A Break with a Katydid
The dogs wanted to go out this morning, so I went out on the porch to drink some coffee and watch them play. I quickly realized that in fact, I was being watched, as well. There was a curious katydid sitting on my chair, waving her antennae at me. Mike Yager, you can stop reading now. Thank you for clicking. (He’s not a fan of these things)
Soon, she jumped up on my pants leg. I figured I could get a few good pictures of her for iNaturalist (which identified her as a slender meadow katydid Conocephalus fasciatus).
Next, she just hopped on up to my hand, where I was able to watch her up close, doing things with her legs, swishing those antennae, and chilling.
Finally, I got a video of her doing things and walking down my hand. I stopped when she began chewing on me and drew blood. Cheeky insect!
What I’d intended to write about today was grasshoppers, though. Every few years, we get a bumper crop. While I know both my children are creeped out by them, I am glad for the chickens’ sake, since they do love to chow down on grasshoppers. The vast majority this year are differential grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the kind known for messing with crops. (I saw one other type today, an obscure bird grasshopper, but I didn’t get a stellar photo.)
The ones here are pretty varied in color, with the adults being yellow, orange, green, or brown (brown ones are older). The earlier instars tend to be very bright green, but they are mostly adults now.
I can see why some folks get bothered by these guys when it’s one of their super-abundant years. They are everywhere and eating everything. Here is my asparagus. Yep, all you can see are sunflowers and other things that grasshoppers don’t eat down to the nubs.
The way the grasshoppers jump every time you move is annoying to me and apparently terrifying to some people. The good news is that I have never been bitten by a grasshopper, even when they got under my shirt or in my boots. The bad news is that those suckers hurt like heck when you run into them in your utility vehicle that no longer has a windshield.
Now, when I say they are everywhere, I’m not kidding. Here, watch this video. Also, if you aren’t on mute, listen to it. What do you hear?
I think that’s enough on grasshoppers for today.
Indirectly Observing Wildlife
One of the things I noticed today as I walked through the grasshopper-filled field, was that I knew there were a lot more living things out there than I could see. For example, the video above just rings with the sounds of cicadas. It’s been a big year for them in many parts of the US, but just average here. Still, they are loud when you get out near the trees. I don’t need to see them to know they are here!
I also know for sure that there was a barred owl somewhere in the trees, because it was making its characteristic “who cooks for you?” call a lot. And the pileated woodpecker I see occasionally was also out there calling and pecking. All morning there have been crow squabbles, as well, along with white-winged doves, who are omnipresent. Although I also saw it earlier, I heard the great blue heron squawk a couple times as it moved from tank to tank looking for crawfish or something.
Speaking of crawfish or crayfish or crawdads, I also know they are all over the place, even if I don’t see them. Their find mud castles are everywhere right now, since it’s drying out and a lot of the areas that were damp all winter and spring are not covered in water anymore.
Yep, they are there, even if you can’t see them. I also saw lots of deer tracks in the muddy areas, which makes sense. There are a few does and fawns in the area.
Though we are very obviously heading into the dry season here at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch (the water table is back to a more normal level, so the new spring has stopped flowing, though the old one in the woods is still dripping away), we still have some hardy flowers that are still blooming. I always enjoy them and their tenacity.
Whether your experiencing a rainy day, dealing with the west coast heat wave, or enjoying a restful Saturday, I hope you can go outside and see what is thriving where you live. And if you can’t see anything, listen!