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.

Quadruple after school trip

We went for a quick trip down the beach after school with my home made prawn net

Climbing down over the rocks we found.....

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) also known as Sea Pink
This little plant likes salty air that you find at the beach and will grow in the crevices of rocks.

When we got to the pools we set off with bucket and nets....

The first thing we caught was a very angry Velvet Swimming Crab that wouldn't let go of the net....

Swimming Crab (Portinidae)
These are very aggressive and snap their claws at anything within attacking distance. They have blue bits on their claws and red eyes. I was quite glad when it eventually let go of my net and went swimming off into the rock pool.

Next up i caught a load of Prawns, this was the biggest one...

Prawns (Palaemonidae)
These are the scavengers of the rock pool eating up all the little dead bits of everything else. I do like to eat Prawns and latter in the year we will keep some of the catch to eat at home. This time of year though the females are carrying eggs (you can just see them in the black bit of the belly in the photo). When they have eggs they are known as 'berried'. So we put these ones back and will wait until later in the year to catch some for dinner.

I also caught a few Blennies

Blenny (Lipophyris pholis)
These big eyed fish hide under stones and seaweed in rock pools. They like to eat crunchy things like barnacles and small crabs

And we saw a lot of Anemoes (Actiniidae)

Off the list

Sea Thrift

Pond Sedge

We went for a walk upto the village pond to watch the Swallows diving down and drinking from the water. The edge of the pond has Pond Sedge in it as well as some Orchids. Sedge is a type of plant a bit like a big grass, its now off the list.

Good News - Bad News

Good News

We put some black plastic sheets in the wildlife area of our garden to see if we had any wildlife. (black corrugated sheets are best). Lots of things like to hide under them like mice/voles/newts/frogs/toads/reptiles). When we checked it today there was a Slow Worm under it.

Slow Worm - Anguis fragilis
This looks like a snake but its actually a legless lizard. A slow worm is different from snakes because it can close its eyes and its tail will easily break off as a defence mechanism like a lizards. A slow worm likes to eat worms and slugs.

Bad News

Me and Dad went out for a bike ride and we spotted a dead Grass Snake. Its the first time i have seen one but it had been run over by a car on a country lane.

Grass Snake - Natrix natrix
The grass snake likes water and is really good at swimming. The grass snake is not venomous. If the grass snake feels threatened its first defence is to wriggle a lot. If that doesn't work then it squirts a really bad smelling liquid out of its bum, if it is still feeling threatened after that it will freeze and pretend to be dead sometimes holding its mouth open and letting its tongue hang out. A grass snake will eat frogs, newts, mice, voles and small birds.

Off the list .....

Grass Snake
Slow Worm

Scottish Holiday

We have just been for our first ever trip to Scotland. We went on a family holiday with my grandparents. We had an amazing time.

We had to drive for a longtime to get there. We stopped off halfway and stayed in a hotel for a rest. We had a picnic by the river by the motorway. We found some small grey feathers that turned blue in the sunlight, we think they are Kingfisher feathers. We also found this Mayfly

Mayfly that is resting after just emerging from the river

When we woke up we had a lush breakfast and then drove a lot more. We got stuck in some traffic jams and had to drive over some big mountains. On top of one of the mountains there was a Scottish man dressed in his kilt playing the bagpipes, they sounded real cool.

After going over the mountains we had to catch a ferry across a loch

The Corran Ferry crossing Loch Linnhe

Dad said we were nearly there but it took another hour to get to the long bumpy lane that lead to the house we were staying at. The house was called Clavan which means Buzzard in Scotish. The house was on a mountainside next to some oakwoods on the shore of loch Sunart (http://www.unique-cottages.co.uk/cottages/westcoast/argyll/clavan)

View of Clavan from the top of the hill, Loch Sunart in the background

It was fun opening the 3 gates to the cottage. When i first went into the house i thought it was really great. There was a stream and little waterfall by the house, there were fish in it but they were too quick to identify and too many midges to try and catch them.....

The stream next to the house

There were Swallows nesting under the eaves whizzing up and down in front of the window.....

Swallows under the eaves

There were a pair of woodpeckers flying around the garden......

Great Spotted Woodpecker

They were collecting peanuts from the feeder and flying about and hiding them in crack in trees and fenceposts, to eat later......

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Also on the feeders were Siskins, a bird which i have never seen before even though they are quite common.....

Siskin battle


There were buzzards flying overhead.....


