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 festive tick

I have been out this morning volunteering at my local nature reserve. Clearing scrub in the cold was hard work but when I saw this Holly tree I remembered that I hadn't ticked it off my Tarka list yet. With Christmas only a week away it seems like a good time to do it!
We have a lot of folklore in Britain especially about our wildlife. I don't need to explain what Holly is to you as it is a tree that almost everyone knows so I thought I would tell you about some Holly folklore -
Cutting down a holly tree is supposed to bring bad luck (its ok to take some branches for Christmas decorations though).
Lots of berries on holly tree's is supposed to mean we will have a bad winter.
In a new building or one in which an animal has died holly is hung from the ceiling to keep away evil spirits. The holly must be at least 2 foot long and changed from time to time, the old piece must be burnt.
Holly is supposed to have a power over horses and was commonly used to make whips.
The holly is supposed to be a very powerful and magic tree and is the best wood to make runes with (but you are supposed to ask the tree if you can use it before you cut the wood).
Up until the end of the last war hollies were used to sweep chimneys, the branches were dragged up the chimney to clean the soot from the inside.
Then we come to the Christmas traditions of bringing holly into the house. Although different beliefs were held in different places such as -
A holly branch is often used instead of a Christmas tree in Cornwall.
Never allow holly to be put up as a Christmas decoration before the 25th December.
On Christmas take a leaf from your sprig of holly and place one in each room for good luck.
If a leaf falls out of a vase of holly never burn it.
I hope that like me you have had a great wildlife year. Im looking forward to finding new stuff next year.
Merry Christmas

Cosy Fires

At this time of year there is nothing like sitting in front of a cosy log fire. I love my fire because its toasty warm. You can see the soot on the inside of the glass has made a shape like a mushroom!
Not all wood is good to burn though, here is an old poem to teach you what is the best wood to burn on your fire -
Logs to burn! Logs to burn!
Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here's a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodman's cries
Beechwood fires burn bright and clear
Hornbeam blazes too
If the logs are kept a year
To season through and through
Oak logs will warm you well
If they're old and dry
Larch logs of pinewood smell
But the sparks will fly
Pine is good and so is yew
For warmth through wintry days
But poplar and willow too
Take long to dry and blaze
Birch logs will burn too fast
Alder scarce at all
Chestnut logs are good to last
If cut in the fall
Holly logs will burn like wax
You should burn them green
Elm logs like smouldering flax
No flame is seen
Pear logs and apple logs
They will scent a room
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old
Buy up all that come your way
They're worth their weight in gold
Remember this poem if you want to be toasty warm too

Cobalt Crust

Sometimes nature jumps right out in front of you. This fungi is called Cobalt Crust (Its colour is deep Cobalt Blue) and I found it in my local woods. Its quite common in Wales but rarer in England. The Blue is so bright and unusual that you will notice it straight away, unless you are colour blind!  

A Slime Mould

This is a Slime Mould which are really weird and interesting creatures. They move around the woodland floor eating fungi and organic matter. People have done tests on them and they can find their way through a maze but nobody knows how they do it, they don't have a brain so how can they remember? The picture shows the fruiting body which releases spores, they are usually colourful. Now I know what they are I see them quite often.


Once you start looking for wildlife its amazing how much you can see. I spotted this bat on my way to school a couple of months ago, clinging to a stone wall. I went back to check on it on the way home but it had moved on. It was a real treat to see one close up, I didn't realise just how furry they are. 

Buff Arches

I caught this Buff Arches moth in my garden. I don't think many people realise how pretty our garden moths are in Britain, they are not something that you notice until you go looking for them. 

In the river

It seems like a long time since it was warm enough to wade into the river looking for fish. Catching Sticklebacks with my net is one of my favourite things to do in the summer. 

Banded Demoiselle

This is a Banded Demoiselle that I found on my local river. It has a really cool shiny blue body and has a black band on its wing which gives it the name. 

Mullion Moth Caterpiller

This caterpillar will turn into a Mullion Moth and feeds on the Mullion plant 

Bee Orchid

This pretty flower is a Bee Orchid, it gets its name from the flower which looks like a Bee. 

Be more Otter

People say that kids need to connect more with nature but this is difficult to do in a classroom. Sometimes you need to be wild to get a wild experience. I wanted to feel like an Otter so I decided that I needed to be more Otter, and do what they do. Floating under a waterfall and swimming after fish is great fun and you feel that you are a part of nature.

 But its also cold!!
Nothing like a nice bacon sandwich to warm you up after a swim though. 


