Snow and Hoarfrost Winter Magic

I find living in a snowy environment quite reassuring. Whether blizzard, sunlit morning, or soft snowfalls, it’s really quite magical if you pause and reflect on it for a moment. That is, a season of the year in which there are no bugs; we can walk on water; and we see the heavens at night filled with stars. Here are two images taken during the winter months: One is early morning on a very cold day (probably -20C or colder), in which we had a column of hoar frost crystals in front of our home. I am not sure what causes this kind of dazzling columnar effect, but it lasted long enough for me to have a cup of coffee and take the photo, before it dissipated. In the other photo, taken today (Dec. 4, 2013), a light snow-storm is brewing across Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park. Everything is muted. There is a stillness and it is cold and windy (-19C with windchill taking it down to -25C). The singular tones of this image setting are part of the great quiet and peace that I hope that we never take for granted in our national parks. Winter photography is fun. Just getting outdoors in winter is fun.

Hoarfrost crystals in the air Clear Lake late afternoon snowstorm

The art is in the creature

spruce grouse ©Celes Davar

Spruce Grouse ©2013 Celes Davar

One of my greatest joys living at Riding Mountain National Park is to head out for some “slow travel”, where I drive slowly to a random location, get out of my car and just slowly listen, walk, or snowshoe. Riding Mountain National Park  is a large national park where things become so much clearer in the months between November and April. It may be that you get to see tracks in the snow from wolves, grouse, or lynx – tracks you would never notice at other times of the year. A bird on a branch. A raven calls. Things seem to be more intense, quiet, and there are less distractions. It is a wonderfully rejuvenative time of year. Yesterday, I had a quiet encounter with a spruce grouse. The male is colourful. It’s a bird that lives in boreal (coniferous forests). Notice that this one is on a jack pine branch. This bird, as described by Cornell University’s All About Birds site is  the north-eastern species. “Two distinct subspecies of Spruce Grouse exist. “Franklin’s Grouse,” D. c. franklinii, found in the southwestern portion of the range, in the mountains from Alberta southward, has an all black tail with small white spots on the feathers overlying it. The northeastern subspecies, D. c. canadensis, has a rufous tip to the tail and lacks white spots above the tail.”

Riding Mountain prairies pulse with life in mid-summer

Recently, we had the pleasure of taking a mother and her daughter on a customized photo safari into Riding Mountain National Park. Late July and August is a beautiful time to experience wildflower blooms. The following is a slide show of some of the flowers and wildlife images of things that you may see at this time of year on the prairies. Rough fescue prairies are one of the most biologically diverse habitats anywhere in Canada. With rich Chernozemic soils undisturbed by any human activities, you will see an ecosystem that has over 30 plant species per square metre in some places. This is the land of wild grazers (herbivores) like bison, elk, and white-tailed deer. Occasionally, moose or wolves or coyotes may also be seen.

PHOTO TIP: Knowing how and when to go, the time of day, lighting conditions for optimal photography, and understanding the habitats and habits of each wildlife species is helpful in being able to photograph or view birds or mammals in the cycle of light and weather each day.

Riding Mountain Fescue Grasslands and Aspen Forests

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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.

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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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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.