Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Where have all the crickets gone?

Did you know that Field Crickets were once reintroduced to a cricket pitch? Or at least to a bank on the edge of one. Unfortunately this attempt to establish a population was not successful but others have been and there are currently six breeding populations at locations around Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.

Right now the Field Cricket nymphs, or young, will be semi-torpid in their sandy burrows. You might be wondering how they will have coped with the cold snowy conditions we had in late November. They should have been fine as the temperature below ground would have been much warmer than at the surface. In fact its mild winter conditions that are more concerning, as the nymphs get active and look for food but are unable to digest it until the temperature rises above 10 degrees, so they may die.

Work has been going well to restore the heathland at Pulborough Brooks and it’s exciting to see what’s been achieved through Back from the Brink this winter. A few years ago the conifer plantations that were planted on the old heathland were felled to create open ground. As so often happens with heathland restoration projects, the area became invaded by lots of bracken, bramble and young birch trees. These were shading out the young heather and fine grasses that had started to come back, and there was little open ground remaining.
This winter the contractors have been busy clearing away the vegetation and scraping areas back to bare ground. Whilst this might look rather drastic, we need a ‘clean slate’ to get rid of the nutrients that have built up under the trees and give the heather and grasses a better chance to become established.

At Farnham Heath where this restoration took place many years ago, we need more help to maintain the suitable conditions. We’re very grateful to all the volunteers who have joined the regular work parties every Tuesday and Friday through the winter.  I’ve heard they enjoy a good bonfire too!  We have a big volunteer day coming up on the 7th of Jan, so if you are interested in helping then please get in touch with our volunteer co-ordinator, mary.braddock@rspb.org.uk.

We’re looking forward to the spring when we’ll be checking the habitat conditions and releasing field crickets into their new site at Farnham Heath. The signs are looking good for a first year of releases at Pulborough Brooks too, with some areas of previously restored heath looking promising.  There will be opportunities to go on guided walks at both sites and learn more about Field Crickets and the Back from the Brink project; or you can even help out with some of the monitoring in May and June. Watch this space!

Jane Sears

Project Officer.

1 thought on “Where have all the crickets gone?

  1. Very nicely written.
    Thank you for the information. I suppose that I am a bit of a fan towards the Cricket to say the least. I simply love to listen to their beautiful music on a warm summer’s night as I lay in my bed falling off to sleep.

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