You are here

Prairie Notes header

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.

High Drama Prairie

Prairie Notes #174
June 1, 2021

01) High Drama Prairie
02) 
Field Report - May
03) New Species - May
04) Vandalism Report - May
05) Nature Journaling w/ Debora Young
06) PrairieSky / StarParty - June
07) In Praise of Yucca & Prickly Pear
08) People On the Prairie
09) I.D.E.A.S. Students Deliver Ideas
10) Prairie Proverb - Groundhog Day

01) High Drama Prairie

 

Thanks to a vast new archive of newspaper reports at my disposal, going back more than 100 years, I am giddily researching the often dramatic history of Tandy Hills-Stratford Parks. The things I've learned are often surprising and sometimes shocking. As I read these old reports, I feel like Bill Murrary's character in the film, Groundhog Day. History repeats itself over and over. There must be a way out!

 

I've made new discoveries about the many people and groups who have worked for decades to protect it, many of whom are new to me. There were passionate people from decades ago who fought to save the land from motorized vehicles and other vandals, even the City of Fort Worth itself. More on that angle in a later issue.

 

That's a familiar refrain, actually, and one the Friends of Tandy Hills know quite well. Truth is, the land was always on tenuous footing with the powers that be. For example: In 1924, a local real estate company donated about 70 acres to the city for a public park to surround their new development known as, Stratford. Those acres turned out to be the beginning of what we now know as Tandy Hills Natural Area.

 

But by the 1950's, the city decided they didn't need the land and tried to sell it to a different developer. Thanks to a group of passionate neighborhood advocates, the city backed off. Fast forward a few years later on April 22, 1960 and the city purchased an adjacent 105 acres that would later become Tandy Park. But, by 1961, the city, once again, tried desperately to unload those soon to be rare prairie acres.

 

The deal caused was a major controversy at City Hall that splashed dramatically across the front pages of the Star-Telegram. When the land was offered for sale, not a single bid was received. The land was reluctantly kept but soon forgotten by misguided elected officials and once again the land was abused and neglected.

 

Fast forward again to 2004 when the fracking industry put Tandy Hills squarely in their drilling sights. Friends of Tandy Hills helped prevent the city from turning the land into a pad-site but had to battle constantly for years to keep it that way while working to clean up years of dumped trash. That work contiues to this day.

 

Then in 2020, the city purchased Broadcast Hill, adding another 50 acres. The neglect and vandalism still exist but at least the land is finally safe. We hope.

 

The high drama story of Tandy HIlls is keeping it from becoming what it needs to be: Fully protected, once and for all. Like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, I intend to end this madness. Buckle your seatbelts.

 

 

DY

 


The earliest known photo of the Tandy Hills from 1924 article in Star-Telegram.

 


1924 newspaper ad for Stratford neighborhood.

A short distance away, and about the same time, another new neighborhood was forming. (1924 Star-Telegram)

 


1960 news report on acquisition of Tandy Hills land.

 


 

December 29, 1961 report on efort to sell recently purchased Tandy Hills land.

 

Star-Telegram report on acquisition of Broadcast Hill in 2020.
 

 

02) Field Report - May

 

May 2021 was one of the busiest months for Friends of Tandy Hills in a long time. But for the natural area itself, May was all about the rain and more rain that muddied the trails, watered the prairie and filled the creeks and bottomlands. I imagine the seeps are full as we head into summer. Several species, including, Yucca, Diamond-flowers and the Cacti's are having an incredible year. As you might expect, fungi species are well, mushrooming! See those and the usual amazing sunsets and mystic meadows below.

 


Tandy Falls was predictably roaring with rain water in May.

 


May 3rd

 


A nice spray of White Milkwort.

 


Sensitive Briar aka: Pink Puff

 


A flock of Mississippi Kites made theier annual pilgrimage over Tandy Hills.

 


Dramatic sunset on May 3rd,

 


Thunderstorms lit up the skyline above Tandy Hills on May 3rd.

 


Magical light on May 19.

 


May 19

 


On May 24th the Prairie Bishop-weed was adding it's white filigree to the Iconic Meadow.

 


Texas Yellow Star

 


Texas Yellow Star seeds are deftly arranged for efficient dispersal.

 


Trailing Ratany flower buds.

 


Queens Delight 

 


Yellow Greenthread starts to fill in the Iconic Meadow.

 


Diamond-flowers are more abundant than usual this year.

 


Pollinator bug on Indian Plantain.

 


Beautiful patch of Skullcap brightens the prairie.

 


White Winecup on a rainy day.

 


The view from atop a prairie hill, looking west, after the rain.

