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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.


Prairie Notes #143
November 1, 2018

01) Aster-nauts

02) Field Report - October

03) PrairieSky / StarParty Report

04) VOTE the Environment

05) New Species of the Month

06) Monarch Moment

07) Gustuf Young's Music Project

08) Pollinator Frenzy Video

09) Prairie Proverb



01) Aster-nauts


A kind of second spring continued at Tandy Hills in October. Spring-bloomers are popping up like it's April all over again. (Purple Paintbrush!!!) But it was a fall-blooming plant that really caught my eye more than any other, thanks to the frenzy of pollinators it attracted: The common, Aster. 


I read that, of herbaceous plants, Fall-blooming, Aster and Goldenrod support the most pollinators. Both are important sources of nectar and pollen for a number of species including, Monarch butterflies migrating south. I now have visual proof of this.


In late October, after the rain finally stopped and the sun came out, I spent a 4-day period observing a small patch of Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens). Each day, more species appeared. It was a jaw-dropping experience. I started out just noticing the big butterflies and moths. Looking closer, however, I was stunned to see the variety of species, like so many, Aster-nauts, inhabiting a little, Aster-world. 


I ended up spotting more than 40 species of critters including, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles, spiders and other bugs. No other plants attracted this kind of sustained pollinator activity.  Documenting this miraculous event with photos became a minor obsession of mine. I took hundreds of pics, culling them down to the best shot of each species. You can see ALL of them below.


I came away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for the sheer variety and quantity of pollinators and the vital role they play in the web of life at Tandy Hills. Come on in and see for yourself before winter sets in.





Allanthus webworm Moth


American Snout


Anopheles punctipennis Mosquito


Bee Fly (Poecilanthrax lucifer)


Black Blister Beetle


Common Checkered Skipper


Genus Compsocryptus Wasp


Crab Spider


Drone Fly w/ unknown ant species


Dainty Sulphur

Eastern Carpenter Bee


Fiery Skipper Moth


Four-Speckled Hoverfly (Dioprosopa clavata)


Gray Hairstreak Butterfly


Green Lacewing


Hawaiian Beet Webworm Moth




Hover Fly


Assassin Bug

Arcigera Flower Moth


Margined Calligrapher


Plusiine Looper Moth


Bordered Patch Butterfly


 Melanpolus Genus, Grasshoppers


Leafhopper Assassin Bug


Little Yellow


Oblique Stripetail


Orange Sulphur


Geometrid Moth


Pearl Crescent


Queen Butterfly


Seven-spotted Ladybird


Sleepy Orange


Southern Dogface Butterfly


Spotted Cucumber Beetle


Striped Sweat Bee


Sweat Bee


Tachinid Fly


Texas Bow-legged Bug


Typical Leafhopper

Umbrella Paper Wasp


Variegated Fritallary


02) Field Report - October


Fall is beautiful at Tandy Hills. There was lots to see and experience in October. Take a walk in my mud boots...


Ghost Grass of autumn, Revershon Muhly, moving mysteriously, in currents of pink, across the October prairie.


Indian Grass, 10/06.


Fall day to die for, 10/11.


Maximillian Sunflowers, 10/11.


Big sky


Bluets aka: Diamond Flowers


A Cooper's Hawk soaring and feeding in its element, above Tandy Hills.


A nice bouquet of Prairie Onion flowers (Allium stellatum), Maximillian Sunflowers, Gayfeather and prairie grasses. 


Great Golden Digger Wasp, back.


Great Golden Digger Wasp, front.


A glorious, Green Lynx Spider getting ready for dinner.


Eight spiky legs.


Nice day for plein air painting at Tandy HIlls.


Watercolor by, Debora Young


Tandy Hills had plenty of mushrooms in October.


Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) are still blooming in late October.


Note the crash-landed pollinator stuck inside the flower head.


Note the beauty of this rare wildflower, up close.


Palafoxia flowers


Yellow Garden Spider can't hide from me.



