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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.

Big Trees

Prairie Notes #170
February 1, 2021

01) Big Trees
02) Field Report - January
03) New Species - January
04) Your Membership Matters
05) NPSOT Donation Surprise
06) PrairieSky / StarParty News
07) Trout Lily Walk w/ Sam Kieschnick 
08) Speaking of Sam K. . .
09) Manly Men Wild Women Hike Report
10) I.D.E.A.S. Coming to Tandy Hills
11) NPAT Game-Changer
12) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau

01) Big Trees


Just before Christmas 2020, I took a winters-day hike out on the north end of Tandy Hills, an area off the beaten path. I was searching for some late fall color in the bottomland trees. There is an breathtaking overlook out there where one can gaze into the bottomlands far below and far beyond, to the east. Standing high above the others in rich fall color was a Red Oak tree that I had not noticed before. This needed further investigation so I fixed my eyes on the tree and inched my way down the 60 degree slope.  


The bottomlands at Tandy HIlls are filigreed with narrow, winding creeks, their beds lined with water-tumbled chunks of limestone. When it rains they can be raging waterways but, aside from a few deep holes, they are dry most of the time. Thick stands of Privet choke the creek banks making access challenging, but once you find a way in, they are fun to explore.


The object of my quest, which turned out to be a Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii), was near the bank of one of the creeks. A little too close but still firmly rooted to the bank. Looking up, I noted that, due to a couple of lost limbs, it had a relatively small canopy of red leaves but the height was impressive. The biggest surprise was at the base of the trunk. After clearing away a thicket of privet I measured it at a whopping, 48" wide and a circumfrence of 120", probably due to proximity to the creek. Still, the biggest Oak I've yet found at Tandy Hills and the current champion. Or is it?


I recently went back to re-measure the tree and noticed another big Shumard Oak hiding nearby in the thick Privet. This one is futher from the creek and as the pics show, it apparently started out as as three separate trees but, over time, fused into a single trunk at the base. The circumference at the base was 122", two inches greater than the other tree. So, not sure yet which one is the champion but both are strikingly beautul. I imagine there are other giants yet to be discovered.


With prairie wildflowers and grasses in repose and winter, such as it is, upon us for another 48 days, now is a great time to appreciate the big trees of Tandy Hills. Five species of Oaks have been ID'd along with Pecan, Cottonwood, Little Elm, Green Ash and a couple of Bois d'Arcs. Come on in.




One tree stood above them all in late December.

Water-tumbled limestone rocks line the many winding creekbeds.


The spiraling trunk of this Shumard Oak is very tall and its bark deeply cut.


The base of the trunk is enormous.

The trunk extends another 12" down on the creek side.

Creek-side view of a mighty Oak.

Three Shumard Oaks became one forming a massive, 122" circumfrence at the base.

2) Field Report - January


Weather-wise, January was, overall, on the mild side but with occassional whipsaws. We had snow, freezing temps, scattered rain, fog, big winds, a few warm-ish days ending the month with a big dust storm that blew in from Lubbock. Only a handful of early blooming spring plants are evident. (No sign of Trout Lilies as of Jan 30.) Large flocks of Cedar Waxwings tore through the winter sky in search of Possumhaw and other fruits. Oh, and the abandonded 70's Chevy pickup truck was rediscovered. Lots to see for January.


Flocks of Cedar Waxwings, feeding on Possumhaw and other fruits, were a common sight in January.


Western White Honeysuckle (Lonicera albiflora)


Ashe Juniper berries pooled under the trees after stong winds shook their branches. 


Striking cloud patterns over Tandy Hills in early January.


First flower of spring is the enchanting, Shepherd's-Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)



Winter sunset framed by Little Bluestem grass and Ashe Juniper.


WHOA! is our ongoing message for portrait photgraphers.


A Mid-70's Chevy pickup has decorated this remote location for about 50 years.




Broadcast Hill casts a magic spell any time of year.

Dust in the wind at Tandy Hills on January 30.

3) New Species - January


There were seven new species ID'd in January, including, a new ant and four fall wasps. The Common Eastern Velvet Ants (Dasymutilla occidentalis), brings the new species total to 1423. Here's few notables pics:


Common Eastern Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalisis a new species for Tandy Hills.

Mealy Oak Gall Wasp (Disholcaspis cinerosa), photo by Bob O'Kennon

Leafy Oak Gall Wasp (Andricus quercusfoliatus), photo by Bob O'Kennon

Wool-bearing Gall Wasp (Andricus quercuslanigera), photo by Bob O'Kennon


4) Your Membership Matters


We only ask you a couple of times a year to invest in Tandy Hills. We think it's worthy of your support and make it EZ for you to donate HERE:


If you need encouragement, read Mr. Beethoven's testimony:




5) NPSOT Donation Surprise


According to President, Gordon Scruggs, the North Central Chapter of Native Plant Society of Texas had successful native plant sales last year. For that reason and others, the board voted, unanimously, to gift Friends of Tandy Hills with a donation of $1,000. Their generosity will help fund our prairie restoration efforts in 2021. We are very grateful and honored by their support.



