October 21, 2013

Crickets of Bush and Tree

Charmed by a black-horned tree cricket, Oecanthus nigricornis, 10/19/13 (Photo by Janice Koskey)
When I stepped out of my car after a long drive home from DownEast Maine in early September, I was overwhelmed by the cacophonous chorusing of crickets at ear level.  Whether it was a revelation born of a shift in my perspective or an unusual abundance of bush and tree crickets this year that grabbed my attention, I've been on a quest to meet those unfamiliar species who are filling the fall air with sonorous vibrations from the waist-level upward.

Male, red-headed bush cricket, Phyllopalpus puchellus, eyeing me from an oak leaf (9/19/13)
The metallic trill that drew me in that evening was the call of red-headed bush crickets (Phyllopalpus puchellus).  One of my high school students, from the CCHS Rivers & Revolutions Program, helped us spot this tiny singer along the trails at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, a wetland habitat it prefers.  For more information on this species, see BugGuide.net - Red-headed bush cricket

Singing male, red-headed bush cricket
A black-horned tree cricket, shown at the top of this post, appeared on cue last Saturday, shortly after I shared the delights of cricket hunting to a group of walkers I was leading along the Emerson-Thoreau Amble in Concord.  Named for it's long, blackish antennae, this cricket was crawling along a rose bush on the edge of a overgrown field and revealed itself first to an observant young eyes our group.  Unlike many tree crickets, this species prefers to be just a few feet off the ground, on the edges of fields, and sings during daylight hours.  Janice Koskey was kind enough to share her photo from our walk.

For more information on tree crickets, visit this beautiful website:
Black-horned tree cricket call and info

For additional natural history information, see BugGuide.net - Black-horned tree cricket

For a fantastic resource about our native singing insects, visit Singing Insects of North America

October 10, 2013

Swimming in Color and Light

The sight of a mallard swimming through brilliant autumn reflections can transform our appreciation for this common bird and richness of autumn's palette. 

October 5, 2013

A Peak Experience

Overlooking a remote bog on the edge of Estabrook Woods
I've never quite understood why New Englanders drive long distances from home in search of a "peak foliage" experience each fall.  Surely some of the most beautifully adorned trees and shrubs are ablaze in and around wetlands and woodlands close to home.  Lucky are we in Concord, for the rivers and streams, ponds, bogs, and shrubby swamps that grace our town.  Their autumnal displays would strike awe even in the most avid leaf peeper.  Wader-clad and camera in hand, my foliage tour covers a five mile radius from my front door. 

Drifts of tawny cotton-grass cover the open sphagnum mat in the bog's center
Tawny cotton-grass (Eriophorum virginicum)

Ferns and acid loving trees and shrubs form dense stands on the outer rim of the bog
Sphagnum moss, cranberry, blueberry leaves, and dried fern curls