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New book for young nature lovers: ‘Wilma on the Wing’

Anna Connington outside with copy of "Wilma on the Wing"

A Wilson’s warbler weighs 8 grams — about the same as eight thumbtacks. But it flies some 5,000 miles each year during migration. Thanks to a creative partnership between artist and Boise State biology major Anna Connington and Boise State’s Intermountain Bird Observatory, more young readers will learn the bird’s remarkable story.

Connington wrote and illustrated a book for children about a Wilson’s warbler named Wilma who journeys from Alaska to her winter home in Mexico. She stops in Boise at the observatory’s banding station at Lucky Peak along the way.

Connington and Heidi Ware Carlisle, education and outreach director at the observatory, relied on PonyUp, the university’s crowdfunding platform, to support the project and received an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities grant from Boise State’s Division of Research and Economic Development. The observatory is working with Bird by Bird Idaho, a public science education program, to get copies of the book into Idaho classrooms.

“I’ve seen other books on migration and wanted a local example so kids can connect more directly,” Ware Carlisle said.

Connington, who is from Boise, volunteers with the observatory to band birds. Banding involves attaching a tag to a bird’s leg or wing so that researchers can identify it and chart its movements. Connington is an avid bird watcher — a passion that grew during the pandemic — and leads field trips for the Golden Eagle Audubon Society’s Idaho Young Birders Club. She has been an illustrator for seven years and began selling her work when she was just 13.

Science and art are natural companions as Connington sees it. Both require discipline and observation.

“Being able to take hours to draw something with detail gives me a bigger appreciation of wildlife, of animals’ forms and how they move – the details you don’t think about until you spend 40 hours drawing eyes and feathers,” she said.

With the book complete, Connington said she’s building her portfolio of scientific illustrations and considering graduate school in raptor biology or ornithology.

Donate $25 through PonyUp to receive a copy of the book through Jan. 15, 2023. For every $25 donation, another copy will go to a local school: