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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.

All Things Small & Smaller

Prairie Notes #154
October 1, 2019

01) All Things Small & Smaller
02) Field Report - September
03) Prairie Posse Gets it Done
04) PrairieSky / StarParty News
05) New Species - September
06) North TX Giving Day Report
07) Little Art House on the Prairie
08) Prairie Grasses & Climate Change
09) Catholic Women Who Hike
10) Prairie Proverb - Il Matto (Fellini's La Strada)



01) All Things Small & Smaller


I originally planned to title this newsletter, Heavenly Grass, expecting the big rains of spring would continue throrgh late summer/early fall. I planned to wow you with pics of Indian Grass and Big Bluestem as high as an elephant's eye but, alas, we had ZERO inches of rain in September, arresting their growth. The prairie grasses are looking more parched than heavenly. Maybe next month.


Undeterred, I soldiered forth on a couple of hikes, crunching through the dried grasses to find something of interest to share with you. As is often the case, Tandy Hills surprised me at every turn with its amazing resilience and diversity, even in drought, as you will read in some of the items below.


Like most urban natural areas, Tandy Hills is not known as a refuge for large mammals but, it does have a cornucopia of smaller species. Often, REALLY small species. With no cinematic fields of wildflowers and grasses to steal my attention in September, I tuned my eye to smaller things. They were always there but I had missed seeing them.


For example: The Cardinal Jumping Spiderdressed in red velvet, is little more than 1/4" long. Or, the distinctively bizarre, Mottled Tortoise Beetle, who frequents Milkweeds and Morning Glories is only 1/4" long and, when magnified looks like a glass-encased, gold-encrusted Egyptian jewel. That weird little Leafhopper below, staked out on a Maximillian Sunflower is roughly the size of the tip of a pencil. There are other examples below in the Field Report and the New Species Report.


We may feel little connectedness to these ultra-tiny creatures but, it's comforting to know that, even in stifling conditions, they exist as either prey or predator (or both) in the giant wheel of life at Tandy Hills. We are very fortunate to have every one. 






Cardinal Jumping Spider hiding out on a Maximillian Sunflower. This critter was less than 1/2" long.


Small is beautiful: Mottled Tortoise Beetle (Deloyala guttata) is only 5mm long.


"What a funny face you have." A very odd-looking Leafhopper, the size of a pencil tip, stared curiously back at me.



02) Field Report - September


As, Joy of Painting, TV host, Bob Ross used to say, "There's nothing worng with having a tree as a friend." That sentiment crossed my mind when hiking the Tandy Hills in September. The occasional tree was a welcome sight. Hot and dry as it was, (we had "0" inches of rain in September), many prairie plant species and their attendent critters have adapted. Here are a few of the unexpected pleasures I observed.


Eastern Bluebirds are now seen regularly at Tandy Hills. This one busily flew back and forth from prairie to just across the street.


Stink Bug (Trichopepla semivittata), a handsome critter is also a favorite food of the Green Lynx Spider.


Geometer Moth caterpillars mimicking the colors of host plant, Eryngo.


False Gaura plants are sky high, pushing 10'.


False Gaura (Oenothera glaucifolia) flowers is a fall favorite.


Maximillian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximilliani) are beginning to bloom, especially near seeps.


Prairie Onion sets are starting to pop out from the shadows.


Prairie Onion (Allium stellatum) sparkle in the evening shadows as they start to bloom.


Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) trees are bearing fruit.


After gorging on bugs all September, this Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) is now busy protecting her egg sac.


Without a drop of rain in Spetember, Barbara's Button Hill has a fine stand of Indian and Bluestem grasses.


Giant Blue Sage (Salvia azurea) looking spectacular despite the drought.


Black Blister Beetles (Epicauta pennsylvanica) hooking up and having dinner on Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) flowers ignored the paparazzi.


Gay-Feather (Liatris sp) with white tipped flowers, probably due to lack of moisture.


Ground Beetle (Pasimachus elongatus) looking for a rock to hide under. This bug is 2" long.


Late September sunset looking west in one of the better stands of Little Bluestem grass that was burned last year.


In the same spot, looking east.


It's the witchy season. Come on in. (Stagmomantis carolina)



03) Prairie Posse Gets It Done


Yes, it was hot and the work was hard but 11 dedicated volunteers showed up anyway to clear brush from two of the three View Street meadows. Their necessary work insures that next springs wildflower views will be unobstructed by invasive and woody species. Hallelujah and Thank You to Joe Lippert, Loraine Glueck, Bethy Young, Shannon Wagner, Sara Barton, Don Young, Martin Grunow, Paul Rodman and 3 other men from BSA Troop 180!




