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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.

Hawks & Crows

Prairie Notes: #94
October 1, 2014

01) Hawks & Crows
02) Field Notebook
03) Giving Day Report
04) Bee Pasture Revisited
05) Vote for Tandy Hills!
06) Prairie Fest #10 Takes Flight
07) Our Man Dan
08) Prairie Proverb

01) Hawks & Crows

I like Crows. They remind me of clowns, very entertaining to watch. They are also remarkably intelligent animals, reportedly on par with apes, able to make and use tools, for example. They can even recognize individual human facial features, especially those they consider dangerous.

Throughout history, Crows have been feared and disliked by humans who associate them with death and tragedy. They have been blamed for killing weak animals such as lambs and other Crows. For this reason, a group of Crows is called a "murder". Seems to me that, with Halloween right around the corner, now is a good time to share my Crow story. 

For many years I have observed a murder of Crows cavorting about at Tandy Hills. Although they make occasional forays into the neighborhood, where they annoy Olive the Prairie Dog with noisy cawing, most of their time is spent deeper into the park, socializing, foraging and making baby Crows. They seem to prefer their privacy.

Occasionally, I have surprised large groups of them, seemingly having a party in a dead tree high on a hill in a semi-remote section of the park. They are quite sociable among themselves, gathering in large numbers apparently as protection from hawks and owls, of which Tandy Hills has a few.

On a splendid evening hike in late September, just as Debora and I topped the hill near the dead tree, I could hear and then see such a murder of crows squawking with unusual fervor. Some of the birds flew off when they spotted us but several stayed put as if guarding the tree.

Looking closer it became clear that one of the birds was not a Crow but a mature, male Cooper's Hawk, another of my favorite birds. 

Walking slowly and quietly towards the tree with my camera in hand, I eventually got too close for the Crows' comfort who scattered. The Cooper's remained, turning his head 180° with one of unblinking eye on me, the other trained on the Crows, flapping and cawing clown-like into the darkening canyon. 

Eventually, the hawk lifted off with one elegant wing beat sailing silently into the same canyon. Back at home, I learned the phenomenon we observed is called mobbing, " anti-predator behavior which occurs when individuals of one species mob a predator by collectively attacking or harassing it, usually to protect offspring." (Wikipedia)

A birding friend suggested that Crows mob hawks for the sheer fun of it. I like that explanation. Who knows, maybe the Hawk plays along in the same spirit. Whatever, the mob of Crows showed no obvious fear in the presence of the elegantly plumaged, cold-eyed hit-man. It's all true. 

Happy Halloween to you!


Scare yourself with some fictional Tandy Hills - Halloween yarns, here:

Three on one...

Then two on one... 

A Cooper's Hawk in all its glory.


02) Field Notebook

September was on the dry side curtailing much of the Fall color. Still, with amazing resilience, many of the prairie plants soldiered on with the help of scattered seeps and a touch of rain. See a few examples below.

Telltale signs of a hungry Nine-banded Armadillo are all over the park, sometimes with large rocks unearthed from the prairie soil. I have yet to see the critter but regular hiker, Bill Yates, snapped the pic below. REMINDER: Hunting or harming wildlife at Tandy Hills is illegal. 

Finally, in early September we were paid a rare visit by a Baltimore Oriole at our home across from Tandy Hills. He was dressed for the season in brilliant orange and black. Stunning! 

Giant Blue Sage is a reliable Fall bloomer at Tandy Hills.


Longleaf Wild Buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium)


Stiff Goldenrod brightens up the evening shadows.


Tiny, Heliotrope blooms resemble stars in the prairie grass. 

Prairie Agalinis (Agalinis heterophylla) buds glow in the shadows. 

In this field of thousands of Eryngo plants... 

I found this single, albino-ish flower. 


Indian Grass and Little Bluestem grass define the Autumn prairie at Tandy Hills. 

Fine-leaf Gerardia (Agalinis densiflora) 

Nine-banded Armadillo at Tandy Hills. Photo by Bill Yates. Used with permission. 


