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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.

The Case of the Waylaid Waterhole

Prairie Notes #187
July 1, 2022

01) The Case of the Waylaid Waterhole
02) Field Report - June
03) New Species - June
04) Trails Project Report
05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report - July
06) NPSOT Summer Newsletter
07) 
Prairie Proverb - John Quincy Adams 

 

01) The Case of the Waylaid Waterhole

 

It's not always easy managing an urban natural area. Besides the usual duties of of invasive species control, prairie restoration and trail building, we often have to manage the misdeeds of PEOPLE! Homeless camps, trash dumping, off-trail photographers and vehicular vandalism. 

 

About 10 years ago we encountered a new problem here that has tested my patience. A homeowner whose property backs up to Tandy Hills decided to fence off a large section of the natural area for their private use. The word for that is "encroachment". This particular encroachment was especially vexing because it fenced off one of the few, year round sources of water at the park. It's at the intersection of several hills and streets allowing rain water to rush in and accumulate in deep pools carved out by heavy rains. Not only was it a pleasant glade for hiking, it was and is an important water source for wildlife. (The current drought has mostly dried up the pools, for now.)

 

The homeowner erected steel fencing and large piles of cut privet making the waterhole virtually impenetrable. Their dogs discouraged wildlife from entering, too. I'm told by city officials that encroachment of city property is not uncommon but difficult to deal with.

 

Over the past 10 years I have been a squeaky wheel to City of Fort Worth Park & Rec officals, pleading repeatedly that they address the issue. It was a proverbial, beaurcratic nightmare. The encroachment party claimed they were concerned with possible fracking operations nearby and tresspassing on their property. Those are not legitimate reasons for encroachment, but city officials including, the legal department, were forced to follow a long list of protocols to resolve the issue. This went on and on and on, for ten long years.

 

In April, the waterhole was finally liberated. The fencing came down leaving only massive walls of cut privet to remove. Friends of Tandy Hills paid a contractor with a front end loader to remove the privet and restore the access point that is near the intersection of three trails. Besides the waterhole, the area is home to some of the largest and most beautiful trees in the natural area. Oaks, Little Elms and towering Cottonwoods populate the creekside creating deep shade. (Privet is a constant concern but can be periodically managed.)

 

Passion, Patience and Persverance paid off so that now everyone can once again enjoy this shady corner of Tandy Hills. 

 

 

DY

 

 


Steel wire fencing surrounded the approximately 2 acre encroachment. The homeowner finally removed it at the city's behest.

 


Cut privet piled 5' high against the steel fencing was virtually impenetrable.

 


A crew from S&S Trails was hired by FOTHNA to clear the remaining privet wall.

 

 

Public access to the property was restored in late June, 2022, after 10 years of encroachment.

 


Deep shade from large trees helps the pools retain water for most of the year.

 

Shade from extra large Oak, Elm and Cottonwood trees create a pleasing respite from the summer Sun.

 


One way to find the waterhole is look for the towering Cottonwood tree.

 

02) Field Report - June

 

It was already an off year for plants and wildlife at Tandy Hills. Before above average temps and lack of rain set in around June 10, there was a decent showing of late spring wildflowers. But by Summer Solstice, the show was over. Bird and insect sightings were dramatically reduced from past years. Still, Tandy Hills always holds surprises. Early morning and late evening visits can be rewarding. Come on in!

 


White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) is managing the drought pretty well.

 


Silver Bluestem (Bothriochloa laguroides) is a reliable summer grass.

 

A nice patch of Golden Prairie Clover (Dalea azurea) growing in shallow limestone soil.

 

An American Basketflower (Plectocephalus americanus) raises its shaggy head before the heat set in.

 


Summer heat means lots of spiders in the deep wood.

 

 


Texas Bluebell (Eustoma russellianum) had a brief bloom time this year. . .

 


. . .Brief but thrilling!

Another striking specimen found on Bluebell Hill where there is an underground seep.

Antelopehorn Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) seedpod exploding open in mid-June.

Narrowleaf Gumweed (Grrindelia lanceolata) is one of the few wildflowers bloominmg in late June.

An empty threat of rain left an afterglow in June.

 


One of the few critters that seem to be thriving this summer is the Cottontail Rabbit.

 

03) New Species - June

 

June was hot and dry with few identifiers and only, 5 new species recorded bringing the current species total to 1714. Notably, an Ornate Box Turtle, a threatened species, was one of them. Here's what local herpetologist, Michael Smith said about this rare sighting: 

 

”So glad this old guy is wandering the hills. They used to be fairly common many years ago; now they’re in real trouble. They take years to reach maturity and few babies survive to adulthood, so the only way for the population to survive is if adults live a loooong time (not run over, not picked up and taken home, etc.).” 

 

See a pic of the shelled wanderer below and much more at the Tandy Hills iNaturalist page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 


Ornate Box Turtle sightings are exceedingly rare these days.

Sad Underwing Moth, another new species here was spotted by Don Young as it flew mysteriously from tree to tree near sunset.

 

04) Trails Project Report

 

Despite brutal June temps, the crew from S&S Trails of Austin made a couple of trips here, completing two new re-routes, closing several eroded, old trails and opening up breathtaking hilltop views and shaded hikes through Oak glades.

 

Friends of Tandy Hills received an 80% / 20% grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife to fix our trail system. Your donations help cover the 20% and and many other restoration projects and a spiffy new website coming soon. Thanks a mil!

 

https://www.tandyhills.org/donate

 


The guys from S&S Trails earning their pay in 100+ degree heat.

 

It's not easy getting the machines deep into the park.

 

Some trails cut through shady glades of Oak and Juniper. Some trees are removed to assist prairie restoration.

 


This reroute makes a hairpin turn at one of the highest and steepest hills, with a panoramic view east.

 

05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report - July

 

The June star party drew a nice crowd of about 50 star gazers. The next event is, Saturday, July 9th. Here's the sky report from our partner, Fort Worth Astronomical Society rep, John McCrea:

For our July 9th FWAS/Tandy Hills star party, we will have our favorite summer constellations. The center of our galaxy can be found in the constellation, Sagittarius (the archer).  Also, visible will be some of the well-known constellation such as: Scorpius (the scorpion), Lyra (the lyre), and Cygnus (the swan). The remaining are Ursa Major, Cancer, Virgo, and HerculesThe summer triangle (Vega, Deneb, and Altair) will be visible.  

The sun will set about 8:40 PM on July 9th.  The moon will be a 10.5-day old waxing gibbous and will be between the constellations Scorpius and Libra (the scales).  No planets will be visible during the star party.

 

 

06) NPSOT Summer Newsletter

 

Texas Native Plants, the newsletter of the, Native Plant Society of Texas, was just published. It features, among several other articles, my recent essay on Creek Plum at Tandy Hills (page 9). I urge you to check it out and consider becoming a member of NPSOT.

 

https://www.npsot.org/NPSOTNews/Newsletters/NPSOT_v40_03_22.pdf?fbclid=I...

 

 

07) Prairie Proverb - John Quincy Adams

 

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

 

- John Quincy Adams, (1767 – 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer and served as the 6th President of the United States.

 


Photo from an 1843 daguerrotype in the Library of Congress. Photoshop Colorized and AI enhanced by, Cheryl Daniel (YARBS.net)
 

 

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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