COVID-19 didn’t stop Ellis Bird Farm from celebrating Canada Day and this year the party included a rededication of donated Purple Martin birdhouses.
The houses were donated by the late Jim Boyd, who developed a passion for Purple Martins along with his friend Del McKinnon after Boyd visited the nature conservancy at Pigeon Lake.
“Jim and I became the best of friends. Jim got to be a wonderful friend and I miss him every day. I am so happy to see these here everyday, continuing his legacy, my legacy and the legacy of Ellis,” McKinnon said.
After falling into disrepair, Site Services Manager Myrna Pearman began looking for replacements for the three houses. Boyd’s family and friends of Ellis Bird Farm, however, wanted to ensure the houses remain and a decision was made to refurbish the houses and rededicate them.
“They have been renovated and we are going to celebrate with the family of the man who donated them to us. People are here and even though the weather isn’t great, they are loving it. Lots of folks are out here enjoying the site,” Pearman said the day of the rededication.
The celebration comes after a spring of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The site, however, is now open with the only thing missing being the cafe — which will remain closed for the summer.
“The site itself is open and we are hosting quite a few events. They are small events and we are hoping to add a few more family events because we are seeing people really love coming out here. It will be a good summer,” Pearman said.
Visitors to Ellis Bird Farm have been thrilled to be able to spend time on the farm, according to Pearman.
“It is wonderful because we are a big enough site and people can keep distant, while enjoying the nooks and crannies and because of the rain the gardens are spectacular. It is a wonderful place close to home where people can come out and enjoy,” she said, adding they have seen many guests come from Edmonton and Calgary.
Pearman said there are a lot of plans for the season including a continuation of the Knee-high Nature Program and the introduction of Butterflies with Ben and the Birds in Flight Photography Day.
“We also have a writing retreat with Dr. Jane Ross, so that is beautiful,” she said.
In terms of the returning bird populations, Purple Martins and Bluebirds appear to be coming back in similar numbers to last year and Pearman said they are also working to keep track of their insect populations.
“We are doing a lot of research this summer — that is the exciting thing,” she said. “We are doing insect inventories with Dr. Delano Lewis from Burman University. and we have a summer student here who is working on her undergraduate thesis. She is looking at fitness of Bluebird nestlings compared to adults.
“We also have a new scientific advisor who is looking at our past data. She is looking at publishing papers using the amazing data we have collected.”
She added, “We really are encouraging people to come out. Bring a picnic, come out and enjoy what nature has to offer at the Ellis Bird Farm.”