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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.

Miraculous Creek Plum & Its Critters

Prairie Notes #185
May 1, 2022

01) Miraculous Creek Plum & Its Critters
02) Field Report - April
03) New Species - April
04) Trails Project Report
05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report
06) City Nature Challenge_2022
07) Vote YES for Open Space May 7th
08) April 2022 Was Windy On the Prairie
09) The Price of Success?
10) Prairie Proverb - Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

01) Miraculous Creek Plum & Its Critters

 

Tandy Hills is blessed with many amazing species but one of them is often overlooked and unsung. Right at the trailhead, where thousands of people go to take pictures of downtown every day is one of the prettiest stands of Creek Plum you'll ever see. Most photo-oppers walk right by it despite its extreme showiness.

 

Creek Plum (Prunus rivularis) is a thicket-forming shrub in the Rose Family and one of the earliest Spring bloomers to brighten the wintered landscape at Tandy Hills Natural Area. It prefers the limestone-based soil found at Tandy Hills. Although native to north Texas, it is considered uncommon. There are at least three colonies of Creek Plum at THNA. They normally bloom in early-mid March but, like most other species, bloomed about a month later in 2022.

 

What people often miss seeing, pollinators find irresistible. The hearty thicket by the trailhead is a magnificent sight and smell in its prime. The faint aroma of honey attracts a wide variety of pollinators including moths, butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, ants and other bugs. On a windy April 1, I observed a raucous, swirling insect party around the fragrant, white flowers. I even saw some butterflies chasing away others to hog the sweet nectar. (Speaking of "hog", another common name is, Hog Plum.) The aroma was overwhelming and the reddish stems were thick with white flowers. Amazingly, this trailhead thicket was accidentally mowed to the ground about two years ago but has nearly bounced back to its previous vigor.

 

NOTE: In 2010 a thicket on the eastern side of the park produced a nice quantity of multi-colored fruit that I gathered and which Debora Young made into a delicious, Creek Plum tart. Read about that in Prairie Notes #39: Creek Plum Romance, HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/content/creek-plum-romance

 

Watch a brief video of Creek Plum in all its glory HERE: Video: https://www.tandyhills.org/videos/creek-plum-romance

 

 

DY

 

 


A creek Plum thicket is an arresting sight in the dull landscape of early spring.

 


Creek Plum flowers attract people and pollinators.

 

This is the thicket located at the traihead.

 


Fruit of the Creek Plum is about the size of large grapes. This was taken in 2010 the last year they set fruit.

 


There were nearly a dozen Eastern Tiger Swallowtails eagerly swooping form flower to flower.

 


Mournful Thyris Moth in its happy place.

 


A well-traveled, Red Admiral, gorging on Creek Plum pollen.

 


Black Swallowtail's were all over the Creek Plum.

 


Preying Mantis egg case ready to hatch.

 

Monarch butterflies looking stylish on Creek Plum.

 

02) Field Report - April

 

Well, now we know the answer to the question, Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone. After an unprecedented slow start, the Tandy Hills wildflower meadows have returned semi-triumphantly. Nearly 6" of rain happend throughout April to keep the meadows viable. The Iconic Meadow on the east end of View Street is still a couple weeks away from its classic, prairie wildflower carpet, but the purple-tinted, Engelmann Sage, is starting to really take off which pairs perfectly with the pink-ish, Purple Paintbrush. Lots of other wildflowers are coming on every day so plan your visit soon. Peak wildflower time will probaly be mid-May.

 

Here are some of my observations in the wiiiiindy month of April. There are a lot of pics here but only a portion of the species now blooming.

 

And... please, please, please, always stay on marked trails. I recently had to explain the difference between a trail and a meadow to a portrait photographer. <sigh>

 

A light fog on the morning of April 5th added a mystical quality to the east meadow. Photo by, Greg Hughes

On April 24th, the Iconic Meadow displayed a marriage made in heaven: Purple Paintbrush and Engelmann Sage.

Fringed Bluestar (Amsonia ciliata)

Cloth of Gold (Physaria gracilis)

Engelmann Sage (Salvia engelmannii)

After the rain on April 12th.

A deceased sulphur butterfly left its mark on this prairie in April.

Swordleaf Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrincchium ensigerum)

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)

Don Young led a tour of Tandy Hills for members of the Mockingbird Garden Club on April 1st.

