by Carl Strang
Last Friday at Mayslake Forest Preserve I took out the SongFinder to try and find new singing insects to add to the preserve list and to my own experience. While passing the edge of the prairie I heard a song which had the tick-and-buzz pattern of meadow katydid songs. With the device set to divide pitch frequency by a factor of four, I heard a deep rattling buzz, lasting up to 10 seconds or more but often much shorter, preceded by 3-4 fuzzy-edged ticks. I could hear the song with the SongFinder set to divide pitch frequency in half, but it was faint and very high pitched to my ear.
I selected the closest of the three individuals I could hear, and began looking for it. This is possible, given the feature of two tiny microphones, one attached to each earphone, but it takes practice. Also, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. Eventually I found a small meadow katydid, but the wings didn’t seem to be vibrating. Whenever it changed position under my scrutiny the song stopped, however, and I concluded that this was the singer. After flushing and having to re-find it a few times, I finally got a photo.
A more straight-on lateral view would reveal that the wings protrude well beyond the tip of the abdomen. It proved to be a slender meadow katydid, a species I had seen before but never had heard singing. I learned a few things about it while stalking it. It clearly preferred singing perches on the stems of goldenrods, despite choices of many plants with other structural features. I had gone more than 50m before encountering this little group, and will be interested in seeing if such clustering is typical of that species in our area.