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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy. They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

Everybody's Doing the Blitz!

Prairie Notes #107
November 1, 2015

1) BREAKING NEWS + Everybody's Doing the Blitz!
2) Field Report - October
3) Bikes, Bees, Butterflies & Bombs
4) Kids on the Fall Prairie
5) Mystery from Above
6) Prizewinning Prairie Pics
7) A Chilling Tale
8) Sketch the Hills
9) Prairie Proverb


1) Everybody's Doing the Blitz!

HUGE Breaking News! Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, in partnership with Texas Wesleyan University, have received a major grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as part of the Conservation License Plate Grants program.

Tandy Hills was one of only 10 organizations selected for 2016 out of 39 applications. The nearly $10K grant will help pay for the first full-scale BioBlitz in north Texas at Tandy Hills, next April. And THAT is the REALLY big news. 

What's a BioBlitz, you ask? "A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying (24 - 48 hours) in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period." (source: Wikipedia) Our ultimate goal is to protect and maintain all native species. One of the first steps in doing that is to ID what's there.

The organizers of the Tandy Hills BioBlitz are aiming high. Top experts in the fields of grass, trees, wildflowers, birds, bees, bats, butterflies, funghi, ants and every other living thing will be on hand to find, identify and record these species, via iNaturalist. Not just local experts, but statewide. 

But a BioBlitz is also about everyday folks with a common interest in the natural world. Nature mystics, nature boys, nature girls, nature lovers, amateur biologists of all stripes - all joining with the experts as Citizen Scientists. There will be opportunities for all to participate in amassing Tandy Hills' bio-inventory.


The biotic richness of Tandy Hills Natural Area will soon become obvious to all. The intrinsic value of nature makes the best argument for conservation.

- Bruce Benz, Biology Department, Texas Wesleyan University


Our partners in the BioBlitz include, Teaming with Wildlife: True To Texas, Native Prairies Association of Texas (FW chapter), Native Plant Society of Texas (North Central chapter), Texas Master Naturalists (Cross Timbers chapter), the City of Fort Worth and YOU!.

Very special thanks to Bruce Benz of Texas Wesleyan University and John Tandy for co-writing the grant application and to Rob Denkhaus of Teaming with Wildlife and Fort Worth Parks & Recreation Department for bringing it to our attention.


2) Field Report - October

There was a rumor on Facebook that the rain deluge in late October caused Tandy canyon to fill with water creating Tandy Lake. There were even reports of folks swimming there. Pshaw! Don't believe everything you read on FB. What you can believe is the 7" of rain that hit the ground in little more than 48 hours and another 3" by October 31. As a result, the prairie plants including, Nodding Ladies' Tresses Orchids, rebounded, making Fall on the prairie a lot more pleasant. Check out these pics from October and get inspired to visit YOUR local prairie.

Prairie False Willow (Baccharis texana) is loveliest when going to seed in October.

A not so Gay-feather (Liatris aestivalis) enduring another day of drought before the deluge.

Two days after the rains came this field of Maximilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) lit up the twilight.

Max. to the max.

Prairie Onion (Allium stellatum) in various stages of bloom are a refreshing site on the prairie.

Autumn fireworks you can eat.

A bug's-eye view of a Prairie Onion.

The piece de resistance of the fall prairie is the fragrant, Nodding Ladies' Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum).

Missouri Primrose aka: Fluttermill, (Oenothera macocarpa) is colorfully vibrant in the setting Sun.

Giant Blue Sage (Salvia azurea var. grandiflora) is the color of the sky.

Queen's Delight (Stillingia texana) in its royal autumn dress.

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus Lanceolata) began living up to its name in October. 

The 2nd annual, Wild Food Hike drew a good-sized crowd of food and nature lovers on October 17.

Flags placed by Texas Wesleyan students mark specimens of threatened, White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum).

Wand Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) sparkles on the prairie after a good watering.

A haunting full moonrise over Tandy Hills just before Halloween.

3) Bikes, Bees, Butterflies & Bombs

The Great Seed Bomb is coming to town and it's no carnival sideshow as the name might suggest. Rather, it's an innovative movement to aid our embattled pollinators such as bees and Monarch butterflies. The brainchild of Jillian Jordan, is a 15-mile bike ride in which participants toss seed balls along their route made of clay and compost and filled with native wildflower seed. 

A portion of funds raised from ticket sales, sponsorships etc. will be donated to local environmental nonprofit groups including, Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. Talk about a win-win-win! Check out the website and video below and learn how you can paricipate in the innagural Bomb!

4) Kids on the Fall Prairie

On October 8, we proudly celebrated the 5th anniversary of our award-winning outdoor education program with 117 kids from Meadowbrook Elementary School. With volunteer support from our partners, Cross Timbers Master Natrualists and Fort Worth ISD, the kids had a fantsatic day of fun and learning. George McBride played his accordion during the picnic lunch. Here are two short videos showing the organized chaos of the kids' morning arrival and the picnic lunch.

Meadowbrook Elementary 3rd and 4th graders getting their nature on.

Hats off to Cross Timbers Master Naturalists, FWISD and FOTHNA staffers for five succesful years of KOP.

5) Mystery from Above

Not quite a Halloween story, but a spooky mystery, nonetheless. On the beautiful Indian Summer morning of October 13, Debora and I walked outside to see what looked like silly string falling silently from the bullet blue sky. Lots of them, catching in the trees and entangling themselves on the Tandy prairie. I've heard it explained as migrating spiders' silk, something called "ballooning." Maybe so, but we saw no spiders here, just LOTS of white stringy stuff. Here's a 2013 report in Discover Magazine on the topic:

Not Silly String.

No spiders in sight but plenty of this mystery stuff.

6) Prizewinning Prairie Pics

Don Young is pleased to report that, all three of the photos he enterd in the 2016 Native Plant Society of Texas Photo Contest, came up winners, in the amateur division. All have appeared previously in Prairie Notes but are reposted below. See other winners at the NPSOT website.

Skydrop Aster, by Don Young

Black Swallowtail and Gayfeather, by Don Young

Fog on the Prairie, 2014, by Don Young

7) A Chilling Tale

No Halloween fable this. Scientists report that 68% of the world's flowering plants are now threatened or endangered. As you might expect, humans are the primary cause of what some are calling the 6th great mass extinction. Check out this informative op-ed piece titled, Our Vanishing Flowers, in the October 16, 2015, New York TImes by biologist, Stephen L. Buchmann

You may also be interested in a new book titled, The Annihilation of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals, co-authored by Gerardo Ceballos, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich.

Gustave Dore's, Death on a Pale Horse (1865)

8) Sketch the Hills

FOTHNA Communications Director, Jen Schultes, has been painting and drawing the Tandy Hills for years, and invites you to join her in this new monthly event.

Sketch the Hills is a casual, creative hangout with other art-interested folks. Bring your sketchbook and come make a drawing or a painting en plein air with other prairie lovers. We are holding these events on a monthly basis. The next hike and sketch will be: Saturday, November 14 at 10am.  Watch Facebook for more information!

Watercolor sketch by, Jen Schultes

9) Prairie Proverb

"In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches."

- Paul Ehrlich, American biologist, educator, ecologist and demographer


Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.