BELLE’S JOURNEY: The Vineyard Book Tour

Kate/ September 20, 2018/ birds, blog, books, children's books, illustration, nature, picture book, Time to Fly

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.

Map of Martha's VIneyard with Belle's nest marked

Belle’s birthplace and first trips from the nest on Martha’s Vineyard. Data/image from

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.

Rob sets his scope to “tiny” for the Fern & Feather Campers at Felix Neck Audubon, so they can see the young on a nest.

Rob Bierregaard presenting his talk, “Journeys,” to the locals at Chappaquiddick Community Center.

Out in the field for our Chappaquiddick Osprey Tour – “Look! An old-school osprey nest in a tree!”

Dr. B explains the science behind osprey tracking for the Fern & Feather campers at Felix Neck.

Full house at West Tisbury Free Public Library

Kate with osprey drawing

My live osprey cam drawing at Edgartown Free Public Library

Shadow puppets. Yes, I had to do it.

Your Osprey Tour guides: Rob Bierregaard, Kate Garchinsky, and Dick Jennings

The fruits of my Osprey Tour labor – scribbled in the back of a bouncy 4×4 truck!

The highlight of my week. Talons down. Field sketching with Fern & Feather campers.

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:

Illustration ©2018 Kate Garchinsky, from Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard


Photo of Belle and her nest mate with falconry hoods atop the nest.

Hoodwinked: Belle and one of her nest mates stand still in their hoodies. Photo by Rob Bierregaard.

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.”

Dr. B and Belle, Matching Hairdos – Illustration ©2018 Kate Garchinsky, from Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard

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:

Data collected by Dr. Rob Bierregaard, on I made this into a t-shirt design. Ask me how to get one.

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, 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.

HURRICANE – Illustration ©2018 Kate Garchinsky, from Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard

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?

A color illustration of Belle flying over a mountain pass, past a rainblow.

“Over the Mountains” osprey illustration by ©2018 Kate Garchinsky, from Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard

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.

“A Long Summer” Illustration ©2018 Kate Garchinsky, from Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard

The Rainbow Connection, music and lyrics © by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. Performed by Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog.

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.

Kate Garchinsky headshotKate Garchinsky writes and illustrates books and articles about natural history for children and adults. She loves to bring her CCSS & STEAM-based programs to schools, workshops, and nature centers. When she’s not painting or writing, you may find her in the field trying to communicate with birds, or hiking through “Penn’s Woods” with her beagle, Maggie May. Learn more at

About Kate

Kate Garchinsky illustrates and writes children’s books and educational media in her studio in the woodlands near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her debut picture book, The Secret Life of the Red Fox, written by acclaimed wildlife author, Laurence Pringle, received a starred review from School Library Journal. Kate Garchinsky received a grant from the Eckelberry Fellowship at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she has been researching and illustrating extinction stories about North American birds such as the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet. Prior to creating children’s books, Kate designed lots of fun things like toys, birdbaths and trail maps. She lives with her husband Brian, Julia and Spencer the cats, and her one-eyed beagle, Maggie May. Kate recently signed on to illustrate two more “Secret Life” narrative non-fiction picture books with Boyds Mills Press—The Secret Life the Little Brown Bat (2018) and The Secret Life of the Skunk (2019). While drawing foxes and bats, Kate also began work on Belle’s Journey, a middle-grade non-fiction chapter book by ornithologist and osprey expert, Rob Bierregaard (Charlesbridge 2018). Get to know more about Kate Garchinsky at (aka