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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.

Chilly Scenes of Winter

Prairie Notes #171
March 1, 2021

01) Chilly Scenes of Winter
 Your Membership STILL Matters (Last Call)
03) Field Report - February
04) New Species - February
05) Virtual Trout Lily Walk Report & VIDEO
06) PrairieSky / StarParty News
07) Prairie Proverb - Simon & Garfunkel

01) Chilly Scenes of Winter


We all knew it was coming but, the Valentine's Day extreme and sudden temp drop was still shocking. Despite the freezing cold, I know that, with a few exceptions, the prairie plants and wildlfie will be OK. Some early sprouts of Indian Paintbrush were pinched back by the freeze but should recover. On the plus side, the Privet seems to have ben severely frost-bitten. Spring will tell.


The great number of Cottontail Rabbit tracks in the snow was reassuring as were the Armadillo and Pelican sightings. And of course, the vast numbers of Waxwings, Robins and other migrants were and are a pleasure to see.


Despite the freeze, the Vernal Equinox will surely come on March 20, and with it, a prairie full of wildflowers and pollinators. Come on in.





On the evening of February 13, the cold front began to move across Tandy Hills.


February 14, 15 and 16 saw temps plummet to uncharacteristic lows for these parts.


The Iconic Prairie had a respectable dusting of snow on Feb 16.


Snow covered hills and prairie on a sunny morn made sunglasses essential for hiking.


Zero degrees on the prairie.


Dead zones, off-trail areas trampled by photographers and models, were very noticeable in the snow.


Cottontail Rabbit tracks were widespread across the natural area.


A couple of days after the snow, a Black Vulture gliding in a cold, hazy sky.


What could be more poetic than a bird nest full of snow? Many of them adorned the trees after the snow storm.


An American Robin apparently succumbed to the intense cold.


By the 23rd, things were back to normal winter.



2) Your Membership STILL Matters (Last Call)


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:



3) Field Report - February


Before and after the big freeze, there a a few signs of spring popping up. The freeze will probably have an impact on a few species spring blooms. The wildlife report for February included, a pair of American White Pelicans, a healthy young Nine-banded Armadillo and about a million American Robins. On the Homo Sapien side, a crew form S&S Trails spent a week here designing an entirely new trail system that will implemented by Spetember. Also, FW Park & Rec crews finally completed the limestone boulder barrier on View Street, now running the entire length. 


American Robins heading into the prairie after a day of feeding on berries in the nearby neighborhood.


Robins and Cedar Waxwings were a ubiquitous presence throughout February.


Big Root Spring Parsley is a reliable early bloomer.


A dime-size, Parajulid Millipedes (Family Parajulidae) curled up on the prairie.


Broadcast HIll on a chilly and foggy, post-snow afternoon in February.


A sure sign of spring: How many species can you spot in this 4" square?
(Moss, Yucca seed husk, Indian Blanket seeds, Engelmann's Sage, Prairie Rabdotus snail and a grass or two?)


Can you say, Ah--chooo!?! A male, Ashe Juniper tree heavy with pollen-filled, mini fish hook-like cones.


Thanks to FW Park & Rec staff, the boulder barrier along View Street was completed in February.


A crew from S&S Trails spent an entire week mapping out the new trail system coming later this year.


A pair of American White Pelicans drifted in perfect tandem above Tandy Hills in late February.


Before the snow storm, Purple Indian Paintbrush sprouts were starting to emerge across the prairie.


A Nine-banded Armadillo busy foraging along the margins of Tandy Hills in late February.


Texas Stork's Bill (Erodium texanum)


Little Bluestem Grass will soon give way to spring wildflowers.


4) New Species - February


There were only two new species ID'd in February. A new species of Dyeball (Pisolithus arenarius) and a new species of Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica var. serotina), bringing the new species total to 1426. See them all HERE:


Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica var. serotina), Photo and ID by, Bob O'Kennon


5) Virtual Trout Lily Walk Report & VIDEO


Sam Kieschnick led the VIRTUAL Trout Lily Walk on a soggy and overcast, February 27th. His wife, Elizabeth joined him as the videographer. You can view the entire 35 minute video HERE:


While Sam would have much preferred a LIVE event, the virtual walk was a big success. It was shared on the main Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. Facebook page which has 600K followers. At least 29,446 folks got the video, 1171 folks clicked on it and there were 432 Likes, Shares, or Comments.  The most people watching at one time was 144.  It steadily had around 100 people watching throughout the 35 minute walk. HUGE thanks to Sam and Elizabeth for helping spread the good word about one of the Tandy Hills iconic species.


Trout Lilies will continue blooming throughout March.


Sam Kieschnick

06) PrairieSky / StarParty News

The 2021 schedule has been set and can be found 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 March sky watch report for your home use.:

"The stars of winter will still be very visible as they head west in March. The return of the Big Dipper will be in the north, standing on its handle! As the spring progresses, you will see it turn upside down. Keep your eye on Mars. Early in the month, Mars can be seen near the beautiful star cluster, the Pleiades. It will continue past the Hyades star cluster in Taurus the Bull and by March 18, a crescent Moon will join the party. Mark your calendar for March 19! The glowing star Aldebaran, the bull’s reddish eye, will form a triangle with the Red Planet and the crescent Moon. The winter constellations will set earlier each night as spring approaches. Orion the Hunter and Sirius, the  brightest star in the sky, will begin to sink below the horizon as Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins, ride high in the southwest. In the east, the spring stars will be rising! The Full Worm Moon, named so for the earthworms that appear as the soil warms up in spring, will be March 28."


6) Prairie Proverb - Simon & Garfunkel


"Look around,

Leaves are brown,

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Look around,

Leaves are brown,

There's a patch of snow on the ground."


- Simon & Garfunkel, from the 1966 song, A Hazy Shade of Winter, lyrics by Paul Simon


Photo by, Richard Avedon



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.