Just back from the Midwest Birding Symposium and what a time that was! Everyone involved pulled out all the stops and created the best MBS ever. I was so busy with leading trips, giving a talk, introducing speakers, and visiting with dozens of friends that I never even cracked a camera case. Thus, I am relying on the generosity of other photogs that were there, and am hopeful that people such as Nina and Ernie can provide me with a few of their stellar images. I'll offer an MBS recap here, later.
On my way back from Lakeside, it was impossible not to stop at the fabulous Castalia Prairie for a few hours. There, on a picture-perfect September day, I found many interesting things and made lots of photos. I was fortunate in being able to track down one of our most charismatic little singers, and would like to share this tiny beast with you.
Click the above photo to enlarge, and look closely. Crickets are no fools, and when they detect a large, lumbering biped crashing closer, they'll dart to the other side of the leaf. But those LONG antennae jutting from the leaf's cover are a dead give away, as is the tip of the animal's abdomen sticking over the top of the leaf.
Black-horned tree crickets are at their peak right now, and it should be a fairly simple matter to find them should you be so inclined. They sing during the day, unlike many of their brethren. Also, this species generally shuns trees and favors old fields filled with goldenrods, asters, grasses and other herbaceous vegetation. At best, they'll clamber into the low branches of shrubs within the meadow, but that's about as close to a tree as a black-horned tree cricket will get.
CLICK HERE to hear the song of a black-horned tree cricket.
I think the animals are attracted to salts, hence their fascination with our skin. As soon as Senor Cricket stepped aboard, he began rasping my flesh with his surprisingly powerful mandibles. Their nibbling little pinches file away the outer layer of cells and the various minerals within. I'm glad I could provide some sustenance to this old veteran of the meadow, and he in turn offered up some excellent photo ops.