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Autumn in Tandy Hills

Prairie Notes:
December 5, 2008

Most of you have probably noticed the rather late and colorful autumn tree foliage in north central Texas. Ideal weather conditions are, apparently,
responsible for this phenomenon.

One doesn't usually associate vibrant fall color and trees with tall grass prairies, but Tandy Hills Natural Area (THNA) is Unique with a capital "U". Experts have noted that, the range of elevations, soil types and other factors have conspired to make THNA an ecological rarity. They point out that THNA has more botanical diversity in the smallest amount of space than anywhere else in the state of Texas.

Right now, the Oaks, Cottonwoods, Elms and other trees that inhabit the drainages and lower elevations of THNA are at peak Fall color. (The attached photos were taken just before the recent frost.) The native but invasive Ash trees, now leafless, allow panoramic views of the towering bottomland hardwoods.

December is also a good time of year to appreciate the "Hill" part of Tandy Hills. Over the years, I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to express in words or capture in photographs the essential profundity of the hills. Their soft, grasscovered contours and (mostly) gentle slopes are elemental to THNA. I view them as the essence of the place even more so than the 500+ plant species they nurture. The most reverent sense of the timeworn phrase, "Mother Earth", comes to mind.

These hills are or have been home to a surprising variety of wildlife, considering the proximity to I-30 and downtown. I have personally seen Red Fox, Wild Turkey, Coyote, Wolf, Bobcat, Raccoon, Squirrel, Cottontail Rabbit, various lizards, Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Coopers Hawk, Redtailed Hawk, Turkey Buzzard, Roadrunner and many other bird species.

This past October, when Chesapeake Energy completely removed one of the nearby hills, it affected many of us like the death of a loved one. The thought that they also own 50 unblemished acres of the Tandy Hills greenbelt is especially difficult to accept. I'm keeping a wary eye on that hill.

I have a treasured memory from the late '70's of a Red Fox, its long tail fully fluffed, the setting sun catching the red highlights as he scampered up
the same, lovely hill that Chesapeake recently obliterated. It is observations and memories such as these that can inspire one to activism.

Come to the meadow - FAST - and catch autumn's fading color wheel and see with your own eyes where the Red Fox once ran free and what words and photos cannot capture: the irreplaceable essence of Tandy "Hills" Natural Area.

"Be as I am a reluctant enthusiast...a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here."
--Ed Abbey

Early evening looking south. Ash and Bluestem
Early evening looking south. Ash and Bluestem

Various Oaks, Juniper and Ash
Various Oaks, Juniper and Ash

Where the Red Fox once roamed
Where the Red Fox once roamed

Looking northwest
Looking northwest

An Impressionist view
An Impressionist view

Mother Earth
Mother Earth

REMINDER: Prairie Fest is April 25, 2009. Applications for Exhibitor space are now being accepted. Brave Combo is already lined up as our musical headliner.