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.

Glamorgan Heritage Coast Walk

We went out on a walk with the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Rangers. The walk was really fun and we learnt quite a lot. We saw our first orange tip butterfly and managed to tick another two plants off the list.

 On our way to the Heritage Coast Centre we saw our first Bluebells of the year.

The lanes were full of the yellow flowers of Lesser Cellandine.

 We saw wild cabbage which is quite rare in wales.

Three young ravens were sat in the nest waiting for their lunch.

It can be quite scary on top of the cliffs, especially when it is windy.

The Rangers pointed out lots of wildlife and i managed to see two plants from the list.

Scrophularia nodosa - Figwort
The flowers for this plant grow on square stems.

 Gromwell is mentioned in the book but it doesn't say which type, there are more than one. This is the first type of gromwell i have seen, its purple gromwell and is very rare, especially in wales.

Lithospermum purpuro-caeruleum - Purple Gromwel


Went to the river this morning to check if the Brook Lamprey had started spawning. There was no sign of Lamprey but i did pick out some fresh otter tracks and quite a few spraints, looks like Mr Otter has been busy.....

A pile of sand with a spraint (poo) in the middle. The spraint does smell of hay meadow, i know because i smelled it. You can also see where the otter scratched the sand.

Here you can see the otter print, you can just make out its five toes.

Another spraint point on a rock. Otters like to poo on rocks because this is how they mark their territory, Pooing on a rock makes sure the smelly poo doesn't get washed away by the river.

Another fresh spraint point, you can see the otter has scrapped the sand into a pile then pooed on top.

Another spraint, experts look through the spraint and can identify what the otter has been eating by the types of bone found in the poo.

Then i had a surprise, I found a pool with a plant called Starwort in it and guess what, Starwort is on the list. Off the list -

Callitriche stagnalis - Common Water Star Wort


Insects are cool but the problem is that everything eats them. If you are going to be an insect and survive you need to be able to hide. This is Lesley my Leaf Insect, she really does look like a leaf. She has the perfect camoflague. Leaf insects are not found in thw wild in Britain. They live in tropical forests around the world.


The Early Bird Catches the Lek

Well we managed to knock another big one of the list this morning, Black Grouse! I also saw my first Redpol and Tree Pippit!

Dad booked us on an RSPB date with nature to see a Black Grouse Lek. A Lek is where all the males show off to try and attract the females.


We travelled up from South Wales on Saturday, we counted 58 Buzzards on the journey, that's a new record for us.

On the way up we stopped at Pontcysyllte Aquaduct and walked across, it was really high and we had good views of the river up the valley. An aquaduct is a bridge with a canal running over it so boats can pass across the valley. It was really high and it was weird looking down on jackdaws sat in the tops of trees.

I found my favourite boat, i like the name.

We slept in the car overnight which was real good fun.

We watched the sunset over the hills.

Dad took this picture and moved the camera when he pressed the button, it made the moon blur into a heart shape.

We got up at 4:30 in the morning, and walked to the woods in the dark. We watched the lek from a special hide, it was quite far away so that we didn't disturb the birds while they were lekking. We saw 9 males trying to impress the female. Because they were so far away and it was quite dark we couldn't take any pictures. We did do some video but it was quite blurry, we will put that on the blog later. It was quite cold, there was still some snow on the ground in places.

I couldn't tell you how many buzzards we passed on the way home because i slept most of the way.

Off the list, Black Grouse (Lyrurus tetrix)

The Black Grouse is a very rare bird, if you want to see one you should do it with a guided walk. You should never get too close to a Lek as you can scare the birds. They are on the increase, last year 320 lekking males were recorded that's the best since monitoring started in the 1990's. Black Grouse are really cool, you can found out more at -


Here's the video, sorry its blurry.

Lucky enough to have found some owl pellets.......

Have a go at this


Ive got a busy week this week. First a friend gave me 4 Barn Owl Pellets which i am dissolving in a bucket of water. The owls cant digest bones and fur so they squeeze all the bones and fur of their prey together in the stomach and then throw up the pellet through their mouth. If you examine the bones in the pellet you can tell what they have been eating.  I have been following Nick Bakers advice on how to do this. I will update you later.......

