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South Shore Blog - Newton County

Header photo: Viceroy Butterfly by Ryan Rasmussen/TNC In early September, our Kankakee Sand prairies are aflutter with orange on yellow, white and purple. Monarch and viceroy butterflies are nectaring on goldenrods, bonesets, and ironweed, and it is one of the prettiest sights to be seen! Both the monarch (Danaus plexippus) and the viceroy (Limenitis archippus) are orange, black, gorgeous, and often mistaken for one another. But there are subtle differences between them that can help you identify one from the other in the field.   

Header photo by Gary Soper.  If you think saying the word “bobolink” is fun, you’d be right! Even more fun is seeing the bird itself.  It’s the male bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) that will turn your mind upside down. Many birds, such as bluebirds or chickadees, are dark on top and light underneath. This allows the birds to be better camouflaged against the light sky when viewed by predators from below, and more camouflaged against the dark earth when viewed from above.  This does not hold true for the male bobolink. In his breeding plumage, he is light on top and dark underneath, with a cream-colored patch on the backside of his head. You might think that he really wants to be seen! 

Photos by Trevor Edmonson This July we will be busy with harvesting hundreds of pounds of sedge seeds to include in this year’s prairie planting at Kankakee Sands. We will be harvesting twelve different sedges, each one so unique, and really quite lovely, if you just take the time to lean in and look more closely. 

We often talk about the types of plants that our Kankakee Sands bison are eating, and how that will affect the prairies. What we rarely talk about is what is happening at the other end of the bison.  Bison poop, bison patties, dung, feces, meadow muffins…there are a whole host of flowery alternatives (my kids and I came up with 23 different terms!) to describe the very important resource that our bison are contributing to the prairie.