John Walters and the rufous grasshopper on the One Show

John Walters is a very good Dartmoor and Devon naturalist as well as being a great artist. He is also a friend of mine. He was recently on the One Shop talking about the mating behaviour of the rufous grasshopper. Here is the clip from the programme. Amazing how confiding the grasshoppers were!

Rufous grasshopper 4
Here are a couple of photos I took at the same location last year – note the swollen tip to the antennae

Rufous grasshopper 3
And the characteristic markings on the top of the pronotum

RG map
Here is the national distribution of the species (via the National Biodiversity Network) – quite a rare animal!


Branscombe beach in search of the scaly cricket

I went down to the National Trust’s Branscombe beach yesterday to start the process of surveying for one of the rarest animals in the UK – the scaly cricket (in my capacity as the voluntary county recorder for orthoptera i.e. grasshoppers and crickets etc). Last winter the beach was hit by a huge storm which completely reprofiled the shingle banks on the beach and scoured out parts of the cliff. The survey I set up yesterday is an attempt to discover how the scaly cricket is faring. I set 24 pitfall traps along different parts of the beach and each was baited with a bit of Cornish pastry! This is a repeat of a survey I conducted a few years ago – see here and here.

Pitfall traps are quite simple – a small plastic cup sunk into the shingle – the idea being that a cricket wanders along and falls in – it then has some pasty to eat to keep it sustained. I will be returning to the beach at Branscombe with some colleagues from the National Trust and Natural England this evening to check the traps and see if we have caught any crickets  –  please note – any crickets that are caught will be returned to the beach unharmed!

PitfallOne of the pitfall traps baited with a bit of pasty

BeachBranscombe shingle beach – the home of scaly cricket

ChaletsThe storm damage at Branscombe is still very evident

The under cliffs at Branscombe are also nationally renowned as a fabulous place for a host of other rare animals and plants and are well worth exploring in their own right via the network of paths through and above the cliffs.

I managed to find and photograph a couple of the special species there.

Rufous grasshopper 4This is the rufous grasshopper – note the swollen ends to the antennae which then have a white tip along with the red on the abdomen and legs

Rufous grasshopper 3They also have characteristic markings on the top of the head (the pronotum)

RG mapHere is the distribution map of the rufous grasshopper via the National Biodiversity Network

Grey bush cricketThis animal is the grey bush cricket which can be found along the coasts of southern Britain – again a pretty uncommon species

S0 – back to Branscombe this evening and an update on our findings tomorrow.