Canada (has come to Canada over 80 times in the last 20 years), loved the way that we explored and engaged with the nature experiences we provided.

As leaders in experiential travel, we want our guests to truly immerse themselves in Riding Mountain’s wild nature. We had rain, snow (8 inches of it), and sun and everyone loved it.Travel writer in Riding Mountain_©Celes Davar

But, my take-away from their visit was Hiroko’s thoughtful comment and appreciative smile, as she shared that this was very enjoyable for her. She called it “slow travel”. She said that she would share her experiences with her Japanese audience and help them understand that Earth Rhythms provides “Slow Travel experiences”.

As my friend from Wisconsin and I finished off our day of photographing, I suggested that we head out to another location where I would share with her a creek location that I often enjoy stopping and looking for wildlife. We were in luck – a raccoon was fishing in the creek. With full sunshine, and that low angle of sunlight that accompanies the fall season, we were able to capture photographs and video of a curious and well-adapted mammal that spends a lot of time close to water. Enjoy this short video.

My Experience With Nature

Blue-winged teal Riding Mountain National Park

Blue-winged teal swims in marsh pothole

My name is Amanda Walker and I am from Minnedosa Collegiate in Manitoba (Canada) spending the day learning about Earth Rhythms for a Career Preparation course with my school. Today, I had the pleasure to view the nature  and wonderful sights of Riding Mountain National Park. I spent the day with Earth Rhythms president, Celes Davar. This afternoon Celes took me on a wild adventure as we toured the wonderful park, and on our way we were gifted by seeing many of Manitoba’s wildlife citizens. We saw many birds such as “Ring-necked ducks”, “Green-Winged Teals”, “Great Blue Herons”, and Canada Geese, a sight for everyone to enjoy.

Canada goose on nest_Riding Mountain National Park

Female Canada goose hides on nest

Our day made me understand a lot more about nature and appreciate all that beauty Manitoba has to offer. For example, we viewed many of the ponds that surround the park and took time to discover the wildlife among them. I realize that even on a cloudy day in April, Manitoba still has so much to show for itself and that shouldn’t be taken for-granted by anyone; especially those who are honored to live here.

I realized that you can return here many times, seeing wildlife in new places and under different lighting conditions. For example, the evening light on a white-tailed deer feeding in early spring is a site that is quite common within the park.

-By Amanda Walker, Minnedosa Collegiate

Valdy-A smile, many songs, and a whole lotta wisdom

Valdy Home Routes House Concert, Onanole, ManitobaValdy skated into Onanole, stayed a night, delighted 48 odd fans, went for a walk, and blew out the next morning to Ashern, where 58 fans were delighted.  As Tim Cameron, the Ashern Host on this Home Routes House Concert Yellow circuit shared with me recently, “this man should get the Order of Canada“. I agree.

When we sat down over our morning coffee before he departed for Ashern, Valdy had a few really neat things to share…He speaks of his red shoes, continuity, and traditions and why “top down” won’t work. He has, through his travels, seen the seasons changing, lands changing under human hands, and honestly addresses some of our collective deficiencies in ways that are thoughtful and full of caring. He gives us his many years of experiences as a performer, and as a craftsman … Music has power in the hands of such a man.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful interview with our Canadian bard.

Rarely do you find a troubadour whose songwriting skills, mastery of the political sphere, sheer talent in musicality, and self-effacing manner come together into songs that you can’t help singing.

For almost two hours, we sang, laughed, and were treated to songs that took us into the heart of the most human of situations – from “That’s An Odd Way to Do Things” about the police working east side Vancouver to help the down-trodden, to his classic “Yes I Can”, or the delightful tribute to the very ordinary people on our planet “Stars”, this man can tell stories like very few others. In doing so, you feel like you are a canoe that’s being portaged…somewhat handled, definitely not dropped, and moving through a country-side that is full of quintessential Canada.

October photo safari yields wildlife gems

I’ve had a couple of really delightful days with guests from California – discussing the implications of climate change policies, legislation, and tourism.   These wonderful folks had spent a few days in Churchill, Manitoba viewing polar bears and decided to come down to Riding Mountain National Park for a couple of days of wildlife viewing and photography.

While we were skunked on moose in the more accessible locations of travel, we did have quite a photo session with a beautiful Great Gray Owl in the middle of a light snowfall.

 

As well, we spotted a fisher (infrequent sightings), and had a few minutes to observe and photograph a badger.  A highlight was photographing snowflakes in the middle of a very thick snowfall and discovering some optical illusions reflected in the surface of water that were best captured with video.  A morning sunlight session today with bison topped off a great couple of days.

One of the things that was wonderful about working with these guests is that they understood that wildlife are not predictable.  They enjoyed the “zen of just being out there”, experiencing the landscape, the falling snow, bison behaviour, and the remarkable moments with the great gray owl, the fisher, and the badger.

Bison at Riding Mountain ©Celes Davar

Bison in morning sunlight