In recent weeks I have visited a few spots in Lake and Newton Counties, Indiana, for the first time. One site in Gary is a state nature preserve with several interdune swales.
Though there are some patches of invasive wetland plants, more than 95% of the area is in native vegetation.
I had high hopes for this site, which I thought might have stripe-faced meadow katydids and slender coneheads. On an evening excursion and an afternoon one I built a rather mundane species list. In this rainy year it is possible that the target species are present but widely scattered. I want to get in there again in a year when drier conditions might concentrate the species of interest, and also make a larger portion of the site easily navigable.
Willow Slough Wildlife Area in Newton County is a large and diverse area that I barely have begun to explore for singing insects. One target for this year was a roadside ditch lined with native sedges and grasses.
The ditch proved to have only common singing insects, but there was a remarkable concentration of clipped-wing grasshoppers, a non-singing species I have seen in only one other location. This is a nymph; most were adults at this late point in the season.
I also checked out some narrow drainage swales along an access road closely bordered by forest.
One non-singing species there was the graceful grasshopper.
Short-winged meadow katydids were abundant, but the population was unusual in that nearly half the individuals were the long-winged variant.
I wonder if the narrow, constrained habitat has something to do with the oddity of that population.
One of the singing insects I have been seeking for several years in the Chicago area is the green-winged cicada (Diceroprocta vitripennis). Some references have suggested that this is an early-season species, and I thought I heard them in June of 2007 (the brief regular buzzes in the following recording, with Cassin’s 17-year cicadas in the background):
Those sounds were very similar to the cooler-temperature recording of Diceroprocta at the University of Michigan’s cicada website, though a little slower (the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler). The problem was that the periodical cicadas were in their peak year and season at the same time, and the identification was ambiguous because I couldn’t entirely rule out the possibility that these were Cassin’s 17-year cicadas warming up. Returns in subsequent years to places where I heard those sounds failed to turn up a repeat performance. Now I find that those actually were “Court III” signals of the Cassin’s cicadas, produced by the male as he connects with a female for mating.
During my survey work this past field season, I finally heard green-winged cicada songs on July 29, first at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, then at Jasper-Pulaski, both in Indiana (a scissor-grinder cicada song is in the background at the start):
Oak woodlands on sandy soils, including this one at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, are where I heard this song.
These were a match for the warmer-temperature song at the University of Michigan website (the temperature was cooler for my recording, but the insect may have had a warm perch in the sun; I didn’t see it). That day was the extent of my experience with this species, though, so more observations are needed to get a better handle on the abundance, distribution and habitat of green-winged cicadas in the Chicago region.
On Monday I returned to Newton and Jasper Counties, Indiana, to survey for singing insects that had emerged since my earlier visits there (Newton County was the site of the bioblitz last year; I went to a new site this time, the Willow Slough State Fish and Wildlife Area). In Jasper County I went back to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, and was especially interested in revisiting the savanna and sand prairie.
The savanna-sand prairie site at the time of my first visit.
The most exciting find was an unfamiliar insect singing loudly from the black oak woodlands of both sites in the early to mid-afternoon. Its song was a series of quick buzzing sounds, as though a sword-bearing conehead (which sings at night) woke up way early and got hold of a megaphone. With that volume at that time of day well up in the trees it had to be a cicada, and when I later referred to sources and listened to reference recordings it was clearly the green-winged cicada, Diceroprocta vitripennis. This is a species I thought I might have heard in DuPage County at the time of the periodical cicada emergence in 2007, but the songs were difficult to separate from the loud Magicicada choruses, and I have not heard it since, until Monday. I did not see one, but hope to get a photo in the future.
Otherwise the singing insects were familiar, though I did pick up a number of county records and heard a few species singing for the first time this year.
Also, a very large, interesting looking grasshopper flew up from the sand prairie and landed on a tree after a graceful flight on its long wings.
It was noticeably larger than the Carolina grasshopper, the most common large grasshopper in the region.
The color pattern, behavior and habitat point to the obscure bird grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura), not a singing insect but an interesting attention-grabber nevertheless.