The other type of cricket season involves summer's orthopteran orchestra: the stridulations of grasshoppers and crickets in grassy habitats across southern England. This year I was keen to see some orthopteran rarities, above all the amazing pair of species discovered by Dave Walker at Dungeness national nature reserve in August last year: Britain's first colony of Tree Crickets and (now) only colony of Sickle-bearing Bush-crickets. James Emerson, Phil Saunders, Will Soar and I wended our way England's southeastern extremity at the end of August, and were expertly guided by the superbly kind Dave Walker in exchange for a couple of pints of Adnam's Broadside, a bowl of whitebait and a flyover Curlew Sandpiper at The Pilot Inn.
We even managed - entirely naturally, I haste to add - both stellar species at the top of the same plant, just an inch apart.
Heading into the Desert late afternoon, Dave soon tracked down the first Tree Crickets, which included a glorious mating pair. A strange-looking creature indeed. Returning after dark, we were serenaded by the Mediterranean chorus of wing-rubbing males. Wonderful.
For this sometime-sporting naturalist, there are two guises to the cricket season. One involves playing, the other watching. The former has proved relatively successful on a personal level (this ageing crock is delighted to top his Club's bowling averages, and nick the best strike rate and economy rate to boot). On a collective level, however, the season was a disaster as Cringleford Lodge CC was relegated from Norfolk League Division 1.
The Desert held other orthopterans, notably Grey Bush-cricket, Lesser Cockroach, Long-winged Conehead and Mottled Grasshopper. To top the evening, Will then discovered the Observatory's 12th Southern Oak Cricket hanging round the Obs moth traps! The latter, unfortunately, escaped before I could photograph it.
It took only a few minutes longer to track down Sickle-bearing Bush-crickets. We eventually found eight (two male, six female) of these impressively large, vibrantly green orthoptera.
The summer being warm and this being Dungeness, there were also plenty of moths available for inspection. I haven't yet deciphered all the species (that's what Will Soar is for), but I was delighted to see Rest Harrow, Shore Wainscot, Mullein Wave, Sharp-angled Carpet, Evergestis limbata and what Dave described as "the oddest Spruce Carpet" he had ever seen (code: is it a European species?). A cracking evening out, with particular thanks to Dave.