Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 08/19/2016

Photo taken on June  4, 2016

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side view
Anne Elliott
House Wren
Troglodytes aedon
Ellis Bird Farm
Nature Calgary Bus Trip 2016
N of Red Deer
4 June 2016

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House Wren at the Ellis Bird Farm

House Wren at the Ellis Bird Farm
On 4 June 2016, I had the chance to visit somewhere that I had longed to go to for years - the Ellis Bird Farm. This was thanks to the annual Nature Calgary Bus Trip, which goes to a different location each year. When I read where this year's outing was going to be, I was so excited and registered immediately and, apparently, was the first person on the list : ) I believe there were 66 people on the trip, enjoying a great day. The sun was shining and the temperature got up to around 25C - too warm for me and for many others, especially when the whole day is spent outdoors.

It was a very early start, with my alarm clocks set for 4:30 am. Unfortunately, they had also been set for 4:30 am the previous day, when I went on a Bio-blitz to the Square Butte Ranch. Being a dreadful 'night owl', this meant that I ended up doing these two trips on about 5 hours sleep total over the two nights. Not good! It is such a treat to go somewhere by bus - everyone can relax and chat. Some of the $50 charge per person went towards a donation to the Ellis Bird Farm (and to the JJ Collett natural area that we visited later in the day), which was good to know.

The drive from Calgary to the Ellis Bird Farm takes about an hour and a half. When we arrived, we were greeted by a long line of bird nest boxes along the fence line. Within the farm area, there were even more nest boxes - everywhere! People donate and send them from all over the province. I believe the Farm has the largest collection of outdoor boxes in the world ... 300+!

It was a real treat to see a lot of Purple Martins at the Farm - there were so many of these birds that you couldn't tell which were actual pairs. They are very social birds, who apparently like people too, and nest in condominium-style nest boxes. They spend "most of the year in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and come up to Alberta just long enough to raise a family." What a long way to come to do that! These birds are uncommon in Alberta.

We started off by watching a very touching old video about Charlie Ellis - what a delightful, very shy, modest man he was.

""Ellis Bird Farm is both a non-profit company and a working farm. It was established in 1982 to carry on the legacy of Lacombe-area conservationists, Charlie and Winnie Ellis, when their farm was purchased by Union Carbide Canada Ltd. At the time, Charlie and Winnie operated one of the largest bluebird trails in Canada and had established their farmstead as a haven for wildlife.

The Ellis family of Parkenham, Ontario, came west in 1886 to settle on a ranch near Calgary. Their son John, then a teenager, was married in 1894 to Agnes Clark who had come west from Ontario in 1888 to teach school. They lived near Calgary until 1906 when they moved with their family of four children to a quarter section homestead in the Joffre district. In 1907 they built a two-storey frame house and subsequently enlarged the farm by the purchase of an additional five quarters.

After John and Agnes passed away in the early 1950s, two of their children, Charlie and Winnie, took over the farm operations. And about this same time, Charlie began a project that was to dominate the rest of his life; he set out his first nesting box for the Mountain Bluebirds." From Ellis Bird Farm website.

After the video, we were divided into two large groups and then further divided again. Not easy to organize such a large number of people and it was rather confusing, Have to admit that I ended up, like various friends, wandering around, taking photos. I always prefer to be free to do this, as there is a lot of information on the Internet, which can be read before and after such a visit.

"​Ellis Bird Farm made science history on Tuesday May 31 when University of Manitoba Grad Student, Alisha Ritchie, and her EBF team (Cheyenne Knight, Claudia Lipski and Myrna Pearman) retrapped a very special yearling Purple Martin. This bird had been retrofitted with a light level geolocator last season, as a nestling, and is the first songbird EVER(!) to be tracked on its first migration. The bird had evaded several attempts to trap it, so it has been named Houdini."

Information about their Purple Martin Geolocator Program:

Following our visit to the Farm, we boarded the two buses and were driven about half an hour's drive away, to the JJ Collett natural area, where the amazing Dr. Charles (Charlie) Bird took us on a walk (longer and faster paced than I was expecting, ha) along one of the trails (Trail #1). This is an interesting place to visit - will have to add information about it when I eventually post an image or two taken there.

Not sure what time we got back to the meeting place in Calgary - around 5:15 pm? I sat in my car and gulped down a mug of black coffee before driving for maybe 45 minutes to the far side of the city. My vehicle had been sitting in the sun all day and my coffee was almost as hot as if freshly made!

Thank you, Nature Calgary and Leslie, for organizing this special day trip for us! Thank you, also, to Myrna Pearman at the Farm, who organized us all and helped make this a very successful and greatly enjoyed visit! Kate, thank you for your company on the drive there and back - made the time go faster and was so enjoyable.

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