This is fall in the Riding Mountains. My short list of three things I love to do during the September, October season includes photography, listening to the elk rut, and listening to migrating waterfowl. But, this is also the season of harvest. The freezer is now almost full – tomatoes, fresh basil pesto, red pepper pesto, fresh locally raised organic Berkshire pork, fresh chickens and we are waiting for our annual delivery of local lamb. As this season takes on its colours and unique smells, it’s time to try out new things. We are trying out some new sit-on kayaks that are very stable and could easily be used for wildlife viewing. We like what we are learning. Stay tuned for some new water-based experiences in 2013.
Images of Riding Mountain
September 20, 2012
March 17, 2012
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When the full moon is up in February and you are out snowshoeing in Riding Mountain National Park, you do not need a headlamp or any kind of supplementary light. The blanket of snow acts as a big reflector illuminating your travel pathway. We had the opportunity to snowshoe under a full moon with a couple from Manitoba. With our head guide Buzz Crowston as our guide to the night sky using a special laser pointer, we headed to two off-trail locations. At the first one, as we shared stories of winter wolf ecology and behaviour, a pack of wolves (which the park has been monitoring) began howling. At the second location, we mused on the role of prescribed fire as we gazed on an eerie blackened landscape of spruce and jackpine spires thick like the back of an alarmed porcupine. The October prescribed burn in the Rolling River area quietly and expectantly waits for spring to release new growth into the landscape.
Our guests had a few things to share about this experience after they returned home…” Hi, we just came back from a walk this evening and the night sky is a brilliant as ever, the planets, the twins, the Big Dipper, the “M” for Michelle, we had to stop gazing and watch out for ice along our path. We just wanted to tell you again thank you so much for the evening, the pictures are great, and most of all the company and the stories was want made the evening a night to remember. Our family was very jeolous of the stories we came back with, especially our wolf loving son and story loving mom… Thanks again for sharing the evening with us, we have shared our story with so many people, we hope that one day, some may call you up for their own adventure.”
August 3, 2011
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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
May 20, 2011
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As we turn the corner to Canada’s traditional “May long weekend”, we are finally experiencing spring. Warm temperatures in excess of +20C are bringing smiles to people’s faces. My wife is in the garden planting potatoes. And, me..well, I am out taking photographs of local wildlife, identifying birds, and being alert to new species moving through. Here is a short video about wildlife and birds that you might see in the spring, around Riding Mountain National Park. You’ll see some neat footage of buffleheads, Canada lynx, and spruce grouse.
March 6, 2011
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.
December 28, 2010
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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.
December 11, 2010
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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.
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!
December 2, 2010
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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.
September 21, 2010
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It 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.
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.
September 15, 2010
I remember the sage advice of John Shaw, a very good American photographer, from many years ago when a group of us attended a workshop about the business of nature photography. He was talking about the time investment that it takes to get good images. “There is no use in not being there,” he reflected. Basically, he was encouraging us to be out there, following thunderstorms, walking, hiking, and being present. And, he cautioned us not to go out in search of specific shots, but to be present, and shoot the things that emerged by being present. It often makes for better photography. It was good advice, and continues to be good advice.
Yesterday, while hiking with travel writers from Germany, we witnessed an event that probably takes place all over the park in various locations each fall. But, rarely do we become witnesses to it.
A young bull moose eyed a small national park garbage container. Deliberately and repeatedly, this youngster attacked the container, waiting for a response. The whole sequence was interesting, funny, and informative. In viewing it a few times, I see how this young bull moose was testing its strength, learning the head motions with its antlers, testing its stance and how to leverage its strength, and getting used to what the appendages on its head were capable of doing. His behaviour was curious, exploratory, and demonstrated learning through repetition. Some things are quite universal in nature. Enjoy!