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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.

Prairie Celestials, Easter Eggs & Plum Bliss

Prairie Notes:
April 5, 2009

No, it's not a 50's sci-fi flick, but close. Prairie Celestials (Nemastylis geminiflora) have landed at Tandy Hills Natural Area but these purple beings mean you no harm. I suspect they began emerging from the Earth after the recent rain and lightning storms. They are now mature and releasing saffroncolored pollen from their pleated, purple petals to the bees and butterflies that have also invaded THNA. WARNING: Homo prairiens are particularly at risk of being overwhelmed by their startling beauty.

There are very few colonies of Prairie Celestial at THNA which also means they are very rare in north Texas. After a year of miraculous preparation, each flower lasts only one day. Please, show them respect and tread carefully around them. Viewing is best before noon.

Many other purple/blue wildflowers such as, Blueeyed Grass, Wine Cup, Engelmann's sage, and even a Bluebonnet or two, are starting to paint the prairie. A spectrum of colorful wildflowers are on the verge of exploding in coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Prairie Celestials 1

Prairie Celestials 2

One of the advantages of living across the street from THNA is the abundant wildlife, including lots of birds, that often make our yard part of their habitat. We enjoy their company and help them out with a steady supply of sunflower seed and nesting material.

Starting about a week ago, one resourceful little bird decided to ... um, push the envelope on our open door policy. The following photos tell the story pretty well. This swift, but shy mother bird built her *nest so quickly last Sunday that, by Monday we had to get a new mailbox for our own use. Resident bird expert, Tom Stevens, has ID'd the bird as either a Carolina or Bewicks Wren. She has dutifully laid six tiny eggs in our mailbox. Each egg is about 1/2" long. I'll keep you posted on their development.

Bird in Box: Carolina or Bewicks Wren?

Bird in Box: Carolina or Bewicks Wren?

Bird in Box: Carolina or Bewicks Wren?
*Note the snakeskin nest material.

A few days ago while hiking at THNA, I had the pleasure of discovering, off the beaten path, a hidden grove of Creek Plum in full bloom. For one beautiful, sunlit hour the Monarch butterflies and I had a profound convergence inside the blooming oasis. Here are some snapshots of my "prairie vacation". I hope they remind you, as they do me, of the duty we have to to protect THNA and other prairie treasures.

Creek Plum Bloom

Creek Plum Bloom

Creek Plum Bloom

Creek Plum Bloom

Come to the prairie and wish upon a Prairie Celestial before they depart for the season.

Prairie Stars