Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Picturing Ancient New Zealand - using clues from science

In conjuring up an image (in words and pictures) of Ancient New Zealand in From Moa to Dinosaurs, we used scientific clues as the basis of each double-page spread. Check out the "How do we know?" boxes in the book to find out what clues we used.
Pages 12 and 13, illustration by Ned Barraud

The pages in the illustration above describe New Zealand 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Long before people arrived here. The mountains were formed through tectonic plates pushing against each other, starting about 5 million years ago, then came the ice ages. On this page the text sets the scene "Icy glaciers were shrinking after an ice age 20,000 years ago came to an end. As the ice retreated, grass and scrub grew, covering the mountainous area above the edge of the forest."

How did we know what animals to depict on these pages?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Monday, 26 June 2017

Tree Weta Encounters - why do they smell? and other questions

I've always felt that wētā, New Zealand's bizarre endemic insects, have an unfair reputation. They seem to bring out the worst in people, who shudder at the thought of touching those feelers and spiky legs. Children are often more curious about insects and bugs and less judgemental. So I happily included a tree wētā in Whose Feet are These? And it's one of the few animals in the book that most children guess right straightaway.
From "Whose Feet are These?" a male weta
Here's some of the things I learned about wētā when I was writing Whose Feet are These? and In the Garden:

Monday, 19 June 2017

What Bird is That? identifying native forest birds

Forest Birds ID card from "In the Bush" - now free to download
Interested in New Zealand's native birds and want to be able to identify them? Ten or so years ago I'd be out in the forest not sure what I was hearing or seeing. Here's some of the steps that I took to improving my knowledge of New Zealand birds.

Set yourself a bird-watching challenge: for example, take part in the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey on this week from 24 June to 2 July.  Gardens are a good place to start because often birds are easier to see in a garden and you can learn bird-watching techniques (see tips below) that will help you when you are out in the forest, beach or wetland. The Top 10 birds in gardens in 2016 were: