Alberta experiences four seasons, despite strong evidence that says we only have two – winter and construction season. One may think attracting and watching birds may be best suited for the warmer months, but with Myrna Pearman’s newly released book Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide, we learn that it is possible to attract and enjoy backyard birds all throughout each season.
Author Pearman is the long time site services manager and biologist at Ellis Bird Farm (EBF), located southeast of Lacombe. She said the book is an exciting new resource for bird enthusiasts across the province, designed for novices to veterans.
”Basically it’s an expanded and revised version of the very first book that I wrote,” she said. “The first edition was printed in 1989 and then the second edition was in 1991.”
Due to the popularity of the first backyard bird feeding book, Pearman was asked to craft a new expanded version this past year.
“It was time to upgrade,” she said. “What this book is about is what you should feed, the history of bird feeding and the emphasis of naturescaping. That’s what EBF demonstrates – butterfly gardens and hummingbird gardens. This gives information about what you should feed, how to put it out, the different types of feed, how to feed in the summer and what to do with challenges like what happens when the ravens, crows, magpies or raccoons show up.”
The writing process was going along well until Pearman realized they were short of some photos to include in the book.
A call out was then made, first on Facebook, followed by an agriculture newspaper, for photo submissions from across the prairies.
“That generated around 800 submissions,” noted Pearman.
Pearman then put working on the book on hold this past summer, due to the opening of the bird farm for the season. She was then approached by a new corporate sponsor, who offered to help fund the printing of the book. By July, the rush was on to have the book ready for November for the holiday season.
“So I basically went into hibernation for four months and here it is,” said Pearman. “It’s been a full year. From the middle of July to the middle of October, it consumed my life. It’s just such a big project.”
A true labour of love, the new book features over 60 photographers and illustrations by Alberta artist Gary Ross. The last portion of the book details the actual types of birds you can attract into your backyard like hummingbirds and orioles.
“It was kind of a community effort and all the proceeds support the education, research and conservation efforts of the bird farm,” said Pearman of the book.
Pearman added that EBF plans to emphasize the educational use of the funds, leaning more towards supporting the educational programs offered at the farm.
Throughout the three decades, Pearman has penned several nature-related books. As the site manager of EBF, she has overseen the centre’s development into the very popular and respected education and research centre it is today.
Although it’s closed for the winter season, the EBF was a hub of activity this past year.
This past May the farm opened again to visitors, welcoming them into the brand new visitor centre. The bright red building was constructed last year. It was used for gathering and teaching over the following months, but this May was the first time it opened officially to the public.
The new centre boasts large windows, many displays that have incorporated local refurbished wood and a gift shop. The older building that previously housed the visitor centre is still in use but will be treated as a self-guided facility and for workshops.
Now that the visitors’ centre is finally a reality, EBF organizers plan to enjoy the new facility that has opened up the doors up for more education and research opportunities.
“We have a few more plans for tweaking areas around the site,” said Pearman. “But this (the visitors’ centre) was a big effort, so we are just going to go a little easier for a couple of years.”
This coming year, the bird farm will be welcoming a new tenant to to the surrounding land around the farm, which is a big change for the organization.
The farmer will no longer be growing canola and will be switching over to more sustainable agriculture practices. The surrounding fields will be switched over to pasture and forage for cattle, which will help improve the biodiversity of the farm and surrounding area.
Another change on the way to EBF is the change over of the tea house operator. EBF is currently seeking a new operator.
“It’s a really unique opportunity,” said Pearman. “It’s a very successful operation. We just need a new operator that fits with our ethos and who we are.”
Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide is available at all Peavey Mart stores across Alberta. The book is also available online and at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer.
For more information, visit www.ellisbirdfarm.ca or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.