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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.

Hygh On Hyacinth

Prairie Notes #173
April 29, 2021

01) Hygh On Hyacinth
02) Squeaky Wheel Gets Grease

03) Field Report - April
04) New Species - April
05) City Nature Challenge 2021
06) PrairieSky / StarParty Is Back!
07) Earth Day Forever
08) Earth Day Feelgood Story
09) Prairie Proverb - Eudora Welty

01) Hygh On Hyacinth

 

Every April, in a shelterd corner of Tandy HIlls, a seemingly magical transformation takes place yet, few eyes witness the brief, spellbinding event.

 

Many years ago, before it was cleaned up by FOTHNA volunteers, the same area was an illegal dumping ground. Back then, people looking for a quick and easy place to dump trash just drove their trucks across the prairie leaving deep ruts in the soil. They left behind mountains of roofing shingles, broken glass, even discarded non-native plants. (A patch of Bearded Iris still blooms there every spring.)

 

I wonder sometimes if those thoughtless people even noticed the amazing colony of Wild Hyacinth they were trespassing upon. The colony is located off-the-beaten-track. Over the years, a wall of privet and a Texas Ash trees grew up to form a cove-like enclosure around the Hyancinth patch which may have helped protect them. That patch has expanded over the years increasing the number of individual plants. It is relatively flat and tends to collect rainwater in the old wheel ruts.

 

For my money, Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) aka: Atlantic Camas, is one of the prettiest, most exotic wildflowers at Tandy HIlls. The sweet-smelling, spiky flowers emerge from perrenial bulbs and are tinted in a striking mix of blue, purple, lavender, green and white. Pollinators swoon and get heavy-legged with pollen from the yellow anthers. The grass-like leaves that come on in March belie the magnificent blooms that will follow in April.

 

The magic happens as the flower heads transform from slender blue-purple spikes to fully formed, floral tassles. It all happens in just a matter of days. Within a couple of weeks the flowers are gone leaving only a few leaves and stalks that are consumed by the prairie grasses. For those lucky enough to witness the annual scene, it is remarkable.

 

Watch a short video of the hidden, Wild Hyacinth meadow, HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/videos/high-hyacinth

 

 

DY

 


For a couple of weeks in April, a sheltered prairie cove is alive with the sight and smell of Wild Hyacinth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02) Squeaky Wheel Gets Grease

 

On April 8, FOTHNA President, Don Young had an on-site meeting at Tandy Hills with, Richard Zavala, Director of FW Park & Recreation (PARD) and a dozen other city staff including, Code Compliance and FW Police. The meeting was requested by FOTHNA to gain PARD support for much-needed and better protection of Tandy Hills. In the week prior to the meeting Tandy Hills experienced:

 

- Commercial photographers have become more brazen in posing clients in wildflowers

- Multiple, wildflower "dead-zones" have appeared on the meadows

- A lady was caught red-handed digging up Purple Paintbrush, TWICE!

- Discarded photo shoot props including plastic confetti has increased

- Two fires were accidentially set caused by photos shoots

- Several reports of motorcycles and bicycles on the praire

- A Master Naturalist doing research was nearly run over by 2 people on a 4-wheeler

 

The wheels of City government move slow but, at last, the squeaky wheel of Tandy HIlls finally got some greaase. In a follow up email, Zavala promised:

 

- PARD will work with other departments on a communication and education campaign

- FWPD and NPO are more aware of the problems and will have increased presence

- City Attorney's Officewill begin process for adoption of ordinace that protects plants

- Meanwhile, FW Legal Dept. will utilize existing Code 24-8, that restricts access where signs are posted

- City of FW and PARD websites will be updated to refelct these changes

Some of these actions will take months to materialize but, we got their attention and positive change is coming. For now, these two City of FW websites have been updated:

 

City of FW web pages:

https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/news/2021/04/Tandy-Hills-Rules

https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/parks/parks-and-trails/tandy-...

 


The Infamous, Purple Paintbrush Pilferer, was caught red-handed on two occasions and later visited and warned by FWPD.

