A Small Mystery Solved

by Carl Strang

From time to time I have puzzled over a cricket’s trill I have heard in scattered places on the mansion lawn at Mayslake Forest Preserve. I have called them Say’s trigs, because that was closest to the sound of the trill, but two things bothered me: I haven’t found these trigs in mowed lawns elsewhere, and the quality of the sound wasn’t exactly right. Say’s trigs usually are found in dense herbaceous vegetation, or sometimes are up in the foliage of shrubs.

Earlier this week I decided to record that trill for comparison to references. While the mini-disk was recording, it occurred to me that I might take advantage of my shotgun mike’s directionality to try and find the singer. Listening through the headphones eliminated any ventriloquial confusion, and I was able to locate the source within 2 inches. I didn’t see a cricket, but there were two nightcrawler tunnels there.

Further study of the ground revealed that there also are a lot of significant cracks in the soil.

The unimpeded sound I got from close up confirmed that these are indeed Say’s trigs. Something about this lawn, or this population of crickets, has them behaving differently from conspecifics elsewhere. It occurs to me that one possibly significant difference is that there are very few striped ground crickets in the Mayslake lawn, while in practically every other DuPage County lawn they are common. Something about this place apparently causes trigs to replace striped ground crickets. I titled this post “A Small Mystery Solved,” but as so often is the case I have replaced one mystery with another.


  1. jomegat said,

    September 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    That’s pretty cool. What kind of setup do you have with the shotgun mic, etc? Is that sort of thing within reach of an amateur (pricewise)? I’ve been wanting to get some sort of field recorder so I could learn birding by ear.

    • natureinquiries said,

      September 16, 2011 at 6:19 am

      I use a mini-disk recorder and a shotgun mike with a relatively fancy windscreen, which add up to some bucks. For your purpose I recommend trying a little digital recorder like you can find at office supply stores (I like the ones by Olympus, my current one is the VN-4100PC; I use it for all my field note taking and for bird song ID when memory fails). Though intended for voice recording and note taking, I find they pick up bird songs and calls, as well as many singing insects, well enough for identification purposes, and with very good fidelity.

  2. October 9, 2014 at 5:57 am

    […] go back in two directions, previously introduced in this blog. One had the title, ironic now, of “A Small Mystery Solved.” In it I described how I had tracked certain long cricket trills to cracks and earthworm holes in […]

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