After the delightful and informative interviews with Lynn and Len, I took some photos of the RV Park. The RV lots were spacious as Lynn indicated and I was surprised at how peaceful it was there. If I had a Class A Motorhome, this is where I would definitely stay to get away for a week.
I asked about Gull Lake and Lynn pointed us in the right direction to drive there. It was mid-day when I finished the interviews but I was determined to see Gull Lake which is located on Highway 12 between Bentley and Lacombe.
We arrived at Gull Lake shortly after leaving the Summerland Leisure Park so it wasn’t that far. The beach was clean and there was a beach crowd relaxing on lawn chairs and towels. Families were running in and out of the water laughing, splashing, and having fun. Seagulls were everywhere too, frolicking along the shoreline dipping their bodies in the water and looking for scraps of food from leftovers people may have given the birds. Now I know why this body of water was named Gull Lake. I took a few photographs of the scenery, Gull Lake, and the seagulls flying, walking, floating, you name it. They were having fun too!
It was late in the afternoon when we left Gull Lake. We needed to get to our next destination, the Ellis Bird Farm. Unfortunately, on our way there we got lost but were happy when we found the farm because it was worth the wait. I have always loved bird sanctuaries. There was so much to see at this place.
We parked outside the entrance which had a sign pasted on the fence, “Welcome to Ellis Bird Farm.”
A beautiful trellis with vegetation growing on it was part of the entrance. There was a wooden box where you could offer a donation at the entrance as well. Upon entering the Ellis Bird Farm, I was amazed at the exquisite gardening on the farm grounds. We didn’t have much time left in the day since it closed at 5 p.m. but we walked around for a while and then stopped at their spectacular Tea House.
I picked up a flyer with the history of the bird farm which stated, “Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. (EBF) was established in 1982 by Union Carbide Canada Ltd. (UCCL) to carry on the legacy of pioneer conservationists, Charlie and Winnie Ellis. Charlie and Winnie’s Lacombe area farm was renowned for supporting the highest nesting density of Mountain Bluebirds ever recorded, and the couple devoted their retirement years to looking after bluebirds, feeding winter birds and creating a wildlife habitat.
Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. is a charitable organization that issues tax-deductible receipts for donations. Memorial contributions are also gratefully accepted the farm welcomes volunteers to help with gardening and visitor services.
History of Ellis Bird Farm
Source: Ellis Bird Farm Flyer
Charlie and Winnie Ellis sold their land to UCCL on condition that the company support their conservation efforts. Two quarter sections of the original farm are now the site of the Prentiss petrochemical complex while a full section (640 acres) has been maintained as a working farm. Approximately 112 acres of the farm have been set aside as wildlife habitat and public space. The original farm site has been developed to promote environmental education and wildlife conservation. Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. is supported by MEGlobal Canada, the current operators of the plant.
Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. is administered by an independent volunteer board of directors with representation farm MEGlobal Canada, the Red Deer River Naturalists, the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, the County of Lacombe and the community. The opeartion is funded through an annual grant from MEGlobal Canada, a Red Deer and District Community Foundation endowment fund, private donations and gift shop sales.
The mandate of Ellis Bird Farm is to: oversee a mountain bluebird and tree swallow conservation program; maintain a winter bird feeding program; conduct and support scientific research related to native cavity-nesting birds; and provide public education programs.
Ellis Bird Farm welcomes visitors from the May long weekend to the September long weekend. The farm is open Tuesday through Sunday (and holiday Mondays) between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
School field trips, day camps for kids, a Bug Jamboree, a Bluebird Festival, bluebird trail tours and other popular events are offered throughout the summer. Facilities include a Visitor Centre, which has interesting exhibits, a small Gift shop and a Tea House, renowned for delicious food and excellent service. A network of trails, including an extensive wheelchair path, links butterfly gardens, orchards, native wildflower gardens, hummingbird gardens and water gardens.
Drop in visitors and tour groups are welcome. Tea House reservations are strongly recommended and required for group tours. Admission is by donation and a nominal fee is charged for guided tours of the site.
Visit Ellis Bird Farm’s website for newsletter postings, special events listings and other information related to bluebirds and the farm.”
For booking a visit if you’re in an RV group or otherwise, here is the contact information:
Ellis Bird Farm Ltd.
Box 5090, Lacombe, AB, T4L 1W7
Phone: 403-346-2211 (off-season) or 403-885-4477 (during the summer)
We walked along pathways until we came to a pond and noticed a farm with goats in the distance. We definitely stopped to take it all in. There were other farm animals there as well wandering in the area – chickens, roosters and other wild birds. It was so much fun taking photos of the baby goats that were ultra-friendly as they came up to the fence to check us out. I loved this place! The peaceful farm with abundant flowers and gardens, beautiful trees, manicured grounds with benches and chairs throughout, had definitely made it on my to-do list next spring for a revisit.
After we left the farm animals behind, we quickly made our way to the Tea House. There was a patio out back so we sat down at a table and each ordered a slice of homemade berry pie and a couple of teas. As we waited for our order, the scent of flowers wafted by us as strong wind gusts whipped up unexpectedly. Dark cloud formations indicated rain was definitely coming. I didn’t care! Eating homemade berry pie and tea was on the agenda. I don’t know why, but for some reason, it felt like we were eating at a café in southern France. There was only 20 minutes left before closing but I didn’t want to leave that fast. We ate our dessert quickly and managed to finish drinking our tea. Sadly, our time came to an end at Ellis Bird Farm. The waitress indicated in a few days they would be closing down until reopening in May 2015.
We walked back to the car and beyond the beautiful trellis that was effective as an entrance. I was saddened to leave but knew I would return in May 2015 for a longer visit.
As we got into the car and drove away, it started to rain. By the time we were half way to Calgary on the Queen Elizabeth Highway 2, the rain poured relentlessly and wouldn’t let up. I mean, these were huge raindrops and sheets of rain that came down in a torrential onslaught. Cars were pulling over on the side of the road because no one could see the car in front of them. We started hydroplaning which forced us to pull over onto the shoulder a couple of times. Transport trailers whizzed by us as if the storm was nothing. It didn’t matter. I had just experienced a wonderful visit and I wasn’t going to let a heavy rainstorm ruin my day.
By the time we got to Airdrie, the rain stopped abruptly. We both breathed a sigh of relief and made a pact that we would revisit the Gull Lake and Lacombe area in the future.