The Way I See Things



I spent a while down in the wild garden this morning, acting as safety monitor while R did some chainsaw tree surgery, fifteen feet up a ladder. Once he was safely back down at ground level I went back to where I'd left my camera and my sweep net, and discovered this 2cm meadow grasshopper sitting in the net. I hadn't done any sweeping before dropping the net on the top lawn, so he'd wandered into it of his own accord during my absence. Persuading him to leave took a little time and effort, which surprised me because grasshoppers are generally pretty twitchy, but I eventually discovered that he was somewhat challenged in the leg department, and this was restricting his movement.

I frequently come across grasshoppers with parts of limbs missing - I've even encountered a few that had lost an entire back leg, but still seemed somehow to be coping, and this one wasn't as severely disabled as that - but as well as the semi-amputated left foreleg you can see here, he'd also lost the tarsal sections of both his right fore and middle legs. The loss of three tarsi and their claws meant that while he could still jump, he couldn't stabilise himself very well when he landed, so he was confining himself to small jumps from and to relatively flat surfaces, and mostly he preferred simply to walk.

I don't see many grasshoppers in this garden, or even hear them - there are fields on the other side of the lane that provide them with better territory. But the hay meadow that's my go-to place when I want to photograph grasshoppers and crickets has just been cut for winter fodder, and I guess that this has dispersed its Orthoptera population. The season for meadow grasshoppers is usually reckoned to run from April to October, so it's getting late for this little chap, but despite that, his physical challenges, and his recent forced relocation, he wasn't quite ready to give up on life just yet: while sitting on this autumnal geranium leaf he did a little stridulating - rubbing his hind legs against the edges of his wings, in the hope of attracting a mate.

It says something about my husband that when R walked past while I was kneeling on the ground, elbows down in the grass and bum in the air, chatting away to my tiny model - "Could you just go forward a bit? There's a blade of grass cutting across you there. No, not that way - that's in shadow. Oh look - don't be mardy. How about this leaf? Perfect! That's really nice - just stay there would you, while I check the exposure? One moment... yes! That's lovely. I really appreciate it - thanks very much!" - he didn't so much as lift an eyebrow. The grasshopper was less relaxed about the situation, but he'd only known me for ten minutes, rather than forty years, so was less well placed to judge that I was merely weird and not actually dangerous. Knowing this, and that he wasn't in a position to either object to my attentions or leap away into hyperspace, I got my shots as fast as I could and then left the little guy to get on with the rest of his day unmolested.

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