Hi, I'm Rudi, i'm 8 years old and my favourite book is 'Tarka the Otter' by Henry Williamson. Its about the life of an otter named Tarka and British Wildlife. One night i was reading the book with my dad and i said that i wanted to see all the animals in the book, he said i should do it and call it the Tarka Challenge. My Tarka Challenge started on 1st January 2012. The book contains 89 birds, 54 land based animals, 120 plants and 56 aquatic organisms.

The rules are simple, i must either see each thing myself or photograph it using my trail camera. I will try and see each thing on my local patch (Ogmore River Catchment) but may need to look somewhere else in Britain.

Little Owls

Little Owls (Athene noctua)

I went over my Nannies for tea and spotted a pair of little owls in a chimney, it was so well camouflaged that nobody else could see it at first and they thought i was making it up.

Little Owls are between 23-28cm tall. The birds hunt during day and night and like to perch in well seen places such as lamp posts, telegraph poles (and chimneys). Little Owls are not actually native to Britain. The birds have a distinctive piercing call often heard at dusk.

They like to eat mammals and other birds and even though they are small can catch and eat rabbits, rats, moorhens and magpies. The main part of thier diet is actually insects. Little owls were once kept as household pets to keep control of pests such as mice and cockroaches.

There were a few people who introduced these birds to Britain (ones that were originally caught in Italy), the main person was Edmund Meade-Waldo.

In his book Henry Williamson calls little owls 'Dwarf Owls'.

A Week in the Woods

Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Badger (Meles meles)

We strapped the trail camera to a tree, sprinkled some peanuts and left it for a week. These are the highlights. My favourite is the mouse hiding in the wall watching the badger.


I think everyone has seen a Blackbird. There are over 6 million pairs of these birds in Britain. They have beautiful birdsong that i hear every morning in Spring and throughout the year. The male Blackbird is black and has a yellow beak and a yellow ring around its eye. The female is dark brown with a dark beak.

Blackbirds were once hunted and eaten. There is a nursery rhyme that goes -

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing,
Was that not a dainty dish to put before the King

You might think 'how did the birds survive being cooked in the oven?'
The answer was that long ago for parties and feasts, the birds were put in the pie alive (after it was cooked) so that when the pie was cut open, the birds would fly out to suprise the guests at the party.

Luckily, people dont eat Blackbirds anymore.

Great Tit

Its called the Great Tit because its the biggest of all the Tits. It likes to eat seeds and nuts. It often feeds in gardens at bird tables. Great Tits often nest in nest boxes and little holes in trees. The Great Tit voice has been described as a 'squeaky bike pump' and sounds like a repeated 'teach-er, teach-er, teach-er'. An old country name for a Great Tit was a 'Saw Sharpner' because it sounds like someone sharpening a saw.

Grey Squirrel

The Grey Squirrel is not native to Britain. It is very common and has caused lots of problems for our native Red Squirrel because the Greys are better at eating food so the numbers of Reds have dropped. The Grey squirrel lives in trees and builds a house out of twigs which is called a drey.


Jays are members of the crow family, they have beautiful blue feathers on thier wings. They eat many things but they love acorns. In autumn they collect acorns and hide them to eat throughout winter.

The welsh name for Jay is Ysgrech y Coed which means 'Shrieker of the wood' which describes the sound they make very well.. The bright blue feathers of the jay are used by fishermen who tie bits of the feather to a hook to look like a fly and then use it to go fly fishing to catch salmon and trout. The Jay is quite a shy bird and usually stays in woodlands.

Wood Mouse

The Wood Mouse is one of the commonest mammals in the whole of Europe. It can jump around a bit like a mini kangaroo. The Wood Mouse has larger eyes and feet than the House Mouse. Sometimes a Wood Mouse will live in a House, a House is not just for a House Mouse. The Wood Mouse is mainly nocturnal (comes out at night).


Some people think foxes are not interesting but they are a large wild carnivore that you can find throughout Britain. They are the closest thing we have to Wolves. The fox is quite a smelly animal and their homes which are called 'Dens' can be quite messy and stinky. In the sping in the breeding season the females scream which can be quite scary if you dont realise what it is.


Some people think Badgers are like bears but they are actually related to stoats, weasels and otters. Badgers live in a large network of burrows which are called a 'sett'. Badgers are really clean animals and sleep on a bed of grass and leaves which they change regularly. When a badger goes to the toilet he even digs a hole and then burries his poo. These are called 'latrines'.


