BBC Earth and the Real Happiness Project

 

We all know in our hearts that animals and nature make us genuinely happy, so BBC Earth is running the Real Happiness Project where their mission is to bring real happiness to people everywhere to improve their connection with the natural world.

Simply search for bbcearth on Facebook Messenger and interact with the Happybot to create your very own personalised Real Happiness Moment.

The Happybot will ask you a few simple questions with multiple choice answers which differ each time. You could be asked what mood you’re in, do you like feathers or fur, two legs or four legs, do you prefer cute or strange, etc. Once you’ve done that, the Happybot will only take mere moments to build your very own special Real Happiness Moment video that you can watch, save and share. The Real Happiness Moment created for you is a compilation of animal and nature scenes from the BBC accompanied to music, and clips seem to range between 10 and 60 seconds, I guess it depends on your answers to the questions.

It’s fast and easy to do and you can opt in for regular check ins and do multiple ones on the same day. It’s all up to you. And because you’re dealing with BBC Earth, you know it’s good quality that you’re getting, and they don’t spam you or contact you other than for your scheduled check in if you’ve requested it.

I’ve chosen to do a weekly check in, and each time, my mood and thoughts have been different, so each Real Happiness Moment created for me is completely unique. I have enjoyed every Real Happiness Moment I’ve received so far. The beautiful scenes of wildlife and nature really do lift your spirits, especially if you’re having a bad day. It’s like having your own custom made micro documentary delivered to you.

Here are a few of my Real Happiness Moments I’d like to share with you.

Check out the bird with the red berries in this one –

Nice images in this one and a tiny surprise near the end –

Life underwater –

Little things in this one –

Birds in slow motion –

And just because it’s cute –

Watch the official BBC trailer for the project below.

I know you’re smiling now and feeling all warm and good inside after watching the above trailer, so why not give the Real Happiness Project a try? 🙂

Happiness through Nature, what could be better than that!

What Birds Teach Us by WA Hewson – Book Review

What Birds Teach Us by WA Hewson is a very unique book with the clever idea of highlighting particular traits of birds and finding parallels in our own lives. Each Australian bird species featured in the book has some interesting information about their behaviour with a few words on what we can learn from these birds and how to incorporate that into our own lives and also why it is important for us that we should do so.

For instance, we can learn trust by watching our parents love, care and nurture us, just like the sea eagle chicks who trust their parents when they are pushed out of the nest to fly for the first time, trusting their parent will catch them in time should they not be able to fly.

Another example is that we can strive to remain happy even when things aren’t going our way and be grateful for what we do have, just like the golden whistler who continues singing beautiful melodies even when food may be scarce and they are undergoing hard times.

We can also learn patience by observing the white-faced heron, who is often spotted standing in shallow water, watching and waiting ever so patiently for the right time to act on its next meal as it swims by. In today’s stressful times, it can be very beneficial for people to slow down and use some self-control, and simply wait until the time is right to have what you want instead of pushing the limits to get what you want right now and put yourself in a worse situation.

These are the things that birds teach us and they are thought provoking indeed.

It is obvious from reading the book that the author, Mr Hewson,  has a passion for Australia’s diverse birdlife as this clearly comes across in the knowledgeable information he imparts about each species of bird. Hewson’s knowledge in family counselling also shows in the insightful comments he makes about each bird’s behaviour and how we can be like them. The book is also stunningly illustrated with big, beautiful photographs of Australia’s native birds taken by the author himself.

This is definitely a book to treasure and share with your children and grandchildren and is money well worth spent. I have had this book for about a year now, and I still like to get it out on occasion and flip through the pages and pictures.

Visit the author’s website for more information about this book and to purchase it, and also check out the author’s birding blog.

Please note that I purchased a copy of What Birds Teach Us of my own volition and the views expressed in this review are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

The Magpie Whisperer – Book Review

 

This is quite an amazing non fiction book by an Australian woman who turned her backyard into Magpie Manor – a kind of drop in centre for wild magpies where they can come and go as they please, forage for food in the yard, sunbathe, splash in a pool, play with colourful toys, and even hang off the Hills Hoist!

The Magpie Whisperer introduces us to her 3 favourite magpies that she has developed special bonds with. She relates interesting stories about how the friendships started, what the magpies get up to, and how these wild birds have not only captivated her heart but become lifelong special friends and helped her deal with her anxiety.

