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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.

Earth Day Redux

Prairie Notes #161
May 1, 2020

01) Earth Day Redux
02) Field Report - April
03) Kids & Family Nature Fun (Indoors & Out)
04) New Species - April
05) The Butterfly Tree
06) The Wisdom of Thoreau
07) PrairieSky / StarParty News
08) Our Wild Backyard
09) Prairie Proverb - Gaylord Nelson

 

01) Earth Day Redux
 

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is too important to not revisit again this issue. I highly recommend you check out several Earth Day reports in Green Source DFW. Satff writer, Jim Domke reported on the local history of Earth Day including, recollections from budding environmentalist and eventual Texas state legislator, Lon Burnam. GreenSource DFW scored a coup with their interview of Denis Hayes, who was hired by then, Senator Gaylord Nelson, as the national Earth Day Organizer in 1970. Finally, local environmental journalist, Amy Martin, writes about how a lifetime of Earth Day experiences contributed to her evolution. Check them all out here: https://www.greensourcedfw.org/articles/gsdfw-celebrates-50th-anniversar...

 

From 2006 - 2015, Prairie Fest was the place to celebrate our connection to the natural world on the first Saturday after Earth Day. It helped revive the local environmental movement and furthered the significance of Earth Day for a new generation.

 

Ever since I discovered Tandy Hills just proir to 1970, it has been my touchstone in rediscovering my appreciation of the natural world and sharing it with you. For Earth Day 2020, I created six messages, one for each decade since Tandy Hills became publc land in 1960. I hope they remind you of how truly blessed we are to have this environmental treasure so close to home. 

 

DY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02) Field Report - April

 

A wonderful mix of cool, warm, wet and dry aided the spring wildflowers as the prairie reaches for its highest potential! Several species seem to be flowering earlier in 2020 including, Barbara's Buttons. Greenthread is more robust than recent years, covering large swaths of prairie. As of this writing, Indian Blanket and Prairie Bishop's Weed are just starting to pop. That will happen fast and the prairie will be knee-deep in color by mid-May. There are so many colors you may imagine you are walking into a cathedral full of stained glass windows. Come on in and please, please, please.....stay on trails. 

 


Sunset on April 7th highlighted the White Winecups.

 


Magic on the prairie.

 

There is no doubt as to the coordinates of this Eastern Bluebird.

 

FOTHNA volunteers, Raul, Loraine and Joe, installed several new signs warning of City of FW Code violations for trampling wildflowers.

 


Unfortunately, many visitors to Tandy Hills meadows seem to be illiterate.

 


Sensitive Briar reveals its magic in April.

 


Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly

 


Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) is uncommon at Tandy Hills.

 


False Foxglove casts a magical glow in certain light.

 


Winecup in all phases from bud to full bloom to faded bloom.

 


Southern Spreadwing Damselfly

 


Purple Prairie Paintbrush is glorious as usual.

 

Missouri Primrose is a delightful presence right now and even better when its fruit ripens.

 


Purple Coneflowers are now blooming and thriving.

 


Coneflowers are full of pollen for pollinators like this American Lady Butterfly.

 


And this Common Buckeye.

 


Arkansas Yucca is looking good.

 


Seven Spotted Lady Beetle

 


A visit to Barbara's Button Hill is like entering a dream world.

 


Barbara's Buttons thrive in the limestone soil at Tandy Hills.

 

Kern's Flower Scarabs like 'em, too.

 


I had to include this pic because it shows so many colors and species in on square yard.

 

03) Kids & Family Nature Fun (Indoors & Out)

 

- Michael Smith's, Treefrog Times, is a nature journal for kids and parents. You will find cool stories and activities for home-bound kids. Recommended. Here's the latest issue and it's absolutely FREE! Check it out HERE: https://jsdragons.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/treefrog-times-april-b-202...

 

 

- Just in time for spring and these stressful times, Friends of Tandy Hills has published their award-winning, Kids on the Prairie field journal online. The journal exceeds STEM and STEAM standards for 4th graders and is useful for most age groups. Home schoolers (that's everyone right now) will find it helpful in family field trips to Tandy Hills. Best of all....It's a FREE download partly made possible with a generous donation from the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club. Get it HERE:

 

https://www.tandyhills.org

 

 

 

04) New Species - April

 

We had a decent crop of new species in April including, two new Hawks. The City Nature Challenge brought out a few Master Naturalists and there were some intrepid explorers of the newly acquired acreage. The new species total as of April 30 is, 1315. Here's the full April list and a few favorite observations.

