Saturday, August 8, 2009

Night Sounds

Now that late summer is here I am hearing lots of nocturnal noises from the woods behind my house (and from in my yard!). I've heard the soft po po po po and whinny of the Eastern Screech Owl every night for the past week. I hear the buzzing calls of cicadas. I've heard something that woke me up at 4 a.m. and that I think was an owl but it wasn't one of the standard calls. Owls can make some weird noises and with my years of experience handling birds of all kinds I'm familiar with quite a lot of weird owl sounds. I think these noises came from a Barred Owl but I won't swear by it.

Summer evenings are often filled with a chorus of singing grasshoppers, crickets, katydids and cicadas. These long-legged insects will sing from the trees, from bushes, even from the grass or flower beds. The calls of crickets are familiar to most people, as are the calls of katy-did, she didn't, she did. I haven't been hearing many of these and, now that I think about it, I haven't noticed any grasshoppers in the yard. I'll bet this is a side affect of the chemicals poured on the lawn to maintain a perfect, golf-course look by the previous owner. Hopefully some grasshoppers and crickets will find their way into my pesticide-free sanctuary. That is if they can get past the lawns across the street and next door that continue to pour poisons into the environment.

Fortunately we do seem to have a healthy population of cicadas living in the trees behind our house. These insects buzz and whirr the evening away, looking for love in the tree tops. Cicadas are possibly best known for the 13-year and 17-year life cycle broods. These species spend 13 or 17 years underground and then emerge en mass to quickly breed and produce the next generation. The idea behind this is that a large population emerging at once will overwhelm the predators and so some will breed, and the prime number year cycle prevents the predators from synchronizing their own breeding cycle to take advantage of the feast.

The 13 and 17 year broods have less famous relatives who emerge every year in the late summer. You may find their molted larval casing clinging, lifeless, to a tree trunk but the adults have molted and headed up. Just like the 13 and 17 year cicadas, the yearly cicadas spend most of their lifecycle underground, emerging for a brief period to sing and breed.

While I have some nice katydid photos they are still packed up (did you read my first post? I've moved in the past year) and I couldn't find one to post. You'll just have to Google katydids and cicadas. Be sure to look for the colorful katydids, they can come in green (the most common color), white or even pink!

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