Texas Honeysuckle berries are an arresting sight in late October.


Indian Grass arrows on and Indian Summer day.


Possumhaw trees are having their best year in a long time.


Let it be recorded that, a Purple Paintbrush bloomed at Tandy HIlls on October 6, 2018.


Texas Aster 


Sideoats Grama Grass & Aster make a winning fall combo.


03) PrairieSky / StarParty Report


Another rain-out in October. We have one more chance in 2018 on, November 10. Plan to attend if the sky is clear. FW Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer, describes what you can expect to see in the night sky:


"November sees the summer constellations disappearing in the West and the winter ones rising in the East. Prominently on display will be the magnificent easily-seen “W” of Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper are circumpolar constellations; they revolve around Polaris, the north star, never setting below the horizon. In the eyepiece, one might snag a view of the Andromeda Galaxy or M31, the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way! Saturn and Mars are the only two remaining planets visible in the night sky, with Saturn setting early in Nov. The Moon will be a lovely slim waxing crescent."




04) VOTE the Environment


Until I got pollinator fever, this was going to be the top story of this issue. You know how important it is to protect our environment. Nature is a comfort that sustains us, especially in dark times. Make sure you do your do dilligence by honoring the natural world and your place in it on November 6.


Need inspiration: I recommend watching a short message from 10-year old, Robbie Bond, founder of Kids Speak for Parks, where he urges adults to vote for public lands. See it HERE:



05) New Species of the Month


It was a wild one out on the prairie in October. There were more than 10 new species documented at Tandy Hills. Some have, um, interesting names. All are posted on the Tandy HIlls iNaturalist Project page. Here's my list as of, October 30:


Texas Bow-legged Bug, Hairless Bee Fly, Eumenes bollii Wasp, Euodynerous Hidalgo Wasp, Fractured Western Snout, Bi-colored Striped Sweat Bee, Palpada vinetorum Bee, Bordered Patch Butterfly, Arcigera Flower Moth and the Ponderous Spur-throat Grasshopper. 


See them all HERE:



06) Monarch Moment


Everyone remembers their first time. My first time to see a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis in the wild was October 29. It dangled like an exotic Christmas ornament from a stem of tall grass, a lovely shade of yellow/green with a gold-colored necklace encircling it. I wasn't sure what it was at first. Maybe something from another galaxy? It turned out to be one of nature's most amazing miralces.



07) Gustuf Young's Music Project


Gustuf Young, is a sensitive young man familiar with Tandy Hills from his many visits there with wife Bethy and their two kids. Bethy is the founder of the Forest School, a group of home-schooled kids who meet at Tandy Hills every Tuesday. On October 12, Gustuf released an album of music inspired by Tandy Hills. He has thoughtfully arranged for all profits from its sale to go to Friends of Tandy Hills. How cool is that? Here's what he says about the project:


"This is an ambient album made to benefit the preservation of the Tandy Hills Natural Area. It was made using field recordings on-site in Tandy Hills, a synthesizer and a piano in multiple sessions. If you go there, you can hear all these sounds of babbling brooks, chattering insects and twittering aviaries for yourself. Take a walk down the many paths for each is an adventure."


This album of beautiful, contemplative sound can be listened to for free or downloaded and purchased HERE:


Thank you, Gustuf, for supporting FOTHNA!



08) Pollinator Frenzy Video


The above mentioned, Aster-nauts, that first caught my eye were a trio of Sleepy Orange Butterflies whose manic, aerial dance was a sight to behold. And you. too, can behold them in this 37 second video, HERE:



09) Prairie Proverb


"I feel a wonder and comfort on this prairie similar to when I was a child, when prairie was once backed up to my house and the creek next to it. Civilization eventually tore it down to make way for subdivisions and strip centers but this place (Tandy HIlls) brings the wonder back."


- Gustuf Young, from the liner notes to his 2018 album, Tandy Hills Project




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.