Currency and Milestones

by Carl Strang

Last week, in a location just north of the Indiana border, I heard a single long-spurred meadow katydid singing in Berrien County, Michigan.

Long-spurred meadow katydid

Earlier in the season, I had found that species in two locations in Kane County, Illinois. These results amounted to two county records and a milestone in my 22-county survey of singing insects in the Chicago region. As I outlined in a blog post last year, the currency by which I measure progress is county records. The goal for each species, however, is either to find it in every county or to conclude that I have reached the limit of its range in the region. When I do so, as now is the case for long-spurred meadow katydids, it marks a milestone in the survey. I no longer need to expend time and effort in searching for that species.

The resulting map for the long-spurred meadow katydid. Black dots indicate counties where I have found the species, and red stars indicate the northernmost locations in Kane, DuPage, Cook and Berrien Counties (i.e., the range limit).

With 100 species and 22 counties, there theoretically could be as many as 2200 county records and 100 milestones. Many species are limited, however, with the edge of their range occurring within the region (as in the long-spurred meadow katydid) or else by having ecological needs which cannot be met in every county. As of this writing, I have a cumulative total of 1129 county records and 32 milestones. The year’s count is up to 87 county records. I hope to reach 100, but if I do, this will be the last year in which I can do so, as I estimate that there will be a total of only about 200 more to be found in future years. The wild card here is in the singing grasshoppers. I have not been very successful in finding these, so if I hit upon a method that opens the door to finding them, that could greatly increase the number of potential county records to be added. At this point, however, it seems more likely that most of these are very limited in their distribution.

 

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Morgan Monroe-Yellowwood Ecoblitz

by Carl Strang

The Indiana Forest Alliance is sponsoring a multi-year species survey of the back country portion of the conjoined Morgan Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests in Monroe and Brown Counties of southern Indiana. They are holding bioblitz weekends at various seasons so as to get a more complete picture than a single bioblitz would produce. Jeff and Mary Stant are providing the principal organizational and logistical support. I paid my first visit on September 12 to begin inventorying the singing insect species.

While waiting my turn to go into the survey area, I checked out the base camp in an old field with scattered young trees adjacent to the riparian edge of a wooded stream. The species mix was much like I would expect to find in a dry area in northern Indiana or Illinois.

Woodland meadow katydids were very common in woodland edges, much more abundant than I have found them farther north.

Woodland meadow katydids were very common in woodland edges, much more abundant than I have found them farther north.

The old field held scattered common meadow katydids.

The old field held scattered common meadow katydids.

Handsome trigs also were common in the riparian edge.

Handsome trigs also were common in the riparian edge.

Allard’s ground crickets were one of several species at the camp.

Allard’s ground crickets were one of several species at the camp.

The forested survey area was, as expected, less diverse, though the cool afternoon temperature probably inhibited some species. The slopes held scattered confused ground crickets, and bottomland herbaceous thickets were full of Say’s trigs, along with good numbers of Carolina ground crickets and more scattered jumping bush crickets and narrow-winged tree crickets.

At one point we flushed out a medium-sized cricket which permitted a quick photo but evaded capture. It was one of the camel crickets, probably in genus Ceuthophilus.

At one point we flushed out a medium-sized cricket which permitted a quick photo but evaded capture. It was one of the camel crickets, probably in genus Ceuthophilus.

We went up to a ridge top in the evening. It was very cold, and few species were managing to sing. There were scattered tinkling ground crickets, Carolina ground crickets, jumping bush crickets, and a few feebly ticking long-spurred meadow katydids. A background hum came from the forest canopy, and occasional individuals could be distinguished to support an identification of Davis’s tree crickets, by far the most abundant singers on that cold night.

I look forward to returning for more ecoblitz weekends next year.

 

How far North?

by Carl Strang

One of the projects in my singing insects study is tracing the boundaries of species ranges, and following how these are shifting in cases where they are expanding, usually northward. Two of the species I have been pursuing in recent days are the long-spurred meadow katydid and the Nebraska conehead. Several years ago I found a small population of long-spurred meadow katydids at south Blackwell Forest Preserve in DuPage County.

Some of the Blackwell katydids have this unusual black color added to the dorsal surface of the abdomen.

Some of the Blackwell katydids have this unusual black color added to the dorsal surface of the abdomen.

This little population is the northernmost I have found in DuPage County, and a recent search found none farther north. The similar situation in Cook County is a long established population at the Brookfield Zoo. My recent investigation there found one long-spurred meadow katydid a little more than two miles farther north, but none beyond that.

My current Chicago region map for the long-spurred meadow katydid. Black dots indicate counties where I have found the species to date. Red stars indicate the two northernmost known locations, at Blackwell Forest Preserve and along the Des Plaines River.

