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.

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'.

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