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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.

October Surprise

Prairie Notes: #82
October 1, 2013

1) October Surprise
2) Field Notebook:
3) Nature, Kids & Mental Health
4) Fall Kids on the Prairie: Year 2
5) Prairie Fest #9 News
6) October Spirits
7) Prairie Proverb

1) October Surprise

September 30; 6 pm; Walking aimlessly through the far flung corners of Tandy Hills Natural Area with Olive the Prairie Dog; Until a much-needed rain shower a few days before, not much had changed here since August. The September prairie looked a lot like the August prairie: Hot and dry. The dried seed pods, stems and leaves of Missouri Primrose, Yucca and Compassplant at my feet remind that Spring is long gone.

But today, under a clear blue sky with a gentle breeze blowing, Tandy Hills reveals its Autumnal nature to be as mystical as Spring. A sweeping landscape of Little Bluestem grass, Indian grass and several varieties of Grama grass blanket the hills in thick vertical stands, full of seeds that light up golden in the fading sunlight. Fall-blooming, Purple Spangletop grass fills the seams between the hills with their characteristic panache.

Maximilian Sunflower, Gayfeather, Giant Blue Sage, Two-leaved Senna and other wildflowers, add their colorful voices to this Autumnal symphony that sways to the rhythm of leggy, delicately flowered, False Gaura.

October wildlife surprises abound. A Coopers Hawk glides serenely overhead as swarms of small butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and bees scatter in the grass as I walk by. Seeking shelter, the first Skink I've seen in several years slithers into a crack in the Earth. Punctuating the pastoral scene, a contingent of Mexico-bound Monarch butterflies feed silently above the Gayfeather flowers that turn ultra violet in dusks fading light.

The October Surprises waiting for you at Tandy Hills may not influence your vote but it might change you life. Mother Nature's October version of Spring has begun at your local prairie. Come on in and be surprised.


2) Field Notebook

These are a few of the sights that jumped into my camera during the month of September.

Old Plainsman (Wooly White) is a common sight across the Tandy Hills.

The amazingly resilient, Two-leaved Senna, has not stopped blooming since early Spring.

Monarch Butterflies are feasting on Gayfeather as they pass through Tandy Hills.

Maximilian Sunflowers are reaching for the sky on the Fall prairie.

Indian Grass is starting to reach its potential at Tandy Hills.

The azure blue flowers of Giant Blue Sage seems to glow from within at Tandy Hills.

Walls of Little Bluestem cover large areas of Tandy Hills.

A Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) growing next to Little Bluestem grass.

Damselflies are part of the web of life at Tandy Hills.

A nearly 12' tall False Gaura plant was discovered in September at Tandy Hills.

3) Nature, Kids & Mental Health

I have often written about how spending time in the natural world is good medicine. That is especially true for kids, these days. (See #4 below)

Prairie Fest Children's Hikes Director, Heather Foote, reminds me that on October 15 in Fort Worth, the organization, Texas Children in Nature, is having a Fall gathering with the theme, Nature's Role in Promoting Mental Health. The event is free and open to anyone interested in experiential nature-based education to visit, learn and share ideas.

See flier HERE:

4) Fall Kids on the Prairie: Year 2

Last Fall, Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area began a Fall edition of Kids on the Prairie, our signature outdoor education program with Fort Worth ISD. It was a rousing success.

KOP Director, Anne Alderfer, reports that, Year 2 will take place on October 16 & 17. The 4th grade class of Meadowbrook Elementary has been selected as our 2014 Scholarship School. About 100 students along with their teachers will spend the day at Tandy Hills on a science-based field trip.

BTW: Our KOP program is aligned with the National Science Foundation, Next Generation of Science Standards and Texas State Standards.

5) Prairie Fest News

As mentioned last month, the 9th annual Prairie Fest will take place on April 26, 2014. Our event will once again be powered by the Sun with help from the Solar Shuttle provided by Event Solar Power.

Stay tuned to our website for more exciting Prairie Fest news in the coming months.

Attn. potential Prairie Fest Sponsors and Exhibitors: There are only 50 booth spaces available so plan ahead. More info next month.

Event Solar Power has powered the Prairie Fest stage since 2007.

6) October Spirits

Tandy Hills Natural Area is a known haven for various Freaks of Nature, the Ghost Grass of Autumn and other wild mysterious things. But the Hills are especially alive with spookiness in the month of October as recorded in these two grim tales, HERE and HERE. Read them, if you dare.

Come on in!

7) Prairie Proverb

"If dogs run free, then why not we,
Across the swooping plain?"

Bob Dylan, from the song, If Dogs Run Free, from the 1970 album, New Morning

Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. All photographs by Don Young except where otherwise noted.