I had such grand plans to explore Central Alberta while we were at the cottage for the summer. I must admit that I have failed miserably. We have visited the beach and a few farmers markets. That is about it. Thankfully, my friend & neighbour, Shawna, keeps me in the know. I had never heard about the Ellis Bird Farm but I was intrigued by their story and their $5 Knee High Naturalists program. Evan and I decided to give it a go so we headed East towards Lacombe.
The Ellis Bird Farm is in what many would consider a bit of an odd location. It is directly across the road from a large petrochemical facility. The land all belonged to the Ellis family at one time. The land was sold to Union Carbide, who agreed to keep the farmstead as a bird sanctuary and to fund it. Today that sanctuary is the Ellis Bird Farm. The original farmhouse is the Tea House on site. This continued the bird conservation work of Charlie and Winnie Ellis.
The original homestead is now home to a visitor’s centre, a tea house, gardens galore, a massive bluebird house collection (see a fraction of it above), a family of beavers, wetlands and much more. The grounds are gorgeous and the sounds of birds chirping is amazing. And the wetlands provided by the beaver dams has brought a host of new creatures not originally found on the farm. Wading shore birds can be seen on the edges of the wetlands while visitors can explore the underwater landscape for creatures using dip nets. I am pretty sure this was one of Evan’s favorite parts of the entire day.
Okay…back to the knee high naturalists. Running from 10am – 11:30, this class is geared for the 3 to 7 year old set. Today, we learned all about amphibians. First we got to feel tapioca “frog eggs”, then we made a tadpole which eventually turned in to a frog to take home. Evan had a great time though he was a bit confused about why we were talking about amphibians at a bird farm. During a walk from one location to another, one of the kids actually spotted a frog in the grass. Due to this discovery, we got to see the two types of frogs native to Alberta up close and personal (they already had the other type in their aquarium).
After class, we decided to have a bite to eat at the Tea House. Unfortunately, all the tables were reserved. However, the delightful owner snuck us in when we promised we would vacate before the people who reserved the table arrived. Evan pronounced lunch to be the best part of the day. He highly recommends the chicken and cheese flatbread on the Kids Menu. I had the vegetarian panini. It tasted delicious though next time I will add soup or a salad because I was still hungry (the sandwich was only $7 so this is an outlandish idea). Definitely call ahead to reserve a table if you plan to visit!
After lunch we went to say hi to the goats….
and then off for some dip netting fun.
Everyone who found creatures dip netting added them to a plastic bin so we could get a closer look. Large sandwich boards have pictures of lake creatures so that you can figure out what you found. No pictures of leaches were required as we all knew what they were. Ick. Thankfully, I told the little boy that maybe he shouldn’t hold that worm quite so long. Eeep. Still very cool for the kids.
Overall, we had a fantastic day and we plan to go back very soon. Definitely check out the Ellis Bird Farm the next time your travels take you near Lacombe!
Ellis Bird Farm
Hours of Operation through Sept 1