My current Chicago region map for the long-spurred meadow katydid. Black dots indicate counties where I have found the species to date. Red stars indicate the two northernmost known locations, at Blackwell Forest Preserve and along the Des Plaines River.

This year I found a new north for Nebraska coneheads, at the Carl R. Hansen Woods in northern Cook County.

Nebraska conehead

Nebraska conehead

A drive along rural roads north of that preserve failed to turn up an additional location.

The northern site for this study is indicated by the red star. The open circle in McHenry County represents an old report that I have not been able to confirm in the present day.

The northern site for this study is indicated by the red star. The open circle in McHenry County represents an old report that I have not been able to confirm in the present day.

These are two species for which, so far, there are no indications of expanding ranges in the Chicago region.

 

Adventures with Lisa and Wendy

by Carl Strang

Lisa Rainsong and Wendy Partridge are two admirable women from the Cleveland area. For years I have been corresponding with Lisa about our parallel explorations of singing insects in our respective regions. They honored me with a visit over the Labor Day weekend. We spent two full days site-hopping in northwest Indiana.

Wendy and Lisa stalk a long-spurred meadow katydid at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Wendy and Lisa stalk a long-spurred meadow katydid at Indiana Dunes State Park.

This was a three-way learning exchange. I provided local knowledge of species with which Lisa and Wendy needed more experience. Dr. Rainsong, who teaches university courses in music theory, models slow and deliberate observation that gives her more of an in-depth understanding of each species than I have been able to acquire so far. She also demonstrates the value of making a lot of sound recordings. Her Listening in Nature blog shares her observations, and I realize how I need to do more of this kind of work myself.

Wendy is a fine artist and art restoration specialist whose love and knowledge of nature frequently draws her into the field with her partner. She keeps her eyes open and notices many beautiful scenes, plants and animals that remind me not to be so narrowly focused. She also took the time to sit and create a couple watercolor sketches that were simply amazing. Wendy has the best ears of us three for the higher-pitched insect songs.

One of our sites was Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area.

A population of woodland meadow katydids provided good exposure to that dry-soil species.

A population of woodland meadow katydids provided good exposure to that dry-soil species.

This tinkling ground cricket had a darker brown head than most, but he was very cooperative, giving us many photo ops as he slowly moved across the parking lot.

This tinkling ground cricket had a darker brown head than most, but he was very cooperative, giving us many photo ops as he slowly moved across the parking lot.

Another highlight was a levee at Kingsbury Fish & Wildlife Area.

The dusky-faced meadow katydid was a priority species. We were able to observe two males.

The dusky-faced meadow katydid was a priority species. We were able to observe two males.

This Texas bush katydid, my first for LaPorte County, displayed the engaging personality of his kind.

This Texas bush katydid, my first for LaPorte County, displayed the engaging personality of his kind.

I benefited not only from observing Lisa’s and Wendy’s methods, but also picked up a total of 8 county records along the way for my study. We look forward to more exchange visits over the next few years.

 

Sound Ideas: Three Meadow Katydids

by Carl Strang

Today I am sharing recordings of 3 species of large meadow katydids (genus Orchelimum). One way or another their songs all fit the ticks-and-buzz pattern characteristic of their group. I will order them idiosyncratically, by how well I can hear them in the field. I will be interested in any comments on how well you can hear them in these recordings. The first is our most common species in the genus, the black-legged meadow katydid O. nigripes.

Black-legged meadow katydid

Black-legged meadow katydid

This was a very warm individual who was rushing the ticks. I render the pattern tickety-buzz, as there usually are 3 ticks leading directly into the buzz, with a brief pause before the next set. This species usually can be found in or near wetlands. I can hear its song unaided without any trouble.

Next up is the long-spurred meadow katydid, O. silvaticum.

Long-spurred meadow katydid

Long-spurred meadow katydid

Here the ticks have much the same quality as the buzz, several very brief rattles that merge into the rattling buzz. This is a katydid of woods edges and adjacent areas with tall herbaceous vegetation. I can hear some of these unaided in the field, on a calm day without other competing sounds, or when there are plenty of reflecting surfaces, but usually I need the SongFinder pitch-reducing device to detect them. I can hear this recording clearly, though.

Finally, here is a species I first encountered this past season, the stripe-faced meadow katydid, O. concinnum. It is a specialist in certain kinds of wetlands, and is much less common than the others.

Stripe-faced meadow katydid

Stripe-faced meadow katydid

This one I can’t hear at all from more than a few feet away, and I can barely hear it in this recording. I really need the SongFinder for this species. The ticks are more numerous, more separated, and more irregularly spaced, than in the black-leg.

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