A Book Review: A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? Q&A with the Author and a Chance to Enter a Draw!

Kermit Cumming’s new children’s book, A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? is a book enjoyed by children and parents alike. Full of rhymes, colourful and fun illustrations by Holly Weinstein, stunning photographs, and focused on a much-loved outdoors pastime, this is an educational book that inspires children’s interest of the avian world and brings families together.

Cumming’s book features ten bird species that are common at most North American feeders. With the aid of rhymes, illustrations, and photographs readers are given a brief overview of the bird’s appearance/field marks, behavioral characteristics, calls, and natural history; for example, the Downy Woodpecker’s importance in the forest ecosystem as a consumer of harmful tree insects is emphasised along with its feeding and nesting strategies, while the Eastern Bluebird is described as being blue, with a blue back and reddish breast, who can often be seen sitting on lines or chasing nest competitors away. The inclusion of photographs give readers of all ages the ability to recognize these species in the field, while Holly Weinstein’s beautiful illustrations make these bird’s personalities come to life – whether it’s “cheerful,” “brash,” acrobatic, “friendly,” heroic, “classy,” or “sassy.” While this can all be very technical information, Cummings artfully simplifies it to appeal to a younger audience. A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? advertises bird-watching as a hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages – whether it is by actively identifying, counting, and listing birds in the yard, or by reading about birds indoors.




Kermit Cummings


What inspired you to write this children’s book?


After both our spouses died, I married Dorothy in late 2004.  During the “courtship” phase and into the early years of our marriage, I wrote a few poems for her.  I’m not a deep, serious poet, but I’ve always had a facility for making rhymes.  She began to say, “You need to write a children’s book!”  I didn’t take that too seriously at first, but she kept at it and eventually it dawned on me that with over 40 years’ experience as a birder, there was one topic I knew quite a bit about.  So, I dreamed up the “plot”:  a dad and a son taking a walk in their backyard to see if they can find 10 species of bird (I’ve always been a lister!)  Dorothy’s son, James Giroux, is an accomplished photographer and provided half of the book’s bird pictures.  Then my task was to try to provide something educational about 10 birds that a youngster newly interested in the hobby could easily find.


What are your goals for A Backyard Birding Adventure? What do you hope it will achieve?Bonding over birds? Developing an interest in birds? Something else? 


I want to get youngsters outside and discovering the wonders of the natural world.  Many birds are breathtakingly beautiful when seen through binoculars and all are interesting. Introducing families to an enjoyable activity that all members can participate in is also a goal of this book.


What is your favourite bird?


I’ve been asked that a lot and I usually try to think of a striking bird, like Bald Eagle, or a beautiful bird, like Painted Bunting or Baltimore Oriole, but the correct answer for me would be the last new bird I’ve seen or the last bird I’ve seen again after not seeing it for a long time.


You can have the chance to win an autographed copy of Kermit Cumming’s A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? through a draw on Beakingoff! Scroll down for more information on how to enter!


How do you enter the draw?

Simply email Beakingoff a short story/memory you have of enjoying birds with a young person, along with your name and mailing address (so I can mail you the book if you win!).

Every story submitted will be made public on Beakingoff so readers can enjoy and share each other’s experiences. If you do not want your story to be public, please specify this request in the email.

Every person who submits their story will have their name entered in a random draw. There are no restrictions as to where you are from or how old you are, so long as you know a young person you can enjoy this bird book with.

Please spread the word! We want to hear your stories!

The draw begins February 1st, 2017 at 9:00am (Pacific time), and will end on March 1st, 2017 at 9:00am (Pacific time).

Submit your stories to beakingoff@gmail.com



What is your favorite memory of birding with a young person?


I had always enjoyed the outdoors but had never thought about “birdwatching” as something I could really get interested in.  However, at age 33, living in Augusta, Georgia, I had to have surgery in the late summer of 1966.  My recuperative period at home was two weeks.  To help me pass the time, the wife of someone I worked with loaned me her copy of “Song and Garden birds of North America”, published by National Geographic.  I was astounded at the huge number of colorful and interesting birds that were all around, and to which I was totally oblivious.  The lady, who was also a birdwatcher, told me about her “Life List,” which appealed to my competitive nature.  Later, I would get a number of people in my family hooked on the hobby and we formed our own “league” with carefully kept records.

Once I started, I became obsessed!  I was on a mission to find and identify every bird in my yard, in our neighborhood and in all the fields and ponds that I might be driving past!   I had no mentor, only a copy of Roger Tory Peterson’s field guide with his system of “field marks,” a newly acquired binocular and my 10 year old daughter, Cathy.  Every afternoon after work, Cathy and I would hit the wooded areas around our Augusta neighborhood, looking for new birds.  Cathy would be holding the Peterson guide, I would be looking at the bird and saying, “Yellow, black throat, singing his heart out!  Look in the warblers!”  Being completely self-taught, we made lots of hilarious mistakes, like deciding an immature Orchard Oriole was a Lawrence’s Warbler!

But one of the fondest memories of my entire life was when Cathy and I stumbled up on a Hooded Warbler in a Pine tree on Scott’s Way in Augusta, Georgia.


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