By Jane Wilmot
We are very excited to announce that following a concerted effort over a number of years to re-create suitable habitat for the Field Cricket, our Reserves Manager, Jane Willmott heard two singing males on the Warren at Burton and Chingford Ponds Local Nature Reserve.
These remarkable creatures are among the rarest and most threatened invertebrates in the UK. They are 2cm long and chunky, black or brown in colour. They can’t fly, but can walk up to 100m a day. Their wing markings resemble intricate wrought-iron work, and the males make a loud call to attract a mate using “harps”, modified veins on their wings. The male cricket creates a burrow like an amphitheatre that it uses to sing its “lovesong” to attract a female. Once mated the female will lay her eggs in a sunny spot, usually the burrow where the nymphs will spend the winter.
The grassy heathland in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, where the crickets live and on which they depend, has been greatly depleted by forestry and other land use changes. In the 1980s, there was just one group of fewer than 100 individuals left in West Sussex. Despite successful heathland restoration and reintroduction projects, the current six populations are still very isolated and vulnerable.
The Field Crickets were re-introduced onto neighbouring land 20 years ago as part of the Back from the Brink Project and a stable population had established on part of the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve next door on Welch’s Common. These two Field Crickets have found their way onto the Warren and we hope that they will now establish a population there where we have been carrying out heath and acid grass restoration. The more populations there are, and the more habitat links there are between populations, the safer the crickets are from extinction. Cattle grazing is due to be reintroduced at the Warren too over the next few months which will help to manage the short turf habitat in optimum condition for the crickets. The most recent works have been funded by the Heathlands Reunited National Lottery Heritage project.
Listen to a recording of the Field Cricket's song