Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-three

18 June 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-three
Speckled Bush Cricket / Photo Barry Yates

Day Ninety-three

The beginning of the end. One week to go folks until the end of the daily diary and one week to go until I get my first full day off in three months. Yay.

If you've stuck with me from the start, you've probably realised that I’m a huge fan of monster movies and they don’t come any better (or worse) than 1957's ‘Beginning of the End’.

Actually, if you watch the trailer (here) if reminds me of how I felt about the Covid pandemic 13 weeks ago.

Vintage Movie Poster Beginning Of The End 1957 02 Art Print A4 A3 A2 A1 290686935523

It’s the usual story; overeager government scientists intent on increasing crop yield, inadvertently create giant irradiated grasshoppers the size of double-decker buses which set about destroying Chicago.

There are some similar creatures lurking around Sussex. OK they’re not going to come stomping on Sompting any day soon but they’re still mighty impressive.

I spent yesterday looking for grasshoppers and crickets around the garden. I've seen some young crickets on the bushes and trees in the last few weeks so I whipped out my fabulous collapsible beating tray.

It may look like a piece of cloth and two bits of wood...

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...but a flick of the wrist and...ta-da

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If I hold this under a tree or bush and give the tree a whack with a stick the insects fall onto the white material and allow me to have a nose at them. Except...they didn't. The trees and bushes were noticeably insect-free and there was certainly no crickets on it. So here's a photo of a young Dark Bush Cricket I took the other day.

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There are about 35 species of crickets and grasshoppers (orthoptera) in Britain. Crickets differ from grasshoppers by having much longer, thread-like antennae and they ‘sing’ by rubbing their wings together (while grasshoppers rub their legs against their wings).

C1 Bob

Roesel's Bush Cricket photo by Bob Eade

This song or stridulation is the male’s way of romancing a female – who, if interested, will reply. The biggest and loudest in Sussex is the Great Green Bush Cricket. Listen for them on the South Downs on warm September evenings – a loud, incessant rattle like a maraca player who's drank way too much coffee.

C3 GGG Derek M

Great Green Bush Cricket photo by Derek Middleton

When I lead wildlife walk through the flower-rich meadows of Sussex Wildlife Trust's nature reserves, I'm always blown away by the wall of sound created by hundreds of crickets and grasshoppers. However,  it is often apparent that not everyone can hear this orthopteran orchestra. The sad truth is that as we get older, our ears can’t tune in to the higher frequencies produced by these insects, and one by one, species by species, the grasshoppers and crickets fall silent. 

I have a compilation CD of the chirps and buzzes of Britain’s crickets and grasshoppers – a sort of ‘Now That’s What I Call Stridulation’. When I play it now track 24 has gone. It was there a few years ago but now… silence. I’ve started to lose my crickets!

The beginning of the end.

C2 Speck Yates

Speckled Bush Cricket photo by Barry Yates

It isn’t just me who will be hearing less wildlife in the future. Our countryside is becoming quieter as crickets, bees and birds vanish. Over the decades, development and changes in agricultural practices have made large parts of England quieter. The ‘Silent Spring’ predicted by Rachel Carson in 1962 has seeped across every season. So, get out into the countryside and listen to the sounds of summer before they start to fade.

Here's a song by some other crickets that still hasn't faded away yet (here). 

Comments

  • Gordon McGoochan:

    18 Jun 2020 11:13:00

    Stomping on Sompting, genius.

  • Ginny-Vic:

    18 Jun 2020 13:32:00

    I think before this happened and I read this diary I was so busy working and doing jobs I had forgotten about nature and how important it is. What a terrible thing that is to admit. Reading these diaries I am so grateful to have been reminded of the vital role it plays in our world and how I should take more care and effort to support it. This diary has inspired me to stock up my outdoor cupboard with bird food, replace and clean the bird feeders, made a log pile stack – I think for beetles – buy an insect hotel, put out fresh water for the birds, made a pond, planted wildflower seed bombs and maybe I can get a bat box. In September I am definitely going to adopt an animal from the Wildlife Trust. I haven’t decided which one yet. I hope in a year’s time and longer after that I am still doing my bit for wildlife. I know it won’t stop all the bees, crickets and birds from vanishing but hopefully it might be a small help. Thank you for reminding me about wildlife.

  • 19 Jun 2020 07:09:25

    Hi Ginny
    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. We’re delighted you’ve been enjoying Michael’s wildlife diary. I’m not sure if you’re already a member of Sussex Wildlife Trust, but if not, joining is a brilliant way of supporting what we do, including protecting local wildlife. More info here. Thanks again. Emma https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/make-a-difference/join

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