Field cricket reintroduction

The field cricket, Gryllus campestris, is an extremely rare, declining and threatened insect in the UK. It 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.

In 2017-2020 we will be building on this work through the National Lotttery 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 funded Back from the Brink project commences.
 

Planned Work

Habitat management will be 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 will be monitored each spring at the release and donor sites.
 
Further releases will be made to suitable habitat in adjacent areas of the reserves to extend the occupied range.

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.
  • 2016: 98 calling males recorded at Farnham Heath, with an estimated total population of 300 individuals.

Partners

Natural England and wider partnership of landowners.

Funding

Funded by National Lottery 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 Reserves Ecologist, Reserves ecology

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