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!!

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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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.

Sometimes, it’s just being there..

Yesterday, we left at about 6:00 AM, Stephanie Lisoway, an enterprising young writer with the Neepawa Banner in Neepawa, Manitoba. (Neepawa is the birth-place of Margaret Laurence, the well-known Canadian writer).  Stephanie contacted me some weeks back, asking if she could head out for a morning of wildlife viewing and a short photo safari.  She felt that the 13,000 readers of the Neepawa Banner would like to know what we do, as an outdoor learning adventure company.

We had a great morning.  I am grateful to be able to live beside a national park, where I can be reminded of the bio-diversity of life, where the water that comes out of the national park is rich with invertebrates, and where wild nature re-connects me each day to the why I enjoy inspiring and putting visitors in touch with the beauty of our planet.  She has kindly provided us with a downloadable pdf link of the article – Hidden Gem In Our Own Backyard– that she wrote.  Thank you Stephanie!

The video below gives you some short insights into a few memorable moments of wildlife that we encountered during our morning photo safari into Riding Mountain National Park.  A lost gosling, a white-tailed deer buck feeding, whose antlers were in velvet, young bison calves, some beautiful footage of our bird of Manitoba – the great gray owl, and a gray catbird singing its heart out…be patient; it will take a few seconds to load, as it is saved for high speed broadband viewing.

Wildlife in the Riding Mountain sanctuary


Canada Geese, Onanole, Manitoba

Canada Geese, Onanole, Manitoba

Having a national park in your backyard is a great thing.  First of all, it’s good quality water that flows out to neighboring areas.  The seasonal changes take on a character and rhythm that flows with the wild birds and mammals that migrate or move in and out of the park.  People who live here, love the fact that land is affordable and that they have access to a wide range of recreational pursuits that are climate friendly (walking, hiking, biking, birding, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing) all year long.


Today, as I was traveling up to Dauphin along the Riding Mountain parkway, I saw a peregrine falcon, photographed a young moose having several deep drinks at a roadside lick, observed various waterfowl (red-necked grebe, mallard, golden-eye), and had a great chance to see some Canada Geese waddling around in a marsh.

My two favorite seasons are spring – the beautiful returning birds, and fall – the deep resonant sounds of fall courtship of elk and moose.  Right now, we are all looking forward to a warm spring and a hot summer.  I, for one, am really happy to see wildlife in our sanctuary, Riding Mountain National Park.

Young moose watchful at a mineral lick

Young moose watchful at a mineral lick

Riding Mountain Infusions and hoarfrost

Jenn and her partner Joel were given a wonderful Christmas gift in December, 2008.  A getaway to the Elkhorn Resort for a weekend and experience an Earth Rhythms Riding Mountain Infusions winter escape.  This two night getaway package provides travelers with the opportunity to stay at the 4-star Elkhorn Resort, soaks in the mineral pools, and an outdoor snowshoe experience into Riding Mountain National Park with Earth Rhythms’ adventure guides.  

Riding Mountain Infusions winter couples getaway  - discovering ice & snow stories in the park

Riding Mountain Infusions couples getaway - ice & snow stories in the park

When we headed out this morning to go snowshoeing on our “Ice Escapades in the Weeping Forest”, the boreal forests were a-glitter with fresh morning hoarfrost, mammal tracks and the quiet and slightly muffled sounds of raven wings overhead.  What we discovered was the beautiful textures of fresh ice from a creek that was flowing into the lake.  

Riding Mountain National Park is an oasis of wildlife.  The stories etched in snow and ice offer intrigue and a world of discovery for anyone wanting to re-connect to each other and to nature.  And, winter is a perfect time to do that…when the people pressures are less, and you are more likely to discover wildlife moving around.

Are you looking for a unique gift for someone special?  Earth Rhythms provides customized gift certificates for personalized guided experiences for individuals and couples.  These include very unique opportunities to meet craftspeople, artists, musicians, guides, naturalists, and many others “behind the scenes” and do things with them that the ordinary traveler would not have access to.

Lab at Riding Mountain National Park centre for scientific research


Dissecting Lymph Nodes from White-Tailed Deer to assess for diseases

Dissecting Lymph Nodes from White-Tailed Deer to assess for diseases

[Photo by Cate Watrous]

Roxanne Grzela, a technician at the lab in  RMNP  examines  the  lymph  node  from a white-tailed deer shot east of Onanole  earlier  in  the  day. Grzela is part of a team of researchers who work  at  the  lab  to  monitor wildlife health in deer and elk populations living in and around the park.


From November to January, staff at Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) receive up to 50 samples of white-tailed deer and elk daily from hunters participating in the wildlife health monitoring program. For the general public, this may be the only work that the lab at the Maintenance Compound does that they are familiar with, but this facility is involved in many other research projects as well.

RMNP with its varied ecosystems is an ideal location for scientists to examine species within their natural habitats. The lab serves as a hub for Parks Canada Agency (PCA) initiated studies about the Riding Mountain area, as well as for visiting researchers who use it as a remote base for processing samples collected in the park.

Since an expansion to the lab in 2002, this facility has played a role in studying a variety of wildlife species: wolf, deer, elk, coyote, beaver, fish, songbirds, waterfowl, and insects. Also coordinated through the lab are research projects on plant species. In these plant studies, field sampling plots are monitored for signs of environmental change as well as for the effects of fire.

Clear Lake Project – This past summer, as it has for several years now, monitoring Clear Lake has been an important part of the work done by RMNP staff. In their water sampling program, they are looking at water chemistry, total phosphorus and nitrogen content, as well as checking for pathogens and water clarity. It is hoped that this data will provide a snapshot of the health of this very special lake, and help RMNP, along with its First Nations partners and community stakeholders, to develop strategies to keep the “clear” in Clear Lake now and into the future.

Wildlife Health – From November to January, the lab processes deer and elk samples brought in from Game Hunting Areas (GHA) 23 and 23A. It also acts as a depot for the many check stations that surround RMNP, including McCreary, Dauphin, Grandview, Russell, Roblin, and Rossburn where hunters in those areas can drop off their samples. RMNP technicians examine these samples for signs of disease. They also coordinate elk population surveys, blood test programs, and elk movement studies as part of a larger strategy to manage wildlife health in the Riding Mountain Area.  

The management of RMNP is an important responsibility involving consultations with partners and discussions with stakeholders. Planning for the protection of the ecological integrity of the park is enhanced by the monitoring and research being done by RMNP’s Resource Conservation staff.   The science-based information that they gather helps to make sound decisions about how best to preserve and present the natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations of Canadians.

-Information Bulletin from Riding Mountain National Park