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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.

The Uncanny Beauty of Briers

Prairie Notes #158
February 1, 2020

01) The Uncanny Beauty of Briers
02) Field Report - January
03) Membership Matters
04) New Species - January
05) Manly Men Wild Women Hike Report
06) Broadcast Hill: Full Circle
07) Trout Lily Walk w/Sam Kieschnick

08) Prairie Proverb - L. Wayne Clark

 

01) The Uncanny Beauty of Briers

 

Tandy Hills in January is very different from April. Totally different mindset. One's vision tends to be focused distantly rather than up close. Many trees are leafless opening up new views afar. But when a bit of color does catch your eye, it really grabs it.

 

Such has been my experience over the years with common briers. Their color and triangular/heart-shaped leaves get noticed more often in the drab landscape of winter. I'm referring specifically to what is commonly named, Saw Greenbrier, Sawbrier, Catbrier and Tramp's Trouble (Smilax bona-nox). Recently, I started paying closer attention and developed a new appreciation for this species.

 

The things I like best about them are the wide variety of leaf shapes and colors, vaguely reminiscent of oak leaves. The leaves are normally evergreen with a lighter shade of pixilated-like patterns. Due to various factors they turn in many shades of orange, yellow, red, purple, brown and green. Those colors are what grab observant eyes in winter. The palette variations are remarkable.

 

They are typically found growing in wooded areas, the vines climbing and branching up to 30' into the canopies. If you have ever ventured through some of the dense tree cover at Tandy Hills, maybe searching for Trout Lilies, you no doubt have scars from Greenbrier "prickles" to show for it.

 

Native Americans found mulitple medicinal and food uses of Greenbrier. The fruits are eaten by a variety of wildlife including birds who disperse the seeds great distances. The prickly bramble also provides cover for small animals.

 

When next you take a winter's hike at Tandy Hills you may find them as irresistible as I do.

 

DY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02) Field Report - January

 

The weather was all over the place in January, including, snow, ice, fog, sunshine, rainbows, lots of rain and jaw-dropping sunsets. Early signs of spring are popping up, most notably in the early sighting of Trout Lily plants on January 25th. Overall, it still looks like winter out there.

 


January 2, 2020 delivered an inspiring sky show. 

 

 


On January 27th, a very dense fog descended on Tandy Hills.

 

Hundreds of spider's webs previously hiding in plain sight were made starkly visible by the fog. Not a spider in sight.

 


Thousands of strands of spider silk bejewled with thousands of water droplets dazzled like earthbound constellations. 

 

As of January 30th a multitude of Tandy Hills, Ash Juniper trees have not yet released their notorious pollen...

 


...but they are getting close. Mountain Cedar pollen, as it is known, are nature's airborne fishhooks. Try not to breathe.

 


These tiny red sprouts will soon become Trout Lilies (Erythronium albidum)

 


January 25th, 2020, marks the earliest date I've observed any sign of Trout Lilies at Tandy Hills.

 

I had to gently rake back a carpet of oak leaves to find the TL sprouts. 

 


Winter is still fairly new but spring is just over the hills.

 

 

03) Membership Matters

 

Your donations, modest or massive are all monumental and VITAL to our habitat restoration and educational programs. They also help us improve trails and signage and keep Tandy Hills in the public eye. Thank you!

 

Become a Friend here: https://www.tandyhills.org/donate

 

 

 

04) New Species - January

 

There were no new species recorded in January.

 

 

05) Manly Men Wild Women Hike Report

 

More than 70 people attended the 11th annual hike, many for the first time. All received a certified, hand-made, personalized certificate printed on parchment paper and hand-signed in fountain pen ink for authentication of achievemnet. They also got a good workout. See you next year!

 

SPECIAL shout-out to Raul Perez, his daughter Victoria Perez and her friend for marking the trail prior to the hike. Also, a big THANKS to Coffee Folk. Thanks a mil!

 

 

Taking a break on the border of Broadcast Hill and Tandy Hills.

