Irvington Resident Captures Best Birding Memory in Children’s Book
By Annie Rubinson—
Lester Feldman describes himself as a “life-long birder,” having dedicated much of his 91 years to exploring North America and its plethora of unique bird species. Recently, the long-time Irvington resident brought his most memorable birding adventure to life by publishing a children’s book, Hope Sees Her Condor.
The idea was born in a memoir-writing class Feldman was taking with his wife Bernice at the Irvington Senior Center, where he first documented the story. Both Bernice and his instructor encouraged him to transform the narrative into a children’s book. “My wife said to me, ‘you’re 91 years old, what are you waiting for?’” Feldman said.
The story follows a young girl, Hope, and her grandfather on a quest that mirrors one Feldman himself embarked upon in 1978 – the quest to see a California Condor, the largest land bird in North America. He chose to feature the two characters together (and name the girl Hope after his own granddaughter) because he would have liked to have shared the experience with her.
Feldman recalled the moments captured in the book: “I was in California where I did a lot of my birding, and I still hadn’t seen the condor by the time I was due to fly home,” he said. His plans soon changed when he learned there were sightings of the rare bird over a mountain in Northern California. “I called Bern and said, ‘I need another day to see the condors,’” he said. “It was a big ask, but she was a great sport.”
Feldman arrived at the site early and waited for many hours to spot the bird, outlasting many of the other surrounding birders. Finally, he did. “It flew low over my head, with a 9-foot wingspan,” he said. “When you’ve studied pictures of birds and then finally get to see them, it’s such an excitement. Even the ordinary birds, when you have binoculars and some time to sit and look at them, it truly enriches you.”
On his way down the mountain, yet another surprise awaited him: “I stopped at a shrub and ,much to my delight, I saw a Calliope Hummingbird,” he said. This species is the smallest land bird in North America, in contrast with the Condor. “It was an incredible moment and a wonderful adventure. I’ve seen more than 650 species across North America, and each one is a big excitement.”
In addition to writing Hope Sees Her Condor, Feldman illustrated the piece, drawing on his 37-year career as an art director. “I decided I would just draw the illustrations as if they were story boards,” he said.
Feldman still enjoys birding, even as locally as on his own back porch. Though uncertain of whether or not he will produce another book, Feldman nonetheless hopes this story will inspire a sense of adventurousness in any child who reads it.
Hope Sees Her Condor is available through the publisher, Houts and Home Publications, LLC, or on Amazon.