Ellis Bird Farm closes for the season

Windy weather resulted in many birds on the farm taking refuge in hidden spaces - including a number of chickens who curled up in bushes. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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As if cooler temperatures weren’t enough of a reminder of summer’s end, Ellis Bird Farm officially marked the closing of the season on Labour Day Monday.

The last day of the farm’s 36th season turned out to be the exact opposite of the months previous – cool, blustery and perhaps a little rainy – but still, area residents and visitors stopped by to make sure they had one more visit to the bird sanctuary located southeast of Lacombe.

“The season went very well,” said Myrna Pearman, resident biologist and site services manager. “The combination of the smoke and the heat affected visitation for a couple of weeks. It was just too hot for people to go out and I think people just wanted to stay indoors, but the season went wonderfully.”

While Monday’s festivities were kept pretty minimal – the traditional musical performance of the Red Deer Golden Music Makers in the afternoon, and a gift shop sale – Pearman says it was a busy season overall.

Ellis Bird Farm concluded a series of projects and improvements to the facility, which over the past few years has seen the addition of pollinator gardens, log benches carved from trees on the property, birdhouses that look like log cabins, and a circle deck.

“We now have a wonderful entranceway into the site, we did our circle deck cover to honour indigenous history…they all look great,” Pearman said, noting major projects are now complete and they can slow down a bit, and perhaps turn their focus to other areas.

Research will be one of those areas, as those at the bird farm will continue to track and monitor some of their winged residents’ habits, such as the purple martin, through RFID and geolocator technology.

This year, purple martin numbers were down slightly from 104 pairs to 92. Bluebirds, on the other hand, nearly doubled – now at 42 pairs from 26 last year.

“We had lots of tree swallows nesting around the site. We’ve got barn swallows nesting – there’s still some feeding young and so it was a very heartening year,” said Pearman.

Another area they’ll look at focusing on is programming, with the bird farm introducing family nature nights and an adult speaker series this past season.

“Some of the programs were very well received, but we learned a lesson about marketing,” she said. “We have to market more aggressively, but many of our family nature nights were filled… Our speaker series, which was geared more towards adults, is the one we’re really going to have to market a bit more and get word out earlier in the season.”

Ellis Bird Farm will open again in 2019 on Victoria Day.

For more information on Ellis Bird Farm, visit www.ellisbirdfarm.ca.