Ecoblitz Continued

by Carl Strang

The Indiana Forest Alliance, a non-profit conservation organization, has been sponsoring a species survey in portions of two state forests in southern Indiana. As it consists of repeated weekend sessions over a period of years, they are calling it an “ecoblitz” rather than a bioblitz, which is a one-time event limited to a 24- or 48-hour time span. I went down for a weekend last fall, and returned in early August to complete the singing insects portion of the survey.

The area is forested, except for some small areas of tall, dense herbaceous growth in stream bottoms. The singing insect fauna consequently is mainly of forest species.

Confused ground crickets were common on the forest floor.

Confused ground crickets were common on the forest floor.

Say’s trigs by the hundreds sang in the open herbaceous areas.

Say’s trigs by the hundreds sang in the open herbaceous areas.

Widely scattered small groups of rattler round-winged katydids could be heard at night.

Widely scattered small groups of rattler round-winged katydids could be heard at night.

This nymph is recognizable as a male fork-tailed bush katydid by the distinctive appendages at the tip of his abdomen.

This nymph is recognizable as a male fork-tailed bush katydid by the distinctive appendages at the tip of his abdomen.

Some of the other species that sang for us were swamp cicadas, Nebraska coneheads, lesser angle-wing katydids, jumping bush crickets and common true katydids.

I also helped with photography at a night-time moth survey at illuminated sheets.

This small-eyed sphinx was one of the two hummingbird moths we attracted.

This small-eyed sphinx was one of the two hummingbird moths we attracted.

A blinded sphinx also dropped in.

A blinded sphinx also dropped in.

A grape leaffolder

A grape leaffolder

This lesser grapevine looper appears to be sending out pheromone.

This lesser grapevine looper appears to be sending out pheromone.

A Cope’s gray treefrog hopped in, possibly sensing the smorgasbord we had created.

A Cope’s gray treefrog hopped in, possibly sensing the smorgasbord we had created.

 

Parson’s Grove Visit

by Carl Strang

One evening last week I paid a visit to Parson’s Grove at Danada Forest Preserve. I felt that Nebraska coneheads were due to start singing, and Parson’s Grove has the largest population I have encountered in DuPage County, which makes it the northernmost significant population I have found to date in the Chicago region. There seemed to be more individuals singing that night than I remember from previous years. I tracked one down for a photo.

He proved to be a brown one. The conehead katydids all can be green or brown, but this is the first brown one of this species I have seen.

He proved to be a brown one. The conehead katydids all can be green or brown, but this is the first brown one of this species I have seen.

Another goal was to photograph a male rattler round-winged katydid, if any were going there. I have photos of a couple females, but lacked one of a male. I heard three at Parson’s Grove, and caught one in the open on a giant ragweed leaf.

My headlamp didn’t seem to disturb him as he casually groomed his feet.

My headlamp didn’t seem to disturb him as he casually groomed his feet.

The brown area on his back, which is part of the wings’ song-producing apparatus, is one distinguishing feature of males.

Parson’s Grove is a great place to hear a wide variety of nocturnal singing insects. DuPage County’s forest preserves provide a huge advantage to the region’s nature lovers, in that the preserves close an hour after sunset rather than right at sunset as is the case in the less enlightened surrounding counties.

The Familiar, the New, and the In-Between

by Carl Strang

As I approach the end of my 7-year stint of monitoring the natural history of Mayslake Forest Preserve, most of what I observe is familiar.

This longhorn beetle, Typocerus velutinus, is an expected visitor to the preserve’s flowers this time of year.

This longhorn beetle, Typocerus velutinus, is an expected visitor to the preserve’s flowers this time of year.

Likewise, this female azure bluet was not the first of her kind I have photographed on the preserve.

Likewise, this female azure bluet was not the first of her kind I have photographed on the preserve.

On the other hand, each week brings at least one new species to add to the preserve’s lists.

This moth is an example. The Vestal appears to be a simply white geometrid at first glance, but a closer look reveals shadings and highlights of yellow and gold.

This moth is an example. The Vestal appears to be a simply white geometrid at first glance, but a closer look reveals shadings and highlights of yellow and gold.

It also helps when someone else joins me on my walks. Nikki Dahlin is a beekeeper, and she is quick to point out the flower visitors.

This bee would not have drawn my eye. It seems unremarkable.

This bee would not have drawn my eye. It seems unremarkable.

Zooming out, however, reveals how tiny it is. There were dozens of these, ignoring the nectar of the wild bergamot flower tubes and focusing on the anthers and their pollen.

Zooming out, however, reveals how tiny it is. There were dozens of these, ignoring the nectar of the wild bergamot flower tubes and focusing on the anthers and their pollen.

I haven’t studied the native bees enough to know where to begin with an identification, which would be needed to access information on other aspects of this bee’s life. Another new insect for the preserve from last week is one I have encountered elsewhere, but wasn’t aware could be at Mayslake.

The rattler round-wing katydid usually stays out of sight during the day, but this female perched on her leaf as though basking in the intermittent sun.

