Monday, August 13, 2012

LOOK FOR: Katydids

On Saturday Matt and I went out to hike, watch the sunset, and see if the sky would clear up so we could catch the Perseid meteor shower (it didn't). We've been trying this summer to learn some insects by their sounds, and just hanging out at sunset with nothing in particular going on was a fantastic chance to practice.

The most striking thing, now that I recognize more of the sounds, is what a changing of the guard there is as it gets dark.

At dusk, the cicadas are noisy. They sing in big masses, in a pulsing drone.

And then, as it gets dark, the katydids start making themselves known. Singly at first, then choruses of the Common True Katydid.

Ah, summer.

These are the five species we've been trying to learn, thanks to the DC/Baltimore Cricket Crawl. There are more species out there, but five seems like a good set to start with:

Often heard, seldom seen
Photo credit: Lisa Brown
Common True Katydid
(Pterophylla camellifolia)

Constantly repeating TCH-TCH-TCH (like ka-ty-did), from the tops of trees. One of the lowest pitched songs.

Male Lesser Angle-wing
Photo credit: Patrick Coin
Lesser Anglewing
(Microcentrum retinerve)

A faster, higher-pictched TCH-TCH-TCH, with long pauses in between each set.
Photo credit: Jerry Oldnettel
Greater Anglewing
(Microcentrum rhombifolium)

High pitched clicks that rapidly speed up, coming from the tops of trees

Oblong-winged katydid / Scuddérie à ailes oblongue
Photo credit: Eric Begin
Oblong-winged Katydid
(Amblycorypha oblongifolia)

ZEE-TIC every few seconds. From shrubs, usually in wooded areas.
Photo credit: Marcia Cirillo
Fork-tailed Bush Katydid
(Scudderia furcata)

A single high-pitched TCHIP, well-spaced-out. Usually given from short trees.

Only once now since we really started listening, we've been able to follow a single chirper, shine a flashlight, and find the katydid to confirm our ID. Many just hang out in the treetops -- we'll just have to listen. How many can you hear where you live?

Hooked? Check out Lang Elliot's wonderful book/CD set, The Songs of Insects.