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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.

And That's the Way It Was

Prairie Notes #156
December 1, 2019

01) And That's the Way It Was
02) Field Report - November
03) Star Notes
04) New Species - November
05) Photo Frenzy Threatens THNA
06) Bois d'Arc Tree Discovery
07) Manly Men Wild Women Hike - RSVP
08) Prairie Proverb - Walter Cronkite

01) And That's the Way It Was

 

The year 2019 was filled with amazing wildflowers, wildlife and wild weather. We had an incredible spring wildflower season starting with Trout Lilies in early February and ending with Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchids in November. We had a series of mysterious, un-presribed burns in early January that did wonders for the prairie. The discovery that Eastern Bluebirds have apparently nested at Tandy Hills was a high point of the year, helping the overall species count take a big leap in 2019. 

 

We received no major awards or honors, as we have in recent years but, a few Friends did. Aside from the current photo frenzy fad on our beloved prairie, Tandy Hills & Friends experienced a relatively laid back year. Here's bullet-point summary:

 

  • The 10th annual Manly Men Wild Women Hike attracted a nice crowd of 50 hikers to start the year.
  • Kids on the Prairie hosted a few small groups and helped train Master Naturalists for future KOP field trips.
  • The FASH Foundation gifted the KOP program with another generous grant.
  • The Trout Lily Walk w/Sam Kieschnick drew a sizable crowd,
  • PrairieSky / StarParty enjoyed a good year of appreciative and curious crowds and fewer rainouts than 2018.
  • The Tandy Hills iNaturalst page recorded 192 new species, a hefty increase over last year. (1257 species as of, December 1)
  • North Texas Giving Day donations totaled $2,613, a $400 increase over 2018.
  • Individual donations from people like you also came through bigly in 2019.
  • The Tandy HIlls Facebook page had explosive growth again in 2019.
  • Prairie Posse had a few productive work days, clearing the View Street meadows.
  • Friends of Tandy Hills volunteers were honored by City of Fort Worth Parks Board.
  • On a sad note, FOTHNA Friend and supporter, Barbara Taylor, passed away in 2019.
  • Friends of Tandy Hills partnered with Amon Carter Museum of American Art for an upcoming exhibition.
  • The much-delayed TP&WD Trails Improvement Grant Project moved incrementally forward in 2019.
  • Sam Kieschnick, DFW Solar Tour and Andrew Brinker, all Friends of Tandy Hills, came up winners of Green Source DFW awards

And that's the way it was in 2019. Don Young reporting for, THNA Monthly News.


The way into the mystic of Tandy Hills.
 

2) Field Report - November

Oaks and Orchids stole the show in November but, Asters and Broomweed are still hanging on to the final bright colors of fall. Finally, a surprise post-Thanksgiving fog rolled in on cat's paws to end the month of November with a flourish. Come on in and see!


Fading seed heads of Gayfeather (Liatris sp) catch and release the setting November sun.

It's an annual challenge to find the first Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum).

There aren't many specimens but each one is a miracle of nature.

The heady aroma is by far the sweetest of any plant at Tandy Hills. They are still blooming in late November,

Late Purple Asters (Symphyotrichum patens) wishing us a cheerful goodbye until next year.

I shot an exhilarating short video of this joyful Turkey Vulture (Cathares aura) you can watch HERE.

Trailing Antelopehorns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) looking to the future.

This restful scene of a Red Oak grove caught my eye in mid-November.

Same grove from a different angle up the hill.

A few days later I was greeted by this arreesting view of the same grove as I came out of a Cedar forest.

The colors of the leaves had reached their apex just before Thanksgiving Day. Watch my video of this scene: HERE.

A closer look revealed the near candy-colored quality was peaking beautifully.

A lovely fall sunset at Tandy Hills on November 24

3) Star Notes

We are very thankful to the Fort Worth Astronomical Society for continuing the monthly PrairieSky / StarParty at Tandy Hills for the 4th year. Roughly 50 people showed up every month from March to November to observe and learn about the night sky from enthusiastic experts. Thank you FWAS for your continued service to the community! See you in March 2020.

No star party will happen in December but, here's what you can watch for wherever you can see the night sky:

"December heralds the arrival of the magnificent winter constellations. The Pleiades star cluster can be seen almost directly overhead all night long. Look for a small dipper shape. The star Aldebaran marks the “red eye” of Taurus the Bull and follows the Pleiades. To the south is awesome Orion the Hunter, a huge constellation easily distinguishable by three stars in a row marking his belt. Follow the belt to the bright star Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky. Also known as the “Dog Star,” Sirius is in the constellation Canis Major - Orion’s dog! All of these targets are easily visible by just looking up; the Pleiades is stellar in a pair of binoculars!" 

4) New Species - November

There were four new species observed in October, two by Loraine DG and two by Don YoungSouthern Red Oak (Quercus falcata), Shining Sumac (Rhus copallinum) Chinese PIstache (Pistacia chinensis) and Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) are the new species, bringing the current count to 1258. As of this writing, only one is confirmed as Research Grade. Check current status HERE.


Shining Sumac (Rhus copallinum), photo & ID by Loraine DG.

Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata) photo & ID by, Loraine DG.

