One of the most enigmatic and mysterious creatures found on Guernsey is the peculiar Scaly Cricket. These odd orthopterans spend their days underneath pebbles on shingle beaches and come out at night to feed on whatever the sea has brought them. This species is exceptionally rare, only being found in a few places in Europe, one of those being Guernsey. The main spot that they have been seen is the shingle beach by Spur Point at the north side of Belle Greve Bay, but no one's had a real proper look for many years.
With that in mind, and with continued talk about the redevelopment and reclamation of Belle Greve Bay, a few of us decided to have a good search for them to make sure that this beach was still an internationally-important location. There are just 3 or 4 sites in the UK for Scaly Cricket and at the main one at Chesil Beach, they study populations by sinking deep pitfall traps in the shingle and baiting them and checking them in the morning. So that's what we planned to do - we put some out on the evening of 30th June, to check them in the morning of 1st July.
Now I didn't have any pre-made pitfall traps at my disposal so I had to improvise. In the past, when doing pitfalls with my students, the main problem is getting the top of the pitfall at exactly the same level as the ground. Too high and nothing much gets in, too low and all the earth falls in. And this was even more of a problem with a very uneven surface like the large pebbles that are present on the beach. Wondering what to use, I spotted a bag of Pringles tubes behind the sofa. I always keep Aidan's Pringles containers after he finishes them as I take them to school to make pin-hole cameras out of them. Advantages of these Pringles tubes are A) they are nice and deep - crickets can jump! B) the inside surfaces are, by design, really slippery, and C) by cutting slits down from the top of the tube I could make entry 'ramps' that the insects could walk along to get into the trap, rather than try and climb over the lip. You can see this (pat pending) design below. (Main disadvantage : the sides are are made of cardboard so they could potentially get very soggy!). I took some cooked chicken nuggets and also dog biscuits as bait, and tore my fingers to ribbons digging down into the shingle to get them deep enough (yes, I forgot a trowel!). I left about 8 or 9 on the beach, just on about the highest tide line and hoped for maybe one or two in the traps the next day.
The next morning I met Trevor, Lesley and Andy and It was quite exciting waiting to see if we had caught anything. In the first trap, high up the beach under a Tamarisk we had two very tiny Scaly Cricket 'nymphs' which only just looked like they had been hatched. We then opened the next trap and was pleased to see a few proper adult Scaly Crickets in that one. The Pringles tins had worked! However, we were not prepared when we opened the next one and it was literally heaving with Scaly Crickets! We counted 59 just in this one tube! (along with many sandhoppers, woodlice, springtails and a few ground beetles). Before coming out I would have been happy with just one. A couple more traps were just as busy although a few were not so much - those just on the highest "step" of shingle seemed to be best. Altogether we had 165 Scaly Crickets in just 6 traps which is a superb count and means that Belle Greve Bay is probably the second most important site for this species in Europe.
The significance of the date on the post title is that it is the final day of the school year. This meant the last week was Activities Week and I was taken to supervise the Watersports activity, which was a superb choice - albeit ridiculously hot out in the open all day. This meant that I could pass on the kids to the professional instructors and I then supervise from the adjacent coastline as they kayaked, windsurfed, paddleboarded etc. Of course, this also meant that I could keep one eye on the wildlife that was present nearby. Happy days! On 16th and 18th I was at Grandes Rocques and saw the odd Med Gull on the waterside, including a particularly fresh juvenile. There were lots of Med Gulls on the island this summer apparently. Also here I had my first Whimbrel of the year overhead and a few terrific low-level Peregrine chases.
On 17th I was at Les Ammareurs where I mostly found interesting insects on the edge of the golf course (see below) and on 19th I was at Cobo. Here there were three Med Gulls on the beach and with careful stalking managed to get so close to one of the adults, closer than I've ever managed before.
With the really hot temperatures, the moths were predictably great during the first couple of weekends in July. On 6th I had my second Miller, after my first last month, a Catoptria verellus and also my second ever 'Rhubarb and Custard' (Oncocera semirubella) in the trap. The next morning I had a Guernsey tick for me - a Pine Carpet. These are very rare here, as opposed to Grey Pine which is reasonably common. On 10th July I did my annual showing the year 7 class a full moth trap and there was the 3rd Miller of the year and an Acrobasis suavella. Moths seen out in the field included a new species for Guernsey - Pammene gallicana - along the edge of L'Ancresse Golf Course. With the very hot weather, insects have been great so far and below is a selection of my better photos.