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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.

After the Rain

Prairie Notes #177
September 1, 2021

01) After the Rain
02) 
Field Report - August
03) New Species - August
04) Parks For Pollinators Bioblitz - September
05) PrairieSky / StarParty - September
06) Giving Day - September 23rd
07) Prairie Bookshelf
08) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau

01) After the Rain

 

I was sitting at my computer on August 29, composing this issue of Prairie Notes, dreading the predicted two more weeks of hot summer days with no rain in sight. I was also recovering from a dreadful summer cold that had kept me homebound for most of August. Out of the blue came a thunderclap that shattered my concentration. An hour later 2" of much needed rain had fallen on Tandy HIlls.

 

That was enough to pull me out of my summer doldrums. As soon as the rain stopped the sun came out and I grabbed my hat and camera, pulled on my big mud boots and headed out to witness the magic that happens after the rain.

 

Just a few steps in I was greeted by a beautifully wild Cottontail Rabbit, shaking off raindrops as she foraged under some wet trees. We acknowledged each others existence and I headed down the trail passing some lovely, False Gaura and Snow on the Prairie plants glistening with water drops in the setting sun. My main destination was a nice stand of Eryngo, currently in its prime and a reliable place to find a variety of insects inhabiting it's universe of thorny leaves and pine-appley-flowers.

 

Soon enough I was eyball to eyeball with a few Preying Mantis, and their prey of bees, bugs and flies. I also found myself marveling at the Eryngo plants themselves, so boldly complex and colorful, dripping with pollen and H2O diamonds. It's no wonder insects are so attracted to Eryngo.

 

It was then I saw a vivid, Green Lynx Spider, possibly the same one that shed it's skin a month ago. (See PN # 176) That's when the drama began. As you may recall from last years (PN #165: A Sleepin' Bee Done Told Me), Green Lynx Spiders prey on sleeping Bumble Bees. That was exactly the case this evening. I saw the bee first just as it snuggled up to the Eryngo flower. It was instantly asleep and motionless as the sun hit the horozon. Then I noticed the spider inching closer to the bee, one spiky leg at a time. Then IT stopped moving. Hmm, I read that they attacked in a flash of speed. Duly noted.

 

As dusk descended over me, I hunkered down to watch the spider move in for the kill. Alas, the spider was in no hurry and it was getting dark so, after a few minutes I decided to come back next moring. On my way out I passed some enchanting, thumb-sized mushrooms lined up on a log and a spider web the size of a sheet. Nature is truly amazing, especially after a rain.

 

Next morning was bight and sunny. I hiked straight to the spot of the expected spider / bee crime scene to take a look. Surprisingly, the spider had not moved a muscle since the night before, one of his legs still extended towards the bee. The bee was gone. That was probably it buzzing around the Eryngo flowers nearby. So, in this case, the situation was reversed, and it was the the spider who was sleeping while the bee lived another day.

 

 

DY

 

 


A Cottontail Rabbit greeted me as I hiked into Tandy Hills after the rain.

Snow on the Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor) got a good soaking.

Magnificent stands of Eryngo can be found at their peak in September. They are also popular hangouts for insects of all kinds.

I found myself marvelling at the bold beauty of Eryngo.

Preying Mantis blend and contrast so well with their summer home.

 


Hanging upside down is how they are most often seen.

 


Tiny eyes alertly survey my presence.

 


Mantis are one of natures contortionists.

 


Still dripping wet form a 2" rain the Mantis awaits dinner guests.

 


This is what attracts the bees and their prey.

 


I came upon a potential murder in progress as the Green Lynx spider slowly stalked the sleeping Bumble Bee.

 


On my way home after the spider-bee encounter, I passed these delightful Sulcate Sunhead Mushrooms (Heliocybe sulcata)

 


This giant spider web stood out in the rain-drenched woodland.

 


Returning next morning, I found the bee was gone and the spider had not moved an inch, still reaching for the Bumble Bee prey.

 

 

02) Field Report - August

 

August is always a challenging month to be outside in North Texas especially if you have a summer cold like I did. But striking out for the prairie on a hot summer evening proved to be just the medicine I needed. Despite the parched landscape, there were a few species blooming such as Eryngo, False Gaura and Two-leafed Senna. Not far away, butterflies and other pollinators were drifting across the hills searching for those elusive few wildflowers. And of course, the autumn prairie grasses are thriving.

 

As I write this on August 29, rain is pouring down on Tandy Hills. That's good since we are in for a long stretch of summertime temps for the next couple of weeks before fall starts settling in. The autumnal equinox is September 22. Come on in and watch it happen.

 


Fall is all about prairie grass like this stand of hundred year old Big Bluestem.

 


LIttle Bluestem is a joy to see and looks good from every angle.

 

 

A Black Vulture about to do nature's clean-up work.

 


A Bee Assasin Bug dining al fresco.

 


A Smooth Sumac tree (Rhus glabra) showing its fall colors a bit early.

