Counting Birds

The Christmas Bird Count in Victoria BC last year yielded sad news. The count, that took place on Dec. 14, found 135 different species of birds, well below the 10 year average of 140 to 143. Local ornithological experts say that bird counts in Victoria are the lowest they’ve been in over a decade.

But it doesn’t do any good to get into a pickle about what’s going on in the natural world. We still need to put one foot in front of the other. We need to try to deal with the present, as grim an outcome of past mistakes as it might appear to be. Maybe we can treat it instead as a kind of seed of what we’re trying to become.

When you’re looking for hope, open a picture book. Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond documents the counting of birds by a young girl learning to be a citizen scientist in her communty. The tally, which grows down the side of each spread in a clever design feature, depends on young Ava’s sharp eyes and ears, both of which she puts to good use. At least two other people need to hear or see each bird, and no bird should be counted twice. Young readers not only learn how the annual Audubon Bird Count works but also get to identify a nice array of birds.

From Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

An additional touch in Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s digital illustrations is that both Ava and Mom are brown-skinned, while Big Al, their team leader, is identifiably white with a weathered face and a carroty beard.

So there. Count those birds. Plant a garden. Compost. Do what we can do and write the stories that matter.