Author Archive for Carla

Wood Frog & Spring Peeper Frog

Hello everyone,


The annual meeting of the J.J. Collett Natural Area Foundation was held at the Morningside Hall last evening. It was well attended  and featured an interesting talk by David Dellafield. Prior to the meeting, I had a two hour hike on trails in the area. There had been snow a number of days prior but it had all gone. This year, spring is later than usual but a warming trend now appears to have started. Aspen trees had long catkins, crocuses were in bloom and I saw dandelions and the first yellow prairie buttercups in bloom.  I was thrilled to hear frogs croaking at the beaver pond beside Trail 1. They were Wood Frogs (see attached) and there was also one Spring Peeper calling. I looked in vain for the first annual mushrooms but found none.

Nature is wonderful and a spring hike in a natural area is hard to beat.


My best to all,





Wood Frogs & Spring Peeper Frogs



Have You Noticed?

Have you noticed the new structure at the JJ Collett Natural Area?  It’s on the east side of the natural area where trail #4 meets trail #6.  It’s a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, or to stop for a rest, or just to sit and enjoy the world around you.  

The timber framed open structure was donated to JJ Collett Natural Area by Red Deer College Carpentry Department;  the result of a group professional development project involving college instructors last September. 

With the help of Daniel Iseli-Otto of Bluffton, the six instructors (Larry Berge, Sam Church, Gary Halvorson, Walter Loov, Dwayne Rausch and Jim Thomson) learned about 3D software timber frame joinery and cutting as well as actually raising the structure at the Nature Area northeast of Lacombe.  All of the layout, cutting, dry-fit, sanding and finishing was done at RDC’s Carpentry shop and then transported and raised on location at JJ Collett. 

Once complete, the wooden structure was oiled and a metal roof was added.  

“It is a great addition to the area.  People can stop and rest of get out of the sun for a while.  And it looks really nice, too!  Even the animals like it……an animal with horns did some rubbing on one of the posts!”  commented Foundation President Jack Surbey. 

Established in 1985, the JJ Collett Provincial Natural Area is 635 acres with over 18 km of maintained trails.  It is used the individuals, local organizations, schools, post-secondary institutions, First Nations, and fitness groups for field trips, studies and orienteering.  you can find more information about Jj Collett Nature Area on their website: 

Article submitted by:  Susan Grieshaber-Otto

The structure was recently dedicated in memory of long-time Foundation director and volunteer, Severin isle  

Franklin’s Ground Squirrell

On May 27, 2016, I was hiking through saskatoon/chokecherry/aspen woods on the Public Walking Trail in Rochon Sands Provincial Park when I spotted a mammal ahead of me. It was a Franklin’s Ground Squirrel or Bushy-tailed Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus flanklini). It was a little larger than a “gopher” (S. richardsonii), darker in color and had a more noticeable tail.



While the “gopher” is characteristic of open, prairie areas, the Frankin’s Ground Squirrel is typically found in aspen woods, especially in the Aspen Parkland of Alberta. It also occurs in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and then south to the north-central United States. Formerly common, its numbers have been markedly reduced because of the brushing of wooded areas to turn them into cropland. Now, they are restricted to Parks and natural areas where the forest vegetation has been conserved, such as Dry Island Buffalo Jump and Rochon Sands Provincial Parks. They are rather oddly absent in some apparently suitable areas such as The J.J. Collett Natural Area.




The genus name has changed over the years from Citellus, to either Poliocitellus or Spermophilus depending on the author.


Interestingly, this mammal is named after Sir John Franklin, one of the early explorers in Canada, while the “gopher” was named after Sir John Richardson, another of the early Canadian explorers.


You can read more about this interesting ground squirrel in the following sources.

Naughton, D.   2012.   The Natural History of Canadian Mammals.   Canadian Museum of Nature.   784 pp.


Another of the fascinating species in our natural world. Get out and enjoy them.



The Franklin’s Ground Squirrel is a bit longer (329-412 mm) than a “gopher” (264-337 mm) and has a longer tail (113-153 mm vs 55-82 mm). They also weigh a bit more. Both go into hibernation in underground chambers in late summer. The Franklin’s emerge in April when the grass is starting to turn green. Breeding occurs in the spring and the gestation period averages 28 days. One litter, usually of 7 to 9 pups are born in the burrow and the pups appear on the surface almost a month later. They feed primarily on green leafy vegetation but will occasionally eat insects, bird eggs or carion. Their call is a long, bubbling trill that is somewhat bird-like. Their enemies include the larger owls, hawks, coyotes and foxes.


New signage has been installed on Milton Road, Morningside Crossing, and at JJ Collett.


High-Bush Cranberry