The book is easy to read and enjoyable because it’s not just big blocks of text. There are plenty of fantastic photos of the magpies in action as well as funny things like the scrapbook section plus interesting trivia and snippets of information.

I have been a fan of The Magpie Whisperer on Instagram for a while now, her videos of magpie antics really make me laugh, and I was excited to finally see her book published and just had to buy a copy immediately. I really love this book and it has given me a few ideas of things I could try in my own backyard for my own visiting magpies.

The Magpie Whisperer is a book I will get out and flip through and read again and again, and I recommend it if you are already a follower of The Magpie Whisperer or if you’re someone who loves magpies or who appreciates that birds have intelligence and personalities like us.

Visit The Magpie Whisperer’s website for more information about The Magpie Whisperer and the magpies in her backyard, as well as for links to purchase the book and watch her entertaining magpie videos. There are also links to follow her on social media so you don’t miss all the magpie shenanigans. 🙂

Please note that I purchased a copy of The Magpie Whisperer of my own volition and the views expressed in this review are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

 

Review: Platypus Dreaming by ME Skeel

 

Published 11 May 2016

Format: ebook only

60 pages

Available From:  Amazon.com  and Amazon.com.au

 

Synopsis

Platypus Dreaming is a real life animal adventure story about one of the world’s most mysterious animals. Everybody loves platypus but what do they actually know about these strange egg-laying mammals. This book will teach you and your children about the amazing world of the platypus while enchanting you with the adventures of one very lucky little platypus. Based on a true story.

 

Review

Platypus Dreaming is a well written, educational and inspiring tale full of adventure.

Before the story begins, there is an introduction which has lots of interesting information about the platypus, much of which I was not aware of. The first chapter of the book then presents two short Dreamtime stories on how the platypus came to be, and I found them interesting reading. Then from chapter two we are treated to the adventure of Lucky the platypus.

Skeel has done a wonderful job in weaving into the storyline various facts about platypuses, making it easy to understand the life of this curious Australian animal, including their family hierarchy, behaviour, and their life in general. Also included in the story is wildlife trafficking, the challenges and rewards of being a wildlife carer, and lessons to be learned on treating native animals.

Platypus Dreaming is a wonderful telling of the adventures of a platypus. It is written in such a way that both children and adults alike will enjoy it, although it is aimed for children aged 12 and up. The story is based on real events experienced by the author and interspersed throughout the text are several real photographs of the platypuses characterised in the story. I learned a lot from reading this story and I think children who love animals and nature are sure to be delighted and enthralled reading this book.

 

Project Noah

If you’re a wildlife enthusiast anywhere in the world and love taking photographs of the animals around you and you like to share your discoveries with others, you should check out a website called Project Noah.

What is Project Noah? Well, in their own words from their website –

Project Noah is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.”

Project Noah is an award winning software which began in 2010 as an experiment to help people reconnect with the natural world. It’s backed by National Geographic and is helping people all over the world appreciate their local wildlife by utilizing new mobile technologies to collect ecological data and help preserve biodiversity.

You can look at some information without registering on the website, however, once you’ve signed up and can fully access the site, you’ll be able to do a whole lot more.

When you first go on the site, you’ll be presented with a list of uploaded sightings. You can choose to view them in order of popularity, date uploaded, or even what’s trending. You can also select to view unidentified sightings if you’d like to have a go at identifying some species that other users have uploaded. Here’s a partial screenshot of some popular listings. Hovering your mouse over a photo brings up details of the user who posted it and the number of “favourites” (equal to likes) as well as the number of comments. By clicking on the photo you’ll be taken to the spotting page where you can see all the details, make a comment, “favourite” the sighting, and share on social media sites.

Once you’ve signed up with Project Noah you can set up your profile and start uploading your wildlife photos. Here is a partial screenshot of one of my wildlife spottings.

You are able to add notes for each photo, including an animal’s description, its habitat, and anything else you’d like to add. You can even have more than one photo for each animal and include links as well. You also have the option to input an animal’s geographical location (it’s important to note that the locations of rare and endangered species are not published by the site).

Project Noah also has missions you can join. Missions are like categories that you can link your photos to. For example, in my wildlife spotting above, I’ve added the Kingfisher to 4 different missions. Below is a partial screenshot of some of the missions I’ve joined. There are tonnes of missions available, some global, some local, some broad ranging and some specific, some big and some small. There’s sure to be more than one mission that would meet your interests.

