Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The search for Britain’s only native species of cicada

By Chris Baraniuk
Technology reporter

2 December 2015 

This year, late in the summer, University of Oxford computer scientist Alex Rogers got an alert on his phone.

It was an email from an automated system telling him that a recording of a New Forest cicada's song might have been detected.

The species, Cicadetta montana, hadn't had a confirmed sighting in Britain for 15 years. It's a fascinating creature - the only cicada native to Britain and one which is considered endangered across much of Europe.

When Dr Rogers looked at the sonogram he realised this could indeed be the insect he, his colleagues, and thousands of citizen scientist volunteers had spent the last two years searching for.

He grabbed some professional recording equipment and jumped in his car. In a few hours he was on site at the GPS location attached to the original recording. In no time at all he picked up the singing of an insect - but it wasn't the fabled cicada.

"It turned out to be a Roesel's bush-cricket," he remembers, a little forlornly. "And I think I found the cricket that had triggered the original observation."

Since the spring of 2013, over 3,000 members of the public have downloaded the Hunt for the New Forest Cicada app for their smartphones.

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