The JRR Wildlife Report

Have you seen any interesting wildlife in and around the Retreat lately? Send us your photos and a few details about when and where you spotted your bird or critter and we’ll post it here for everyone to enjoy.

Wild Horses at top of our entry road on Mar 29 2018. Thanks Gary and Sarah for the Photo!


May's pups now teenagers? Crittercam, October 2016

May’s pups now teenagers? Crittercam, October 2016


Coyote hunting, October 2016

Coyote hunting, October 2016


Coyote pups near fish pond, June 2016

Coyote pups near fish pond, June 2016


Black bear in the retreat, May 2016

Black bear in the retreat, May 2016


Muscrat in the fish pond, May 2016

Muskrat in the fish pond, May 2016


Sandhill Cranes courting, May 2016

Sandhill Cranes courting, Twp Rd 344 NE of JRR, May 2016


Moose resting on Lot 12, Apr 2016

Moose resting on Lot 12, Apr 2016


Wolf caught on crittercam, Feb 2016

Wolf caught on crittercam, Jan 2016



Mink under bridge, Oct 2015

Mink under bridge, Oct 2015


Moose caught on crittercam, Oct 2015

Moose caught on crittercam, Oct 2015


What IS that, anyway? Pine Marten caught on crittercam, south edge of JRR, Oct 2015

What IS that, anyway? Pine Marten caught on crittercam, Oct 2015


Great grey owl, James River Road, Oct 2015

Great grey owl, James River Road, Oct 2015

Bear and Cougar Awareness Presentation

This just in from the folks at Mountain View BearSmart Society:

“We haven’t received any bear sightings as yet but bears will soon be leaving their dens. Now is the perfect time for an information session on garbage and other attractants that bring bears and cougars into conflict with people. Come and learn how to make your community and your home bear smart and cougar smart.”

Mountain View BearSmart Society and Alberta Environment and Parks

are pleased to present

an afternoon of bear and cougar awareness and safety presentations, discussions and displays

Water Valley Community Hall

Saturday, March 25, 2017

1 PM  to  3 PM

Coffee and snacks will be provided

Directions to Water Valley: From Cochrane, go north on Highway #22 for 35 km (or from the junction of Highway 27 & 22, go south 32 km), turn and go west on Highway #579 for 8 km. You will come to a 4-way stop in Water Valley, keep going west through the 4-way stop and the community hall will be on your left (across the street from the hardware store).

New Year’s Dark Sky Alerts

Welcome 2017! We usher in the new year with two dark sky alerts for those willing to bundle up and head outside early on a cold January morning.

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks during the first week of January but you’re going to have to get up  well before the sun for a glimpse. Forecasters predict that those who look up at the right moment during the wee hours of January 3 could see as many as 100 meteors per hour radiating from a point very near the North Star.

While you’re up, look to the east just before dawn during the first two weeks of January and you may be rewarded with a view of Comet U1 NEOWISE. Discovered just as 2016 was drawing to a close, the comet is expected to reach maximum brightness mid-January and even then, it will likely be best viewed with a pair of binoculars.


Happy trails


At our most recent AGM, there was mention that all JRR folks are welcome to meander along the riverside of our retreat as this is all common property.

This land is considered public and in an effort to make us feel more comfortable walking along the riverside, and to make this land more accessible, it was agreed to at the AGM that we could make a few pathways.

After the AGM, some of the Pond Committee folks (Brenda-Lee, Marcel, Bob, Ken and Judy) took a walk along the forested area on the North side of the river, West of the bridge, to see how viable creating a path might be.

It seemed like it could be done!

To our delight, Bob and Gary have cleared a pathway for us all to enjoy.

The path can be accessed from the West side of the bridge, just a few meters from the bridge, or on the East side of the bridge right where the bridge rail begins. There are a few orange markers that indicate the route on the path to the west of the bridge. This is a circle route with some wonderful access points to the river including one particularly charming little spot where you can stop a moment and enjoy the sights and sounds of the river.

So, when you’re at JRR, please take a stroll and enjoy. The more we use our path, the more it will become a well-worn and quaint little walk through the woods.

Thanks to Bob and Gary for their hard work on this project. Very cool!


Is Your Cabin FireSmart?

When the hot, dry weather of summer comes to James River and wildfires elsewhere in the province make the news, we can all take a moment to consider ways to make our individual James River retreats less vulnerable to wildfire. With first responders a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes away in the event of the unthinkable, anything we can do to protect our properties from fire is worth some care and attention.

To that end, here’s a great resource shared with us by the Forestry Division people out of Rocky Mountain House. The FireSmart Homeowner’s Assessment Guide is a handy checklist you can use to review your cabin and yard. Your final score will give you an indication of potential fire hazard levels and point you to the changes that will have the biggest impact in reducing your cabin’s risk from a wildfire.

Are you smart about the average bear?

Update: The black bear pictured here was spotted ambling through Lots 12 and 18 at James River Retreat, early morning May  28, 2016.

