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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.

Ah, Spring!

Prairie Notes #137
May 1, 2018


01) Ah, Spring!

02) Field Report - April

03) How to iNat, in a Nutshell

04) How NOT to Treat a Prairie

05) Citation of Honor Nominee

06) Kids (& Grownups) on the Prairie

07) iNat Project HIts 1000 Species

08) High on Hyacinth

09) Frost Bank Photo of the Day

10) Prairie Proverb



01) Ah, Spring!


Is it just me or does spring seem longer than usual this year? I'm talking about a real spring and not summer disguised as spring, like we often have in north Texas. We have been blessed by a nice pattern of cool-mild-warm, back and forth kind of weather since the Vernal Equinox. It's been more than two months since the Trout Lilies heralded spring 2018 but, walking out my front door on Sunday morning, April 29th and looking up into the clear blue sky, I feel that spring feeling coming over me. It's not unlike the feeling I had as a boy that had me crawling out my bedroom window shortly after dawn, itching to get out of doors. 


There are elements of optimism, renewal, anticipation, dsocovery and new beginnings in this feeling, and also something else more difficult to put in words. (You may know what I mean.) But the best thing is that, it's still there, telling me I'm alive and part of the spiral of life.


We have the good fortune of having Tandy Hills as our "front yard." Looking out there on this fine April morning I see waves of Purple Paintbrush surrounded by currents of Engelmann Sage with stands of vivid, yellow Sundrops, dominating the view. I also see a few Yucca plants in early, full bloom, piercing the sky. I can't see from here, but I know the trail that cuts through the Iconic Prairie is lined with Blue Meadow Flax and the filigreed foliage of Bishop's Weed and that, Antelopehorn Milkweed seed heads are gently bobbing in the breeze. I know that, snaking through the undergrowth, are the stickery vines of Sensitve Briar punctuated here and there by their pink puffs. 


This multi-colored bio-universe is also vibrating with the sound of thousands of pairs of wings, both insect and bird, going about their own spring business in a frenzied, cosmic partnership with the wildflowers. As rich as my description is though, it's just a highlight reel. The other amazing thing is this: The same random and infinite variety of spring discoveries happens every year but somehow never grows stale and always evokes that feeling inside us. 


Come to Tandy Hills and find your old spring feeling.





Tandy Hills at sunset in mid-April is a dreamy prairie ocean of color and texture.




02) Field Report - April


As expected, April put on a magnificent show of wildflowers and the show is ongoing as of April 30. Several species are having exceptionally good years. And where the wildflowers are, so are pollinators. And where there are pollinators, there are birds. And then, there are the photographers....(see #04 below) I got a lotta pics for you from April. Check 'em out, here and in person.


Red-colored Winecup (Callirhoe pedata) is one of four colors found at Tandy Hills.


Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa), aka: Fluttermill is an eye catcher.


Fluttermill up close looks like some exotic jellyfish.


Shaggy Dwarf Morning Glory (Evolvulus nuttallianus) is a new species for me and uncommon at Tandy Hills.


It may be smaller than a dime but it sure looks like a Morning Glory.


Private property adjacent to Tandy Hills has an amazing display of Purple Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea).


The sheer numbers of plants helps make possible pink and white variants.



White Compassplant (Silphium albiflorum) bathing in April sunlight.


We spotted a lovely stand of White Milkwort (Polygala alba) on a hill in the far northeast corner of Tandy Hills.


Note the combination of symmetry and asymmetry of Engelmann Sage (Salvia engelmanii).


I've had my eye on the various color variations of False Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea) as they mature. April 12th


April 19th


April 24th


Reaching for the sky, this specimen of Wild Hyancinth was pushing 3'.


Barbara's Buttons are starting to bloom in late April. It's fun watching their progression from green to white.



BB Hill on the SE corner of Tandy Hills deserves to be a protected state landmark. Here's a look back at BB Hill on April 27, 2017:


Nature at its finest and wildly complex: Sensitive Briar (Mimosa roemeriana) just beginning to open up.


When the pink puffs mature they are equally complex and beautiful.


This view of Paintbrush and Sage caught my eye in mid-April.


