Nature detectives to hunt for rare singing insect at New Forest BioBlitz

New Forest cicada

Published Thursday 30 May 2013

Nature detectives are poised for a 24 hour dash to record wildlife in the New Forest, including using smartphones to discover whether a rare singing insect still lives in the area.

The New Forest National Park BioBlitz annually attracts hundreds of wildlife enthusiasts as they try to count as many species as possible in a race against the clock.

Organised by the New Forest National Park Authority, the monitoring marathon will be held this year at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve near Brockenhurst. From 4pm on 7 June until 4pm on 8 June, nature lovers can join experts on bug hunts and river surveys, as well as take part in pond dipping, fungi forays and an early morning birdsong walk.

Species spotters can also venture out at night with bat detectors and moth traps and join in a seashore safari at Lepe Country Park. Young wildlife explorers are especially welcome at the family friendly event.

As well as being great fun, the data collected from the BioBlitz has provided important information about species decline, which was included in the recent State of Nature report launched by Sir David Attenborough earlier this month.

Natalie Fisher, interpretation officer at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘With such diverse habitats and our unique commoning tradition, the New Forest National Park is a world capital for wildlife. In previous years the BioBlitz has been a real hive of activity with experts on hand to help young and old keep their eyes peeled for the wonders of the forest.’

Younger nature lovers will be particularly welcome in trying to find whether the New Forest cicada, the UK’s only native cicada, still lives in the Forest.

Their high-pitched love songs are on the upper limit of an adult human's hearing range, which means children and adults aged under 40 have a better chance of hearing the insect last seen in the New Forest 13 years ago.

To help visitors listen out for the cicada, a team of scientists at the University of Southampton have developed free software for smartphones which can pick up the insect’s distinctive mating calls which it sings from May to July.

Dr. Alex Rogers, from the University’s Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: ‘Modern smartphones have extremely sensitive microphones and enough computing power to automatically detect and recognise the song of the New Forest Cicada.

‘We’re hoping that the millions of visitors to the New Forest National Park can use their smartphones to help us locate any remaining colonies of the cicada that might remain in the forest.’
The New Forest National Park Bioblitz is run in partnership with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire County Council.

John Durnell, head of conservation for west Hampshire at the Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The BioBlitz has been such a popular event in previous years, that we’re delighted it’s happening again in the New Forest National Park. It’s a fantastic way for the community to get involved with the wildlife on their doorstep.’

At last year’s BioBlitz there were more than 600 finds and 426 different species surveyed.

All the BioBlitz activities are free, but some need to be booked in advance due to limited space. To find out more go to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/bioblitz_2013

Roydon Woods Nature Reserve will also host a Wood & Local Produce Fair on Sunday, 9 June, from 11am to 4pm where local produce and craft will be displayed and demonstrated, including members of the New Forest Marque. To find out more go to www.hiwwt.org.uk

The cicada app is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones from 3 June, and is available on the iTunes and Google Play app stores by searching for ‘Cicada Hunt’. To find out more about the New Forest Cicada Project go to www.newforestcicada.info

-ends-

Picture credit: Jaroslav Maly

Here is a schedule of the different activities at this year's New Forest National Park BioBlitz:

•    Friday, 7 June, 4pm to 5.30pm - Seashore Safari along the coast at Lepe Country Park, Exbury, SO45 1AD
•    Friday, 7 June, 8.30pm to 11pm – Bat and moth night time wonder at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Sandy Lane, Boldre, near Brockenhurst.
•    Saturday, 8 June, 6.30am to 8.30am – Early morning birdsong walk at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Sandy Lane, Boldre, near Brockenhurst.
•    Saturday, 8 June, 10am to 4pm – The main BioBlitz event which will include tree and fungi forays, river surveys, bug hunts, pond dipping and the launch of the New Forest Cicada app, all at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, Sandy Lane, Boldre, near Brockenhurst.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper
The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:
•    Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
•    Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.
We also have a duty to:
•    Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.
The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.
Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:
Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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