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Roesel's Bush Cricket

Before the Rain

Spring might have been a wet one, but it’s been great so far this summer for bugs. I usually turn my attention to bugs this time of year as some species have a small window of opportunity before they all disappear again till next year. If you like Grasshoppers and Crickets, it’s worth visiting the north side of Llandegfedd as the meadows are alive with Roesel’s, Dark, Oak & Speckled Bush-crickets, Green, Meadow, Field and Mottled Grasshoppers, Long & Short-winged Coneheads and even Ground Hoppers with more to discover I’m sure.
As you know I like to record the sounds of nature, but as many people cannot hear some species of Grasshopper as they’re too high pitched, I’ve started a project that aims to record as many different species of Grasshopper / Cricket as possible and to slow those recordings down so that you can listen to the finer detail of each and every stroke of the wing cases. It’s not for everyone, but i find stuff like this fascinating as it reveals frequencies that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Listen back to these insects in slow-motion helps you enter their world for a moment and also highlights how important it is for us to start consider the environmental impact our noise pollution has on species that are dependant on sound in order to reproduce.

I tend not to go anywhere simply for the walk these days, partly because I can’t walk far at the moment as I have gall-stones that are playing havoc, but also because I only walk 2 minutes before spotting something interesting to photograph, record or just appreciate. It doesn’t do anything for my fitness levels this way but I’ve made so much luck this way, slowly walking through the landscape, trying to appreciate everything that I see. If you do this, you’ll be rewarded more and more, and this was evident when I was accompanied by a Stoat that was quite shy, but I would have easily missed it if I was walking with the intent to walk. If you want to see things, you need to slow right down.

Pontypool Uplands and Cefn Ila

Yesterday's upland birding session with Craig Constance brought about some nice migrants passing thru, starting off the day with a Juvi Merlin hunting over the moorland above the British, later picked up again as it flew over our parked car and flushed a flock of starlings off the road side! It continued to mob a Red Kite while heading south to the next mountain. Nothing great to show you photograph wise, only this very distance shot of it heading off in the distance. We also noted 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Redstart, 2 Wheatear and plenty of resident birds like Green Woodpecker, Buzzard, Kestrel (3), Raven and plenty of Stonechat fledglings. It's starting to get a little colder on the mountain now but still plenty of insect life and this Devils Coach Horse Beetle put on a good show walking across our path. 

I visited Cefn Ila today also in search the Wasp Spider, previously introduced by local spider expert Mike Kilner. I was shocked however upon visiting to find that most of the pristine Wasp Spider habitat has since been lost and overshadowed by newly planted Trees and shrub. The site is run by the Woodland trust who've done a marvellous Job at planting a great variety of broad-leaf trees. No-doubt a wonderful woodland to come! But a shame to lose a fantastic spot for such an iconic species of Spider. I did however find plenty of the Spiders food with lots of Grasshoppers and Roesel's Bush Crickets (My favourite british cricket). Also at Cefn Ila were lots of Spotted Flycatchers near the Bee Hives / Orchard. 

Cricket & Grasshopper Sound

I've been looking forward to recording some Cricket / Grasshoppers again this year and I finally hit jackpot with todays low wind (but lack of sun). It was just about warm enough for the Grasshoppers to be singing. I had trouble uploading the Roesel's Bush Cricket to Soundcloud because no matter what format, frame rate / bit rate I upload it in, Soundcloud kills the quality by compressing the file which looses definition in the most vital frequency, and that just so happens to be the frequency that Roesel's sits in, right at the top around 20,000hz. This is also the reason why many people can't hear a Roesel's, because they've lost that frequency in adulthood (nice way of saying you're getting old). I'm lucky to still have these frequencies and I hope that I keep hold of them for as long as I can because they are so rich and much is to be learned about the sounds of nature. To combat this hearing problem, I've slowed down the recordings straight after the original so you can hear how complex and fast it is, even ten times slower than the original recording. The last part of the recording below is (I think) a Meadow Grasshopper, which slowed down actually reveals the individual scrapes that actually produces the overall tone of the song. It's even more amazing when you hear it in slo-mo! 

Here is the recording of the Roesel's untouched. As you can hear (or not).. the quality has been lost to compression. 

Cefn Ila First Impressions (Wasp Spider!)

I've been meaning to check this location out for a while and who better to do it with than Mike Kilner (Local Spider Expert) and volunteer ranger for Cefn IlA. Species to watch out for on the trip were the very illusive Wasp Spider of which only 1 has been sighted this year by none other than Mike himself. 

First impressions of the reserve were brilliant! Their were plenty of Roesel's Bush Crickets amongst Long-winged Coneheads and Dark Bush Crickets so it instantly had my approval but the cackling of a Green Woodpecker and a distant Kestrel were all very inviting. The sheer variety of Tree's there is pretty incredible and with that, I intend on visited again throughout the winter. 

Once upon the right habitat, it didn't actually take us long to find a Wasp Spider! I spotted the first one and in discussed at it being so easy, Mike found a second shortly after. I also got to hold my first ever Slow Worm! I've been meaning to photograph them for a while now so this was a real treat. 

Llandegfedd Cricket Recordings

Early morning at Llandegfedd and it truly felt like spring again! Dawn Chorus was beautiful, albeit filled with mainly Robin's and Wrens but a surprised Chiffchaff also sang for a while which really made me feel good! 

Once the morning dew burnt off and my feet dried out, the Crickets weren't far behind on the chorus. Though, I didn't have it all that easy today as the water pump was on all day which made it really hard to get the 20000hz Roesel's Bush Cricket quite the way I wanted to. 

Lots of pictures today but also a small treat for you in the form a recordings! 
If you can hear them of course.. because I learned something new today, and that is, the Roesel's Bush Cricket produces frequencies well into the 20000hz range which most people cannot even hear. SO! For you, I've slowed some of the recordings down for you which brought even more coolness out of the recordings as you can actually hear the individual scrapes of the hind legs of the cricket.- Especially on the Long-winged Conehead. Enjoy

Roesel's Bush Cricket

None of the Birds on my list showed today but luckily a short trip to Llandegfedd saved the day in the form of a Roesel's Bush Cricket. 2 in-fact!. You know you're getting good at your crickets when you can recognise a cricket by its sound and that's exactly what happened today. The sound of a Roesel's is so iconic, it's described as a 'Savy's Warbler' rather than a Grasshopper warbler because it sounds like electrical wires rather than a fast trill. I'm returning this weekend to Llandegfedd as the weather is meant to be nice and I'll get some recordings for you but for now, here is a quick snapshot of the cricket in subject on todays walk.