While walking through a coastal grassland near Dillon Beach on 11 June 2012, a high-pitched buzzing sound caught my attention. It sounded like a cicada, but I hadn't seen a cicada yet in California.
Magically, after focusing on and following the origin of the sound, my eyes fell on this adult male cicada perched among dense vegetation just above ground level.
I found one reference that describes 65 species of cicadas in California (Cicadas of California by John Simons published in 1954). If anyone can help with the identity of the species in these photos, I'd be very interested!
Here's a view from above.
Note the gray compound eyes and between them the three amber-colored simple eyes forming a triangle (see below).
Although I don't know which species this is, remember the basic cicada life cycle involves males singing to attract mates, females laying eggs in plants, nymphs hatching from the eggs and falling to the ground to live a mostly subterranean life (feeding on roots) before crawling up to the surface to undergo metamorphosis into a winged adult. "Periodical cicadas" are famous for their 13- or 17-year cycles, but other species complete their life cycle in 2-5 years.
Check out this website to hear sound samples of cicada songs from the western U.S.