Never too late to learn

Male Jumping Bush Cricket (Orocharis saltator), found in front of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, MA. (Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm, speedlights Canon 580EXII)

The Cambridge Entomological Club meets every month at Harvard University, and always has interesting speakers who regale its members with tales of adventure and insects. Last night our speaker was John Himmelman, a renowned naturalist and author of many children’s books and field guides, including two on singing insects of the Northeast. It was a very entertaining talk and, among other things, John showed us a number of species of katydids and crickets that we are likely to encounter in Massachusetts. I was particularly interested to hear about the Jumping Bush Cricket (Orocharis saltator), a species that I had never seen before, but always really wanted to. And then John casually said, “I heard one singing right outside this building as I walked from the garage.”

Are you kidding me??!!

It took all my willpower to stay in my seat until the end of the talk, and right after it had ended I ran outside to look for the elusive insect. Of course, I couldn’t locate it, despite hearing it calling from several places (John warned me that it would be difficult.) But I am a tenacious creature, and tonight I came back with a powerful headlamp and strong conviction not to leave until I get one. After about an hour of stalking and some awkward conversations with the Harvard security guards, I caught one.

This experience has been a great lesson in humility – I thought that I knew local orthopterans rather well but, here it was, a species I had been dying to see, singing in front of the building where I had spent the last decade of my life. I guess it really is never too late to learn.

A recording of the call of the Jumping Bush Cricket (made with an iPhone 4Gs in front of the MCZ on Oct. 10th, 2012, temp. 13°C [55.4°F]) – click the oscillogram to hear the recording

8 Comments Add yours

  1. posgatiana says:

    For those looking for this species there is a remarkably large “colony” of Jumping Bush Crickets next to the Whole Foods Market in Wayland, Massachusetts (USA) on Rt. 20, encircling the swamp pond at the end of the parking lot. The time frame is late August through September. It is a real pleasure to hear so many chorusing in the evenings. I don’t know if there was a range expansion or if they simply were never reported in Middlesex Co. Traffic and ambient noise makes clean recordings difficult to achieve in this location.

    6 August 2015
    Norman Levey Posgate
    Lincoln, Massachusetts

  2. Never too late to learn – I didn’t know I could make such recordings with my iPhone! Time to play.

  3. great and inspiring story – and i’m sure the security guards will remember it, too. thanks for sharing!

  4. Alan Harvey says:

    I’m impressed by the quality of that iPhone-captured sound recording! Did you use an external mic or some nifty sound-editing sofware?

    1. Just the phone, no attachments. But I did filter out the very low frequencies (below 5 kHz) in Raven software to eliminate the hum of the heating system (I think) coming from the building. I am also very impressed with the quality of the iPhone recording system. The only problem is that Apple does not allow users to transfer these recordings to the computer! The only way to do it is to e-mail the recording to yourself, one by one – not a very elegant or easy solution.

  5. What is their ditribution, specifically, are they in Arizona/ desert habitats? I’m asking because there is at keast one rhythmic piping evening song of which I can’t find the singer

  6. James C. Trager says:

    These crickets are cryptic in appearance and habit, singing with their bodies pressed into a bark furrow or with one side pressed close to the base of a leaf blade. In part, I also think they’re hard to find because they often sing just a little high up on tree trunks for me to reach. They are really abundant around here. On the cool evenings of this time of year, I hear their resonant piping chirps all around, but they are really hard to see. The other main component of the night chorus right now is Oecanthus latipennis, with its deep, mellow trill — Both very nice to fall asleep to.

    (But it’s morning as I write. Better gulp down some coffee and get to work!)

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