Ellis Bird Farm is both a non-profit company and a working farm, established in 1982 to carry on the legacy of Lacombe-area conservationists, Charlie and Winnie Ellis.
With the eventual sale of the farm to Union Carbide Canada Limited (UCCL) in 1982, the purchasers would make sure the Bluebirds were cared for and thus the non-profit organization of Ellis Bird Farm Ltd was established.
Today, Ellis Bird Farm continues to operate as a conservation area and viable working farm. A long-term conservation farming program that emulates and expands the techniques practiced by Charlie Ellis to this day.
Read ahead to learn more about this Tourism Red Deer Member and their environmental efforts, programming and visitor experiences.
What makes you different, unique or stand out?
“We offer the ability for people to connect with nature, showcase different species, and offer a closer connection to these species through programs and education,” says Sandy Van Dijk, Site Manager and Biologist at Ellis Bird Farm.
In an effort to educate, inspire and encourage both city and rural dwellers to make their backyards more environmentally friendly, the Ellis farmyard has become a demonstration backyard wildlife habitat area.
“You will find water gardens, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, bat boxes and bird nest boxes now complement the orchards and natural areas, and walking trails link these points of interest around the farm,” says Van Dijk.
Why do you do what you do?
“I grew up in Central Alberta, and Bluebirds used to nest in my front yard, they were my favourite birds then, and they still are today,” says Van Dijk. “I have so much appreciation and respect for the work that Charlie and Winnie Ellis did to conserve not just the Bluebirds, but all of the wildlife on their land.”
“To continue their legacy and do research on those beautiful Bluebirds is an honour and privilege,” says Van Dijk. “I also believe in the Ellis Bird Farm mission to educate the public, increase biodiversity, and become a demonstration farm, and I enjoy contributing to that mission every day.”
What can guests (local or visiting) expect to experience?
“People can expect a really great natural experience,” says Van Dijk. “It is a serene and peaceful place, where you will hear singing birds and be able to connect with and enjoy nature.”
Ellis Bird Farm features the largest collection of Mountain Bluebird boxes in the world a collection of over 200 and growing. Their Visitors Centre offers an indoor break for guests to view educational displays of plants, butterflies, insects and more.
“Guests should see the Purple Martins Colony near the main site, from the parking lot,” said Van Dijk. “As well as the Mountain Bluebirds, found in the West Woods walking trail.”
Sandy notes that the later hike can be more of an effort, but worth the reward if you are able to make the trek.
On-site you will also find a stocked Giftshop featuring local vendors and products, bird and bat houses, birdseed and feeders. All facilities at Ellis Bird Farm are presently open, however, the Ellis Café (formerly the Ellis Tea House) is closed until further notice.
Take this opportunity to visit the Travelling Elk food truck for a refreshment and bite to eat, which is available on-site most weekends. Watch Ellis Bird Farm’s social media and website for food truck schedule and facility updates.
What’s new or upcoming?
“An exciting bit of news, is that Ellis Bird Farm is going to be open through the fall from now on!” says Van Dijk. “We will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm after Labour Day until the second week of December.” She also goes on to mention that walking trails, nature play areas, and the gift shop will be open for visitors to enjoy during this extended time.
“We have several programs and events planned throughout the summer,” says Van Dijk. “The Bird Walks, which I lead, occur every second Sunday at 11:00 am. Knee High Nature Programs (ages 3-8) are Wednesdays and Fridays, Junior Naturalist Programs (ages 8-14) are Saturdays, and Nature with Amy (ages 14+) are Sundays through July and August.”
Ellis Bird Farm has a full summer planned with various experiences ready for you to enjoy. Join them on Canada Day (July 1) for their BioBlitz, where folks can help catalogue all living things at Ellis Bird Farm (species identification skills not required).
Why not check out their Bluebird Festival on July 10? There will be banding demonstrations, bird walks, build-a-birdhouse activity, crafts for kids and more. Other events include Beaver Night (July 17), Bat Night (July 24), and the Bug Jamboree (August 14).
As with any activity it is best to connect directly with the operator for full details on product and service offerings, as pandemic restrictions continue to evolve.
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