At Nachusa Grasslands in Franklin Grove, IL, the main July attractions are big.
2,000 lbs big.
The charismatic bison continue to draw crowds of people eager to see ghosts of the prairie, now resurrected. Visitors hop into pickup trucks for tours; pull their cars off alongside the bison fencing and peer through binoculars.
The 14 baby bison born this spring are icing on the proverbial prairie cake. Rock stars, with their own set of paparazzi.
When the focus is on these shaggy denizens of the past, it’s easy to overlook the less visible gems of the prairie. Like this federally threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid, half-hidden in the grasses.
Or the dragonflies, including this white-faced meadowhawk, which weighs barely as much as a whisper.
Bluebirds stand sentinel on their tiny wooden houses. They and the almost 200 species of birds here are a tribute to the work of restorationists, who didn’t forget the little things.
We need the bison and the bluebirds; orchids and dragonflies. Mammals and birds, plants and insects. The great and the small.
There is beauty in the aggregate.
Joy in the singular.
Alone, each plant, animal, bird and insect — with a thousand other big and small members of the tallgrass prairie– create an irreplaceable landscape.
The landscape of home.
All photos by Cindy Crosby at Nachusa Grasslands in Franklin Grove, IL: (top to bottom) Bison; bison tour; bison with babies; eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea); white-faced meadowhawk; eastern bluebird; black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta); Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense).