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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 Spider's Tale

Prairie Notes #176
August 1, 2021

01) A Spider's Tale
02) 
Field Report - July
03) New Species - July
04) Vandalism Report - July
05) PrairieSky / StarParty - August
06) Fireworks On the Prairie
07) Tandy Hills from Above
08) Prairie Proverb - E.B. White

01) A Spider's Tale

 

It was one of those hauntingly still July evenings. Perfect for a summer saunter at Tandy Hills. The sun was reaching for the horizon and I was scanning the landscape for something interesting when a vivid, lime green "something" caught my eye. illuminated by a ray of sun, it glowed like a tiny emerald in the blandness of mid-summer.

 

I was hiking around that afternoon looking for bugs and bees on Eryngo plants (Eryngium leavenworthii). This time of year, Eryngo plants are two or three feet tall and still green, before their distinctive, leaves and fuzzy pineapple-lookig flowers turn purple. Despite the sharp, spiky leaves, they are a magnet for all kinds of critters. (See, Prairie Notes #165: A Sleepin' Bee Done Told Me)  

 

Back to the green "something" that caught my eye: It was itself caught on the spiky tines that define Eryngo. Looking closer, it appeared to be a dead Green Lynx Spider that had been ripped apart. It was not visibly moving, I noted. I snapped a few pics and moved on to other observations in the neighborhood.

 

Back home, I posted my photos of the green "something" online. Minutes later a spider expert wrote that, the spider was not dead but molting. I have to admit I didn't know spiders shed their skins or to be more precise, their exoskeletons. I just happened catch it mid-molt or, "changing clothes", as one expert wrote. While molting, spiders do not move which explains why I thought it was roadkill. Talk about a lucky shot!

 

Green Lynx Spiders are a personal critter favorite. The first time I saw one was on a purple Eryngo plant where they contrast beautifully. Their long thin legs are spike-studded and sprinkled with black spots, each ending in three claws. The tapered abdomens are decorated with chevrons. They have eight eyes and can spit venom from their fangs. Diets consist of just about any insect that enters their orbit. They are fast runners who pounce like a cat on their prey.  When love is in the air they do it literally in mid-air, hanging from strands of silk! 

 

The result of these trysts is an egg sac full of tiny spiderlings, which I was also once lucky to observe being vigorously guarded by the female. (See photos below)

 

 

DY

 


This series of 4 photos show the progression of the molting for the few minutes I was present.

 


While snapping these shots I was unaware of the slo-mo transformation that were occurring.

 


It appeared to be the remians of a dead spider but was actually a rarely observed molting taking place.

 


Drying out in the sun shortly before molting was complete, as I later learned. The dried exuvia or exoskelton is above.

 


Green Lynx Spider protecting her new egg sac.

 


Dozens, possibly hundreds of spiderlings emerging from the egg sac.

 


Within a few days the spiderlings shed their exoskeletons and undergo the first of several molts in the 1-year lifespan. 

 


Their long thin legs are spike-studded and sprinkled with black spots, each ending in three claws.

 

Green Lynx Spiders seem to favor Eryngo plants as their hunting ground.

 

02) Field Report - July

 

There is something about hot summer evenings that seems to sharpen the senses when observing the intricate and often spellbinding world of Tandy Hills. As you saunter down the trail surrounded by prairie grass your mind eventually stops chattering. In the heat, stillness and the light of early evening a calm awareness washes over you. It's moments like these when you witness mystical events like, the molting of a spider. Or a butterfly flitting erratically through a field of Gay Feather. Or a pair of cawing Crows that invert before your eyes. Afterwards, if you are lucky, a cooling breeze and a stunning sunset will greet you as you top the hill by the street. It happened to me a few times in July.

 


Shimmering summer light at the base of Barbara's Button Hill.

 


Gulf Fritillary butterflies are a common sight at Tandy HIlls in July and August and an important pollinator.

 


The upper wings of a Gulf Fritillary are quite different form the lower.

 


Mirror image: Take a close look at these two photos taken seconds apart. 

Compassplant (Silphium laciniatum) pairs nicely with Texas Bulebells in late July.

Panoramic sunset shot on June 30.

Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis), resembles a small green rose. But this is the seed pods, not a flower.

Roundhead Prairie Clover (Dalea multiflora), blooms in July.

One of dozens of Powdered Dancer Damselflies I observed in July.

