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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.

Catching the Prairie Wind

Prairie Notes #148
April 1, 2019

01) Catching the Prairie Wind

02) Earth Day Connections

03) Field Report - March

04) New Species - March

05) Five Books About the Prairies

06) FOTHNA Honored by Parks Board

07) City Nature Challenge_2019

08) PrairieSky / StarParty News

09) Anemone Epiphany

10) Prairie Proverb - The Flame and the FLower

 

 

01) Catching the Prairie Wind

 

Have you ever tried to catch the wind? I recently challenged myself to do just that. That is, I breezed through 14 years of still photos taken at Tandy Hills, looking for shots that showed evidence of the wind. It was, indeed, a challenge to catch.

 

The wind is one of nature’s most elusive, mysterious, mood-altering and sometimes scary phenomena. Just ask anyone who has ever set up an outdoor festival in April. Or any nature photographer. Or anyone flying a kite or sailing a boat or wearing a hat or a skirt on a windy day. I’ve heard about people living in lonely outposts of civilization who go crazy because of the wind. What the heck IS wind, anyway. For something invisible, it really gets your attention. 

 

Some winds even have names. There’s the Santa Ana winds of California, the Mistral in France, the Chinook in Canada, the Sirocco in North Africa and others. Here at Tandy Hills we have the Prairie wind. Like other winds, sometimes it’s a gentle zepher and other times it's like the muscle car engine of a blue norther. It was a VERY reliable presence at Prairie Fest from 2006 - 2015, causing havoc for lots of folks. (It’s quite a sight to see a pop-up tent sailing like a milkweed seed across the prairie.) But it’s a refreshing gift after topping a hill on an afternoon hike in August. 

 

Let your imagination run free in viewing these photos and see if you can hear the wind whistling, blowing or sometimes, howling, throughout the seasons at Tandy Hills. I think it might blow you away.

 

 

DY

 

White Milkwort tends to sway in the winds of May.

 


False Gaura and prairie grasses are susceptible to the slightest breeze.

 


A butterfly hanging onto its lunch on a windy day.

 

It was a super windy day for a group of Girl Scouts exploring Tandy Hills last spring.

 


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Spring wildflowers swirling last April.

 

Autumn sunset winds whipping the Little Bluestem grass.

 

Snow on the Prairie comes alive when the wind blows.

 

Ominous clouds pushed by a big wind pass over the hills last summer.

 

The night before the 10th annual Prairie Fest there were signs of trouble. 

 

At dawns early light the wind damage was extensive.

 

Prairie Fest 2015 co-director, Jen Schultes surveyed the damage but....

 

....the festival opened on time!

 

In 2014, saxaphoist, Jeffery Barnes of closing act, Brave Combo, had to literrally hold down the tent from blowing away.

 


A summer breeze caressing Texas Bluebells makes me feel fine.

 

Olive the Prairie Dog, charging into the stiff wind of the 2010 snowstorm that turned Tandy Hills into a winter wonderland.

 

Dried flower heads of American Basketflower sway in a late summer breeze.

 


Very early spring winds whipping the prairie grasses.

 


Mid-winter winds careening through the bare trees ripping a bit of blue from the clouds.

 

Silver Bluestem grasses know how to sway like Dean Martin.

 

Let's face it, False Gaura, is dsigned for windy days.

 


A Mississippi Kite, negotiating a thermal past the Tandy Hills wind tower.

 

Prairie Fest #3 organizers fighting the prairie wind for a Fort Worth Weekly photo/story in 2008.

 

The Message of the Milkweed is blowing in the wind.

 


Billowing snow pushed along by the winter prairie wind.

 


The Prairie to the People flag still standing above the 2016 Tandy Hills BioBlitz.

 


I love a windy night on the summer prairie.

 

 

02) Earth Day Connections

 

Earth Day has several layers of connection and coincidence with Friends of Tandy Hills. Both were founded in response to significant threats to the environment. Both led to shifts in public awareness about impacts from extracting fossil fuels from the Earth. Coincidentally, Earth Day and Tandy HIlls share the same birthdate of, April 22.

