Last modified: 21 August 2013
Image: Rowan Edwards
This summer a record number of field crickets have been heard singing at the RSPB’s Farnham Heath nature reserve, following a successful re-introduction project.
Working in partnership with Natural England, eight field crickets were released on the southern section of the RSPB’s Surrey reserve in spring 2010. Since then, the numbers of calling males have been monitored each year, and this summer a peak count of 43 males were recorded.
Mike Coates, Project Manager for RSPB Farnham Heath, said: “They have had an excellent year. I did have a planned route to monitor them on, but I had to give up on that because they had spread all over the place and were calling from a much larger area than I anticipated when I set it up!
“The male crickets make a great noise - a loud ’chirrup, chirrup’, which once you know what you are listening for is unmistakeable.”
Numbers of this rare insect have declined severely due to loss of habitats such as lowland heathland and grassland. However the heathland restoration work being carried out on the reserve has provided the ideal home for them.
The RSPB’s heathland management, such as using livestock for grazing and creating sunny open areas has benefited a range of species including the crickets.
Other rare heathland wildlife such as woodlarks, tree pipits, nightjars and sand lizards are also returning thanks to the work being carried out. The reserve also has areas with wonderful displays of bluebells in spring and over 150 species of fungi.
Mike added: “We have recorded more than 13,000 different species on our 200 reserves, and only three per cent of those are birds.
“This is a great example of nature reserves providing homes not just for birds but all sorts of wildlife.”
The RSPB recently launched their new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, urging people in Surrey and across the nation to act for nature in their own gardens.
The conservation charity’s campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report, which revealed that 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied, including garden favourites like starlings, hedgehogs and some butterflies, has declined over recent decades. And they are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.
The Giving Nature a Home website will give everyone access to expert advice about helping nature in any outside space – whether it’s a huge garden or a small planting tub on a balcony – at rspb.org.uk/homes