04) PrairieSky / StarParty Report


The Fort Worth Astronomical Society (FWAS) members had 10 telescopes set up at the September star party. At least 50 people showed up for a heavenly experience. We should have cooler weather in October. Come take advantage of this fun and free event.


FWAS rep, Pam Kloepfer has this to say about the next party:


"October will bring us longer nights for star gazing - and hopefully cooler days! High overhead will be the Great Square of Pegasus, the Winged Horse. Look for a large square against the sky. The globular cluster M15 resides in Pegasus and can be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Pegasus shares the alpha star Alpharetz with the near-by constellation Andromeda. The Andromeda Galaxy, M 31, can be seen as a fuzzy patch through a telescope. Cygnus the Swan, the Summer Triangle, Jupiter, and Saturn are all heading west, but remain visible. The Moon will be at First Quarter on the evening of October 5."



Star Party time on the prairie!


Earlybird stargazers awaiting dark-thirty.


Pegasus will be flying over Tandy Hills on October 5th.


05) New Species Report - September


The species count increased by at least 15 in September bringing the new total to 1253. Bob O'Kennon, Sam Kieschnick, Loraine Glueck and Don Young contributed. Here's a list of the new species:


Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis)

Texanus Paper Wasp (Polistes apachus f. texanus)

Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

Prostrate Amaranth (Amaranthus deflexus)

Gall Wasp (Belonocnema treatae)

Variabale Oakleaf Catterpillar Moth (Lochmaeus manteo)

Pirate Spider (Genus Mimetus)

Red-Legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)

Sorrelvine (Cissus trifoliata)

Potter Wasp (Eumenes smithii)

Flea Beetle (Kuschelina miniata)

Leafhopper (Stirellus bicolor)

Planthopper (Phylloscelis atra)
Mottled Tortoise Beetle (Deloyala guttata)

Hypocala Moth (Hypocala andremona)


Small and beautiful: Mottled Tortoise Beetle (Deloyala guttata) This gold-leafed bug is only 1/4" long. photo by Don Young


Planthopper (Phylloscelis atra), photo by Sam Kieschnick


Gall Wasp (Belonocnema treatae). The 1/4" diameter galls are attached to Live Oak leaves. photo by Don Young


Pirate Spider (Genus Mimetus), Photo by Sam Kieschnick


Variabale Oakleaf Catterpillar Moth (Lochmaeus manteo), photo by Don Young



06) Giving Day Report


On Giving Day, 37 people gave more than $2,700 to Friends of Tandy Hills. These generous gifts are a helpful boost for our outdoor eduaction and conservation efforts in 2020. We are VERY grateful for the support!


In addition to 4 Anonymos donors, we wish to thank the following: Troy Sanders, Donna S. Kruse, Pat & Peggy Brown, Jim & Patti Maness, Carol A. Sewell, Pamela F. Campbell, Dick & Sharon Schoech, Amanda Pounds, Alicia Duran, Kyle & Marie Hatzenbuehler, Jennifer Spraggins, Trisha Sheridan-Atanfill, John MacFarlane, Jill & Doug Black, Barb Ohlman, Elizabeth Staples, Frank Story, Leishawn Spotted Bear, Mary L. Johnson, Jana Ketchum, Kathy Livingston, Tracy & Julie Maxwell, Kimberly Villareal, Ray Regal, Barmore family, Jim Marshall, Leslie Thompson, Halbert family, Donald Ferrier, Michele Martinez, Sarah Geer, Cindy Kearney, Suzanne Tuttle and Bert Tandy.



07) Little Art House on the Prairie

This is a reminder to pick up a postcard from the Little Art House if you want to participate in the Amon Carter Museum, Mark Dion project. The little house is located near the entrance of the park next to the sidewalk. Deadline to return your postcard is, December 2nd. Complete details HERE:

08) Prairie Grasses & Climate Change

Prairies are getting more attention lately due to recent studies confirming their exceptional ability to sequester carbon, a growing concern. Here's an easy to digest report on that subject from the Texas Observer:

09) Catholic Women Who Hike

It's always a pleasure to learn of new groups utilizing Tandy Hills as an educational and/or recreational resource. The Forest School is one such group who does so every Tuesday.

You can now add, "spiritual renewal resource" to the list. I recently learned about a new group named, Catholic Women Who Hike, who spent several hours at Tandy Hills mixing religious stuudy and prayer with enjoyment of nature. They call this pursuit a, Marian Hike, in honor of the Virgin Mary. Thirteen young women participated despite the heat of late August. Check out their Facebook Page HERE.

10) Prairie Proverb

"You may not believe it but, everything that exists has some purpose . . . even this little pebble must serve some purpose . . . because if it's useless then, everything is useless . . . even the stars in the sky."

-Il Matto (Richard Basehart) telling Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), the Parable of the Pebble. From the film, La Strada, 1954, Federico Fellini


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.