As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.

17 great Christmas gifts for bone collectors


This week I have been writing my Christmas list, which got me thinking about what presents would be a good choice for anyone who likes nature, especially people my age. 

There are loads of great gifts out but I have picked my top 17 (for all ages). They go from stocking fillers for a couple of pounds to great experiences for hundreds of pounds, but all of them are pretty amazing and would definitely put a smile on someone's face !

1. A brilliant skeleton brooch or badge

Penny Darlings is run by Alison Atkin, who is a proper osteoarcheologist and someone who has helped me a lot on Twitter. She makes some really cool hand drawn badges, including the one in the picture of a platypus which she sent me. The badges are small, strong but incredibly detailed and make great gifts. You can order them from here: pennydarlings.co.uk

2. Join the RSPB or a local Wildlife Trust

The RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts both do brilliant work in protecting and recording wildlife in the UK. You can have family membership of the RSPB from about £5 a month and Wildlife Trusts are about the same (you join your local one). They both do separate but brilliant work, so it makes sense to join both, and their magazines are brilliant.

Join your local Wildlife Trust: wildlifetrusts.org

Join the RSPB: rspb.org.uk

3. A penknife

I have a Victorinox Swiss army knife and it's great to have in your pocket while out walking. They are about as safe as knifes get, and there's a Duke of Edinburgh Award edition one with a main blade with a rounded edge to make it even safer, although I don't see the point in those. For about £25-£30 you will get a well made knife that will last you a long time. I have had mine for the last four years and my dad has had his for the last thirty !

4. "The Nature Tracker's Handbook"

Nick Baker's book "The Nature Tracker's Handbook" is one of the best books about UK wildlife I have read. It tells you what to bring, animals trails and things like poo and owl pellets, and gives enough detail for both children and adults. My copy is signed by Nick Baker from when I was Winterwatch Unsprung in January.

You can buy it from Amazon, but local bookshops are best. They will be able to order it almost as cheaply, and they LOVE your business.

5. A personalised OS Map

Since I began collecting, I have had one of these maps. They used to be a bit more flimsy than regular maps, but the newer ones are as good as the proper OS maps, and at £17 are really good value. They are customised (you can choose when the centre of the map is, the title and the cover photo) and the scale (1:50,000 shows more ground, but 1:25,000 is better because it shows far more detail.) My map is centred on my village and it shows all of the woods near me, and is fantastic for finding new places to explore. You can even order one which comes flat so you can have it as a wall poster.

You can order yours here: ordnancesurvey.co.uk

6. Binoculars

The single most useful thing I carry in the countryside is my pair of binoculars, and they make a great gift. A good pair will last a long time, and I have used mine for about three years and they look as good as new. I use Bushnell 8x42 waterproof binoculars, which cost around £70. If you're buying for someone my age, make sure they can reach the focussing ring in the middle when holding (it can be difficult with some of the old-style "porro" binoculars". The straps that come with them can be a bit rubbish, but the elasticated harness ones which go over the arms are very handy, and cost about £10-£15.

7. Adopt a zoo animal

Most zoos have a scheme where you can sponsor one of their animals. They usual describe it as "adopting" which is sounds like you take them home with you, but depending on how much you spend, you'll either get information about it and a certificate, free tickets, and your name listed by its enclosure. My local zoo is Edinburgh Zoo, and about £40 will get you a certificate, and £80 will get you some free tickets.

Edinburgh Zoo Adopt an Animal: edinburghzoo.org.uk/support-us/adopt-an-animal/

8. Skeleton apron and glove

Even though I don't have this, I think its really cool because it looks mad. I think I should buy one for my mum !

Apron: www.nhmshop.co.uk/skeleton-apron.html

Oven glove: sciencemuseumshop.co.uk/home/kitchen/xray_oven_glove.htm

9. "The Unfeathered Bird"

Katrina van Grouw is an amazing artist who combines detailed biological knowledge with her brilliant art. I reviewed her book before (she got in touch afterwards) and she also sells prints of the drawing on her website from £40.

