Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 07/09/2018

Photo taken on July  7, 2018

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Anne Elliott
Purple Martin
© All Rights Reserved
Progne subis
uncommon in Alberta
Ellis Bird Farm
peering out
N of Red Deer
© Anne Elliott 2018
7 July 2018
front view
inside gourd nestbox

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Birds of a feather

Purple Martin in its gourd nest box

Purple Martin in its gourd nest box 

Tomorrow morning, I have yet another very early morning (alarm to be set for 4:45 am). In order to avoid a rush, I thought I would post tomorrow's photos this evening.

Just over two years ago, 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. Then, yesterday, 7 July 2018, I got the chance to visit this unique place again, thanks to Jackie and Brenda, who organized a trip for a group of about 13 (?) friends/birders/photographers.

The drive from Calgary to the Ellis Bird Farm took us about two hours. 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 send them from all over the province, even from overseas. I believe the Farm has the largest collection of outdoor boxes in the world - 300+!

Myrna Pearman, who has been "at the helm of Ellis Bird Farm for the past 30 years", knew we were coming and we were treated to a very special viewing of Purple Martins at various stages, from eggs to adult, To do this, she lowered some of the Purple Martin condominiums and let us peer inside. After a short talk about the Farm, we explored every corner, taking a break for lunch, sitting outside, at the Cafe. A few of us had reserved a table, which is a good idea, as the Farm can get very busy with visitors.

The main attraction at the Farm are the beautiful Purple Martins, uncommon in Alberta, though there are so many other things to see, as well. Purple Martins 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."

"​Ellis Bird Farm made science history on Tuesday May 31 2016 (?) 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:

""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.

Many thanks to Shirley, for driving the four of us to and from the Farm. Thank you for picking me up, Pam, to get me over to the meeting place. Beautiful weather and great company made for a super day. Have to say, too, that it was great to get away from the city, where the Calgary Stampede is in full swing.

Yves Saulnier has particularly liked this photo