CELEBRATION - The Ellis Bird Farm is marking its 35th anniversary this weekend with a full slate of activities. photo submitted

Ellis Bird Farm staff and volunteers are celebrating 35 years

A special event is slated for July 22nd to mark the occasion and Canada 150

By Emily Rogers

Lacombe Express

The Ellis Bird Farm is celebrating its 35th anniversary on July 22nd, and officials couldn’t be any more proud of what the facility has become today.

Included in the day’s activities are children’s crafts and games, some presentations regarding the history surrounding the Ellis Bird Farm and an afternoon treat from the Lakeside Social Workers who will be serving Canada 150 cupcakes.

Events will run from 1 to 4 p.m.

There will also be guided tours through the afternoon and a special presentation on the history of the Ellis Bird Farm later in the day.

Also included in the celebrations are tributes to the Ellis family who established the site and a smudging ceremony to give tribute to Indigenous peoples.

“It’s our way of recognizing that others were in Central Alberta for more than the past 150 years,” said Biologist and Site Services Manager Myrna Pearman.

A deck opening ceremony, in which the funds were donated from the Red Deer Twilight Homes Foundation, will also take place in the day’s festivities.

“We are proud of what Ellis Bird Farm has become since 1982. With the input of teams of very hardworking contractors, board members and staff, we have transformed the site into a world-class education, conservation and research centre.

Pearman added, “We have done this while still honouring the legacy of Charlie and Winnie Ellis.”

According to the Ellis Bird Farm web site, John and Agnes Ellis moved from the Calgary area to the Joffre district with their family of four in 1907, the family built a two-storey farmhouse and purchased an additional five quarters of land.

After John and Agnes had passed away, their two children Charlie and Winnie took over the farm, and Charlie set out the farm’s first nesting box for Mountain Bluebirds.

In the following year, the siblings filled the fields with approximately 300 nest boxes for the Mountain Blue Birds, tree swallows, built houses for black-capped chickadees, purple martins, flickers and established a program for feeding winter birds.

The Ellis farm quickly gained recognition as a sanctuary for all wildlife, the web site added.

Charlie dedicated his life to helping native birds by providing them with secure nesting sites while his sister Winnie loved to garden and build beautiful landscapes amidst the trees of the homestead.

The siblings had great respect for nature, and the environment and wanted to help as much as they could.

Charlie and Winnie were the guiding lights and resident experts for the development of the Ellis Bird Farm. Today, the Bird Farm is a quiet spot dedicated to preservation and enjoyment of the natural environment, the web site stated.

“We are sure that Charlie and Winnie would be proud of what their beloved farm has become, and how many people continue to be inspired by their pioneering conservation efforts,” Pearman said.

However, she added the Ellis Bird Farm has had challenges to overcome in recent years, such as a significant reduction of blue bird populations due to severe weather and lack of funding to the facility. “We have all these great ideas, but don’t have the funds for it. So we’ve had to find creative ways to fundraise.”

The Ellis Bird Farm auctions off bird boxes that have been painted by talented local artists, or bird boxes that have been made from vintage materials from abandoned farmhouses.

“We live within our means, “ Pearman said.

“We’re very lucky that the community sees the value of the farm.”

She added the facility applies grants for when applicable, and is encouraging of others to become engaged and volunteer.

“The success of the Ellis Bird Farm has been the result of forward thinking people who have been willing to share their time and talents with us.”

The Ellis Bird Farm is heavily involved with research projects, such as bird migration studies, Pearman said.

She added the site has been growing every year in popularity.

“People are surprised when they come here, and the site really is Central Alberta’s hidden gem.”

There is something for everyone at the Ellis Bird Farm, officials added from the world-class gardens, popular educational programs, amazing biological diversity, interesting and original exhibitions and a café on the grounds.

The Ellis Bird Farm team implements projects for the site efficiently, Pearman said.

The board of directors are also able to work quickly and take opportunities when they arise without waiting.

Pearman said that because of this, the Ellis Bird Farm can partake in unique, leading-edge projects while remaining authentic, original, engaging and interesting.

While new and exciting things happen every year, the Ellis Bird Farm is using 2017 as a pause year, to concentrate on its history, to look back and honour the past accomplishes from the people who made the site possible and to plan for the future, officials added.

Pearman said the facility is looking to maximize the biological diversity even further by making the entire site a protected public space and habitat, while keeping the farmland operational.

“We’re grateful for the local support and we hope that people will visit us and be as proud of the site as we are.”