The author, Heidi Stemple, proudly asserts that she is the daughter of Jane Yolen and was the child in Yolen's classic, Caldecott, Owl Moon, which was the beginning of her interest in owls. Her lean, lyrical prose shows that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But her interest in birds came from her father, David Stemple. This beautifully produced picture book answered many questions I never know enough to ask:
Did you know there was a tradition in America, back in the 19th century, that was a bird hunting competition on Christmas day? To quote Stemple:
"On Christmas Day, sports hunters would gather, choose teams, and hold a bird competition. All day long, the hunters looked for birds.
"Large birds, small birds, all birds were game.
" At the end of the day, the birds were counted. The winning team was the side that had shot and killed the most birds."
How about counting birds instead of killing them? This was the idea of bird-lover Frank Chapman back in 1899. Counting Birds is the story of how this simple idea became a world-wide movement.
You can get the historical data here. Stemple cites the results for the 117th count (well over 100 years of counting), in which 73,153 birders in 2,536 "count circles" (geographical areas stipulated by the Audubon Society) counted 56,139,812 birds. No small achievement. Who knew?
Bird watching and counting can be as easy as sitting by your bird feeder or as challenging as getting up at midnight and hitting as many locations as possible to bring out the owls, as Stemple does. Counting Birds has inspired me to be much more productive as I sip wine on my deck by counting the Canada geese, Great White Egrets and Mallards that populate my back yard.