Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cricket, cricket, cricket

Whenever you mention cricket to a West Indian, the first and maybe only thing that comes to his mind is the West Indies team, our symbol of Caribbean integration.

But when my friend mentioned something about cricket to me, I was reluctant, because although I like the sport, I dont play. Well at least I only play softball cricket, I just dont think I could survive a bouncer with the regular cricket balls. But he was actually talking about the insect. He was going cricket hunting in Soufriere with coworkers from the Division of Forestry.

So here I was last night, on my way to the South of the island, in a group of four persons eager to get my hands dirty to collect cave crickets. They are called cave crickets because they hide between rocks and in small openings (miniture caves). I thought that catching crickets would be an easy task, we get there, put on our flashlights, search on the rocks and just collect them into our traps, what a rude awakening I recieved. It's a good thing I am a quick learner.

It is a good experience to walk through the forest during the day but nothing compares to night walks, that's when the forest and its critters come alive. I am an avid hiker and have walked through Dominica's forests many a times but I've always been disappointed with only spotting a few critters but not this time. Caterpillars, giant slugs, centipedes, frogs, snakes littered the forest floors but off course we were there on business, cricket business so everything else had to take a back seat, well at least I had to resort to only taking quick snap shots.

Now back to the hunting, that word makes it sound so dangerous, so I think I will refer to it as collecting. We got to Soufriere jsut after sunset, around 6:50 and already the place sounded so alive. Frogs, crickets and other insects made music, well at least to our ears. So we strapped on our headlights (similar to miners), collected our handmade traps (collection bins made from bottled water containers) and our nets (aquarium fishnets). We really improvised with our equipment.

At first I found it very difficult to catch one cricket, these critters jumped so fast and blended in so well with their environment (twigs, rotten leaves and forest litter). It took some time for the eyes to adapt to the area and for my hands to really getting used to the fast jumping activity of the crickets. I was on my hands and knees doing my best and still not one cricket found its way into my trap, what a disappointment.

Gradually I got the hang of it and at one time I even caught three of them in a row, I was feeling like a champion collector, lol. The rest of the night went on smoothly, we even stumbled upon a centipeded devouring a snake on the forest floor. All in all, it was a very good night, my first experience with collecting crickets but definitely not my last.

So now you can call me Delroy N. Williams, Cricket hunter, lol.

Just in case you are wondering why we were collecting crickets, there is a breeding program for crickets at the Botanic Gardens to feed the Crapaud or Mountain Chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), which is a frog that lives in Dominica and Montserrat. The population has declined by approximately 80 % in the last ten years and this species is now critically endangered. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis has had a dramatic effect on the population. So research efforts are on the wayto find a cure and to increase the numbers by a captive breeding program.

Locally, it is known as the Mountain Chicken for its large size and the fact it's hunted for food. As of 2007 eating the mountain chicken is discouraged because of its decreasing population due to the fungal disease. For more information check here.
Nest@

1 comment:

TropicallyTied said...

I want your job...it always sounds so interesting...crickets, bulls etc :-)