 

Bilobed Looper Moth (Megalographa biloba), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Case-bearing Leaf Beetle (Pachybrachis dubiosus), Conchuela Bug (Chlorochroa ligata), Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Sunflower Seed Maggot (Neotephritis finalis), Sweet Scabious (Sixalix atropurpurea), Three-cornered Alfalfa Hopper (Spissistilus festinus), Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila), White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) and Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus).

 

Visit the Tandy Hill iNaturalsit page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 


White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), photo by Sam Kieschnick
 

Three-cornered Alfalfa Hopper (Spissistilus festinus), photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), photo by, Adam Cochran

 

Conchuela Bug (Chlorochroa ligata), photo by Brent Franklin

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), photo by Don Young

 

05) The Butterfly Tree

 

If your eyes and ears are wide open, Tandy Hills never fails to deliver new experiences, especially in the spring. Lady Luck helps, too. One late afternoon in mid-April, I followed my dog, Tulip, down into the Tandy Hills bottomlands where the forest meets the easternmost creek. It was close to 7 pm and the Sun had passed over the hill, so it was a bit dark in there.

 

A deep layer of Oak leaves crunched underfoot and a tangle of briars kept my instincts sharp. I was looking for a nearby water hole where Tulip would likely be soaking. Suddenly, I saw a flash of movement and bright color coming from the large Oak tree in front of me. Stepping closer, I observed a magical kingdom of a dozen or so butterflies excitedly fluttering around a pencil-sized hole in the tree. Below the hole, the bark had an orange-ish stain. 

 

I observed at least 3 species of very excited butterflies along with gnats, flies, wasps and other insects each fighting to get their probocis or mouths into the hole which was possibly the work of a Woodpecker. There was apparently something delectable seeping out they were fighting over. I watched for several minutes as dozens of them came and went. A week later I looked again and the party was still going strong.

 

You can watch a short video I made of the Butterfly Tree, HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__8-9dXE2f0

 

 

 


I wondered if this is the same Question Mark that hatched on my porch.

Tulip found what she was looking for.

 

06) The Wisdom of Thoreau

 

On April 9, the New York Times published an essay by, Holland Cotter, that discusses how Thoreau's seclusion at Walden offers lessons for us coping with a pandemic today.

 

"The education further entailed a total immersion in Nature — in plants, in seasons, in stars, in all creatures four-legged, winged and scaled. For Thoreau, Nature was a communicating consciousness, and he wanted to make himself available to it, antennas raised. Full receptivity required removal from ego-driven clamor, which was how, in his most stressed moments, he viewed human discourse."

 

https://www.nytimes.com/…/thoreau-walden-coronavirus-quaran…

 


Image courtesy of New York Public Library

 

07) PrairieSky / StarParty Report

 

We had to cancel again in April. The next event is scheduled for May 30 but a decision to hold the event is still up in the air. (No pun intened.) As we get closer to that date, we will announce our decision on Facebook. Here's a few words from, Fort Worth Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer:

 

"During this time of limited socializing, it may not be possible to hold our star parties. The month of May offers some targets in the sky that you can locate just by “looking up!" The Big Dipper is very easy to recognize overhead. It is always a fun challenge to try and spot the double stars of Mizar and Alcor in the middle of the handle. Mizar is the brighter of the two stars; let your eyes adjust to distinguish its fainter companion. During ancient times, being able to view these two stars naked-eye was considered a test of good vision! Venus will also continue to shine brightly in the West, and check out the moon at the beginning of the month where it will wax to full on May 7."

 

 

08) Our Wild Backyard

 

I often write about our front yard on View street is essentially an extension of Tandy Hills 230 arces of wildness. It was especially wild during the month of April. 

 

On April 10th, we observed a Fox Squirrel eating several of our heirloom roses. I did not know Squirrels ate roses. Did you? Then, on Earth Day, I happened to see a butterfly chrysalis on the front porch next to the mailbox. Two days later I remembered to look again and, voila!, a Question Mark Butterfly, still wet, had just emerged. Finally, on the first day of the City Nature Challenge, we looked out the back window to see a young Cottontail Rabbit munching on out overgrown grass. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09) Prairie Proverb - Gaylord Nelson

 

"If we continue to address the issue of the environment as though we are the only species that lives here, we'll create a disaster for ourselves."

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”

 

 

- Gaylord Nelson, (1916 - 2005), Founder of Earth Day, U.S. Senator, Governor of Wisconsin, consumer advocate and civil rights champion.