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wooden box

Cloak of Protection - Deluxe edition with wooden boxThis Christmas I was hoping to have a wonderful new pollination game for you all to try. But no! maybe next year(!!)

So, instead, we’ve had 30 deluxe wooden boxes made for Cloak of Protection.

The timber is untreated kiln dried pine from sustainable forests in South Otago, made for us by the Wooden Box Company in Alexandra. Then Morgan sanded the outside of the box & lightly vanished it for a smooth finish.

We’ve made a limited number of 30 boxes for this Christmas. It’s a keeper. Only available on-line here.

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kahu harrier

kahu/harrierWalking toward Te Horo beach yesterday I saw kahu, the harrier, coming in from the sea. It kept trying to find some lift in the air, but instead kept sinking down out of sight, plummeting toward the dunes, only to appear again, flapping its way upward.

Kahu was the one reason we could not call the settlement realm, introduced. Because they introduced themselves!

I wanted the big birds – the giant hunters – to be numero uno in each realm. Karearea (the NZ falcon) for forest; toroa (the royal albatross) for sea; hokioi (the giant eagle) for extinct: and kahu (the harrier) for settlement.

Of course 3 of these birds turn up in the predator realm as well. The fourth – toroa – hunts too, but far away from land.

Once, they ruled. Maintaining the balance in their realm. As only good hunters can do.

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wings across the water

stout legged moaI’ve always thought that the same change could happen in separate corners of the world. We’re all on the same planet – after all.

I’ve never needed one pair – like Noah’s ark – to go out & multiply across the world. Either walking on land bridges until they crossed the globe. Or left alone to change after being marooned as continents spread far apart.

This week I found science catching up with my point of view!!

Apparently a 20-million-year-old kiwi fossil found in Central Otago had researchers suggesting that the kiwi flew here from Australia long after Gondwana broke apart.

It seems that kiwi & moa flew around the continents and then became flightless after arriving here. Just like their cousins the ostrich in Africa, the rhea South America, the emu in Australia, & the cassowary in PNG.

To go from flight to non-flight can be super-common if you’re a ratite or a rail. Or even if you’re a stout legged moa.

A world-wide change that is very weird, and very possible.

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the living fabric of this world

Ocean of Life HOW OUR SEAS ARE CHANGING
Ocean of Life HOW OUR SEAS ARE CHANGING
I’ve just finished reading a couple of compelling science books.

A WORLD WITHOUT Bees (The mysterious decline of the honeybee & what it means to us), tells how our species is beginning to walk dangerously out of step with the rest of nature.

It’s a common theme.

Reading Callum Robert’s Ocean of Life HOW OUR SEAS ARE CHANGING, I was as absorbed as when I first read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

I don’t know how Callum makes this urgent need for the wholesale reversal of present trends of wildlife decline and environmental degradation, a testament to the human spirit – but he does!

David Suzuki calls it ‘an eloquent and authoritative call for change with a blueprint to guide us in salvaging the great oceans.’ Which it most definitely is.

I got it out from the Kapiti Coast library (aren’t libraries wonderful!)

Judges for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books (it was short-listed) said: “Roberts sets modern conservation in context. For instance he has taken fisheries science and channelled it into the mainstream debate. This book is thrilling: a delightful mix of anecdote, research and polemic.”

Both books: great reads.

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flowers & fruit

Idaho Honey Bee
Idaho Honey Bee
It’s the next game that’s taking all the creative space in my head at the moment.

It began last year as a bee game. For a year, I was working a couple of days a week alongside a live–observation hive. A game had to come from that!!

But then the game morphed, into a pollination game (bees, birds, moths, wind. . .)

It’s been on the dining room table & I’ve been playing myself round & round the board/table!

Now I’m waiting for the artist & the environmental scientist to add their input. It’s really exciting when exceptional people agree to assist.

The concept is strong, but it will need a lot of tweaking before it’s ready for testing. Some enviroschools won the right, last year, to test my next game (part of Game Week). Hopefully happening later this year!

I’m not sure if knowing – this time – so more about game design is a blessing or a distraction. But here we are. .

. . .more news as we go.

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mutton-birding

sooty shearwaterMutton-birding (titi/sooty shearwater) season started April 1 and finishes end of May.

Rakiura (Stewart Island) Maori, from our deep south, have rights to gather muttonbirds on 36 islands – the Titi Islands – around Rakiura.

Last year a lack of small fish such as krill, for the birds to feed on, meant many chicks died in their holes.

But good follows bad and this years season is looking better. The birds now being caught are a good size and the majority are healthy.

In Cloak of Protection titi are hunted by Norway rat (when it gets onto their islands) and, of course, the human hunter.

On another note, got the best feedback about Cloak of Protection yesterday. One of my friends is teaching years 5&6 in Manurewa, Auckland. She said ‘we tried & we tried to study NZ’s wildlife & we got nowhere. Then we played the game & the kids knew everything – birds, predators, the lot!’

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kiwi on Raikura

KiwiThere’s some Cloak of Protection games featuring in a competition in the latest i-site, News in Education, magazine.

Some of the pages in this edition ‘Our Amazing Environment’ are about Rakiura National Park (85% of Rakiura/Stewart Island), our newest national park & the southernmost park in the world.

Down there, some people go kiwi-spotting as there are around 25,000 birds. Kiwi often come out in family groups during daylight & even walk on the beaches!

There are no stoats, ferrets or weasels on the island.

But there are still possums, feral cats & rats – so traps have been set. There are plans in the near future to make the whole island pest-free.

Go Rakiura! That’s a massive island about to become predator free!

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growing the future in the school gardens

Setting up the Enviroshools tent
Setting up the Enviroshools tent
Here’s Karyn & Arihia setting up the Enviroschools tent at Kapiti’s Sustainable Home & Garden Show. Held last weekend in the glittering sun.

Among other events, there was Cloak of Protection being played inside (Enviroschools Wellington being my biggest supporter).

The theme this year was ‘Bees, butterflies and bugs’. There were fourteen gardens from local Early Childhood Centres, Primary Schools & Colleges.

At the centre of the school gardens ecosytems were alive! Bees joined us. Music wafted into our tent, chimes from one school, especially composed music from another.

Sunday afternoonHere’s a pic of Karyn (with Natalie, the local water educator) at the end of the weekend. She’s dancing outside our tent, among the school gardens.

Obviously we had a very good time!!

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skeletons & skulls

Caught up with Cloak of Protection illustrator Morgan Rothwell, at his home yesterday.

As I’ve always said, Morgan draws like he does, because he knows his creatures from the inside out.

Here he is with the inside of a cat! Part of his collection of skeletons & skulls.

As a child he had his own natural history museum – in the garden shed. Now it’s in his living room. Different country. Same habits!