Field cricket reintroduction

The field cricket, Gryllus campestris, is an extremely rare, declining and threatened insect in the UK, and is classified as Vulnerable. It is given full protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is a Section 41 Species of Principal Importance in England.

Field Cricket

Overview

In the UK the field cricket has been lost from a major part of its historic range, due to agricultural changes resulting in a loss of shifting systems, lack of disturbance by livestock and increased rates of succession. By the 1980s it was confined to one site in West Sussex with less than 100 individuals and was expected to go extinct.

In 1992, a programme of reintroductions commenced to sites across Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, funded by English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme. In 2010 RSPB contributed to this programme by translocating field crickets, under license from Natural England, to an area of restored heathland on RSPB’s Farnham Heath reserve, thereby extending the occupied range. This was very successful with a population of over 300 individuals becoming established in just 6 years.

Since 2017we have been building on this work through the National Lottery Heritage funded Back from the Brink programme, by establishing a second colony at Farnham Heath, restoring heathland at RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks reserve, and establishing a new colony there, to increase the robustness of the local population.

Objectives

  • The long-term objective is to establish self-sustaining populations of at least 100 "singing" male field crickets at each site within 10 years of the translocations.
  • The interim target is to have 50 singing males after five years.
 

Key Dates

  • 2010-11: Translocation of twelve field cricket nymphs to Farnham Heath RSPB reserve.
  • 2016: Population well-established at one isolated area of the reserve.
  • April 2017: National Lottery Heritage funded Back from the Brink project commences with first releases at second area of Farnham Heath reserve.
  • April 2018: Translocations commence at Pulborough Brooks reserve following heathland restoration work.
  • May 2020: Breeding confirmed at both new sites.

Planned Work

Habitat management is being carried out to maintain early-mid successional heathland habitat with a mixture of tussocky growth and bare sandy patches. The number and location of field crickets heard calling is being monitored each spring at the release and donor sites.

Results

  • Spring 2013: 43 calling male field crickets recorded at Farnham Heath.
  • Spring 2015: population range expanding and 72 calling males heard, exceeding 5 year target of 50 calling males.
  • Spring 2016: 98 calling males recorded at Farnham Heath, with an estimated total population of 300 individuals.
  • Spring 2017: Commenced translocations to a new site at Farnham Heath with 6 males and 5 females released.
  • Spring 2018: Commenced translocations at Pulborough Brooks and continued at Farnham Heath.
  • Spring 2019: Record number of 337 calling males heard at donor site at Farnham Heath.
  • Spring 2020: No releases possible at either site due to Covid 19 restrictions but calling males heard at both new sites proving they bred in 2019.

Partners

Natural England and wider partnership of landowners.

Funding

Funded by National Lottery Heritage Back from the Brink programme and Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme with the RSPB’s support.

Contacts

Coast on a stormy day

Dr Jane Sears

Senior Ecologist, Ecology

jane.sears@rspb.org.uk
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Heathland Project status: Ongoing Project types: Species protection