Thursday 9 January 2020

Churr-worms, Eve-churrs & Mole crickets

Churr-worms, eve-churrs and mole crickets are (of course) all the same creature:
"Few country people today are acquainted with the Mole Cricket, but formerly, when presumably it was commoner, it went by such names as "Churr-worm" and "Eve-churr". These concern its strange jarring "note" which is heard chiefly during the evening in the spring." 
- G. E. Hyde. (1961) Teach Yourself Entomology. The English Universities Press Ltd, London.

But what is a churr? The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) describes it as "expressive of a somewhat deeper and hoarser sound than chirr", and chirr as "to make the trilled sound characteristic of grasshoppers, etc."

The Mole Cricket (in this case Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa - there are many others outside the UK) produces its churr in the evenings and nights, so Eve-churr seems appropriate. This vernacular name is shared, however, with the nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). As the name seems obsolete for both species the chances for confusion are currently minimal. Nightchurr is also an obsolete (regional) name for both these species (OED).

The OED also distinguishes a chirr from a chirp, the chirr being "often nearly equivalent to chirp , but properly expressing a more continuous and monotonous sound." As a side-note many authors in bioacoustics have followed Broughton (1976) in using the precisely defined neologism echeme in place of chirp.

There are no doubt other regional names for the Mole Cricket in the UK, John George Wood in his 1866 book Homes without hands: being a description of the habitations of animals, classed according to their principle of construction gives the delightful Croaker.

The status of the Mole Cricket in the UK has not improved and it is confined to the New Forest. Until recently the only confirmed recent record was several sound recordings, one of which is below.