Three Spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

These can grow upto 5cm and live in weedy lakes and ponds. The male builds a nest which the female lays eggs in. The males then guard the nest to stop predators eating the eggs and babyfish.

Yellowhammer & Wheatear

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)


This bird mainly breeds on farmland. The adult male is bright yellow in the summer, like a canary. There is a rhyme in words that describes its song which goes 'a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese'. Its name in Welsh is 'Melyn yr Eithin' which means 'yellow bird of the gorse'. As you can probably guess, the birds like to live in areas where gorse grows. Gorse flowers are yellow, a bit like the birds feathers.


 These are usually the first of the summer visiting birds to arrive in this country (in March). Its name comes from the old english words of 'hwit' (white) and 'aers' (rump), which means white backside. Wheatears nest in holes and used to use old rabbit holes for nesting. Like a lot of birds, in the old days people used to eat Wheatears.

Busy Weekend

We had a busy weekend out and about. We tried to see the Short Eared Owl again but he wasnt around. We went to bosherton lilly ponds and on a local walk and saw lots of wild flowers so managed to tick quite a lot off the list.

 Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

 Lesser Cellandine (Ranunculus ficaria)

Wood Anenone (Anenone nemorosa)

We put out a fish trap in the river Alun baited with an old stinky crab. We were trying to catch an Eel. When we checked it the nest day there was no eel but there were some Nymphs, we think they were Stonefly Nymphs. These are underwater insects before they turn into flies, a bit like when caterpillers turn into butterflies. We also found a tiny little leech which we think was a Horse Leech. I crossed these off my list.

Horse Leech (Haemopsis sanguisuga)

Stonefly Nymph (Protonemura meyeri)

We saw some moss growing by the river and some beardy lichen growing on an old tree.

Sphagnum Moss (Spagnum cuspidatum)

Lichen (Usnea glabrescens) http://www.britishlichens.co.uk/index.html

We got up early on Sunday and drove to the woods to here the dawn chorus. The owls were hooting and the birds were singing. We saw the sunrise and then in the evening we went up the common with some friends and watched the sunset. We saw a Yellowhammer, my first Wheatear and a Piperstrelle Bat.




Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

It was a really good weekend even though I had a cold. I'm tired now and tomorow in school my class is walking to the beach.

Short-eared Owl

Short eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Sitting and waiting and then  we saw the Short eared Owl again tonight.

Short-eared Owl

This owl hunts in the day and flies close to the ground across feilds looking and listening for voles, this is called quartering. Some of these birds fly across from europe to spend winter in Britain. Watching this owl glide around hunting is something you will never forget.

A walk on the common

The tadpoles were out in our garden pond today.

We went to the open day at Coed Y Bwl nature reserve today. The daffodils, wood anenomes and some bluebells were out and the sun was shining.

We had a picnic by the river and me and Finn spotted some little fish but we couldnt identify them. We walked back home over the common and saw a stonechat and a short eared owl. Me and Finn couldnt believe it, we were so excited.

We couldnt wait to tell our grandparents. On the way over we saw a helicopter rescue on the cliffs at Southerdown.


Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
We set the trail cam out in the woods and used a road kill rabbit to try to attract a fox. We didnt get a fox but we did get 115 video clips of a busy little mouse running around all night.

Little Eggret & Fulmar

A walk around the coast and some roadkill

We've had a few walks, out and about around the coast. We saw the Rooks in the Rookery building thier nests.

This Pied Wagtail was flying around by the river.

We saw our first Primrose and Wild Daffodils which were our first flowers ticked off the list.

Walking through the woods we found a Badger sett. The Badgers must have been busy digging because there was lots of fresh earth lying around.

Down by the river we watched the swan's at sunset.

Our next thing we found was very sad. My dad found a Weasel that had been killed on a country lane. I ticked it off my list even though it was dead because they are very hard to see alive. I hope one day i will be able to film one with my camera. If you have never seen a weasel before you will probably be suprised by how small they are. This one was about the size of a chocolate bar, but they are the perfect killing machines. Sadly like a lot of countryside animals, this was killed by a car.



We left the camera in the woods last night and got some video of a mouse and a picture of a badger.


We left the trail camera in the woods last night and got my first shot of a Badger.