Nature isn't just about living things, its about where they live too. Rivers are a source of life and can sometimes seem quite gentle and sometimes seem quite violent. We visited Porth Yr Ogof in South Wales, the place is full of caves and waterfalls. Sometimes the river disappears into a cave and then re-appears further downstream. Its a really wild and scary place. 

This is Sgwydd Yr Eira, one of my favourite waterfalls. Its huge and the can walk right behind it and stick your head in the water if you need a wash! 

Hard at Work

I know its been a long time since i last posted but dont worry, im still out there in the wild looking for interesting things. I have been really busy and had a break from the internet. Ive been out volunteering, doing practical conservation work at my local nature reserves. This has included doing some hard work as well as the easier jobs like counting butterflies or surveying birds. 

At the moment i am really interested in fungi and large mammals, particularly bears which i hope that i will get to see one day, in the wild.

Green Tiger Beetles

These cool green beetles belong to the Cicindelidae family. They are ferocious predators and run after thier prey. One of these beetles was clocked as running at 5 miles an hour which is really fast for something so small. We have five different species in the UK and the commonest is the Green Tiger Beetle. They get the name tiger from thier speed and fierceness, dont get too close though as they can use thier huge jaws to give you a nasty nip!

White Ermine

This summerI discovered that you can see some amazing wildlife without leaving your own garden. We borrowed a moth trap from a friend. It is a box with a light on it. The light attracts moths at night and they get trapped in the box, then you can go and identify them in the morning. We caught loads of moths which i had never heard off before including some really pretty ones. If you havent moth trapped in your garden before you should give it a go. The moth in the picture above is a White Ermine and although it is common it is one of my favorites. Its white fleecey head looks cool

Spectacle Moth

Heres another moth from my trap, its called a Spectacle because it looks like its wearing glasses!

Eyed Hawkmoth

This moth was huge and is called an Eyed Hawkmoth, they think that the eyes on the wings are flashed to try to deter predators.

A nice Suprise

The fish on my list are very hard to see so I was very happy when my uncle turned up at the house with this -

Its a fish from my list!! My uncle found it dead on the beach and dropped it round the house for me to see, lucky it was still fresh so it was not smelly!

Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)
Is a flat fish found in the sea (you might also find some unlucky ones in the fish and chip shop!).

It is a common flatfish, occurring on the sandy and muddy bottoms of the European shelf, usually at depths between 10 and 50 m, where they tend to burrow in sediment during day time and remain stationary for long periods. They can be found at depths up to approximately 200 m. Young fish in particular come right inshore in very shallow water. They are able to survive low salt concentrations and may occur in some cases in brackish water or even in freshwater. The European plaice is characterised above by their darkgreen to darkbrown skin, blotched with conspicuous, but irregularly distributed, orange spots. The underside is pearly white. The skin is smooth with small scales. They are able to adapt their colour somewhat to match that of their surroundings but the orange spots always remain visible

Its been a while.....

Its been a while since I have updated my blog but I have been really busy with my conservation work. So here is a summary of what I have been up to -

We have been busy at Parc Slip nature reserve (http://parcslipnr.blogspot.co.uk/) clearing ditches and sowing wildflower mixes.  And riding around on the resident giant Brian the Badger

I have made an appearance in the international Venture Travel Magazine who interviewed me about my challenge.
I won the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBREC) (http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/) young wildlife recorder of the year which include gift vouchers for the NHBS website (I still haven't decided what to spend them on).
I have joined the Glamorgan Fungus Group and this year will be recording all my fungi finds at my local nature reserve with the help of my dad (currently 24 species). I'm not the only one at the reserve who likes fungi, you can see Door snails snacking on jelly ears in the photo above.
I have been busy enjoying the signs of Spring after a long winter.
And coppicing with Butterfly Conservation to help the High Brown Fritillary at its last known site in Wales.
Throughout March I have been out with my local amphibian and reptile group helping toads across the roads to their breeding sites. And some frogs as well (see below)
It hasn't all been hard work I have had chance to try out my new Trangia Camp stove that I had for Christmas. It cooks my favourite Chicken Tikka Massala well.
And took some time out to snooze in a tree.
I was interviewed by ITV Wales Coast & Country about my challenge and signs of spring (Series 2 Episode 2).
And I have been interviewed by The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales for their podcast -   http://youtu.be/y-2J_yG9tbk
Enough of all that, on with the challenge!
I stumbled across this Spindle tree in my local woods which is another tick off my list.
Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
 The Spindle gets its name from the fact that it was used for hand spinning wool before the spinning wheel was invented. Its other names of "prickwood" "skewerwood" and "pincushion shrub" give you a clue that wood from this bush was also used for skewers, toothpicks, pegs and knitting needles. The tree has bright pink berries which were once dried and powdered and rubbed into children's hair as a cure for headlice.