 

You can also earn patches, which are colourful symbols displayed on your profile showing specialist categories. For instance, you might post quite a few bird photos so you will earn a patch called “birds of the world”. The patches I’ve earned so far are Birds of the World, Tadpole, and Noah.

I really like Project Noah. I love the idea of what it is trying to do and how lucky we are in this day and age that we can digitally share our wildlife experiences with other like minded people anywhere in the world and assist scientific researchers. I love that you can upload new and old photos and can write notes, manually put in geographical details, and join in missions.

My user id on Project Noah is oznaturepix and you’re more than welcome to follow me to see my wildlife spottings, however, I haven’t been as active on it lately as I would like. I hope to be able to invest more time in this worthwhile project after Christmas because I have lots of interesting animals to share!

If you prefer a more fun and gamelike experience while sharing your wildlife photos, check out my review of Questagame as this might be more to your liking. But if you prefer a more serious side to Citizen Science and don’t want to use a mobile phone, Project Noah might be exactly what you’re after.

 

 

Review: The Lost Cave of Corinna by Greta Kerschbaum – An Adventure Fantasy Tale Helping to Save the Devils

I first read this amazing novel late last year and absolutely enjoyed it, and I recently re-read it and loved it just as much, so I thought I would share my review here with you. Below is an extract of my  review that I published on Amazon.

A percentage of the profits from this book is being donated by the author to the Save The Tasmanian Devil Appeal.

Synopsis

Twelve year old Tom is spending his summer holiday in what he thinks is a boring seaside town. But an accident leads to his transformation and a journey of survival in the dangerous and sometimes magical world of the Tasmanian bush. If Tom wants to return home, he must follow the call that will lead him to the mythical Lost Cave. But Tom is now on the menu for anything with fangs and claws, and that’s how he meets Dibley, a hungry Tasmanian Devil. Will Dibley overcome his natural instinct to eat Tom and join him on his journey to find the Lost Cave?

My Review

Tom travels to Tasmania for a holiday with his aunt and uncle. When Tom goes fishing with his uncle, he is told an old tale about the mad gene in his family, and how a great uncle claimed to be able to talk to animals. Tom then starts to hear a haunting call that draws him in, and after he has a serious accident, he finds he can talk to the animals himself because he has been transformed (how and into what I will not say!). Tom then meets the all-knowing and cryptic Nini who explains to him he needs to find the Lost Cave where he will find the creature that is calling to him and who might be able to help him go back to the way he was. And so Tom begins his long and dangerous journey through the Australian bush. Along the way, Tom meets a number of native animals, including a grumpy old Tasmanian devil called Dibley, who is suffering from the very real fatal cancerous disease. Tom’s experiences with each one of these animals on his journey to the Lost Cave clearly shows the damaging effect humans have on them and their environment. Tom also meets some not so native animals and his frightening encounters with them also shows what effect these animals have on Australia’s habitat and wildlife.

The Lost Cave Of Corinna is beautifully written and Ms Kerschbaum’s writing is descriptive and polished. The storyline is very intriguing and the different plot twists along the way keep you interested all the way through. The story is very captivating and I was so engrossed in this book that I was very reluctant to put it down.

I loved the descriptions of the surrounding bush landscape in the story. Ms Kerschbaum writes about the sights, sounds and smells of the bush, and it brought back many memories for me about my times in Tasmania. I also loved the portrayals of the different animals in the story. Ms Kerschbaum has described each animal’s personality even better than I imagined them to be, and their behaviour is epitomised beautifully. Every animal was aptly depicted not just in what they looked like, but how they behaved, how they smelled, what they felt like. After reading this book, you will find yourself looking at these animals with a new perspective. Admittedly, I do have a soft spot for the character of Dibley, the Tasmanian devil, but I also loved the other animals Tom met, including one very entertaining wombat.

As well as being a children’s fantasy adventure story, The Lost Cave Of Corinna addresses a number of underlying issues that are important for everyone to know about, no matter where you live. The story is a perfect way for kids to understand these issues and they are dealt with in a subtle manner so that they are important angles of the development of the story. Beneath the storyline, you will discover issues such as how feral animals and domestic animals have an effect on Australia’s wildlife; how the use of chemical poison affects the habitat and the animals that reside there; what happens to the animals and the environment when land is developed for human use; and how far reaching the effects of pollution can be. You will also find within this book elements of trust, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, survival, justice, sacrifice, loss, healing, and having to face your fears. But most of all, we learn from this book that change is possible and there is always hope.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you anxious, it will keep you in suspense, it will keep you enthralled with its magic and mystery. The Lost Cave Of Corinna will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. It will definitely appeal to everyone – young and old. It even includes a few beautiful black and white illustrations of native animals. If you relish reading stories that are full of adventure, fantasy, mystery, myth and magic, you will enjoy this book. If you love animals and the environment, you will revel in this book. If you savour all things Tasmanian (or even Australian), you will love this book.