Engelmann Daisy (Engelmannia peristenia)

Antelopehorn Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is the most coomon of the five milkweed species found at Tandy Hills.

It was Wild Hyacinth time in mid-April. Also known as, Atlantic Camas (camassia scilloides).

First Purple Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea) of the season was spotted on April 5th.

Its rerlative, Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) are uncommon here. This one is probably a hybrid.

False Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea) aka: Cobaea Beardtongue is easy to spot on the prairie.

White Milkwort (Polygala alba)

Sensitive Briar (Mimosa quadrivalvis) aka: Fourvalve Mimosa

Yellow Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum

Drummond's Onion (Allium drummondii) add a cheerful note to spring.

Skullcap (Scutellaria wrightii)

White-lined Sphinx Moths, aka: Hawk Moth or Hummingbird Moth, are very common this spring.

Palmleaf Winecup (Callirohe pedata) is one of four shades to be found at Tandy Hills. PInk, red and purple are also present here.

This is a Soldier Fly (Odontomyia cincta) that is covered in Winecup pollen. Photo by, Sam Kieschnick

Two-leaved Senna (Senna roemeriana)

Western White Honeysuckle (Lonicera albiflora) with its distinctive rounded leaves, is native here. 

Color high and low on April 24th, after the rain.

 

03) New Species Report - April

 

With a little help from Sam Kieschnick and others, Tandy Hills recorded 24 new species in April bringing the new species total to 1675. Most were insects of which here a few highlights. Check out the Tandy Hills iNaturalist page for much more HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 

Woodpecker Flies (Genus Medetera,) photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata), photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


Typical Leafhopper (Genus Ceratagallia), photo by, Sam Kieschnick

 


These are cocoons of Ichneumonid or Braconid Wasps that parasitized a caterpillar. 
Not a new species, but never observed in their tiny cocoons like this at Tandy Hills. Photo by, Don Young

 

04) New Trails Project Report

 

Work continued in April on more new trails, re-routes and closures. If you hiked them in winter you'll notice a striking difference now that the trees are leafed out. A second new bridge was added and a very special area of big trees in the bottomlands was opened up that connects with new and old trails. There is much more to come but plenty to enjoy right now.

 

 

 

 

05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report

 

Attendance at the monthly star party is picking up. The next one is May 7th. Come early to check out the wildflowers and new trails. All ages welcome. No dogs, please. Here's a note from Fort Worth Astronomical Scoety rep, John McCrea:

 

"For our May 7th  star party, we will have our familiar spring constellations. The most popular can be seen in the night sky from about late March to late June. Although there are about fifteen springtime constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere, seven prominent constellations stand out and are generally associated with springtime. These include Ursa Major, Boötes, Cancer, Leo, Coma Berenices, Virgo, and Hydra.

The sun will set at 8:14 PM on the May 7th and we will be one day shy of the first quarter moon that will be in the Constellation Cancer (the crab). No planets will be visible during the star party. The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will be tailing off, but we might still be able to see one or two of the brighter ones."

 

 

 

06) City Nature Challenge Is NOW

 

Flaming Hot News from mild-mannered, TPW Urban Biologist, Sam Kieschnick:

 

"The City Nature Challenge (CNC) is happening again this year from April 29 - May 2. CNC is a 4-day, global bioblitz. This event is all about getting the public engaged with nature. If you're able, go outside and make some observations and post on the iNaturalist website. You don't have to join any project or do any extra steps.  Identification of observations will happen from May 3 - 8. It will be another global collaboration rather than a competition, but here in Texas, Houston is talking some extreme trash already...  Can DFW let this stand?!?  I think not!  :)"

 

Participation is EZ. Click this link to get involved: https://citynaturechallenge.org/?mc_cid=5cf963e9a5&mc_eid=8205bd94d7

 

 

 

07) Vote YES for Open Space May 7th

 

I am the Fort Worth, District 8 appointed stakeholder for the Open Space Conservation Program. As a stakeholder, citizen of Fort Worth and the President of Friends of Tandy Hills, I strongly and enthusiastically support the Propositiion E initiative on the upcoming Bond referendum on May 7th. Fort Worth City Council voted, unanimously, on April 26 to adopt the Fort Worth Open Space Strategy Report as the official guidance document for the program.

