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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.

Zoning Out to Zone In

Prairie Notes: #78
June 1, 2013

1) Zoning Out to Zone In
2) June Field Notebook
3) KOP Spring Re-cap
4) KOP Awards Day
5) Prairie Proverb

1) Zoning Out to Zone In

A sweet morning in May on the Tandy Hills. The showy carpets of purple and yellow wildflowers of early Spring have declined but there is still enough pollen to attract enormous quantities of Sulphur, Admiral, Skipper, Hairstreak, Fritillary and Swallowtail butterflies.

Debora and I stand still, watching a flock of yellow-bellied, Great Crested Flycatchers (Myarchus crinitus) criss-crossing the Tandy prairie, scooping up butterflies like a squadron of lepidopterists. It was so mesmerizing I felt myself zoning out, hypnotized by the aerial ballet.

Speaking of zones, one of the things I like best about Tandy Hills Natural Area are the different zones where, for various reasons, a single plant species tends to dominates. This is partly due to chance but also to the existence of the hills themselves that allow for different soils types, varying sunlight and moisture availability.

In a recent saunter up and down the hills, this phenomena became very clear as I walked through a wide zone dominated by Pennyroyal where my every step filled the air with the odor of spicy-lemon. I encountered other zones dominated by Coneflower, Compassplant, Barbara's Buttons, Bee Balm, Indian Blanket, and so on.

Grasses follow similar zoning patterns. Some hills are covered in nothing but Seep Muhly Grass while others are tightly woven with Little Bluestem. And in a few mystical places, Big Bluestem stitches the ground like one giant organism, waiting patiently for enough moisture to reach its majestic, horse-high potential.

It's all happening right now at your local prairie. Take a vacation to the natural world and zone in on your comfort zone as you zone out on the amazing place known as Tandy Hills Natural Area.


A very healthy meadow of Little Bluestem grass (schizachyrium scoparium) dominates this zone of the Tandy Hills.

2) June Field Notebook

Tandy Hills is deservedly known for it's amazing wildflower diversity. The month of May 2013 was one of the best in years. As May closed out, other species such as American Basket-flower (Centaurea americana) and Lemon Bee Balm are just starting to mature. See below a few pics of what crossed my path last month.

In early May, Tandy Hills looked like a magic carpet of Engelmann's Sage and Greenthread.

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea angustifolia) dotted the prairie in various zones.

Yellow Puff (Neptunia lutea) is showing up in the usual places.

A pair of Southern Dogface Sulphur butterflies (Zerene cesonia) find romance in the grass a bit awkward.

White Milkwort (Polygala alba) sways enticingly in the prairie wind.

Queen's Delight Stillingia texana is an irresistible monochromatic wonder to bees and butterflies.

One of only a couple of zones at Tandy hills dominated by cheerful, Barbara's Buttons (Marshallia caespitosa).

Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea compacta) is starting to fill out in late May.

Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) and Prairie Bishop's Weed (Bifora americana) make a nice couple.

Mock Pennyroyal (Hedeoma reverchonii) perfumes the air with a spicy-lemon scent.

Lemon Bee Balm (Monarda citriodora) flowers are just beginning to raise their majestic heads in late May.

3) KOP Spring Re-cap

The Spring edition of Kids on the Prairie (KOP) Year 3 at Tandy Hills Natural Area exceeded expectations.

During the month of May, 742 students were able to explore and study their neighborhood prairie with the assistance of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. The 2013 program resumes in the Fall with another group of students.

Kids on the Prairie would not be possible without essential support from our partners, Fort Worth ISD, Cross Timbers Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge and the FASH Foundation.

We are also grateful to Fort Worth City Council representatives, Kelly Allen-Gray and Frank Moss and to FWISD Board members, Tobi Jackson and Christene Moss for attending and supporting KOP.

Special thanks to KOP Director, Anne Alderfer, and assistant, Debora Young, for attending to details and making things run smoothly.

Another successful year of KOP was notched in May 2013.

4) KOP Awards Day

Kids on the Prairie Director, Anne Aldefer, along with Debora and Don Young are pleased to announce the winners of the Spring 2013 KOP field trip contest for Sagamore Hill ES students.

Awards for Best Poetry and Best Artwork and Best Writing were handed out in a ceremony at the school on Friday, May 31. About 100 fourth grade students participated in the field trip.

Winners received organic cotton FOTHNA T-shirt. Honorable mentions received an organic cotton FOTHNA bandana and shoe/bike lights.

And the winners are:

Poetry: 1st Place - Daniela Hurtado (Ms. Segreti)
Poetry: Honorable Mention - Julian Mariscal (Ms. Nichols)
Art: 1st Place - Juan Sanchez Garcia (Ms. Mahoney)
Art: 1st Place - Brian Martinez (Ms. Mahoney)
Art: Honorable Mention: - Irving Cuevas (Ms. Mahoney)
Art: Honorable Mention - Daniela Hurtado (Ms. Mahoney)
Writing: 1st Place - Flor Rodriguez (Ms. Cervantes)
Writing: Honorable Mention - Jasmine Mendoza (Mrs. Segreti)

Congratulations to all!

Front row, l - r: Flor Rodriguez; Brian Martinez; Juan Sanchez; Julian Mariscal; Jasmine Mendoza; Daniela Hurtado
Back row, l - r: Anne Alderfer; Sam Kieschnick; Debora Young; Don Young

5) Prairie Proverb

"The human definition of the natural world is always going to be too small because the world's more diverse and complex than we can ever know. We're not going to comprehend it; it comprehends us."

Wendell Berry, from, Digging In, an interview in The Sun Magazine, 2008.

As purple-colored Engelmann's Sage faded, a stunning array of Indian Blanket dominated the prairie.

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

Don Young