So get yourself a copy of The Lost Cave of Corinna and join Tom on his fascinating journey to the Lost Cave and see the world in a new light.

 

Buy this book on Amazon.com – paperback version only for $7.99AUD. The book is also available at many bookstores in Hobart and from some online stores.

A percentage of the profits from this book is being donated by the author to the Save The Tasmanian Devil Appeal.

 

Experience the adventure of your local wildlife!

If you love spotting wildlife and taking photos read on to discover an app that is not only fun but educational and assists wildlife researchers!

Questagame is an app for your smart phone that gets you outdoors and taking photographs while helping to discover all sorts of wildlife with the bonus of mapping their locations.

It’s an innovative app that doesn’t really feel like a game. It’s fun, entertaining and educational, and kids and adults alike will love it!

The app takes you outside to your backyard, a local park, the beach, on a hike, anywhere you can think of where there’s wildlife. Photograph the animals and plants you see, then submit them to be included in your collection and added to your country’s national database with their geographical location. You’ll not only be growing your wildlife collection, you’ll also be helping researchers, scientists, and others record your country’s biodiversity. How amazing is that?!

Once you register and set up your profile, you can start to submit wildlife photos. You can use the camera on your phone to take photos or upload photos to your phone. Simply upload the photo, choose the wildlife category, and if you know it, you can narrow down the species. There is also an option to write notes if you wish. Once you submit the photo it shows as pending until a verifier confirms the identification then your sighting is accepted. If you don’t know the exact species of wildlife, you can leave this section blank and a verifier will identify it for you. You’ll get a notification of what the animal is, some info about it, even a link to check out more about it. And you may even get a compliment or two from the verifier about your photo!

With each correct identification of wildlife you earn gold coins which can be used to purchase items in the shop, like more powerful binoculars to increase the speed of verification of species, or a larger backpack that can last a long time if you go on a quest, or perhaps you can afford a vehicle to drive long distances. There is even the capacity to share your wildlife finds on social media.

You can take and submit photos as much as you like, but if you feel like some company or have a competitive edge, why not try something a little different?

Quests are like mini competitions where you can join up and buy supplies from the shop to last you the length of the quest, and then you compete with the other members on the quest to see who can spot all the species listed within the time frame. The winner gets heaps of gold coins! There is also the ability to request a quest for your area and even to start your very own quest for others to join.

Don’t like to go out on your own? Join a clan! You’ll get the benefit of earning large amounts of gold coins when a large group goes on a quest and you can add their species to your collection as well.

If you’re a real competitive sort of person, you might want to try your hand with a head to head challenge where you go against one person to find certain species within an allotted timeframe.

The more photos you submit, the more gold you earn, increasing your levels, building your collection of species, and moving higher up the leader board to be the best wildlife adventurer in the country!

And if all this isn’t enough for you, within the app there is a button to go to QuestaLab which is a wildlife quiz you can take to earn more gold. It’s fast, fun and challenging! So far the quizzes I have done consist of bird photos with multiple choice answers for the correct identification. I love how every now and then they throw in a photo of a bird with possible scientific names to choose from – they’re hard at first if you don’t know your stuff, but it’s a great way to learn!

I’ve been using this app for awhile now and I absolutely love it! I’ve been using it to submit photos of animals and birds around home, but I’m really looking forward to using it when I next go on holidays. I even sent them an enquiry and was very surprised by the fast response time. The app is free and has no in app purchases, and it’s so easy to use. Above all, it’s a lot of fun and an excellent way to learn about the flora and fauna in your local area (yes, you can even submit photos of weeds, fungi and ferns!).

Questagame currently works in Australia, UK, USA, India, Mexico, New Zealand, UAE and the Netherlands, and more countries are being added all the time.

Watch this video from Questagame to see what it’s all about.

If you or your kids enjoy taking photographs and are interested in plants and animals, download Questagame for free (no in app purchases) from the Google Play Store and the App Store.

See you on your next wildlife adventure!