 

A large bag of freshly dug Purple Paintbrush dropped by the perpetrator.

 

Commercial photgraphers and their clients brazenly ignore posted signs.
 

Thousands of pieces of plastic confetti left on the ground lasts for many years.

 


These folks cleared a large circle of prairie for a photo-shoot.

 


One of two fires caused by photo-shoots gone awry that were extinguished by FWFD.

 


Soon after our meeting with PARD and City officials, several illegal campsites were cleared of debris.

 

 

03) Field Report - April

 

April is always an easy month to get pics of wildflowers to share. My earlier prediction of a massive wilflower display was off a bit but still breathtaking. The pollinators are slowly increasing. The Barn Swallows have returned. Incredible stands of Purple Paintbrush seduce the eyes. The prairie is coming back to life. Here's a peek at what I saw in April from A to Y.

 


A is for Amy Martin (back) who visited Tandy Hills as part of research for her upcoming book, 
Wild Dallas-Fort Worth: Explore the Amazing Nature of North Texas.
She is joined by Don Young & Debora Young and Carly Aulicky, of Native Prairies Assoc. of Texas.

Assasin Bug getting high on Wild Hyacinth

It's been just over 1 year since the acquisition of Broadcast Hill, which was looking pretty in April.

Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) aka Fluttermill, aka Bigfruit Evening Primrose, whatever you call it, is a crowd-peaser.

Prairie Celestial (Nemastylis geminiflora) is one of the shining stars of the Tandy HIlls wildflower cosmos.

A little Skipper sitting pretty atop a Dandelion puff.

An especially fetching specimen of, False Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea).

Fringed Bluestar (Amsonia ciliata var. texana) and Purple Paintbrush were one of several nice pairings in April.

Trailing Antelopehorn Milkweed (Asclepais asperula) amongst the Paintbrush lures a range of pollinators.

Purple Paintbrush and Engelmann Sage (Salvia Engelmannii) is a classic pairing at Tandy Hills.

Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) in a red variant.

Skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii) is having a great year at Tandy Hills.

Spongy Oak Apple Gall Wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) as big as an apple!

Sundrops (Oenothera berlandieri) bewitch with their crepe paper blossoms.

April Sunset before a rain.

Black Swallowtails are back.

Two-leaved Senna (Senna romeriana) adds its cheerful yellow to the prairie.

Texas Vervain (Verbena halei

Dakota Mock Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida) is rather common but pairs beautifully with the gray-green, Wavyleaf Thistle.

Yellow Flax (Linum rigida) is small but striking.

Y is for Yucca (Yucca arkansana). The unopened blooms are remarkably beautiful.

 

04) New Species Report - April

 

The iNaturalist website has a new look and for complicated reasons has changed the way they count new species. For example, sub-species are no longer counted separately. That means, keeping track of new species at Tandy Hills is not an exact science. and doesn't always seem to make sense. That said, we had a tremendous number of new species observed and recorded in April. There were 57 to be exact, bringing the new count to 1451.

 

Sam Kieschnick, 40; Kimberlie Sasan, 14; Bob O'Kennon, 2; Don Young had 1 new species but it was a doozy. See it a few notables below and the Tandy Hills iNat Project Page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 

 


Ambrosia Plume Moth (Adaina ambrosiae) Sam Kieschnick

 


One of the many strange life forms recently discovered at Tandy Hills: Hackberry Horn Gall Midge (Celticecis cornuata) Kimberlie Sasan

 

Wilcox's Caterpillar Hunter (Calosoma wilcoxi) Sam Kieschnick

 

White Spring Moth (Lomographa vestaliata) Sam Kieschnick

 

Smooth Pea Gall Wasp (Diplolepis eglanteriae) attached to White Prairie Rose. Don Young

 

Tandy Hills is one of only two places in the USA where, Smoth Pea Gall Wasp, has been recorded on iNat.

