“Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam… .”
In late April on the Illinois tallgrass prairie, the real estate market is booming. Everywhere you look, critters are pairing up, making homes, and settling down for a bit to raise their families.
From the tiniest spiders, who find wood betony blooms the perfect structures to sling their glittery homes of tensile-strength silks…
…to the newborn fawns, half-hidden and cradled in green…
…to the largest bison, who throw their first calves in the early morning’s haze.
After finding a likely creek, beavers craft a lodge for themselves. There, they welcome their young babies, called kits.
Their carefully engineered dam creates a pond on the prairie. Now, they have waterfront property.
The greater yellowlegs moves in, and finds the shoreline the perfect place to woo a potential mate.
Nearby, a thirteen-lined ground squirrel looks for his love…
When he finds her, they nestle in the tallgrass together, then pop down a tunnel.
A lone pheasant runs across the grasses. Still alone. Still searching.
The prairie may be the only home these creatures will ever know.
But look around you. It’s no surprise.
Why would they want to live anywhere else?
All photos above unless indicated are copyright Cindy Crosby, shot at Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL (top to bottom): bison roaming the prairie; wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis) with spiderwebs; fawn; bison herd; beaver lodge; beaver dam; greater yellowlegs; 13-lined ground squirrel sitting up (photo credit copyright Jeff Crosby); 13-lined ground squirrels together; ring-necked pheasant; wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) and bone; Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans).
The opening quote is from a poem by Brewster M. Higley, “My Western Home,” later a popular cowboy song.