 

This is a big deal for me and us. Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area helped get the Open Space ball rolling in 2020 with a $65,000 donation to the City to help purchase Broadcast Hill. Remember to vote YES on May 7th to insure future funding for the program.

 

Read about the Open Space program HERE: https://web.tplgis.org/fortworth-openspace/

 

Read about City Council passage of Open Space Strategy Report on the City of Fort Worth website HERE.

 

 

08) April 2022 Was Windy On the Prairie

 

I'll bet you noticed that April seemed unusually windy. It seemed even more so out here on the Tandy Hills prairie. To satisfy my curiosity, I contatced, Monique Sellers, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Fort Worth who sent the following message:

 

"You are not mistaken Mr. Young, it has been quite a windy spring across North Texas so far and with more windy days in the forecast later this week that isn't changing anytime soon. We have been crunching the numbers and found the following: 

 

On average, April is the windiest month of the year for Dallas/Fort Worth, but this April has been windier than normal. Through April 25, the average monthly wind speed has been 15.8 mph. This is the windiest month since May 1996 and is the windiest April since 1961!

 

- So far, April 2022 ranks as the 4th windiest April on record! 
​- For Dallas/Fort Worth, the average wind speed in April is 12.1 mph

- The windiest April on record occurred in 1951 when the average wind speed clocked in at 17.2 mph

 

For more on this subject check out Prairie Notes #148: Catching the Prairie Windhttps://www.tandyhills.org/notes/catching-prairie-wind

 

 

09) The Price of Success?

 

In the early days of Friends of Tandy Hills it was rare to encoiunter another person on the trails. The place was simply unknown to all but a few neighbors and a handful of botanists. It was literraly a "secret place" in the heart of a fast-growing city.

 

That was a good / bad situation. Good, in that it was not overrun or developed. Bad, in that, it was ripe for picking in 2004 by an irresponsible fracking industry looking for "secret places" to exploit. "Who would care or notice", was their POV.  

 

Friends of Tandy Hills certainly cared and was formed in 2004 with the stated goal of keeping drilling at bay. Step 1 was finding allies so we did whatever it took to raise public awareness of the beauty, rarity and importance of Tandy Hills. Lots of national publicity, ten Prairie Fests, one Bioblitz and 185 Prairie Notes later, success is virtually assured. Or is it? No fracking infracstucture sullies these sacred hills. But nealry 20 years on, here we are again with a similar dilemma.

 

Yes, we kept the fracking industry at bay, but thanks to our successful, public awareness campaign, commercial portrait photographers discovered Tandy Hills and have inflicted significant damage to the land.

 

Much has been written and said about the impact of commercial portrait photographers on Tandy Hills, mostly by me. Keeping them on existing trails has proved increasingly difficult and many of them deny their impact is noticeable as they continue to flagrantly violate our one, simple rule: Stay On Trail. The battle is ongoing and more help from the city is on the way. But the scars are there and it's hard to look away.

 

I recenly came across a, 360 degree drone photo taken in December 2021 that says more about the damage done than all the words I have spoken and typed about this dilemma. This areial view makes crystal clear what these photo-oppers have done. Take a look at what a daily chipping away has done to the "front door" of Tandy Hills. 

 

View the original, 360 degree drone photo HERE. (You may have to scroll backwards, a bit.)

 

Your generous support will help us remedy this denigration of our shared resource.
Become a Friend HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/donate

 


The Main (Hawk) Trail, at the BioBlitz in 2016 was basically ONE trail lined with wildflowers.

 


This is the same trail six years later after Tandy Hills was "discovered" by commercial portrait photographers.
Commercial photographers gather here every day, year round.

A series of stills from a video taken on the Hawk Trail in 2021. Dozens of people taking selfies, all on differnt trails they created. 
Even more photographers were out of camera range. View the full video HERE.

 

10) Prairie Proverb - Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

“Now plums were ripening in the wild-plum thickets all along Plum Creek. Plum trees were low trees. They grow close together, with many little scraggly branches all strung with thin-skinned, juicy plums. Around them the air was sweet and sleepy, and wings hummed.”

 

- Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957, from, On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), one of her, Little House on the Prairie books

(Colorized by, Don Young)

 

 

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.