Remember, you can buy it from Amazon, but local bookshops are best. They will be able to order it almost as cheaply, and they LOVE your business.

The Unfeathered Bird website: unfeatheredbird.com

10. Bones stack game

The bone stack is based on Jenga. It's a bit more expensive than the regular game, but it does look cool.

On Amazon UK: amazon.co.uk

11. Lumbar vertebrae mug

I don't really use mugs myself but this is quite cool !

At Anatomy Stuff: anatomystuff.co.uk

12. Alan Dudley's "Skulls"

"Skulls" by Simon Winchester is by far my favourite bone book. It's based on a collector in England called Alan Dudley who put together a fantastic collection of skulls from around the world. It has really good pics of skulls and has loads of facts about them. I got this book two years ago and it is still interesting. I reviewed it at the time.

As always, you can buy it from Amazon, but local bookshops are best. They will be able to order it almost as cheaply, and they LOVE your business.

13. Bone pens

These remind me of some fantastic bone-shaped erasers that my editor found in a museum. These pens look fragile but for a couple pounds they would make a good stocking filler.

Here they are at: enchantedemporium.co.uk

14. A week long course on human osteology

Okay, so this is the opposite of a "stocking filler". It's a five day course run by Lauren McIntyre and Isabelle Heyerdahl-King at Oxford Brookes University, and it takes place next January. It's not cheap but it looks fantastic !

Human Osteology: An Introduction: brookes.ac.uk

15. "Secrets of Bones" with Ben Garrod and Prof. Alice Roberts

Now this looks AMAZING. It's a  one-day course in human and comparative osteology with Professor Alice Roberts (who has done loads of scientific BBC programmes) and Ben Garrod (who is the award-winning BBC presenter of "Secrets of Bones", and a brilliant person). It's before Christmas - Saturday 6th December - at Bristol Museum, which I got the chance to visit recently, and which is a great museum.  It's a hands on workshop showing secrets from archaeological human remains with Professor Roberts, and building a deer skeleton with Ben , as well as lots more.  You can register interest, find out more information and prices by emailing info@alice-roberts.co.uk

16. Lee Post's rearticulation guides

Lee Post is a professional skeleton articulator based in Alaska, who does a lot of brilliant work, including with massive whale skeletons.  His guides are the most detailed and interesting guides I have found, and are really, really useful for identifying small bones such as carpals and tarsals.I would definitely recommend these to anyone who wants to rearticulate a skeleton. I'm hopefully going to write a longer review to his guides at some point on here !

Order his guides: theboneman.com/

17. And of course...my book !

Did you think I'd forgotten it ? If you like my blog you'll love my book. It'ss £8 in the UK. It's aimed at five to eight year olds but the oldest reader I know is 84, and she loved it. Final time I'll say it: you can buy from Amazon, but local bookshops are almost as cheap and much better service.

Heres my book at my publisher's website: octopusbooks.co.uk

Enjoy this post ? Share it !


Ellie {Musing Momma} said...

Jake, these are awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you! My 8-year-old son (inspired by you) is now an avid bone collector. These are great holiday gift ideas! One more idea - ordering a special animal skull via Ebay (from a legit dealer of course). Although not quite as much fun as finding bones oneself, it's another way to add to a collection. :)

Jo [Jake's Editor!] said...

Fabulous list! Especially Katrina van Grouw's book. Her art is hauntingly lovely and resulted in several walks along tidelines last summer in order to pick beautiful bleached bird bones out of piles of rotting seaweed. But of course what EVERYONE really needs this Christmas is a copy of 'Jake's Bones!'

Jake said...

Thanks ! Great to hear about your son !

Jake said...

What they really need is about four or five copies, really !

Bones said...

My personal favorite book on skulls is "animal skulls, a guide to north american species" it has great pics and descriptions.

Free counters!