Stick insects (rō in Māori) are curious creatures. Kids (and adults) find them fascinating because of their obvious likeness to sticks. It's easy to spot them walking across a window or on the side of the house but they merge so well into their surroundings on a tree that you might be surprised just how many are in your garden.
These large, intriguing vegetarians are everywhere, although they seem to have trees that are their favourites.
Stick insect on its favourite mānuka tree
Sitting in my garden recently, I recalled how many stick insects I'd seen on a particular tree in February last year. I looked at the tree, a mānuka, and idly said to myself "I wonder why there aren't any there this year". Curiosity drew my gaze back to the tree, suddenly I realised I could see a stick insect where before I thought the bark was bare. I looked harder, another stick insect 'appeared'. I got closer and started to count - there were a dozen stick insects in a 25 cm x 30 cm area!
Many Nature Hunt/Scavenger Hunts just don't match the New Zealand forest. So watching what the children found on the Bioblitz at Horoeka Reserve, inspired me to come up with a New Zealand Nature Hunt for kids.
This Nature Hunt would be perfect for Horoeka Scenic Reserve but would also be a good challenge for trips to Otari/Wilton's Bush, Porirua Scenic Reserve, Percy Scenic Reserve, Belmont Regional Park and many other locations in Greater Wellington and further afield.
When we go on Nature Hunts in native forest all we take home are photos and memories, rather than taking or damaging living things.
Butterfly Creek is one of the most popular and well known walks in Wellington, but despite that I still meet people who have never been. It's perfect for a weekend picnic with the kids or grandkids, or a quiet 'pick-me-up' walk mid-week.
Picnic area at Butterfly Creek - cool on a hot day
First thing you need to know - and tell your children to avoid disappointment - the creek is not full of butterflies! In fact, we rarely see any butterflies there. I've been told that the creek used to look like a butterfly from a particular viewpoint but haven't been able to confirm that. But we do see all sorts of other plant and animal treasures.
Birdstories is my new go-to book! When I was pondering which shelf to put it on - next to the field guides or among the nature prose, it occurred to me that since this book won’t be staying on the shelf for long, it might as well stay on my table, given the number of times I’ll be referring back to it.
Birdstories: a history of birds of New Zealand by Geoff Norman, published by Potton & Burton
Rich in information, Birdstories, takes one group of birds at a time - there’s a chapter on kiwi, one on eagles and falcons, another on cuckoos and so on. Each chapter discusses the history of the bird(s) in question - both in terms of ancestry but also human interaction. You'll find answers here on how it got its scientific name, whether it appears in whaktaukī, in some cases what aided its extinction, in others how it's hanging on to survive.