Reading about nature can't replace the experience of exploring and discovering in nature, but it certainly can enhance it, helping us to better understand what we are seeing or to look more closely at details. Earlier this year, for example, I reviewed two excellent books on New Zealand birds and reptiles that added substantially to the knowledge I've gained from volunteer field work.
My own books will, I hope, open children's eyes to what they see in their gardens, parks and at the beach, although on the whole I'd prefer that they spend more time in nature than poring over my books! When I started writing there were relatively few factual books for young children about nature, and despite New Zealand being a country in which most people have contact with nature, there are relatively few nature books for adults that go beyond glossy photos or field guides.
UK bookshop - just one of the many shelves devoted to Nature Writing
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.