The rattler round-wing katydid usually stays out of sight during the day, but this female perched on her leaf as though basking in the intermittent sun.

Another two weeks will bring my Mayslake chapter to a close, but in the fall a new one will open at St. James Farm.

 

McHenry County Singing Insects

by Carl Strang

On Saturday I traveled north to McHenry County, Illinois, to continue my regional survey of singing insects. That county is blessed with some impressive sites, and I was able to cover only parts of two of them. Moraine Hills State Park has a wide range of representative habitats covering large acreages.

Wetlands in particular dominate the landscape.

Wetlands in particular dominate the landscape.

Much of the park is spanned by a network of bike paths, and my next survey trip there will involve my bike. I also paid a visit to a McHenry County Conservation District property, Glacial Park.

When I think of Glacial Park I think of glorious vistas.

When I think of Glacial Park I think of glorious vistas.

There are savannas, restored prairie, and wetlands of varied quality.

This marsh looks very good, at least around the edges.

This marsh looks very good, at least around the edges.

The bog so far is holding its own against a fringing ring of reed canary grass.

The bog so far is holding its own against a fringing ring of reed canary grass.

The bog is rich in sphagnum moss, but was quiet on Saturday, so I hope to find sphagnum ground crickets singing when I return in a month or so.

The bog is rich in sphagnum moss, but was quiet on Saturday, so I hope to find sphagnum ground crickets singing when I return in a month or so.

The species count for McHenry County totaled 16, the list mainly overlapping that for Kendall County from the previous day. The differences were interesting, though. Where the day at Kendall was dominated by omnipresent choruses of lyric cicadas, I did not hear a single member of that species in McHenry. At some point I will follow a couple rivers north and south to find the current range limit for that species, which is common in DuPage County not far south of McHenry.

The McHenry woodlands had rattler round-wing katydids, which I did not find in Kendall County, but the latter had Nebraska coneheads which I did not find in McHenry County. I need to find a drier, more open woodland in Kendall County, but the Nebraska conehead likely is a species which, like the lyric cicada, has its northern range limit somewhere between those two counties.

Indiana Dunes State Park Mystery

by Carl Strang

Indiana Dunes State Park is an older preserve than the National Lakeshore that surrounds it. Last week I spent a day there searching for singing insects. As was true at the National Lakeshore earlier in the month, most of the species I found were familiar, but there were a few added ones. For instance, a female rattler round-wing katydid was climbing the outside wall of the park’s nature center.

Later in the evening I heard a couple males singing nearby.

Also that evening I heard a number of jumping bush crickets. The dunes area had, as expected, gray ground crickets.

The day also brought a mystery. As had been the case at the National Lakeshore forest, confused ground crickets were common in the shaded areas, and there were a few tinkling ground crickets around the dry edges. In addition, however, in the wet-mesic forest south of the State Park’s great marsh, and extending well into the wooded margins of the marsh, a common third species was singing a clear and steady trill. It was similar in pattern, but distinctly lower in pitch and with a different tonal quality, than the Say’s trigs that were abundant in more open areas nearby.

Red oaks, ferns and deep leaf litter were characteristic of the mystery cricket’s song sites.

I remembered that the spotted ground cricket is a forest species I had not yet found, and thought that perhaps this would prove to be the solution. Later, however, when I consulted reference recordings, I was reminded that the spotted ground cricket has a pulsing trill unlike the mystery cricket’s steady song. Reviewing other possibilities, I hit upon the melodious ground cricket. The song was very close to what I heard.

The melodious ground cricket is not as well known as many other ground crickets. Edward S. Thomas and Richard Alexander first described it in 1957, and their work provides much of what has been published about it, at least in the North. They characterized it as a marsh species, but their more detailed site descriptions often, if not usually, place it among woody plants. “The majority of our specimens of melodius were secured by tearing apart a soggy, decayed log, honey-combed with insect burrows, about 20 feet from the marsh proper.” While this supports my tentative identification, at some point I will need to get back there and catch some of these crickets to make a positive determination.

Insects at the Campground

by Carl Strang

The overnight campout at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve that concludes the Roger Raccoon Club provides opportunities to observe various aspects of natural history. Last week the campground’s gravel parking lot, damp from overnight rain, apparently held a good supply of dissolved minerals, as it attracted butterflies representing at least 5 species.

Most remarkable was this giant swallowtail, a species uncommon in DuPage County but encountered regularly in small numbers at Waterfall Glen. I believe their main food plant in northeast Illinois is prickly ash, an infrequent shrub.

After dark an orchestra of singing insects filled the forest with sound. Dominant that night were large numbers of common true katydids, with smaller numbers of scattered two-spotted tree crickets, rattler round-winged katydids, and oblong-winged katydids. I needed a photo of the last species, and was able to find one singing close to the edge of the woods.

This oblong-winged katydid is holding his wings apart in singing position. Rasp and file structures on the brown portions of the two wings are rubbed together to produce the song.

As it happened, some of the kids found another male on their tent in the morning. I gave them a brief lesson about it, and took another set of photos.

Here the wings are in their normal folded position.

Some of those singing insects represented my first observations of their species this year.

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