Dramatic, post-rainstorm sunset June 31, 2021.

03) New Species Report - May

 

There were 41 new species added in May, bringing the new count to 1492. A super-busy, Sam Kieschnick, found time to visit and added at least 15 of them. Due to weather conditions, several new fungi species were discovered.

 

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

 


Typical Treehopper (Glossonotus acuminatus), photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


Feather-edged Petrophila Moth, photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


Common Funnel (Infundibulicybe gibba) photo by, mechols7

 


Ruby Bolete (Hortiboletus rubellus), photo by, mechols7
 

04) Vandalism Report - May

 

You know things are bad when we have to add this line item to Prairie Notes. The slo-mo destruction of Tandy Hills contiues despite recent meeting with City of FW officials who have promised better protection. Despite the current troubles noted below, I remian convinced that better protection is coming. I can promise you that I will be an even squeakier wheel in the coming months.

 

On a positive note, I am pleased to report that, after my recent meeting with, Richard Zavala, Director of Park & Rec, the City of Fort Worth has followed through with their promise to upgrade ordinances that apply to Tandy Hills. These upgrades allow FWPD to issue citations to off-trail photographers and other vandals, at their discretion. The other ordinance makes it unlawful to use the natural area to sell goods and/or services. Enforcement, again, at FWPD discretion, is the key phrase.

 

Temporary stickers were installed on May 11 until new, permanent signs are printed. This is a positive step forward in getting protection for Tandy Hills. Great big THANKS! to FW-PARD for following up with their promise to me.

 


Bikers were observed illegally entering Tandy Hills on May 22. They drove all over the muddy trails adding to erosion woes.

 


This very early photo shoot forced me out of bed before I was ready to confront these law-breakers.

 


Un-happy birthday for Tandy Hills.

 


How much is too much? This is too much.

A prohibited April photo shoot on a View Street meadow. . .

. . . still resembled a hog wallow weeks later. The participants ignored and temporaily removed the sign for ther photo.

 


Temporary sign posted by FW-PARD

 

Ya'll stay on trail now. The Hammer is watching.

 

05) Nature Journaling w/ Debora Young

 

Betcha didn't know that the first week of June is International Nature Journaling Week. Not coincidentially, Friends of Tandy Hills co-founder and all-around volunteer, Debora Young, was invited by the Fort Worth Library, to lead a nature journaling event in June. She will lead adult participants to various sites within Tandy Hills, and provide instruction on outdoor sketching, art techniques and appreciation of our native prairie landscape. 

 

There are two sessions scheduled: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 3, and 10 a.m. Saturday, June 5. Rain dates will be announced, as neededSee full details HERE.

 

 

06) PrairieSky / StarParty - June

 

Our first time back in more than a year was rained out in May. We will try again on June 19. Here is the report from FW Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer:

 

Daylight lengthens our days in June, testing our patience to commence star-gazing! As the sun sets and the sky darkens, Venus will pop out in the west. It will be visible near a slender crescent moon on June 11. If you have binoculars, search for the Beehive Cluster near the crescent moon and Mars on the eve of June 13. The Beehive Cluster will appear to Venus’ east at the end of the month. Jupiter and Saturn remain morning planets continuing to improve in visibility as the month goes on, for those of you who are early risers! 

 

Continue to watch the Big Dipper as it changes its position around Polaris nightly. This is a good time of the year to start searching for Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. This is a lovely half-circle of stars patiently visible to the naked eye north east of Arcturus. To find Arcturus, locate the Big Dipper and follow the handle down to the bright star. The Moon will be in the waxing gibbous phase on June 19. 

 

 

07) In Praise of Yucca & Prickly Pear

 

The Yucca and Cacti of Tandy Hills are looking better this year than any I can recall. The Yucca, in particular, are putting on a magnificent show. Although both are often mistakenly thought of as Cacti, probably due to thier water-retaining abilities, they are not related. Yucca is an agave.

 

The Tandy Hills iNaturalist project lists 3 species of Yucca and 8 of Cacti. Five of the Cacti are Prickly Pear (Genus Optunia) which are fairly common here. The other two, Grooved Nipple Cactus and Missouri Foxtail Cactus are very uncommon and hard to locate. (This is probably a good thing since rare cactus is a growing illicit market.)

 

Arkansas Yucca is the most common species. Their stalks are covered in thick, off-white blooms. I've observed that a few specimens tend to have pink-hued flowers. Glen Rose Yucca is another species found here. Hybrids are known to exist here, as well. The Yucca is also a host plant for the Yucca Moth.

