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.
 

Bat

 
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.