 

 

 

 

06) Broadcast Hill: Full Circle

 

It is not without irony that the 51 acres adjacent to Tandy Hills are for sale. Again. It was more than 15 years ago that the same 51 acres became the rallying cry of Firends of Tandy Hills. They were our raison d'etre

 

When I first got wind that Sagamore Hill Baptist Church was the seller and that the potential buyer was Chesapeake Energy, my alarms went off. I quickly put together a photo album of Tandy Hills wildflowers and visited the pastor of the church. I pleaded with him and his trustees to hold off on the sale and give us a chance to make a counter offer. I rallied the neighbors with a Call to Action under the banner of, Friends of Tandy Hills.

 

Despite my pleas, the church leaders wouldn't budge. They aimed to close the neighborhood church ASAP and rebuild elsewhere. (More irony: They built a new church a few miles away right next to a Chesapeake gas well.) There was nothing we could do to stop the sale. We did stage a public protest, which got us attention but not much else. We gave media interviews. We solicited and recieved more than 50 hertfelt, hand-written letters from scientists, lawyers, educators, enviro groups, business men/women, nature mustics and average folks in support of protecting the land. All to no avail.

 

In 2004 Tandy Hills was not on anyones radar, except, the oil and gas industry. They were in the process of agressively buying or leasing as much open land as possible to extract natural gas using the controversial new method known as, Fracking. The Tandy Hills Greenbelt including the 51 acres were at risk of multiple negative impacts from drilling on Broadcast Hill. 

 

So, we began a dedicated campaign to raise public awareness of the value of Tandy Hills as biological wonderland, nature refuge and recreational resource. The subversive public awareness campaign took shape as Prairie Fest, Kids on the Prairie, Manly Men Wild Women Hike, Trout Lily Walk, Brush Bash, PrairieSky / StarParty, Prairie Notes and the Tandy Hills BioBlitz. I think of all those efforts as a shield, a push-back to discourage development of any kind. 

 

A few years later and, by chance, the market and other factors forced Chesapeake to sell most of their assets including Broadcast Hill. Time rolled on but the land remains untouched. Current owner, Total Energy, has put the acreage on the market for $700K. I'm not naive enough to think our efforts, alone, made this happen but, here we are again, 15 years later, with a new Call to Action. We have a new opportunity to restore Broadcast Hill to Tandy Hills where it belongs, for the children of the future and all of us.

 

You can help make that happen by writing a letter to the Mayor/Council and by making a Pledge or a Donation to encourage the city to purchase the land. The following have Pledged the cost of 1 acre.:

 

  • Friends of Tandy Hills, $13,725

  • Jim Marshall, $13,725

  • Dick Schoech, $13,725

 

Other generous pledges have been received from, Paul & Wendy Roach, Gary & Michele Douglas, Leslie Thompson and Valerie Taber. We encourage you to follow thier lead.

 

 

 


Public protest to draw attention to pending sale of Broadcast Hill in 2004. Photo by Jeff Prince, FW Weekly.

 


District 8 Councilwoman, Kelly Allen Gray, advocating for purchase Broadcast Hill and adding it to Tandy Hills.

 


This map makes clear what's at stake.

 


Broadcast Hill is part of the Tandy Hills Greenbelt.

 

It contains the same biological inventory.

 

It is especially rich in Purple Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea) in the spring.
 

 

07) Trout Lily Walk w/Sam Kieschnick

 

The annual trout fishing expedition will take place on February 22nd at 10 AM, and will take 1-1.5 hours. (Rain date is February 29th.)

RSVP here: information@tandyhills.org

 

 

08) Prairie Proverb
 

“These rare remnants of land provide a refuge and haven for many plants and animals that have few other places to survive as a diverse biological community. The combined biological diversity and cultural heritage of Tandy Hills and the adjacent 51 acre tract of land are one of the treasures of North Central Texas."

 

- L. Wayne Clark, Director, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, Retired, from a letter he wrote in 2007 to Chesapeake Energy, the new owner at that time, of Broadcast Hill.

 

 

 

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.