 

Prickly Pear is especially enticing to a variety of beetles and other pollinators. This time of year it is normal to see the flowers crammed with them. I'va slo noted that, prairie rats like to make their dens under these cacti, for obvious security reasons. As you can see below, other critters like to hide inside these prickly places, too.

 

Engelmann's Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii) nestled inside a field of Engelmann Sage.

 


Prickly Pear blooms are enticing to bugs and people, too.

 


Perhaps a dozen or so Kern’s Flower Scarabs wriggling inside this Prickly Pear flower with a few other bugs watching.

 


A Texas Flower Scarab (Trichiotinus texanus), snuggling up to a cactus flower.

 


Can you spot the critter?

 

Grooved Nipple Cactus (Coryphantha sulcata) is very rare at Tandy Hills.

Grooved Nipple Cactus (Coryphantha sulcata) up close.

A magnificent stand of Arkansas Yucca. Some are 6' tall and surrounded by an array of prairie wildflowers. See video HERE.

Uncommon, pink-hued Yucca appears in the same place every year.


A variety of bugs are attracted to Yucca plants for various reasons.

08) People On the Prairie

 

The month of May was unusually busy for Friends of Tandy Hills. Besides the usual business of battling commercial photographers and 4-wheeler vandals we made time for the following:

 

-- In early May, Tandy Hils was site of a Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) video shoot for their Level 4, Native Landscape Certification Program called, Stewardship of Native Plant Communities. The visit to Tandy Hills was led by, Suzanne Tuttle. Videographer was, Bill Hopkins with an assist from Sandy Fountain. Interviewees were FOTHNA reps, Don & Debora Young and Michelle Villafranca with the City of FW. The resulting video can be found HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tynn3qPw5hI

 

-- On May 8, Friends of Tandy Hills hosted a group of enthusiastic Girl Scouts from Burleson. Don & Debora Young organized and led the hike across the hills and forests of Tandy HIlls. The kids learned about wildflowers like, Foxglove, Yucca, Pink Puffs and Milkweed and critters that depend on them. The obligatory Spittlebug was popular. The kids also learned about the importance of staying on trail. Everyone had a blast.

 

-- May 13 marked another important milestone for Tandy Hills as the first archaeological survey began. The survey is a required prerequisite of an all new trail system that will be completed this year with a grant Friends of Tandy Hills received from Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. AR Consultants, Inc., was contracted by the Friends last year to conduct the survey. Kathryn Crater Gershtein, spent a few days here doing shovel tests and looking for artifacts. Nothing was found so the new trail work can commence ASAP. https://www.arc-digs.com

 

-- Finally, on May 27, I spent a delightful hour on the Iconic Prairie at Tandy Hills with Kim Conrow and Gordon Scruggs of the Native Plant Society of Texas. We were there to be interviewed by, Rachel Behrndt, of The Fort Worth Report, for an upcoming story on native plants and their importance to north Texas. It will be published on this brand new news service, Thursday, June 3. LINK: https://fortworthreport.org

 


Still from NPSOT video, Stewardship of Native Plant Communities. L-R: Don/Debora Young, Suzanne Tuttle, Michelle Villafranca.

 


About a dozen Girl Scouts of all ages had a guided field trip at Tandy Hills.

 

 

 

 


Kathryn Crater-Gershstein, of AR Consultants, about to stat her archaeological survey.

 

Katie at work digging, sifting and recording her observations.

 

Rachel Behrendt, of the Fort Worth Report, interviewing Kim Conrow & Gordon Scruggs of NPSOT.

 

09) I.D.E.A.S. Students Deliver Ideas

 

Friends of Tandy Hills have been partnering with a special program at Fort Worth ISD during the spring 2021 semester to design a physical or technical solution to benefit Friends of Tandy Hills. The class called, I.D.E.A.S. (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences), is a public high school, college credit course. It's a work/study, makerspace collaborative course in which students work with a community partner to solve real-world problems. The dozen or so students presented their final projects to us today via a Zoom conference. All of them were interesting and uselful. See an upcoming Prairie Notes for the full details.

 

I would like to share one student's work-in-progress that stood out for me. It's a bit over my head but, in essence, he created a kind of virtual Tandy Hills video game in a program called Roblox. It will likely appeal to younger folk and I found it to be a new and fascinating way to increase public awareness of Tandy Hills. I think you will agree that this is something special. Click this LINK to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQZjPPjFM3c

 


Still from the Roblox game.

 

10) Prairie Proverb - Groundhog Day

 

“There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

 

- Phil Connors, played by actor, Bill Murray, in the 1993 film, Groundhog Day.

 

 

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.