 

The first Earth Day event took place in 1970, as a response to a catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969. According to Wikipedia, 

 

More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this natural disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was inspired to create Earth Day upon seeing the Santa Barbara Channel 800 square-mile oil slick from an airplane.”

 

Friends of Tandy Hills was established by a small group of concerned neighbors in 2004 after learning that natural gas fracking activities were being considered for the natural area. After a few months of local activism, Prairie Fest was created in 2006 to occur on or around Earth Day as a public awareness-raising event as our response to the increasing threat to Tandy Hills.

 

Finally, both Earth Day and Tandy Hills share the same birthday although, separated by 10 years. Fort Worth City Council members voted to purchase the land now known as Tandy Hills Natural Area on April 22, 1960, ten years to the day before the first Earth Day.

 

Earth Day is as meaningful and vital in 2019 as it was in 1970. The seismic shift in awareness in the 70's helped bring about the creation of the Environemntal Protection Agency and the Clean Air and Water Acts, all of which are currently threatened as are virtually all corners of the Earth itself and its * "cargo of animate life." As Edward Abbey once observed, 

 

"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."

 

Although there are no organized events planned at Tandy Hills on April 22, I urge you to, "come on in" and re-charge, re-animate and re-create yourself. Your enjoyment and appreciation of the place and to Friends of Tandy Hills are essential to the vitality of all. 

 

Read more about the fascinating history of Tandy Hills "bEarthDay" at this LINK.

 


Walt Kelly's poster for the first Earth Day. Read more about its creation at this LINK.

Earth Day flag by peace activist, John McConnell, who first proposed the idea of Earth Day.

 

03) Field Report - March

 

There were some near perfect days in March to saunter on the prairie and observe spring bursting forth but, the month blew out like a lion. Here are a few of my favorite observations during the month of March.

 


For my money, Purple Indian Paintbrush, is as exotic as anything in the Amazon rainforest, and Tandy Hills is awash in it.

 


Creek Plum is having it's brief moment of glory.

 


Drummond's Onions are popping up on the prairie.

 


Perky, Fringed Puccoon is blooming beautifully.

 


New Jersey Tea is an ealry bloomer with a sweet, honey-like fragrance enjoyed by humans and bees.

 


Grooved Nipple Cactus surrounded by Purple Indian Paintbrush, in late March.

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp.) basking in the sun resembles a mini Iris.

Front view

Texas Blue Star (Nemastylis geminiflora) are just starting to pop.

Big Root Cymopterus (Cymopterus macrohizus) seeds ready to fly.

 

04) New Species - March

 

Two new species were ID'd in March. Sticky Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum) and Small-flowered Milkvetch (Astragalus nuttallianus) bring the total number of species to 1070 as of March 31. Check out the Tandy Hills project on the iNaturalist website HERE.

 


Sticky Mouse-eared Chickweed (photo and observation by, Adam Cochran)

 

Small-flowered Milkvetch (photo and observation by, Sam Kieschnick)

 

Satellite view of Tandy Hills showing species ID observation locations on iNaturalist website.

 

05) Five Books About the Prairies

 

Contemporary author and Nebraska native, Terese Svoboda, was recently intervied by the online website, Literary Hub, where she discussed five books about prairies that have influenced her life. Prairie enthusiasts may find her selections of interest. Link HERE.

 

 

06) FOTHNA Honored by Parks Board

 

On February 27th, the Fort Worth Park & Recreation Advisory Board honored recent accomplishments of Friends of Tandy Hills volunteers. Anne Alderfer, Jenny Conn and Debora & Don Young represented FOTHNA. PARD Director, Richard Zavala, presided over the honors after an introduction by District Superintendent, Michael Tovar. We are greatful for this appreciation.

 


L-R: Richard Zavala (PARD Director), Anne Alderfer, Debora Young, Don Young, Daniel Villegas (Board Chair)

 

07) City Nature Challenge_2019

 

Sam Kieschnick, Texas Parks & Wildlife Urban Biologist, DFW, reminds me that the 2019 City Nature Challenge is coming up on April 26 - 29. This is an opportunity for citizen scientists in the north Texas region to compete with other regions around the country to see which one can document the most species in the 4-day period via iNaturalist.

