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?”
Every March, maple trees in the South Shore awaken with the warm days and cold nights and the sap begins to flow. It's that time of year again, and the maple sugar farmers are busy, headed out with their tools to tap the trees.
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.