Ellis Bird Farm closes for season

Dawson Zbitowsky, 3, tries to get the attention of a brown, floppy-eared bunny at Ellis Bird Farm on Labour Day Monday. Sept. 2 was the official last day of the season at the farm, and rare sunny weather attracted many central Albertans to the site to take in the various animals on the farm, including the variety of birds, bunnies, chickens and goats. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Ellis Bird Farm has officially wrapped up its 37th season.

Central Albertans – people and critters alike – flocked to the site Labour Day Monday for its final day of the season, taking advantage of what was a rare sunny day this summer.

“This was a wonderful season – except for the weather,” said Myrna Pearman, Ellis Bird Farm’s site manager and resident biologist. “Our numbers are down a bit, but our programs were well attended and our feedback from visitors was all positive – our gardens are the most beautiful they’ve ever been.”

This year, the site celebrated its “Big Year of Birding” where they documented how many species of birds that were seen. As of Monday afternoon, the count was at 119, which Pearman said is a record number of species over the summer.

While they were able to spot more species than ever before, purple martins, tree swallows and bluebird numbers – typical residents of the farm, which they track out of the nest box – were all down in numbers, no thanks to the rainier summer.

“We hope now that the water table is recharged, everything will be nice and we’ll be back up to record numbers next year,” she said.

The past few years have seen Ellis Bird Farm undertake a number of large-scale projects, including the installation of an observation tower dedicated to Jessica Emily Schamehorn, a new library and water garden, and a circle deck honouring First Nations. Moving forward, Pearman says they’re going to focus on smaller items, focusing on improving the grounds, as well as providing more opportunities for children to engage in nature-based play on the site.

For now, Ellis Bird Farm will be “winterized” – with flower beds cleaned up after pollinators are finished and birds have eaten the seeds. Most of the reptiles had already been released as of Monday, and the goats were picked up at closing time. Birds, meanwhile, will be continued to be fed over the winter months, while the site itself will host several meetings and be rented out for events on occasion.

Ellis Bird Farm will reopen again on Victoria Day, May 18, 2020.

To stay up to date to happenings at the farm, visit www.ellisbirdfarm.ca, or contact the site at info@ellisbirdfarm.ca or phone (403)885-4477.

A bee perches on a thistle in one of Ellis Bird Farm’s many pollinator gardens on Monday, Sept. 2. Flowers will be kept out until pollinators are done with them, before the gardens are completely cleaned up for the winter. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

The goats were popular amongst families visiting Ellis Bird Farm on Labour Day Monday. The goats only stay at Ellis Bird Farm over the summer and were picked up at closing time. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Families watch as baby chicks follow their mom around Ellis Bird Farm. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

A gopher chows down on some grass at Ellis Bird Farm on Labour Day Monday. Ellis Bird Farm closed for the season on Monday and will reopen on Victoria Day 2020. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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