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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.

A New Night is Dawning

Prairie Notes #115
July 1, 2016

1) A New Night is Dawning
2) Field Report - June
3) Trail Posse Needs YOU!!!
4) BioBlitz from the Air
5) National Prairie Day
6) Book Review: Explore Texas
7) Suzanne Tuttle
8) Prairie Proverb

1) A New Night is Dawning

I was having a casual conversation with Heather Foote of Prairie Keepers, several years ago when she observed that, the sky above Tandy was as much a part of the place as were the wildflowers and grasses. Not just the clouds, sunrises, sunsets and rainbows, but the night sky, too, in all its glory. Heather helped me see the earth-bound prairie hills were connected to an infinite cosmos, all part of an integral whole, and changed my thinking about Tandy Hills. 

I remembered some of the wildflowers named after the world up above: Blue Star, Prairie Celestial, Texas Star, Yellow Neptunia, Sundrops, Green Comet Milkweed and Skydrop Aster, and quite a few that resemble something from outer space. The connections with earth and sky are many.

Soon after that chat with Heather, back in 2010, the Fort Worth Astronomical Society (FWAS) started setting up solar-viewing telescopes at Prairie Fest, beginning a relationship with Friends of Tandy Hills that took an unexpected turn last month. 

After many years at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, the well-attended, monthly public star parties presented by FWAS was forced to find a new home and a new host. FWAS President, Bruce Cowles sent us an email on June 9th explaining his situation and wondering if Friends of Tandy Hills might be interested in hosting their events. We said, yes. 

Established in 1949, FWAS is one of the first adult, amateur astronomy clubs formed in the country and one of the largest, with more than 200 active members. Beginning Saturday evening, July 9th, FWAS members will have 10 - 20 telescopes set up at Tandy Hills for viewing the night sky. They will share their knowledge of all things astronomy, with the public.

Friends of Tandy Hills are very honored to be the new host for FWAS at Tandy Hills. The PrairieSky/StarParty events will take place year-round at dark-thirty on the second Saturday of each month, plus occassional special, cosmological events. All ages are welcome and it's always free. Come on in.

2) Field Report - June

Before summer officially arrived on June 20, there were a couple of weeks of rain and mud before it finally dried out. Soon after, the spectacular wildflower shows of late spring mellowed into the green and gold hues of summer. But that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty to see at your local prairie.  Here's what I saw in the month of June.

Psssst...Want to know a secret? Yellow Neptunia, aka: Yellow Puff (Neptunia lutea) are really from another planet.

Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltum subsp. russellianum) are back for another thrilling season.

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) fruit has a distinctive, mildly creepy "feel" to the touch.

Lots and lots and lots of Milkweed seeds are blowing across the hills.

Spiky, opened seed packets of Sensitive Briar (Mimosa roemeriana) make a statement.

Golden Dalea (Dalea aurea) flower heads look almost huggable. 

The fully realized flower of Engelmann's Thistle (Cirsium engelmannii)

An exciting find and rare at Tandy Hills: Grooved Nipple Cactus (Coryphantha sulcata)

This Yellow Compassplant (Silphium lacinatum) caught my eye for the red stems, copper-blue buds and what was inside.

Pistils? A lovely work of art.

Do not touch #1: A giant Poison Ivy plant has been blocking the Hawk Trail for too long, so...

...Debora & Don Young conspired to aid it's demise... that you can now walk the trail with less trepidation.

Do not touch #2: A spider's web in the forest is not unlike a galaxy with a black hole inside. Keep on trail.

FINALLY, I was able to capture a Buckeye butterfly with my camera. Thank you, kind sir.

The rare, Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon of July 20 looked more lemony to me.

When wildflowers are few in June, one can always count on striking sunsets carressing the Tandy hills.

Rain in June just kept on coming right up until the 28th, leaving behind this arresting sunset.


3) Trail Posse Needs YOU!!!

S.O.S.: Due to unusual spring rains, the most popular trails at Tandy Hills are nearly impassable, overgrown with weeds and other plants. This is a good time to organize a permanent crew to manage our beautiful park. A small crew of volunteers is needed to clear the trails beginning this Saturday, July 2nd, 8 am - Noon. It's a guaranteed way to get to heaven. RSVP.

> Sign up here to help out:  Thanks a mil!

There is no "try", only, "do" or "not do." Give these folks a helping hand to keep the trails looking good.

4) BioBlitz from the Air

Chris Jenseth and team from Skycraft APV, took some striking aerial footage at the Tandy Hills BioBlitz. Take a peek at their drone footage HERE. Notice how GREEN it was in late April after so much rain. Look closely to see the solar panels that provided all BioBlitz energy needs and Mayor Betsy Price down there signing the Mayor's Monarch Pledge. Quite a blast this blitz! Thank you Chris!

BTW---According to Sam Kieschnick, of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Tandy Hills Bioblitz was the biggest, ever, in Texas, with the most participants both expert and citizen scientists. 

5) National Prairie Day

I had never heard of National Prairie Day (NPD) until the day after it occurred on June 4. Since then, I've learned that NPD was founded, this year, by the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Here's a quote from the NPD website:

"Our intent is that National Prairie Day will inspire a national dialogue about prairie conservation, restoration, research, and enjoyment."

We have our calendars marked for next year on the the first Saturday in June. Until then, come on in! Every day is prairie day at Tandy Hills. 

6) Book Review: Explore Texas

I first heard form author, Mary O. Parker in February 2014. She was gathering materials for a book to be published by Texas A&M tentatively titled, "101 Best Nature Destinations in Texa." She wanted to include Prairie Fest at Tandy Hills. I sent her some info and waited to hear back from her. And waited, and waited... Alas, her book, with nature photographs by her husband, Jeff Parker was finally published in, June 2016.

The published book titled, Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide, is much more in-depth than the one she described in 2014. It has to be for a state the size of Texas. The hefty, 300-page book with foreword by Carter Smith (Executive Director of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department), is divided into seven sections for seven official travel regions of the state. Tandy Hills is described on page 257 in the Prairies & Lakes section. That section includes chapters on several other north Texas travel destinations including, BRIT, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge and River Legacy Living Science Center, among others.

Each chapter has the basic decriptive area of each place, organization or event along with a special LEARN page that you'll find useful. For Tandy Hills, the LEARN page is about two of our important pollinator plants, American Basketflower and Lemon Balm. The introduction by Mz. Parker touches on the importance of "nature tourism". Right up my alley. For out of town visitors to Tandy Hills this book is a great resource, and of course is a must-have on any Texas road trip. Check it out HERE.

6) Suzanne Tuttle

Most of you know that Suzanne Tuttle has very recently retired as Resource Manager and Director of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. Suzanne and her knowledge of plants has been an invaluable help to me personnaly and to Freinds of Tandy Hills over the years. When I was just getting started in learning about Tandy Hills, she was very generous with her time in helping me ID plants. She created and led the Wildflower Tours at Prairie Fest since 2007 and before that with the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association. She was a huge help in forming Kids on the Prairie, Brush Bash, the Tandy HIlls Master Plan, on and on and on.

Thank you Suzanne. We at Friends of Tandy Hills are forever grateful for your help and support and wish you happy trails in your next chapter.

8) Prairie Proverb

"As one of the appointed City of Fort Worth resource managers for Tandy Hills Natural Area I’ve enjoyed very much working with the Friends of Tandy Hills. Their vision and appreciation for the park have been and will continue to be critical to its ongoing conservation and restoration to benefit the residents of and visitors to Fort Worth."

Suzanne Tuttle, invaluable supporter and friend of Friends of Tandy Hills.

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.