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In search of the bog bush cricket Little Woolden Moss with the Carbon Landscape Partnership

PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:06 30 August 2018

Bog bush cricket female at Little Woolden Moss (Picture:  Andy Hankinson)

Bog bush cricket female at Little Woolden Moss (Picture: Andy Hankinson)

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A new survey method could unlock the secrets of the bog bush cricket in Lancashire following their discovery on Little Woolden Moss, Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Ellie Sherlock joins the search.

Restoration work has been a major projectRestoration work has been a major project

Bat detectors are normally used to listen out for bats but, on Little Woolden Moss in Salford, Andy Hankinson is using them to detect the “chuffing” sounds made during courtship by rare bog bush crickets.

Little Woolden Moss is a site of particular interest in this investigation. It is part of the much larger area of lowland raised peat bogs that once covered much of the north west, known as Chat Moss. In more recent times however, it has seen massive degradation due to industrial peat extraction and intensive drainage.

Large-scale restoration work undertaken by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust is transforming Little Woolden Moss, which is an important habitat for many species including the common lizard, black darter dragonflies and brown hares. Among the works are plans to revegetate a large area of the moss with more than 10,000 plants, including heather and cross-leaved heath – two species that bog bush crickets are reliant on for survival.

The bat detector technique will allow this and other sites to be surveyed more regularly and accurately so the impacts of the restoration work can be better assessed. Using bat detectors to survey grasshoppers and crickets has proved successful in previous studies but this is still a relatively new method of sampling for these species. Landscapes can be explored in a new way using technology that’s readily available.

Peat extraction has ravaged Little Woolden Moss (Picture: Alan Wright)Peat extraction has ravaged Little Woolden Moss (Picture: Alan Wright)

Carbon Landscape trainee Andy said: ‘This project is really exciting and should give us further insight into the bog bush crickets home range or more specific species requirements. We know that for their life-cycle the bog bush crickets need a good abundance of heather, purple moor grass and cross-leaved heath but beyond that we don’t know much else.

‘It will be interesting to compare the results across different sites to try to find out more about this under-recorded species. It will be particularly exciting if we discover the presence of bog bush crickets on new sites within the Carbon Landscape for which Liverpool and Manchester museums have no current records.’

It’s possible to identify the species by listening to the unique noise patterns picked up on the bat detectors and the types of sounds produced. They can also be used to locate individual specimens and they can then be identified visually. This is ideal for working with such small and scarce animals, of which there may only be a few individuals present at any one site. The detectors also greatly extend audible range, making sampling easier, faster and much more effective. Andy will be trialling the detector at Highfield, Astley, Little Woolden, Cadishead, Holcroft, Pestfurlong and Risley mosses and will also be training up volunteers and leading workshops as part of his nine-month traineeship placement with the Carbon Landscape Partnership.

Within this role he will develop his skills in conservation, habitat management and leadership as part of his career development alongside two other trainees, Helen and Emma. The Carbon Landscape Partnership aims to upskill nine individuals during the projects five year lifespan, creating a community of knowledgeable people who are passionate about protecting Lancashire’s precious mosslands.

Andy with his trusty bat detectorAndy with his trusty bat detector

Healthy mosslands support a rich diversity of specialist wildlife and plants found no-where else and also provide huge benefits for the planet; soaking up and storing vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise wind up in our atmosphere.

These ancient landscapes need our help more than ever. Formed over thousands of years, mosslands once covered huge areas of our region, but today 97 per cent of them have been lost, leaving only 300 hectares of intact peat bog habitat remaining in the UK.

The Carbon Landscape Partnership is also working across Wigan, Warrington and Salford to restore and reconnect mossland and wetland habitats on a huge scale, building on the incredible work of previous groups and bringing together the expertise of 13 project partners, led by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. This bog bush cricket project is also supported by Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, Tanyptera Trust and Warrington Council.

Volunteering opportunities, workshops, traineeships and events run by the Carbon Landscape Partnership are allowing more and more people to discover and fall in love with the amazing spaces right on their doorstep. Find out more by heading to www.carbonlandscape.org.uk.

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