You are here

Prairie Notes header

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.

iScare Myself

Prairie Notes #106
October 1, 2015

1) iScare Myself
2) Field Report - September
3) iNaturalist: Citizen Science
4) Making Hay at Tandy Hills
5) Halloween Flashback 
6) Giving Day Report
7) 2nd Annual Sunset Hike Scheduled
8) Wild Again, Naturally
9) Prairie Proverb


1) iScare Myself

October brings so many exciting activities to Tandy Hills it's scary. Hopefully a little rain will bless us, too. Most exciting is the new iNaturalist page for Tandy Hills that allows users to post photos and information seen at the park. More on that and other Fall happeneings below. Also, don't miss the Halloween story, The Engulfed Death Car of Tandy Creek, reprised for your enjoyment.

Writing from the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon where water and nature mystics are plentiful.


2) Field Report - September

September 2015 on the Tandy Hills can be described in one word: Dry. Photo-ops, like blooming plants, were very few and far between. October should be better. Here's what I have for the 5th hottest September on record.

Snow on the Prairie, is one of the few native wildflowers that will bloom, rain or no rain.

This is a 12' False Gaura plant found in 2013. The photo was turned into a timely water fantasy by Danny Owens

Drought tolerant, Two-leaf Senna has returned in scattered locations.

Sunset on the dry prairie.

3) iNaturalist: Citizen Science

From Wikipedia: "iNaturalist is citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. Observations may be added via the website or from a mobile application. The observations provide valuable open data to a variety of scientific research projects, museums, botanic gardens, parks, and other organizations. Users of iNaturalist have contributed over one million observations since its founding in 2008."

iNaturalist is a place where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world. MIchelle Villafranca and Rob Denkhaus of the FW Nature Center & Refuge created a page for Tandy Hills. Check it out here and start posting your observations:

4) Making Hay at Tandy Hills

In another exciting first for Tandy Hills, we will be making native grass hay for the first time in October. Rob Denkhaus, Land Manager of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge and now Tandy Hills writes, " As one of our land management activities, we cut & bale native hay from our prairies. The hay produced will be used as supplemental feed for our bison, as well as provide native mulch and a seed source for restoration projects."

We don't have bison at Tandy Hills, but we do have need of native mulch for things like trail restoration across the park. More on this later.

UPDATE from Rob Denkhaus:

To maintain a prairie it is imperative that ecological succession be occasionally set back through some form of disturbance.  Historically, this disturbance came in the form of fire and grazing/trampling by the massive bison herds of the American plains which served to hold the encroachment of woody plants at bay.  While prescribed fire is still in the works to aid in managing the Tandy Hills prairies, it is important to use other tools in our management toolbox to manage the prairie.  

When bison roamed the area they grazed upon the nutritious herbaceous vegetation.  While they wandered about seeds became embedded in their hair, particularly in the thick, wooly hair on their heads.  Many of these seeds actually evolved to take advantage of this hitch-hiking form of dispersal.  

Bison hooves are specialized prairie management tools.  Unlike cattle or horse hooves, bison hooves are not flat on the bottom.  Each hoof is equipped with a cutting edge that coupled with the intricacies of the bison gate, causes each step to disturb the soil crust.  Every step breaks the hardened soil surface allowing for increased water absorption and helping to prevent surface runoff and the resulting erosion.

While we can’t reintroduce bison into the Tandy Hills prairie system, we can strive to simulate the impacts of their grazing.  This fall, we will be utilizing “artificial grazing” to manage the prairie areas along View St. by cutting and baling native grass hay on the areas.  Haying removes the upper layers of the herbaceous vegetation (like bison grazing) and the baler’s pick-up tines scratch the surface of the ground (like bison hooves) while they spin to pick up the cut grass.  

Unlike traditional haying activities where the hay is destined to be fed to livestock, this native grass hay will be used in other prairie restoration activities within Tandy Hills Natural Area.  The native vegetation, along with a plethora of viable, local ecotype seeds, will be used to prevent erosion in areas that have been cleared of brush or disturbed during trail construction which will spread the seeds much in the same way as the bison did originally.

Assuming that we have sufficient winter and spring rains, the View St. prairies should put on a real wildflower show next spring and we will be better able to manage other facets of the area as well.

Native grass hay baling coming soon to Tandy Hills.

5) Halloween Flashback

A macabre event happened at Tandy Hills in 2011 and was faitfully reocrded by me and posted here, for those who dare. WARNING:  It's all true.

6) Giving Day Report

After a 32-day fundraising campaign, North Texas Giving Day is history. Friends of Tandy Hills did well. We received 42 donations totaling, $2,740. Communities Foundation of Texas who sponsored the event will add an additional donation to our coffers. Many thanks to all who contributed especially the nine NEW donors.

Special thanks to Jen Schultes for designing the daily campaign around photos taken at Tandy Hills by Don Young and inspiring nature quotes.

See the whole shebang campaign here:

7) 2nd Annual Sunset Hike Scheduled

The 2nd annual Sunset Hike will take place at Tandy Hills on Saturday, October 24. Meet at the Hawk Trailhead at 5:30 p.m. The hike will last less than an hour. RSVP here:

8) Wild Again, Naturally

In a new tradition that began last spring, Friends of Tandy Hills is sponsoring a Fall edition of a Wild Foods Walk with Bryan and Debbie Pierce on October 17, 10 am - Noon.

The walk/talk is free but donations are encouraged for the tour leaders. The walk starts along the main Hawk Trail ridge where we stopped last Spring. It's time to harvest tasty persimmon and Hackberry fruit. Yum!  

Bryan & Debbie Pearce know their wild things.

9) Prairie Proverb

"When I would re-create myself...I enter as a sacred place, a Sanctum sanctorum.  There is the strength, the marrow, of Nature."

- Henry David Thoreau, Walking, 1851 

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.