Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Heathland Safari with the Field Cricket!

We are now into the Field Cricket monitoring period!

Following the successful releases at Farnham Heath and Pulborough Brooks in April, we held a training day for staff, volunteers and students at RSPB’s Farnham Heath reserve in mid-May.
We were delighted to be joined by Sixth Form students from Seaford College in West Sussex.
In the morning, Field Cricket expert, Graeme Lyons, informed us about the Field Cricket’s ecology, habitat requirements and how to go about surveying for them. We put this into practice in the afternoon with a visit to the southern area of the reserve where a good population of crickets is already established.
The weather was an absolute godsend with clear skies and sun and we’d timed the day just right as the nymphs (young crickets) were mature enough to come out of their burrows.
We were delighted to see many of them sunning themselves on flattened platforms (or ‘sunbeds’ as I like to call them) in front of their holes. We heard many more than we saw as they called from far away.

Field Crickets can project their call over several hundred metres, making it surprisingly hard to locate them. Surveying is all the more challenging when you get several calling from one area and are trying to work out how many there are. Graeme informed us of his well-tried technique; bending your ears to get a better idea of direction and turning your head around (just like your dog or cat might).
We also tried the triangulation technique to judge where the crickets are calling from by taking bearings from different positions and noting the intersection. Easier to describe than do! Graeme told us how after a day’s surveying, he hears Field Crickets calling in his sleep!

Several of the volunteers are now helping monitor the crickets at Farnham and Pulborough. It’s been a fairly slow start to the season.  Young crickets undergo several moults before they become mature adults. Normally by mid-April when we catch and release them, the nymphs are in their final stage and it only takes one more moult for them to be adults. This year some of the nymphs we caught were at the stage before so would not mature for another few weeks.
We were pleased to hear two of them calling at Pulborough a couple of weeks after the release and the same at the new site at Farnham. So far, the peak numbers heard at the donor site at Farnham (Tankersford) are just short of 100 but there are more surveys planned.

This Saturday, 23 June we are holding a Back from the Brink Heathland Safari at RSPB Pulborough Brooks, from 10.30-12.30, in celebration of National Insect Week!
Explorers will be introduced to some of the specialist wildlife that lives on the heathland, such as the striking Green Tiger Beetles, dragonflies and some fascinating solitary wasps and bees.
If you're lucky you may even hear the recently released Field Crickets and will learn more about the project. Site staff will explain how, with the help of many volunteers, they’re managing the heathland to give these species a home.
If you would like to come, please call 01798 875851. Read more here.

 

Jane Sears

Project Officer

 

 

Would you like to help this incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

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