Tickling Field Crickets is always a game of patience. This strange behaviour was first described by Gilbert White in his book “The Natural History of Selbourne” as the method used by local lads to catch them. Today you need a licence to do it as Field Crickets are a protected species, having declined to fewer than 100 individuals in the 1980s.
It was great to share the experience with a group of volunteers who joined us this spring to help catch this threatened species at RSPB’s Farnham Heath reserve and then release them at another part of the site. Everyone was down on their hands and knees, looking for the characteristic burrows and gently teasing the crickets out with a stem of grass. A truly novel experience for most people.
Within the Back from the Brink project, we are trying to make the Field Cricket population more robust and not have all our crickets in one basket. Heathland is notoriously prone to catching fire and so by establishing colonies on different parts of the reserve we can reduce the risk of the population being lost. In addition we’ll be restoring more heathland at Pulborough Brooks reserve to try to establish a population there and helping lots of other species in the process that like sandy, grassy heath - such as solitary bees.
There was much enthusiasm for helping with Field Cricket surveys at this second reserve also. The survey involves walking transects listening for the characteristic chirruping of the males as they rub two parts of their wings together.
People also had a chance to learn more about field crickets at a training day we held in July and were thrilled to see numerous young crickets, known as nymphs, as they explored the grassy heathland.
There will be more opportunities for people to get involved in this project - joining work parties to help maintain the habitat, carrying out transect counts or going on a walk and talk in early summer when the crickets are calling.
See you there!