I sang along to my first Christmas carol on the way to work yesterday, and got that feeling, that lovely one that makes you think fondly about your fellow man, your family, friends and loved ones, and gets you looking forward to a couple of weeks' rest in the middle of a busy summer (until the post-quake Christchurch traffic gave me my daily bout of road rage).
I usually get that excited Christmassy feeling when I hear those jingle bells or Snoopy's Christmas on the radio - even though of course they have no real relevance to our southern hemisphere summer. It's easy to get caught up in the madness of Christmas gift-giving and it is a bit disconcerting to see hollow-eyed people traipsing through the malls, randomly picking out mass-produced stuff in order to fill expectations to show family and friends how much they love them. That's all a bit cynical, but if you're "over" the usual Christmas gift, or you're buying for a nature-lover and looking for something a bit different, I've got a couple of ideas for you...
1. Bird caller
If you like walking in the bush and love the experience of having birds all around you - this wee wooden and brass bird caller is a perfect present. I bought one for the bloke years ago, and we have used it heaps of times, to good effect with fantails and bellbirds in particular. It's a simple tool that you can keep in your pocket or your daypack - you just twist the brass piece in the wood and make a wide variety of bird sounds. Great stocking filler for the budding bird watcher.
2. Native wildlife card game
The maker of Cloak of Protection kindly sent me one of the games, which the bloke and I played last night. The bloke was tired and is notoriously cranky about card games in general, but he got quite into this one, beating me (annoying!) and it didn't take us long to work out that if you landed a "predator" card it was night-night to half of your collection. This game is entertaining, educational (the impacts of predators on our native species becomes very obvious very quickly) and the cards are beautifully illustrated. I'd definitely recommend it for families that are interested in our native wildlife. It'd be great for camping or at the bach over summer.
3. Nic's New Zealand Nature books - (Disclaimer: shameless self-promotion ensues).
If you didn't know, I have written a couple of books for Kiwi kids and families (9-14 years so big kids too!). The first, Invaders - animals from elsewhere that are causing trouble here, was selected as a finalist in the 2010 LIANZA Children's Book awards for best non-fiction. It's basically about all the baddies that we've brought over here (including sneaky stowaways, out of control pest control, and pet escape artists), and the impact they're having on our precious native wildlife.
The second book is called Wild Buddies - friendships and unusual relationships in nature, and is about all the different wildlife that relies on other species to boost their survival. Like, for example, the tuatara that take over the burrows of seabirds, eventually becoming flatmates from hell, muscling into their space, eating their eggs and chicks and generally being a pain. Or the worm that takes over the mind of a weta!
Because I have a VERY limited attention span, the books are scattered with "Fascinating facts" which are random and quirky bits of info relating to the topic. Did you know, for example, that there is a fish that lives up the bum of a sea cucumber? Crucial dinner party anecdotes for the big kid in all of us.
I could go on all day, but my other suggestions include annual memberships to your local native wildlife sanctuary, or perhaps a subscription to your favourite environmental organisation, or perhaps an adopt-an-animal?
Are you going to be looking for nature-related Chrissy pressies this year? Do you have some other suggestions? I'd love to hear them!