Dusk to moonlight visits enhance the senses of the season

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Most of the time we plan our travel outdoors to be between morning and late afternoon. But, what if we travelled outside those hours – say, for example as dusk morphs into darkness under an almost full moon. At Riding Mountain … Continue reading

Stories in the Snow

As a local resident, guide for our company Earth Rhythms, and photographer, I am thrilled with the ability to share the stories I see in the snow during the winter months using the digital medium. The combination of digital image-making cameras and HD video combined with such powerful and simple to use tools like Mac OS iMovie (new version as of OS Mavericks is FANTASTIC and even easier and more intuitive to use) make it possible to share digital stories easily.

Riding Mountain National Park’s winter months offer superb opportunities to experience a national park when there are less visitors, no bugs, and using snowshoes gives you access to locations you would not easily get to in the other three seasons of the year. In addition, the snow surface itself provides an abundance of stories in the snow surface. The lack of leaves makes it much easier to “see into the bush” and see longer distances and catch sight of mammals and birds that you might not normally see.

Here is a fresh edition of Stories in the Snow – with a combination of photos and video. I hope that you enjoy!!

Stories in the snow – March wandering

This past weekend (March 5, 2011)…

we had the pleasure of taking a couple of guests out on our Earth Rhythms Stories in the Snow day adventure program. What’s involved – some driving to look for owls and signs of winter birds; looking for fresh tracks of wolves and elk; wildlife viewing and digital nature photography tips; and a snowshoe outing. We had a great day traveling by vehicle, walking and snowshoeing in and around Riding Mountain National Park.

In two separate locations, we found overnight wolf tracks that were superb, fresh, and we were able to track them over long distances. Fresh elk, coyote,  and bison tracks all provided comparison size opportunities. While the main herd of bison were a distance away, we were able to watch them through our spotting scope. A short snowshoe outing took us off-trail into 1 metre deep snow. We were rewarded at the end of the day with a beautiful view of a red fox hunting. The slide gallery captures a few of the images from our day of exploring stories in the snow.

Here are a few images from our Stories in the Snow outing as well some other scenes that we may see on any given day that we head out on one of our Stories in the Snow outings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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”.

More stories and current content……

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

Snowshoeing is ticket to “stories in the snow”

Investigating elk killed by wolves as part of a snowshoe learning adventure

Investigating elk killed by wolves as part of a snowshoe learning adventure

 

What if we learned to read nature in a new way that is fun?  What if this activity has the benefit of dropping your cholesterol levels. is exciting for the whole darn family, or group of friends that you have decided to get away with for a few days.  Try snowshoeing – better still, try snowshoeing with a guide for a morning.  

Imagine this – you head out in the early morning, looking for wildlife – and the list begins with Black-billed magpies, common ravens, then a zinger!  A Northern Hawk Owl which dives down and captures a mouse.  Followed by discovery of elk or moose hairs from a kill by wolves, more ravens, blue jays, gray jays, black-capped chickadees, a white-breasted nuthatch and then some amazing behaviours of feeding bison.  And, perhaps, if you are lucky, you might find evidence of an elk recently killed by wolves.  This is what happened yesterday in and around Riding Mountain National Park.  We have a saying – Come quickly to slow down!  Snowshoeing provides a ticket to slowing down and enjoying the stories in the snow.

Debbie McKeown, an adventure travel writer is here, at the invitation of Travel Manitoba, to write a story about experiences by snowshoe in the Riding Mountain area with Earth Rhythms, a learning adventure company.  Hosted by Earth Rhythms and Elkhorn Resort and Riding Mountain National Park, they are combining a stay at the Elkhorn Resort & Solstice Spa with some of our special outdoor learning experiences.  They have dined on local foods, organically grown, and culturally presented by the Prairie Seasons Bakery, a new bakery and café in Onanole (high on our recommendation list as a great breakfast, lunch, or supper location).  You leave feeling that you have nourished your body with really good quality food.

Debbie and her husband-photographer Jack have been snowshoeing at night under an almost full moon with us, photographing wildlife,and then heading off-trail on a guided snowshoe trek into mixed aspen woodlands to a hide-away lake tracking various mammals along the way.   Riding Mountain National Park staffers Angela Spooner (Public Safety & Resource Conservation Specialist) and Patrick McDermott (Park Interpreter) have provided insights about park ecology, bison, wolves, and other national park winter facilities like the Yurt and outdoor ice skating pathway within the park.  Debbie is writing a feature story for Snowshoeing Magazine.  We are delighted that she is here!