03) How to iNat, in a Nutshell


Looking for a quick 'n easy way to learn how to make iNaturalist observations? Here's the ticket.





04) How NOT to Treat a Prairie


After decades of being a well kept secret, Tandy Hills is now a very popular outdoor destination. That's MOSTLY a good thing. Commercial photo shoots have become a common sight at Tandy Hills. Every evening around sunset, year round, they show up with big cameras, lights, props and little regard for the place. It's all about them and their subjects and it's not always good. In fact it's now officially out of hand. 


One fine evening in mid-April, just when the Purple Indian Paintbrush were in peak form, a young man drove over the curb in his super sized company truck, past the steel cable surronding Tandy Hills and parked square in middle of the wildflowers. A couple of professional "models" started posing rather bizarrely next to the truck as the photographer snapped away. Then the pics were posted on Facebook to promote a roofing company whose logo emblazomed the side of the truck.


Fortunately, a "friend" of Tandy Hills happened by and recorded the crime as it happened. Fort Worth Park & Rec authorities were notified about this egregious disrespect for our public property.


I'd rather have bison than idiots on my prairie.


The spring beauty of Tandy Hills has been invaded by commercial photographers.


Scenes like this are OK once in awhile but are now a year-round, 7 days a week intrusion.



05) Citation of Honor Nominee


On April 5, Friends of Tandy Hills were pleasantly surprised to receive a letter in the mail stating:


"It is our pleasure to inform you that Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area have been nominated for the 2017 Texas Society of Architects Citation of Honor by the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Institute of Architects....The Citation of Honor is awarded to individuals, groups or organizations outside the profession whose activities make significant contributions in supporting the creation of safe, beautiful and sustainable environments in Texas."


This generous nomination from AIA-FW, recognizes FOTHNA's long-time stewardship of Tandy Hills, our leadership in environmental education and our partnership with AIA-FW on an architect-driven design for the Tandy Hills Pavilion Competition. Winners will be anounced in November at the Texas Society of Architects 79th Annual Convention & Design Expo, in Fort Worth. Thank you AIA-FW!




06) Kids (& Grownups) on the Prairie


Tandy Hills became an outdoor classrom during April when FOTHNA volunteers, Debora & Don Young led hikes and field trips for the following:  


- On April 17th, the Winston School of Dallas made their annual pilgrimage to their favorite outdoor classrom in DFW. The science class of 19 ninth graders were tasked to photograph and identify 16 wildlfower species. They made their quota, and more.



Winston Scholl 9th garde science class.


- On April 28th another group from Big D trekked to the Tandy prairie. Debora & Don Young led a group of 13 nature msytics from tthe Dallas Chapter of the Native Plant Society, on a trip to Barbara's Button Hill and The Iconic Prairie. The bio-diversity witnessed was astounding.



- Finally, on April 30th a group of 12 first grade Girl Scouts got their first taste of what a prairie looks like. We had a blast checking out Spittle bugs, identifying wildflowers, coyote scat and enjoying the wild wind on the last day of April. The girls were eager to learn using their Kids on the Prairie field guides better than some 4th graders. 




07) iNat Project Hits 1000 Species


On the morning of April 12th, I checked in at the iNaturalist Tandy Hills Project page. Lo and behold, the number of species had reached the magic number milestone of 1000. In a stroke of blind luck, it was my observation of a Tersa Sphinx Moth that hit the new threshold. In just a couple of weeks that number has already grown to 1012, thanks in part to the ongoing City Nature Challenge.



08) High on Hyacinth


Tandy Hills is full of "secret places", special areas away from the street that require a little work or luck to find. One of them is a hidden cove that contains the greatest concentration of Wild Hyacinth at Tandy Hills. They have finished blooming for the season but, here's a 1-minute video to savor, in case you missed the live show.



09) Frost Bank Photo of the Day


While not taken at Tandy Hills, my photo of Texas Bluebells, was the Photo of the Day, on April 28th. See it and scroll other such photos here:




10) Prairie Proverb


"Ah to be a buzzard now that spring is here."


Edward Abbey, 1927 - 1989, from his essay, Death Valley (1977) self-portrait, by the author








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.