 


Resilient, Two-leaved Senna (Senna roemeriana) wildflowers have been blooming since June.

 


A striking fall wildflower, Osage False Foxglove (Alanis densiflora) about to bloom.

 


Sweat Bees are among the many pollinators who crave Eryngo flowers in late summer.

 


A delicate quartet of Narrowleaf Indian Breadroot (Pediomelum linearifolium) flowers.

 


As summer fades, Slender False Pennyroyal (Hedeoma acinoides) still thrives on the prairie.

 


I spied a pair of Scudder's Bush Katydids on a late summer hike. They move very slowly like Preying Mantis but are herbivores.

 

This one posed heroically on Eryngo.

 


Prickly Pear tunas glowing in the light of a summer sunset.

 

 


Hairy Ruellia (Ruellia humilis) in both white and purple.

 

Life is good on the prairie after a little rain.

 


Yellow Compassplant (Silphium laciniatum) flowers are strating to set their fall seed.

 


Summer Sunset after the rain.

 

 

03) New Species - August

 

There were 47 new species added in August, bringing the new count to 1585. Most were observed and recorded by, Sam Kieschnick

 

One notable but, rather unpretentious-looking new species is, the Beaded Lacewing. Its larvae feed on termites. They are notable for the WAY they immobilize their prey: by “releasing a vapor-phase toxicant.” Put bluntly, they fart on their prey, striking down several at a time. It brings new meaning to the axiom, "Silent but deadly." Read more about that HERE.

 

See the Lacewing and a few other notables below and the Tandy Hills iNat Project Page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 


Termites should steer clear of the, Beaded Lacewing (Lomamyia squanosa) known for their deadly farts. Pic by Sam Kieschnick

 


Evergreen Bagworm Moth (Dicromantispa interrupta) Pic by Sam Kieschnick

 


Meet the very strange-looking, Four-spotted Mantidfly (Dicromantispa interrupta). Pic by Sam Kieschnick

 


Running Crab Spider (G. Philodromus) pic by Sam Kieschnick

 


Not a new species but a rare one to find: Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer. photo and ID by, frank-g
 

 

04) Parks For Pollinators Bioblitz

 

The City of Fort Worth Park & Recreation Department (FW-PARD) is sponsoring a citywide bioblitz during the month of September. Participants are invited to help FW-PARD create a snapshot of the woildlife at city parks. There are a few special events planned for various parks around town. See the full list at the city website HERE. No special events are planned at Tandy Hills but you are welcome to come on in and add to the iNaturalsit database for Tandy Hills. Kudos to the City for recognizing the natural world that exists beyond soccer fields and sidewalks.

 

 

 

05) PrairieSky / StarParty - September

 

A small-ish crowd and 8 astronomers attended the hot as heck August party. The next star party is Saturday, September 11. Pam Kloepfer of partner, FW Astronomical Society, offers the following sky report fopr September:

 

"Even though autumn begins in late September, it does not mean the end of the summer constellations! We will continue to see them heading west in the coming harvest months. With the sun setting earlier as the month marches on, September nights will be getting longer for star gazing! Scorpius and the Teapot will still be visible low in the southwest. Cygnus the Swan will be overhead with its famous double star, Albireo. A telescope will reveal that Albireo is a beautiful double star of gold and blue. The star Deneb in Cygnus is one of the Summer Triangle along with Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila, also easily visible overhead. The Great Square of Pegasus will rise in the east. Stellar Saturn and Jovian Jupiter will shine-on all night and all month. Behold their stunning rings, dark bands, and extraneous moons through the lens of an eyepiece! The Moon will be a waxing crescent on September 11."

 

 

 

06) Giving Day - September 23rd

 

North Texas Giving Day is September 23rd. Early Giving starts today. Please remember Friends of Tandy Hills when making donations. Check out our profile and make an early donation HERE:

 

https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/friends-of-tandy-hills-natural-area-inc

 

 

 

07) Prairie Bookshelf

 

 

> > > Echinacea Isn’t Itself Anymore, is the title of a report in the New York Times about the hybridization of the iconic prairie wildflower. Read it HERE.

 

 

> > > Wolfwalkers is a not-just-for-kids animated movie based on Irish folklore with strong environmental themes. Nature mystics rejoice! Two thumbs way up! 

See the trailer HERE

 

 

> > > Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau, is a new book title from Princeton University Press. Someone asked: "Do we really need another Thoreau book?" Hell yes! This one is due in October and features essays by 27 contemporary writers, all of them are near the top of their fields and major award winners including several Pulitzer finalists. In other words not the usual famous nature writers you would expect. The book’s title comes from words Thoreau reportedly spoke as he neared his death, in 1862. Read a review HERE.

 

 

08) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau

 

"Now comes good sailing."

 

- Henry David Thoreau's last words, as he lay dying in 1862, at age 44. It is also the title of a new book of essays. (See #07 above)

 

 

 

 

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.