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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.

Leaping into Spring

Prairie Notes: #63
March 1, 2012

1) Leaping into Spring
2) Prairie Festx3: Ready to Launch
3) PFx3 Sponsor Stars
4) NASA on the Prairie
5) Trout Lily Walk in Space
6) Field Report
7) Wildflower of the Moment: Wedge-Leaf Draba
8) Interfaith Eco-Network
9) Prairie Plant Puzzler
10) Prairie Proverb

1) Leaping into Spring

On a warm, Spring-like, Leap Day 2012, I enjoyed watching a murder of Crows carry on a raucous conversation at Tandy Hills. They seemed to be caw-cawing about the same thing most humans are talking about lately: Spring has sprung early in 2012.

A few days earlier, I ran into, Bob O'Kennon, of the Botanical Research Institute (BRIT) at Tandy Hills. He concurred with the Crows message: Spring 2012 is weird. Jim Varnum recently reported that, Trout Lilies have bloomed earlier this year than normal. Ditto, Purple Paintbrush, Puccoon and other wildflowers

Plum trees and bushes are blooming, Hackberry trees have started budding, even the birds were busier than usual in February. Bluebird expert, Jim Marshall, has observed nesting about a month earlier than usual in his boxes along the Trinity River. And local birder, Tom Stevens, notes that a bird egg I discovered abandoned on the prairie was very early, indeed.

Sulphur butterflies are flickering. Cotton-tail Rabbits are hopping. Bluestem Grass is growing. Remarkable things are afoot on your local prairie. Take the leap and come on in.

Let's see, something else is happening earlier this year...? Oh yeah. Prairie Festx3!

A Cardinal egg found lying in the grass at Tandy Hills. (Most likely the work of a thieving Crow.)

2) Prairie Festx3: Ready to Launch

A re-imagined and re-invented Prairie Fest is on the launch pad and the countdown has begun. The first of three events blasts off on March 31 at a prairie near you. Tandy Hills Natural Area, that is.

★ Wildflowers
★ Solar-powered LIVE Music
★ Kid Stuff
★ Nature
★ Food & Drink
★ Friends
★ Prairie playground

There will be no vendor booths at Prairie Fest this year but there WILL be three separate events. Many have asked why that is. The short answer is that, we wanted to get back to our roots: Tandy Hills itself.

With a promising wildflower show coming on fast, the prairie should be dressed to the nines by March 31. Insuring us against any wild Spring weather, we will do it all over again on April 28 and March 26.

Make plans now to attend one or all three events. Bring the family, the dogs, a kite and come celebrate YOUR connection to the natural world at the greenest festival in Texas.

Stay tuned for more surprises.

3) PFx3 Sponsor Stars

We could not be more proud of and grateful to the impressive list of Prairie Festx3 Sponsors. It takes a special kind of sponsor to support Prairie Fest and we are picky.

The following individuals, businesses and organizations have the vision and resources to make sure the education and conservation programs at Tandy Hills continue to flourish.

Jim Bradbury, Jenny Conn, Lynn Curnutt, Senator Wendy R. Davis, Jeff & Diane Harris, Peggy Harwood, Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, Greg & Mary Kay Hughes, Jim Marshall, Suzy & Ray Rhodes, Paul Rodman - Troop 12, Ted & Madeline Samples, Thomas & Linda Simmons, John Lewis Tandy, Don Wheeler - Landscape Architect and Debora & Don Young.

Arlington Conservation Council, Artspace 111, Backwoods, Blue Wind Partners, City of Fort Worth Parks & Community Service, Edible Dallas & Fort Worth, Electronic Waste Disposal, Elizabeth Anna's Old World Garden, Exeltech, Fort Worth Weekly, Native American Seed, New Belgium Brewing, NBC-5, North Texas Renewable Energy, Old Home Supply, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Redenta's Garden, Sierra Club (Greater Fort Worth), Tarrant County Green Party and Unity Church.

We welcome your support. Join us here:

Membership in Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area

Sponsorship of Prairie Fest.

4) NASA on the Prairie

Have you heard about the all NEW Discovery Hikes taking place at Prairie Fest? You and your kids can learn about your place in Space, Time and the Natural World. It's something special. How special? The NASA website lists Prairie Festx3 as an official location of the, Year of the Solar System.

What does this have to do with Tandy Hills? One of the Discovery Hikes led by Heather Foote of Prairie Keepers is called the Solar System Passport Game. Explore the skies above and beyond Tandy Hills in these self-guided tours.

Hitch your star to the solar system at all three Prairie Fests. Details here:

5) Trout Lily Walk in Space

Meanwhile, back on Spaceship Earth, Master Naturalist and Trout Lily authority, Jim Varnum, is back at Tandy Hills for another Trout Lily walk and talk. The 2012 crop is the best in years. You have not fully lived until you see these little wonders up close. Come on in!

What: Trout Lily Walk with Jim Varnum
When: Sunday, March 4 @ 1:00 PM
Where: Tandy Hills Natural Area, 3400 View Street
Bring: Camera, hat, water, questions for the maestro

Trout Lily heaven at Tandy Hills.

6) Field Report

-February was another wet month at Tandy Hills, pushing the yearly rainfall total to date more than 4" above normal. Two weeks after the last rain, the creeks and seeps are still running swiftly. This bodes well for the plants and wildlife at Tandy Hills.

-First Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) sighting of 2012 was February 24.

-Trout Lilies (Erythronium albidum) are not only back after last years no-show, they are back like crazy. A Leap Day hike revealed the iconic little marvels in all stages of development and in all the usual places.

First yellow of Spring: A tiny, Fringed Puccoon, emerges from it's leafy nest.

Fringed Puccoon trumpets an early Spring.

One of thousands of Prairie Bishop's Weed (Bifora americana) seedlings reaching for the Sun.

7) Wildflower of the Moment

At first glance, Wedge-leaf Draba (Draba cuneifolia), looks kind of like a white mold growing on open ground at Tandy Hills. It's actually a member of the Mustard family and is currently in bloom across the Tandy prairie.

I don't recall ever seeing this unassuming little wildflower at Tandy Hills until this year. The record rainfall may have helped it along. Ever-helpful Master Naturalist, Jeff Quayle, ID'd it for me one crisp February day. Catch it soon before its overshadowed by grass and other wildflowers.

8) Interfaith Eco-Network

Texas Interfaith Power & Light helps people of faith organize around environmental challenges in their community. The only statewide interfaith environmental organization is coming to Fort Worth on March 5. You can become part of this important conversation and get help creating your own network by attending this free event. Details here:

9) Prairie Plant Puzzler

Do you know me? I hang out in the shade-dappled corners of Tandy Hills under deep piles of leaves. I'm often the first wildflower to emerge in the new year. While my fancy flowers are awesome, it's my mysterious, out of focus leaves that will haunt your dreams. Gaze deep into my mottled tissue and tell me: Who am I?

➤ Stumped by the February puzzler? Answer: Purple Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea var. purpurea)

Guess my name and win a Tandy Hills bandana.

10) Prairie Proverb

"Let's build us a happy little cloud that floats around in the sky."

-Bob Ross

Don Young