It was amazing. In the nighttime we watched the mountains turn red as the sunset

View from the lounge

Just as it was getting dark my brother shouted that there was a Polecat on the bird table. At first we didn't believe him but when we looked it was a fat Pine Marten. There was a family of Pine Martens who visited every night and ate food we put out for them (bread, peanuts and raw eggs). One night we put out 5 eggs. The pine marten sneaked up, put them in his mouth and run off with it each time in a different direction to hide them. The Swallows would go mad when the Pine Marten came because they thought they would rob the eggs from their nest, so we put the food away from the nest. We got some pictures on my trail cam and sometimes they visited before it got dark....

Cheeky Pine Marten

Taken with my Trail cam

Eating peanuts off the windowsill

In the morning there was a Cuckoo calling in the tree right outside the house

Cuckoo (blurry)

We went for a walk up the mountain and found a deer antler and pine marten skull

We also found some dragon flies and chasers in the bog

Out for a walk

Tipula maxima (Daddy long legs/Cranefly)

Cordulegaster boltonii - Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Libellula quadrimaculata - Four Spot Chaser

We went down to the loch and Dad went for a swim. I managed to catch an Eel, and ticked it off the list...


We found a good spot with what looked like otter spraint (poo) and left the trail cam out overnight. These are the pictures we found the next day and couldn't believe it....

Otter backside

Otter at Loch Sunart

In the night when my brother was going to bed he found a tick in his armpit. Dad had to pull it out with his swiss army knife tweezers. We all had to be checked and dad found one on my brothers neck and Nanny had 2 on her legs. Dad pulled them all out and had to have a whisky afterwards to calm his nerves. Ticks are not just in Scotland they are in Wales too, if you go out walking in the countryside you should read this http://www.tickbitepreventionweek.org/index.html Heres the tick from the armpit..........


As well as ticks there were midges which are little flies which bite you and suck your blood. Dad had lots of bites. We saw this funny rock by the side of the road...

A giant bloddsucking midge

We went to some lovely beaches and i found a Sandeel and some Elver (baby eels). Where we sat on the beach i spotted an oyestercatcher nest with 3 eggs in it....


Bucket of fish at Sana Bay

Elver, a baby Eel (top middle)

Yes this is Scotland

Oystercatcher eggs

5 minutes from the house was a really good wildlife hide http://www.forestry.gov.uk/Website/ourwoods.nsf/LUwebdocsBykey/ScotlandHighlandSunartOakwoodArderyArdAirighArdAirighcarparkGarbhEileanWildlifeHide

We saw lots from the hide including my first red breasted merganser, grey seal, common seal, sandpiper, oystercatcher, herons, jellyfish, and terns

Common Sandpiper caught on my Trail Cam

Old Nog the Grey Heron

Red Breasted Merganser

Island of Terns in the middle of Loch Sunart

Loch Sunart (Trail cam picture)

Grey Seals

In the hide at Loch Sunart

A forest

When we were out walking we saw lots of plants and flowers and some really pretty butterflies

We think this is a Fritillary. Its on a Thistle which is a Scottish symbol


We think this is a Common Blue

Bog Cotton

Birch Tree


Beetle on Mull

Cuckoo Flower

Dactylorhiza fuchsii - Common Spotted Orchid

Red Clover

Pied Wagtail with beak full of flies

Meadow Pippit

Me next to a Rowan tree

On our last day we caught the ferry to Mull and went on a wildlife tour with Richard (http://www.mullwildlife.co.uk/information.html). This was an amazing day where we saw our first Otter, Golden Eagle and White Tailed Sea Eagle with chick. The white tailed eagles nest is the size of a double bed. Its the biggest bird in the UK.  I will never forget it. Those jam scones were pretty nice too. This is my list of things i saw when i was with Richard for the day

Blackbird, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Hooded Crow, Cormorant, Curlew, Collared Dove, Golden Eagle (3), Whitetail Eagle (4 +chick), Eider duck, Canada Goose and Goslings, Greylag Goose, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Hen Harrier, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Linnet, Red breasted Merganser, Shorteared Owl, Oystercatcher (+chick), Meadow Pippit and Rock Pippit, Robin, Sandpiper, Shag, Shelduck, House sparrow, Starling, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Wheatear, Winchat, Otter, Common Seal, Red Deer and Fallow Deer.

 Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle

White Tailed Eagle

View from on top

Lonely house

Otter hunting on Mull

View near Kentra Sands

Back at the house we saw a fox glowing red in the sunset and then the moon came out

This fox was glowing red in the evening sun

View from the lounge at night

On the way home we got stuck in a traffic jam at Loch Lomond, then a man ran past us with the Olympic torch. I was glad to get home to my own bed but i already miss Scotland.

Olympic Torch on the shore of Loch Lomond

So ticked off the list are

Pine Marten
Cotton Grass
Grey Seal
Common Seal
Red Deer