 

Learn the details at the iNaturalist website, HERE: 

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2019-dallas-f....

 

No organized event is planned at Tandy Hills but come on out and start documenting. There  are a few local events you may want to check out:

 

Friday, 26 April: 

Tarleton State University Fort Worth Campus Bioblitz: 9 am – 5 pm

Coyote Loop in Burleson: noon – 3 PM

Mothing at Mockingbird Nature Park, Midlothian: 8 pm - 10 pm

Bat BioBlitz in Parr Park, Grapevine: 7:30 pm - 9 pm 

 

Saturday, 27 April: 

Parr Park, Grapevine, how to use iNat and bioblitz: 9 - 11 am 

Dogwood Canyon bioblitz at Cedar Ridge Preserve:  9 am – noon 

Dallas Parks and Rec BioBlitz at Gatewark Park on Jim Miller Road: 9 am – noon

Blackland Prairie Conservatory and Atelier in Dallas: 10 am – noon

UNT Pollinator Prairie: 11 am – 4 pm

UT Dallas Monarch Waystation (meet at gazebo):  noon – 1 pm

LLELA bioblitz and mothing: (all day and evening, I believe)

Fort Worth Nature Center NatureCon:  9 am – 3 pm 

Coppell Nature Park: 10 am - noon

 

Sunday, 28 April: 

Twelve Hills, Dallas: 10 am - noon

White Rock Lake, Dallas – bath house:  10 am - noon 

Heard Museum, McKinney:  1 pm – 3 pm

Meadowmere Park in Grapevine bioblitz:  1 pm - 4 pm

Lakewood Outdoor Learning Area, Dallas: 1 pm – 3 pm

Chisholm Trail Community Park in Fort Worth: 2 pm – 5 pm

 

 

08) PrairieSky / StarParty News

 

The March star party drew a nice crowd of 45 people. Make plans to attend the next one on, April 13. Here once again ladies and gentlemen is, Fort Worth Astronomical Society spokesperson, Pam Kloepfer, with a synopsis of what you will see in the April night sky:

 

April introduces the Spring constellations, including a return of the circumpolar Big Dipper, low in the north during Winter.  Look for it just east of Polaris, the North Star. The handle will point to bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky! Leo the Lion will be overhead. Its asterism - a smaller pattern of stars within a constellation - looks like a backward question mark, or a sickle shape. Mars will be the only visible planet. The Moon will be waxing gibbous on April 13, just a day after its First Quarter phase.”

 

 

 

09) Anemone Epiphany

I'm kind of embarrased to write that, I never paid much attention to Anemone berlandieri until this spring. To me it seemed a rather plain member of the spring wildflower palette. But like Joni Mitchell and her clouds, I really didn't know Anemones at all. This native and member of the Buttercup Family has more going for it than I once thought. Common names inculde Tenpetal Anemone, Thimbleweed, Granny's Nightcap and my favorite, Windflower.

At Tandy Hills the 1.5" flowers are mostly white-ish but it can also be found it pale purple. Most examples are 6" - 10" tall with the leaves well below the flower. What looks like the flower petals are actually sepals, usually 10 - 20 of them, hence the name, Tenpetals. I've often observed the leaves in very early spring and wondered what they were. Once the seed heads form the seeds quickly fly away in the wind. Windflower!

WARNING: All parts of the plant are toxic when fresh so don't do a Don Juan imitation or photograph babies playing with them.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, anemone means "daughter of the wind" in Greek. Ovid wrote in Metamorphoses that, the plant was created by Venus when she sprinkled nectar on the blood of her dead lover, Adonis, a refernce to the color of anemone flowers in the Orient.

Think about that the next time you spot an anemone blowing in the wind.


The tiny buds have a lovely pink cast.

This stage may be the inspiration for the common name, "Granny's Nighcap/"

A bit more than Ten Petals.

Very quickly, the pinkish-green, seed bearing stalk will open.

Note the spider hanging out on the Windflower seeds.

10) * Prairie Proverb - UN Secreatry, U Thant

 

"May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."

 
- UN Secreatry, U Thant, 1909 - 1974, after signing a proclamation supporting Earth Day in 1971
 
 
 
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.

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