Thursday, September 11, 2014

Under the Ocean - Book Launch

Please join us at the book launch of Under the Ocean on Wednesday 1 October at 6pm, at The Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Ned and I will have our signing pens out, and there'll be drinks and nibbles for all.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stick Insect Surprise

Stick insects are so beautifully camouflaged in the garden or the bush, so when one appears off its normal tree, it causes a bit of a surprise.
This one hitched a ride on someone's arm!

Here's the stick insect Ned illustrated in 'In the Garden', on page 15, hiding in the manuka.
Another place to find information about stick insects written for a general audience is Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

There is scientific information about stick insects as well as lots of photos on the Landcare Research website. One thing I learned from this site is most stick insects are female, with some populations having only females, who reproduce without the help of males, called parthenogenesis.


Monday, September 1, 2014

First Day of Spring - Tui and native flowers


The traditional first day of spring is cool, calm and sunny. We've had many winter days with settled weather, so it's been easy to get out and about. There have been signs of spring everywhere. The noisiest are the tui, usually solitary birds, they're gathering together, chasing, swooping and flying around the bay from tree to tree.
Five Tui silhouetted in a tree
Other birds who are making themselves heard in bush gardens are warblers - riroriro, and fantail - piwakawaka. And everywhere kowhai trees are coming in to bloom.

Tui in Kowhai tree
And in the bush look out for another sign of spring, the beautiful flowering native clematis - puawhananga - a vine which climbs to the canopy and covers the canopy with large white flowers.


Friday, August 22, 2014

In Praise of DOC Huts

We have a unique system of public backcountry huts in New Zealand. From poky, smoky huts etched with history through to Great Walk palaces with solar lighting, these huts provide much needed shelter on our tramping tracks. Often a convenient day's walk apart, most provide the basics of bunks, benches, rainwater tanks and a tap, with an outdoor toilet at a pong-free distance.

There's nothing quite like the sight of a hut in the distance after a tough day on the trail. Glimpse it in the distance through the bush or across the bay and suddenly your pack feels lighter, the rain less persistent, and hunger more bearable.

But best of all is the view from the hut, having been on the move all day, you can now sit and enjoy the view out to sea, up the river, or deep into the bush interior.

The huts on the North-West Circuit of Stewart Island, are all in inspired locations. Each hut we came to had its own delightful setting. Thanks DOC!

Here are some of the huts paired with their views.

1. Most welcome view of a hut in the distance - Bungaree

2. Best dolphin watching spot - Christmas Village
3. Most peaceful river setting - Yankee River
4. Best view from the loo - Long Harry
5. Top marks for location - East Ruggedy
6. Most rewarding arrival, after a slog through the mud - Big Hellfire


Monday, August 11, 2014

3 Top Nature Websites for Kiwi Kids

As a writer of children's books I spend a lot of time reading and researching, using books and websites. I keep an eye out for websites that I can recommend to children and their parents. It's amazing how many websites there are that fall into the New Zealand nature category. Check out my Pinterest board New Zealand Nature Online to see some of them. Most are written for general audiences but many are specialist sites that focus on one geographical area, such as a sanctuary, or one species, such as yellow-eyed penguins.

Here are my top three nature websites for children interested in New Zealand nature. 
My criteria are: easy navigation, informative and interesting content that children can grasp, a range of media (not just text to read).

Number one is the Kiwi Conservation Club website www.kcc.org.nz.

The site isn't restricted to members of the club (although children might want to join when they see what's on offer!). It has a good range of information about New Zealand wildlife, habitats and conservation issues. There are quizzes to do online as well as hands-on project ideas. And it's written specifically for children

Second is New Zealand Birds Online www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz.
This site gets top marks for easy navigation. It's easy to find information about a particular bird or to identify a bird. Each bird has its own page with audio files as well as lots of photographs. It's not written for children, and so children may need some help interpreting the information. Adults or older children helping out will probably get hooked on this site too!

And number three is the Marine Studies Centre website www.marine.ac.nz.
The highlight of this site is the Marine Life Database which has undergone some recent improvements, making it easier to search for sea creatures.

Aside from the database there is a link to a YouTube channel and there are some children's games and downloadable resources.

The organisations responsible for these websites - Forest and Bird, Te Papa, Birds New Zealand, DOC, Otago University - deserve our congratulations and support. They're helping make the internet a rich resource for kiwi kids.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Wasp's Nest!

My friends found these wasp nests when they replaced their roof. Years ago the wasps built these nests, and although the wasps died long ago, the nests have endured.

In "In the Garden" I wrote that wasps like to nest in warm places such as house roofs and Ned illustrated the wasp beautifully.  
But we didn't show a nest or talk about how wasps build them.

 Look closely at this photo of the wasp's nest and you can see it looks like its made of papery wood shavings!
Photo by Max George
The wasps chewed up wood from trees or their surroundings and mixed it with saliva to create their nest.

We were lucky that this was an abandoned nest. Wasp stings are very painful, so you should never approach a wasp's nest unless you know for sure its empty!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Watching Nature with NatureWatchNZ

You may have noticed that a 'widget' has appeared in the right-hand column of my blog, headed Nature Watch NZ.


Explore and Discover Nature is all about observing nature: quirky events like the By the Wind Sailor beach invasion last year or the Sea Foam after the Storm ; through seasonal observations such as Winter Walks in the Bush, to places to go and things to do when out and about.

By the Wind Sailors


I'm recording observations on NatureWatchNZ. You can see the five most recent observations under the Nature Watch heading. Click on the heading and you'll get taken to the NatureWatchNZ site, while clicking on my observations will take you to all the things I've recorded so far.

Apart from recording what you see in your garden or at your beach, you can join projects set up by people with a particular interest. I've started a Tree Daisies project because I like the way these intriguing trees stand out from the crowd and want to see what different shapes and sizes they come in.

Better still you can record an observation and have an expert help you identify what you've seen.

There is also an iPhone or iPad app for people on the go to record their observations.

There is only one reservation I have - I can't record everything I see - there isn't enough time in the day. So I'm mostly recording things I've photographed, that are on this blog, that we've seen on Forest and Bird or Zealandia walks, or that have got me intrigued. Not exactly a scientific approach!