DSC02652   DSC02666   DSC02695

We’re fortunate at James River to share the Retreat and the surrounding area with an abundance of wildlife. And the first long weekend of “summer” at JRR also marks the beginning of Bear Awareness Week, a good time to remind ourselves that bears – now well out of hibernation and possibly protecting young cubs – are occasional visitors that command a healthy dose of respect. Both Black bears and Grizzly bears have been known to frequent the area in and around James River Retreat. While we haven’t heard of any bears within the retreat in the last couple of years, there are recent reports of a black bear sighting near Crammond in May and evidence of grizzly bear predation of livestock near Burnstick Lake/Caroline in April.

To stay up to date on weekly Bear Activity in our neck of the woods, we recommend a subscription to Mountain View Bear Smart’s weekly Bear Activity Report. This local not-for-profit organization also provides a great summary of bear facts and information on staying Bear Smart. If you see bears in or around the retreat, please email our Board and Mountain View Bear Smart. Be sure to include details such as date, place, time, species and any observations about the bear’s activities at the time i.e. eating, moving through the area, checking out garbage bins, etc.

Wildfire Season Comes Early Again This Year

The Alberta Sustainable Resources has declared another early start to wildfire season this year. This means that from now until October 31, any outdoor fire at James River Retreat other than a campfire requires a permit, no matter how small. Last season 58% of Alberta wildfires – more than 1000 – were caused by people and the other 42% were caused by lightning.  That’s an improvement in the percentage of human-caused fires over last year but, even so, we still have work to do to reduce the risk of wildfire in our community. There are several excellent resources available for download from the Alberta’s Environment and Sustainable Development website including The Homeowners Firesmart ManualFrom managing potentially combustible vegetation and building materials around your cabin site to building a safe fire pit, this publication is full of useful tips designed to protect your cabin from wildfire. For information on fire bans and maps showing locations of current wildfires throughout the province, the government publishes Wildfire Status and Situation Reports here. And, yes, there’s an app for that, too.

For the Birds: A Perfect Winter Project

This blogpost submitted by | Judy Roche







Our recent JRR Pond Ponderings questionnaire indicated that many of us would like to work on developing habitat for our fine feathered friends (and our furry ones too).

Would you like to build (or donate) a birdhouse to the pond area? This might be a fun project to share with your children or grandchildren or just something that the woodworkers and hobbyists out there would enjoy.

Beyond building the birdhouse, you’ll be involved in placing your birdhouse somewhere in the pond landscape and maintaining it season to season.

If your birdhouse is ready early this spring, that would be a perfect time to do your installation.

Please keep your house in raw wood form – not painted or stained. Better for the birds and a uniform look in our common landscape.

Here are a few pointers to help you on your way:

  • You will attract different birds depending on where you place your birdhouse.
  • Place your house away from prevailing spring winds.
  • Hole size will determine what birds will nest in the home you have built.
  • Don’t put a perch on your birdhouse as this encourages predators.
  • For easy cleaning, it’s a good idea to have the roof or a wall hinged.
  • Slope the roof to prevent rain from entering and a few small holes in the base of the house for air circulation.

It’s all “for the birds”!

Chirp, chirp

Here are a few links that provide inspiration, patterns and advice:

Calgary’s Wild Bird Store offers a variety of birding essentials including seed, feeders and these readymade birdhouses and DIY birdhouse kits. This short video from the Audubon Society talks about the benefits of building bird-friendly communities and last, but not least, the Birdwatching Bliss website offers free birdhouse plans and how-to tips



The Pygmy Owls of JRR: small in stature, big on charm

This blogpost submitted by | Judy Roche

After first appearing on this website, this article was featured in the Winter issue of Nature Alberta

Ken and I were enjoying our ritual coffee on the front deck this past week when Ken spotted an unusual bird landing in our aspens. Luckily we had our binoculars on hand and were delighted to see a tiny pygmy owl!  We weren’t given much time to look at him before he flew off to another destination.

Figuring we wouldn’t be lucky enough to find this owl again, but deciding to try anyway, we went searching. We got lucky and found not one but two owls perched about 10 feet up in some other aspens.

We had camera in hand so took several shots from afar before trying to venture for a closer look. This pair seemed as curious about us as we were of them and allowed several photo shoots from about 3 feet away. They gazed at us with their wondrous eyes, preened and posed, all for the camera of course!

When our awesome visit with this pair ended, Ken did a search to find out more about this owl using an app he purchased called iBird Canada.  Ken keeps a log of the birds we see and discovered that we had seen another pygmy at the same time last year.  These owls are common around the Sundre area of the province.

Northern Pygmy Owls are active during the day which gives us a good chance of finding them.  Listen for their high, evenly spaced hooting calls or watch for a commotion of small agitated songbirds and you might see this owl in their midst. To quote iBird Canada,” These owls  can carry prey weighing more than twice their own weight. They often eat only the brains of birds and soft abdomen of insects.” Yum!

The pygmy owl is about bluebird size and often use a woodpecker hole to nest. They lay 2-7 white eggs, take about a month to incubate and another month to fledge.

We think they were attracted to our place because of the numerous birds we attract with our birdfeeders. Thankfully, this pair didn’t drop in to dine at our birdfeeder…not this time anyway.