For the second time this season we had to call 911 for a heatstroke victim at Tandy HIlls. Remember to hydrate when hiking.

My contribution to National Moth Week is ths handsome specimen of Geometer Moth.

This is a MALE Jumping Spider (Phidippus texanus). Compare with the FEMALE of the same species below.

Jumping Spider (Phidippus texanus) FEMALE


Bird Grasshopper. Predator or prey?


Sunset, July 14

Dazzlingly beautiful Halloween Pennant Dragonflies have become almost ubiquitous at Tandy HIlls.

03) New Species - July

 

There were 18 new species added in July, bringing the new count to 1538. Most were observed and recorded by, Bob O’Kennon and Sam Kieschnick. See a few notables below and the Tandy Hills iNat Project Page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 
> > > Before you go... Every time Sam Kieschnick comes to Tandy Hills with his black-lights and his knowledge, the species count goes up, especially with insects. In July alone, Sam discovered at least 11 new species. He does this nearly every month. His work here helps, Friends of Tandy Hills, in our ongoing habitat restoration efforts of this vital prairie and woodland in the heart of Fort Worth. 

 

In honor of Sam, Friends of Tandy Hills recently made a supporting donation to his pet cause, iNaturalist. You, too, can help support iNat with a donation HERE.

 

 


Cottonwood Leaf Beetle (Chrysomela script)  Photo by Sam Kieschnick

 


Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan) photo by Bob O'Kennon

 


Four-spotted Owlfly (Ululodes quadripunctatus) photo by Sam Kieschnick

 

04) Vandalism Report - July

 

The carnage continued in July with balloon releases, 4-wheeler damage and too many rowdy folks on July 4th.

 


A large section of trail was damaged by a group of 4-wheelers. 

 


There was utter disrespect for Tandy Hills by July 4th revelers. You won't see this at The FW Nature Center. Why here?

 


Balloon releases are a threat to wildlife and a blight on the landscape and should be banned everywhere.

 


A group of FFA kids cleaned up the mess left by July 4th partygoers. Someone also ripped a limb from the old Mesquite tree by the street.

 

05) PrairieSky / StarParty - August

 

About 30 visitors and 8 astronomers attended the July party. The next star party is Saturday, August 14. Pam Kloepfer of FW Astronomical Society offers the following sky report:

 

"At long last, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible as the evenings unfold and progress during the month of August! Jupiter has 79 moons, but only four will be visible in varying positions around the giant planet. Two dark belts can also be seen across its face with a telescope. Saturn will be showing off its rings through any eyepiece. The Scorpion will continue trekking across the southern sky, with Sagittarius close on its heels. Look for the Teapot asterism - a grouping of stars that resembles a teapot. This area of the sky is loaded with beautiful gems best seen under dark skies and a telescope; however, Messier objects M6 and M7 are beautiful open star clusters that can be observed with binoculars under the right sky conditions. The Perseids Meteor shower is one of the best of the year and will peak August 11-13. The best time to catch these flying space rocks is after midnight. They originate from the Swift-Tuttle comet and come from the direction of the constellation Perseus. The Moon will be close to First Quarter on the night of August 14."

 

See the rings of Saturn through telescopes on August 14 at Prairie/Sky Star/Party. (Hubble telescope photo, 2020)

 

06) Fireworks On the Prairie

 

Who needs noisy fireworks on Independednce Day when you can see fireworks quietly exploding at your feet at Tandy Hills? Sing along with me now:  "O beautiful for Tandy Hills...."

 


Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora)

 


Slender False Pennyroyal (Hedeoma actinides)

 


Narrowleaf Gumweed (Grindelia lanceolata)

 


Sensitive Briar (Mimosa roemeriana)

 

Indian Blanket/Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

 

07) Tandy Hills From Above

 

Travis Mann, is a 17 year old photographer who visited Tandy Hills in July and took this interesting aerial photo of the complicated north end trail. Check out his blog to see other amazing photos.

By the way, work on the new and improved Tandy Hills trail system begins in September.

 

https://tmannphotography.blogspot.com

 

 

08) Prairie Proverb - E.B. White

 

"Is there anything in the universe more beautiful and protective than the simple complexity of a spider's web?"

 

- E.B. White, 1899 - 1985, author of Charlotte's Web and many other popular books for children and adults.

 

 

 

 

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.