6) PrairieSky / StarParty News


The 2021 schedule has been set and can be foud HERE. However, in-person telescope viewings at Tandy Hills remain on hiatus until further notice. But, as usual, FW Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer, has the February sky watch report for your home use.:


"By now, the planets that we know and love - Jupiter and Saturn - have returned to the morning skies so if you are an early riser, you may catch a glimpse before the sun comes up. They will rise earlier as the month progresses and will be easier to spot later in the month.Venus will also be in the early morning sky with varying degrees of visibility. 


In the evening, February offers a plethora of winter constellations for your viewing pleasure! Overhead and heading west, you might be able to discern the wonderful naked-eye star cluster, the Pleiades. This is a fine binocular sight. Following the Pleiades, is the ruddy star Aldebaran and the constellation Taurus the Bull. Binoculars will reveal the Hyades, a fabulous large star cluster in the bull’s face. Do not confuse Aldebaran with red Mars, which is in front of the Pleiades. Next in line in this celestial parade is the bright star Capella, followed by Castor and Pollux, the two stars that mark Gemini the Twins. To the south you will see the familiar constellation of Orion the Hunter. Look for the recognizable three stars of his belt. The Moon will be full on February 27 and is called the Full Snow Moon, for obvious reasons to our neighbors to the north!"




7) Trout Lily Walk w/ Sam Kieschnick


This popular event will be something new and different this year. Take it away, Sam K:


“This year, we'll do the Trout Lily Walk as a Facebook LIVE event at 10 AM on Saturday, February 27.  The video will be hosted by the TPWD DFW Facebook page (, but will be shared on the Tandy Hills Facebook page as well.  The entire virtual walk should be around 30 - 45 minutes, and it will be saved on Facebook for later viewing.  This will be an interactive walk, so we'll try to address any comments or questions during or af ter the walk."



8) Speaking of Sam K. . .


BIG Congratulations to Sam Kieschnick for achieving the #2 Best Observation Streak, in-the-world, on the iNaturalist website. What an incredible accomplishment in more ways than one. We are very lucky to have Sam based right here in Fort Worth/North Texas.


Check all the iNat stats for 2020 here:



9) Manly Men Wild Women Hike Report


January 1 was a cold and damp day but a few hikers trekked the entire 2.7 mile route. The first to do so at 7:15 AM was, Suzanne & Jerry Halbert. Due to Covid the official hike was extended through the New Years weekend. Among others who completed the hike was, 3 year-old, Adelaide Parker. Her mom described her as their little spitfire. I won't argue with that! Congrats to all participants!


Becca Motley and her husband, Tom, about to hit the trail.


Jerry & Suzanne Halbert hit the the trail early on January 1.


Yvonne Cottrell earned herself a MMWW certificate.


At 3 years-old, Adelaide Parker, is the youngest participant to complete the hike.



10) I.D.E.A.S. Coming to Tandy Hills


The Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences High School, has entered into an arrangement with Friends of Tandy HIlls during the spring 2021 semester to design a physical or technical solution to benefit Friends of Tandy Hills.


The class called, I.D.E.A.S. (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences), is a public high school, college credit course created by award winning educators Lucas Tucker (Sciences), Jay Kurima (Sciences), and Erin Blythe (Visual Arts), in conjunction with Fort Worth ISD, Tarrant County College, and Amon G. Carter Foundation.  It's a work/study, makerspace collaborative course in which students work with a community partner to solve real-world problems. We look forward to learning what these gifted students come up with.


Don & Debora Young, meeting in January with teachers and their students enrolled in the innovative, I.D.E.A.S. program.


11) NPAT Game-Changer


After a successful fundraising campaign, Native Prairies Association of Texas, is hiring a North Texas Outreach & Stewardship Director. Such a Director can help encourage north Texas cities and communities to make prairie conservation part of urban and rural, open-space planning. North Texas already has a vibrant prairie advocay community. This will only up the odds of increased prairie preservation and awareness.



12) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau


“When in the midst of this great Oak wood, you look around, you are struck by the great mass of gray-barked wood that fills the air. The leaves of these old Oaks are now fairly fallen, and the ground is densely covered with their rustling reddish-brown scales.”


- Henry David Thoreau, Journal, Volume 14, 1860



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.