Chinese Pistaiche (Pistacia chinensis). Photo & ID by Don Young

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) part of a large flock that crossed over Tandy Hills on November 10. Photo & ID by Don Young

5) Photo Frenzy Threatens THNA

I've written previously about my concerns with the current fad of photographic portraiture at Tandy Hills. It is my duty to report that the trend has grown rapidly over the past few months, threatening to spread beyond the now overrun trailhead area. Posted signs requesting photographers stay on trail and not pose their subjects on the Iconic meadows along View Street are mostly ignored. In fact, all of the posted signs were stolen this fall.  

Having closely observed this trend over the past year I can say that, most of the photographers and their customers are clueless about Tandy Hills. Their main reason for being here is becuase it's centrally located with a view of downtown and it's free. FW Nature Center and Botanic Gardens, for example, charge photograpers a fee and have strict rules in place and enforced. Ironically, people pose for "nature scenes" with total disregard or ignorance for the nature surrounding them. 

This trend started 3 years ago when a single photographer posted about Tandy Hills on the internet. The post gradually went viral and spread exponentially. What used to be an occasional annoyance has become a daily free-for-all. A typical afternoon involves 50+ vehicles and hundreds of frenzied people bringing in props such as, couches, chairs, Christmas trees, toys, vehicles, etc., etc.

Celabratory plastic confetti is tossed indiscriminately. Birthday balloons are foolishly released to cheers. "Gender reveal" smoke bombs explode colored smoke that settles in the canyons where birds and other wildlife call home. Trash is nonchalantly left for others to clean up. 

This is not the Tandy Hills that we have spent decades preserving.

Why is this a problem? New trails are created nealry every day. The concept of, "Leave No Trace", is disregarded when a profit margin is at stake. Once a new trail or posing spot is created, others think it must be OK. Gradually, the plants are tromped down and photographers look for yet another place to pose. Imagine what Tandy Hills will look like when spring wildflowers return and hundreds of people a day want to pose in untrampled meadows.

The magnificent Iconic View Street Prairie Meadows that should be vigilantly protected will instead be tromped on, picked over and dumped on so fake-smiling people can show off on Facebook and a few photogaphers can cash in. (The growing competiveness of photograpers for newer and better photo-ops to attract clients is a real factor in the current problem.)

What is the solution? The city needs to step forward and enforce the same rules as the FW Nature Center. FOTHNA can't manage this photo-op frenzy alone. We are not nature cops, we are educators and prairie preservers. Despite 15 years of dedicated stewardship by FOTHNA including, statewide recognition and numerous honors, tens of thousands of volunteer hours and many thousands of dollars spent on restoration and outdoor education, Tandy Hills is STILL not protected to the extent it should be, as a "natural area." 

This must change before next spring. 


Seven days a week vehicles carying hundreds of people stretch 3 blocks to get photos of themselves.

You name it and they haul it in for photo portrait props.

Couches, giant Teddy bears, wrapped presents, even a fake Christmas tree definitely left traces of this commercial photo-op visit.

One photographer cut a new trail through an untouched stand of Sumac. Others soon followed assuming it was a real trail.

Similar scens to this one are repeated every day across the Iconic View Street Meadows creating more and more trails.

Nothing surprises me anymore. The area they used was devoid of wildflowers the rest of the year.

It's a BOY! Gender reveal parties have gone too far at Tandy Hills.

Seeing the daily photo frenzy inspired a neighbor to ride his 4-wheeler across Tandy Hills. He sometimes fires his gun along the way.

Tandy Hills has become a popular spot for balloon releases that end up killing wildlife far from here.

6) Bois d'Arc Tree Discovery

I've been exploring and appreciating Tandy Hills since the late 60's. Every corner of the place and it's botanical treasure is familiar to me. At least, that's what I thought until a few weeks ago, when I inadvertenly and delightedly stumbled onto a large and possibly very old, Bois d'Arc tree (Maclura pomifera). Also known as, Osage-Orange, Bodark and Monkey Ball, the female produces softball-size fruits nicknamed, Horse Apples

This particular specimen is a male thus, no apples, thus making it harder to notice despite being close to the street and despite having a circumference of 120". Nearby trees and grasses helped disguise it from my view all these years. The area along View Street where it grows was once, creekside, before the city altered the landscape and paved the street which may explain the trees existence here and its size/age. The same drainage is also home to the largest Cottonwood trees in the area but rarely noticed by prairie afficionados.

Bois d'Arc trees grow a bit messily with numerous lower limbs sprawling in all directions and with sharp spines. They typically reach a height of 50 feet. The common name, Osage derives from the Native American tribe from whom plants were first obtained, as told in writings of Meriwether Lewis in 1804. Natives valued the iron-like wood for bows and tools due to its strength and flexibility. It is still prized for use in fence posts, woodwind instruments and natural dye. For me, it is simply one of the most beautiful trees at Tandy Hills.


This recently discovered and previously unknown (to me), Bois d'arc tree has a massive 120" circumfrence.

It has character to burn and a lot of history.

7) Manly Men Wild Women Hike - RSVP

January 1, 2020 is just a month away, the same day you'll receive the next Prairie Notes. So, consider this your, aide-to-memorie. Only for brave and demented nature mystics. Feel free to RSVP: info@tandyhills.org

8) Prairie Proverb

"Goddamnit, we've got to get on this environment story."

- Walter Cronkite, angrily addressing the CBS Evening News team on New Years Day, 1970. The fruit of his frustration was a new CBS News series titled, Can the World Be Saved? It aired for an unprecedented ten years premiering the day before the first Earth Day in 1970, and won the first Emmy Award for CBS News .

 

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.