We have a small pond in the garden and i have always wondered what goes on below the surface. So I have cleaned out an old fish tank and filled it with gravel and a jug of pond water and some pond weeds. I am going to make a film of the pond life. It seems like a battlefield with lots of things fighting and eating each other. I will update you later.......

On Sunday i am travelling a long way to hopefully see a Black Grouse Lek. Fingers crossed that it all works out. I cant wait. I will update you later..........

Check out the Black Grouse - http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/b/blackgrouse/index.aspx

Woodlouse x50


Woodlice (Oniscidea)

Woodlice are cool, under the microscope they look like armoured tanks. Everyone has seen a woodlouse, they are really common and you have probably seen them in your house or garden. Different people throughout the country have different nicknames for them including - bibble bug, cheese bug, cheese log, cheesybob, chisel pig, crockers, fairy pig, gramfer, granny grey, grumpy gravie, monkeypede, snot, sour bug, tiddy hog and woozey pug - which is your favourite name?

In the olden days people used to think that they were medicine because they curled up like a pill, so they used to crush them up and eat them to make them better.

People who study woodlouse are called oniscologists. There are about 40 native British species which live outdoors and another 12 that live in heated greenhouses. Only 9 of these are common and only 5 of them are really common. Woodlouse are broken down into groups named after what they behave like, the groups include 'runners' 'clampers' 'rollers' and 'creepers'. They eat rotting wood. The prettiest woodlouse is the Rosy Woodlouse which has a pair of bright yellow stripes running down its back.

So thats another one off the list...

Llanelli WWT

WE went to Llanelli Wetlands today, run by the WWT (http://www.wwt.org.uk/visit/llanelli/) The sun was shining and we had a really good day.

We didnt see any new stuff from my Tarka list but we did see a new bird, a Black Tailed Godwit (learn more - http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/b/blacktailedgodwit/).

They are waders and have really big bills.

There are lots of hides to watch the wild birds like the Godwit and they have enclosures with different water birds from around the world. You can get really close to the birds and take cool pictures.


 Tufted Duck

Mandarin Duck 


Nene Goslings 

 Flamingoes (Mums favourite)

A chirpy Robin

Entrance to one of the hides 

We had a nice picnic with jam tarts.

You can even buy food to feed the birds....

I actually had Eider ducks and Shelducks feeding out of my hand (i remebered to wash my hands after) you can see the video here..... http://youtu.be/v6GtDB3Znm4

Ring Ouzel

Another new bird, its not on my list but its the first time i have seen a Ring Ouzel, such a cool name. They look a bit like a blackbird but they have a white patch on the chest.

Learn more - http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/r/ringouzel/index.aspx

Buzzard Bingo

We have invented a new game we play when going on car journeys. The first one to see a Buzzard has to shout "Buteo buteo" (the scientific name for the buzzard). The game doesnt usually last very long which is good because it means that there are lots of Buzzards about.

Learn more about Buzzards - http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/b/buzzard/index.aspx

Breaking News

I didn't expect this. The last day of my holidays and Grampy took me down the beach at Monk Nash. When we were walking down a Stoat ran across the road in front of us. It was so quick i couldn't get a picture but its another tick off my list and its one of the hardest things to see.

Then when we were on the cliffs i saw my first Chough, it flew over our heads calling, I've been trying to see one for ages. The Chough is a type of crow, for more including its call check -



Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Found in lots of places but very difficult to see. Some say it is the perfect killing machine and can kill things much bigger than itself including rats, rabbits and birds. The stoat is a bit bigger than its relative the weasel, and its got a black tip to its tail which a weasel hasn't. In winter the stoats fur can change to all white to camouflage it in the snow, this is known as its ermine coat. Stoats are cool.

Over the Woods

On the way over the woods we saw this Buzzard on a telegraph pole sitting next to the Starlings, i wonder what they were talking about...

In the woods we found this Scarlet Elf Cup which is a fungus that grows on old dead twigs. It is bright red so it is quite easy to spot and it looks like a little cup which is why its called an elf cup. This was the biggest one i have ever seen.