Where should I explore this summer and early fall?
I’m not doing a survey of a specific location, but instead will be revisiting some of the places I’ve studied in the past to see and hear what’s similar and different.
I decided to start with Frohring Meadows in the Geauga County Park District. I love its wide-open meadows, its wetland, and all that sky above me.
I decided to walk the trail that encircles the wetland. Singing insects continued to be later than expected, but the Sword-bearing Coneheads were well established, and both the Gladiator Meadow Katydids and Broad-winged Bush Katydids were still singing.
As I walked the part of the trail closest to the water, I heard something puzzling. It was a very rhythmic song that was rather like a zzzit – zzzit – zzzit that seemed to be closer to the bulrushes.
It wasn’t the Striped Ground Crickets, and the songs were too short and precise to be right for a Least Shieldback (a species that does appear at Frohring and at least two other Geauga parks).
It reminded me of a Slightly Musical Conehead, which is not a species that would be in the NE Ohio snowbelt. I’d heard – and photographed – one many years ago at Burton Wetlands (also in the Geauga Park District) but had no idea why it might have been there.
I did have other experiences with this species elsewhere – at Kinnikinnick Fen in the Ross County Park District (southern Ohio) and the quite unexpected and large population I discovered in the Magee Marsh area very close to the Lake Erie shore in NW Ohio. You can read about that interesting discovery here:
Slightly Musical Conehead, Magee Marsh, NW Ohio on Lake Erie.
Notice his long, black cone and the cone of the Slightly Musical Conehead below..
Slightly Musical Conehead, brown form. Kinnikinnik Fen, Ross County Park District, OH
From Singing Insects of North America. This is a southern Ohio species. The two black dots at the top of the state are the Slightly Musical Conehead population I discovered at Magee Marsh and the Slightly Musical Conehead I found at Burton Wetlands. I wonder where else they might be?
But Frohring Meadows? This is a created wetland in a park I know quite well…
I couldn’t tell exactly where the singer was located. It almost seemed there was more than one. But Slightly Musical Coneheads “chorus” – they sing in unison as if they were an ensemble - making it difficult for mere humans to tell where exactly the sound may originate.
I made a recording of the closest invisible singer and sent it to Wil Hershberger. I knew what it sounded like, but being so out of range, I wanted expert verification.
Will said it was definitely a Slightly Musical Conehead. Neoconocephalus exiliscanorus.
Time to go photograph one for further documentation! Of course, that was easy to proclaim and much more challenging to accomplish.
I knew I needed assistance and I also knew the best person to ask: Geauga Park District naturalist Linda Gilbert.
These coneheads are quite impressive. They have the longest “cone” of any of our coneheads and it’s entirely black.
They’re also larger than our Sword-bearing Coneheads. Surely, we’d be able to locate one, especially since my shotgun microphone could show us exactly where one would be singing.
And, of course, it wasn’t that easy.
Yes. I'm in there. Do you see the tiny spot of light from my headlamp? Photo: Linda Gilbert
It seemed they were not as high up in the bulrushes and other vegetation as I would have thought, so they were likely blending well in denser growth. But then…Linda looked down and there was a conehead…right there!
Our conehead was not interested in posing out in the open for us, but we both managed to obtain documentation photos without losing our footing in the marsh. We were so pleased!
(All Slightly Musical Conehead photos are the Frohring Meadows individual except the two examples from Kinnikinnick and Magee Marsh.)
I’ve been back since then, of course, but I haven’t actually seen another individual. I can tell by walking and listening that there are more Slightly Musical Coneheads than I thought. I wonder how they got there and how long they’ve been establishing themselves in that wetland?
If I weren’t listening, we wouldn’t even know those coneheads are there!
For more information on Slightly Musical Coneheads, you can visit Wil Hershberger's online Songs of Insects at http://songsofinsects.com/katydids/slightly-musical-conehead.
See also Singing Insects of North America at https://orthsoc.org/sina/197a.htm
Naturalist Carl Strang has found then in the Chicago region as well. https://natureinquiries.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/slightly-musical-coneheads-extend-west/
I see that I'll need to add a page to my online field guide, https://www.listeningtoinsects.com/ as these splendid katydids continue to move north into NE Ohio.