 

05) City Nature Challenge 2021

 

Texas Parks & Wildlife Urban Biologist, Sam Kieschnick sent this message:

 

"The City Nature Challenge (https://citynaturechallenge.org/) is back for the 5th year. D/FW is participating along with over 300 cities around the world to see which urban area has the most biodiversity AND the most citizen scientists to document it.  The dates of the City Nature Challenge are April 30 – May 3, and observations made on iNaturalist, anywhere within the DFW metroplex (Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, and Wise counties) will automatically be added to the project. Everyone is invited to participate.

 

We want to continue to show the rest of Texas and the rest of the world that we have tremendous biodiversity in DFW and that we actively care about and are interested in it.  The data collected is used as ammo to support our argument for wild spaces in the urban ecosystem.  We want parts of DFW to remain wild – we can show this through our participating in the city nature challenge. I hope you’ll join me."

 

If you want to watch the competition in real time, here is the Texas umbrella project that has all of the competing areas in Texas:  https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/texas-city-nature-challenge-2021-cities

 

 

 

06) PrairieSky / StarParty Is Back!

 

After a year off, our monthly star party is tentatively back on track. The City of FW has lifted outdoor gathering restrictions making it possible to resume starting Saturday, May 15. To be on the safe side, the astronomers with Fort Worth Astronomical Society will be wearing masks and ask the public to do the same. Telescope eyepieces will be cleaned after each viewer and you will be asked to keep a bit of social distancing. 

 

The event starts a little before dark and runs to about 10 PM, or so. See the full schedule HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/events/prairie-sky-star-party?fbclid=IwAR3SAg...

 

And now a word from, FWAS rep, Pam Kloepfer, about what to expect in the night sky on May 15:

 

"Last month, we looked at Leo the Lion. The asterism of a backwards question mark or a “sickle” can be seen above. If you continue to track your eyes east, you will see a triangle of sorts that makes up Leo’s hindquarters. Now, grab a pair of binoculars! Continue tracking east and north and you will come to a wonderful open star cluster, also called Mel 111. Some say this is the tuft of Leo’s tail. It is actually part of a faint constellation called Coma Berenices, representing locks of hair belonging to Queen Berenices of Egypt. Mars continues to cross the sky in the constellation Gemini, and two additional planets are now appearing in our early evening skies! Mercury and Venus emerge soon after sunset with visibility increasing as they climb higher in the sky and stay out longer. Mark your calendar for May 28 when they will appear closest in the twilight sky. They will be in the constellation Taurus, home of the lovely Hyades star cluster. Use your binoculars to see it join the planets before it is gone. If you are an early morning person, enjoy Jupiter and Saturn before the sun comes up! The moon will be a waxing crescent the night of May 15, the night FWAS returns to Tandy Hills."

 

 

 

 

07) Earth Day Forever

 

Here are 5 Earth Day greetings with inspiring quotes for 2021 to remind you that Earth Day is a never ending story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

08) Earth Day Feelgood Story

 

A few days before Earth Day, I received an email from, Rose Munoz, a student at Texas Wesleyan University. Rose is the event coordinator for, Grow Getters, a club at TWU that focuses on bettering the environment. She expressed interest in volunteering at Tandy HIlls and also holding an Earth Day event to raise awareness and get other students involved. The event went off as planned with about 20 students participating in picking up trash at the natural area.

 

What inspired Rose to do this? As a 4th grader in 2011 at Meadowbrook Elementary School, her class was among the first to participate in our new outdoor education program, Kids on the Prairie. Rose said that she remembered the field trip fondly and now that she was in college decided to give back to her community. That reflects well on Rose and our groundbreaking outdoor education program that benefitted thousands of kids.

 

Thank you, Rose! We need more people like you.

 


Master Naturalist, Martha Siegel, leading the KOP field trip in 2011. Rose Munoz is second from right.

 

Rose, up front, and fellow classmates at Tandy Hills in 2011.

 

Today, Rose is a student at Texas Wesleyan University.

 

 

Rose, on right, and fellow members of the Grow Getters Club cleaning up at Tandy Hills.

 

Earth Day, 2021

 

09) Prairie Proverb - Eudora Welty

 

"People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths."

 

- Eudora Welty

 
 
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.

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