Baltimore Oriole near Tandy Hills.


03) Giving Day Report

After a 33-day fundraising campaign, North Texas Giving Day is history. Friends of Tandy Hills did well. We received 51 donations totaling, $3,605. Communities Foundation of Texas who sponsored the event will add an additional $300.+ to our coffers. PLUS...we have a chance at the coveted $5,000 prize for Best Overall Campaign. 

Thanks to the following folks for their generous donations: Suzanne Tuttle, Ray Regal, Samantha Morgan, Kathy Cash & Eric Vanderbeck, Greg & Mary Kay Hughes, Dana Schultes, Jenny Conn & Robert Leprelle, Jim Marshall, Tom Stewart, Native American Seed, Dr. & Mrs. Travis Small, Hodge Family, Bel Air Music Showcase, Debora & Don Young, Jim & Patti Maness, Unity Church of FW, Laurie & Quentin McGown, Laura Penn, Kathy Scott, Joseph Schultes, Michelle Villafranca, Jan Miller, Anonymous, Margaret Allyson, Marcia Haley, Don Ferrier, Peggy Harwood, John & Emily MacFarlane, Bonnie Bowman, Catherine Clyde, Shelley Warren, Don Wheeler, Native Plant Society of TX-NCTX Chapter, Julia Burgen, Heather & Mike Foote, Troy Sanders, Julie & Carl Thibodeaux, Pamela F. Campbell, Dick & Sharon Schoech, Barb Ohlman, Donna & Jon Kruse, Joanna Jutsum, Thayne Rooney, Barbara Koerble, Anonymous, Ann Zadeh, Doug Black, Anne Alderfer, Sallie & John Rody, Lisa Stokdyk, Susie Jary and Eric Pratt.

Special thanks to the esteemed panel who provided testimonials on behalf of FOTHNA: Ed Abbey, Richard Zavala, Olive the Prairie Dog, Don Ferrier, Henri Matisse, Jarid Manos, Emily Dickinson, Sallie & John Rody, Nicolaus Copernicus, Lon Burnam, Marcus Tulius Cicero, Kelly Allen Gray, Socrates, Jim Bradbury, William Shakespeare, Julie Thibodeaux, Dorothy & Toto, Kathy Cash, Benjamin Franklin, Paul John Roach, Henry David Thoreau,Paul Slavens, Federico Fellini, Jerry McDowell, Bogart & Bergman, Carl Finch & Brave Combo, Cole Porter, Tobi Jackson, Ludwig van Beethoven, Suzanne Allen-Tuttle, Native American Seed, Debora & Don Young.
We are proud of our campaign.

See it all here:

04) Bee Pasture Revisited

Back in August I introduced you to recent transplant, Anne Stine, and her blog The Bee Pasture. In late September, Anne revisited Tandy Hills and composed another informative and entertaining blog post. Check it out here:

Photo of Tandy Hills by Anne Stine. Used with permission.

05) Vote for Tandy Hills

Tandy Hills Natural Area has been nominated for Best Place to Get Outdoors by Dallas-Fort Worth Child Magazine. It's part of their 2014 Best for Families promo. Please take this quick survey and vote for Tandy Hills!

06) Prairie Fest #10 Takes Flight

A new planning committee has been formed to bring the prairie to the people and the people to the prairie next April 25th. The first meeting was held at the Tandy House on September 21. Led by Jen Schultes and James Zametz, it was the largest group of volunteers ever at the initial meeting. And quite a brain-trust of busy people it is.   We need YOU, too! Volunteer today.

Prairie Fest 2014 brain-trust


07) Our Man Dan

Dan Lepinski, is the man who has provided solar power for every Prairie Fest since 2007. His critical service has allowed PF to be the greenest festival in north Texas. He's done the same for hundreds of other events. Read a nice profile of Gentleman Dan in Green Source DFW here:

Dan Lepinski next to the Solar Shuttle.


08) Prairie Proverb

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

Henry David Thoreau, Walking, (1862) 

Milkweed seeds drifting in the wind at tandy Hills Natural Area.


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.