Caught red handed

The flocks Pinyon Jays moved across the landscape in large numbers noisily calling to each other. On some mornings they would congregate in a flock easily numbering 100 individuals seemingly flying in from all four directions on the compass. An wonderful sight and one we don’t often experience.

In fact, according to All About Birds:

“Pinyon Jay social organization is complex, with permanent flocks that may include more than 500 individuals. Many birds spend their entire lives with the flock where they hatched.”

Seeing and hearing them was a daily occurrence yet getting a photograph was altogether another matter. Just once did they land close enough for a nice photo opportunities and as might be expected it was in a pinion tree with plenty of booty to be had.

Mormon Cricket: Anabrus simplex

The Mormon cricket is actually not a true cricket, but rather a shield-backed katydid. The common name derives from an invasion of the crops of Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake area in the mid-1800s.

We ran across plenty of these katydids on a recent hike although not in the numbers depicted in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy3dQJYquoY. While these insects can be quite destructive to crops they do eat the grasses and plants in natural rangelands much as large grazing mammals do (or did). I also find them quite interning to look at as each has subtle color variations.

Given these were not marching across our hiking trail in plague proportions I enjoyed seeing them on a late fall afternoon moving through the already dry grasses.