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Author: Alyssa Nyberg, Kankakee Sands Efroymson Restoration

Alyssa Nyberg is the Native Plant Nursery manager and outreach coordinator for The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands Efroymson Restoration in Northwest Indiana, an 8,000-acre prairie restoration. She grew up in the Indianapolis area, and has been living and working in Newton County ever since she started her job with The Nature Conservancy 15 years ago. Alyssa loves living in Newton County with her husband and raising their children in this beautiful county with its small-town feel.

Though she has been offered a leaf blower, my dear friend chooses to rake her leaves the old-fashioned way --- because she wants to be sure to hear the melodious, rattling trumpet-like call of the sandhill cranes as they fly over! She doesn’t want to miss a single awe-inspiring moment of these majestic birds.


Imagine a spooky Halloween scenario, or a scary movie with a haunted mansion, and chances are it’ll include at least one flying bat. A bat flapping its wings on a dark night has become synonymous with creepy. Overcoming that stereotype is a steep hill to climb for bats. 


Photo: Butterfly Day at Kankakee Sands by Leigh Littiken

We all know that getting out in nature is great for our health, but sometimes our busy schedules make it difficult to find the time to get our “green time”. Fear not, it’s really much easier that you might think – because green time is all around you!

Getting you green time is truly as simple as standing outside and noticing the nature around you. No batteries, tools or fancy footwear required.


Photo by Jeanette Jaskula

There’s nature to be had for all sorts of sleeping habits. For the early risers, there is bird watching. For the late sleepers, there is mid-day butterfly watching. And for the night owls, there are moths.

Now, don’t shrug your shoulders at the vastly important and diverse family of moths. In Newton County alone we have more than 900 species of moths! And they aren’t all brown – there are yellow and pink rosy maple moths, orange ornate moths, green luna moths, and black and white eight-spotted foresters.  


Dragons are all the rage these days. Friends are fascinated by the beasts in Game of Thrones. My son likes the evil, fire breathing monsters that are to be fought, slain, and conquered in the game Dungeons and Dragons. 

As for me, I delight in the dragons of the sky that hover, glide and zoom over our Newton County wetlands, entertaining me on sunny summer’s day. 


Bison have been grazing the prairies at Kankakee Sands for two and a half years now, and I still find them as intriguing and fascinating as the first day they arrived. Those stately thousand-pound beasts seem to calmly pass the day, but actually they are very hard at work…with their teeth!

The bison’s grazing habits are why we brought them to Kankakee Sands —to help rejuvenate our prairies by eating the grasses and sedges, allowing the flowering plants to thrive. More flowering plants means a more diverse prairie, which in turn attracts a greater variety of birds, insects and animals.

And those 32 teeth of the bison have been putting a world of hurt on scouring rush, one of our more challenging invasive plant species at Kankakee Sands.


I was standing out in a 400-acre wet prairie just north of our Kankakee Sand office, placidly harvesting seeds when I hear the crackling, sizzling Zzzzap! like the sound of an electrical circuit shorting out. With exactly zero electric lines running through that particular prairie, what could have made that sound? 

Then I noticed a large willow patch… and where there is a willow patch at Kankakee Sands, there may be a sedge wren (Cistothorus platensis) singing its electrical sounding song. 


“Hey, whattaya know, we got ourselves a cinnamon!” April and May are the typical calving months for our Kankakee Sand bison. So, you can imagine our utter shock and surprise when we saw a little red bison calf in the pasture this past November!

The first question that comes to mind is, “How did that happen?!” Well, we know how it happened.  The better question may be, “Why did that happen?”


Photo: Aphrodite butterflies on butterfly weed by Gus Nyberg

My mailbox is starting to fill with seed catalogs. Even though it is only February, my mind is already dreaming of a well weeded garden, overflowing with the ripest of fruit and not a garden pest within 40 miles. 

Oh! And I just know that this year my landscaping of native flowers and shrubs will bloom all through the spring, summer and fall, with nary a weed to be found. Sigh…maybe someday. 


Photo copyright Christopher Jordan

While visiting the east coast this past December, my family took an evening drive to a “Winter Wonderland.” For $18, we were able to drive through three miles of outdoor light displays. Holiday tunes played in time to the light display. The displays were made of silver, blue, red, green and gold lights welded to metal frames in the shapes of larger-than-life castles, horse drawn carriages, poinsettias, wreaths, snowmen, St. Nick, the Grinch, pine trees, leaping deer, dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes!