BELLE’S JOURNEY: The Vineyard Book Tour
Celebrating the release of Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight (Charlesbridge, 2018)
After sending off my illustrations for the next Secret Life book, my husband Brian and I began our journey over land and sea to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. This is where Belle’s real-life journey began, high atop a nest on Lake Tashmoo.
Author Rob “Dr. B” Bierregaard and his lovely wife Cathy met us at the ferry dock. Over the course of a week we launched our book into Belle’s world, and had great fun doing it. Here are some of the highlights, captured by my dear Brian Carpenter.
About Belle’s Journey
Belle is a real-life osprey, and Belle’s Journey is the story of her first full migration from Martha’s Vineyard, down, down, down the eastern coast of the North America, across the Islands of the Caribbean, over mountains and rainforests through South America, to a reservoir in Brazil. And then two years later, back north again to the island where she was born.
The real Belle met the real Dr. B. in her nest. That sunny morning in July, Dr. B. climbed a ladder up the nesting pole, put a falconry hood on her head to calm her, carried her down the ladder, and took her to the mobile tagging station the back of Dick Jennings’s jeep. It looked a little something like this:
On the ground Dr. B and his tagging partner, Dick Jennings, worked quickly to strap a tiny little solar-powered satellite transmitter on the juvenile osprey’s back, took her measurements, attached a numbered leg band, and named her “Belle.”
Every few days, the little backpack would beam Belle’s exact location data—down to the branch she perched upon—to a satellite orbiting the Earth. The satellite sent the data to a database called MoveBank, and when her whereabouts came in, Dr. B. received a text update on his phone. Cool, right? By the way, anyone can track tagged birds with the awesome AnimalTracker app. With Osearch you can track turtles and sharks!
Belle’s travel data looks like this:
Dr. B. wrote Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight using a compilation of personal experiences in the field, and 8 years of data he has collected from ospreys. (See his site, Ospreytrax.com for ALL the details. Here are Belle’s migration maps.) Our book, Belle’s Journey brings that data to life through the magic of narrative non-fiction and illustration. The reader follows one first-year osprey from her first awkward flight, all the way through her first full migration. Belle shows us the multitude of dangers an osprey—or any migratory bird, or butterfly—may encounter as they leave the comforts and familiarity of home, and give in to the mysterious magnetic pull of instinct. A force stronger than any hurricane.
Every September, thousands of fledgling ospreys leave the northern hemisphere, following their inner compasses southbound into the unknown, for the very first time. For days at a time they ride the earth’s thermals and trade winds until they find just the right spot—a branch, or cellphone tower, or pylon overlooking a good fishing hole, perhaps 2,000 or 4,000 miles away. And there they stop. They hunt, eat, and sleep, there, day after day, for nearly two years, until they feel that strange pull again. Then they follow it home.
Isn’t that awesome? I am truly in awe.
Have you ever felt a drive that strong? An itch to to leave everything you have ever known in your life behind, in exchange for an adventure? A fresh start? The great unknown?
I am reminded of my favorite song of all time, The Rainbow Connection:
Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice may be one and the same.
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it,
it’s something that I’m s’posed to be.
someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers…
…the ospreys, and me.
Special thanks to Rob Bierregaard and Cathy Dolan for sharing the Vineyard with Brian and me, and all the friendships and memories to go with it. “Grateful” isn’t strong enough a word. Perhaps a screech owl can think of a better one.