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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.

Footprints In the Snow

Prairie Notes #183
March 1, 2022

01) Footprints In the Snow
02) Field Report - February
03) New Species - February
04) New Trails Project Report
05) PrairieSky / StarParty Is BACK!
06) Vandalsim Report - February
07) Coming Up: Trout Lily Walk w/Sam Kieschnick
08) Other Voices - MIchael Smith
09) Your Generous Donation
09) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau

01) Footprints In the Snow

 

North Texas ain’t Florida but snow is still uncommon enough to be a novelty. Most people here never learn to safely drive on snow and ice. Schools close and businesses shut down. Closer to home, at the slightest chance of snow my wife insists I get our sled out of the barn and have it at the ready. Just in case. I also keep a couple of Tylenol handy. Just in case.

 

Sledding is all well and good but hiking at Tandy Hills with a clean napkin of snow (as Thoreau put it), is more my thing. Like sledding, it takes courage and proper outer and underwear. I’m more acclimated to 100 degree heat than sub-freezing anything. But if I do find the courage, and a few layers of wool, to depart the comfort and warmth of our hearth, I very much enjoy hiking in virgin snow, looking for animal tracks.

 

A hike in fresh snow can be transporting to the senses. From the strange deafening silence that “fills” the air to the almost blinding whiteness where we aren’t used to seeing it. The crunching of boots on the ground sound like a walk in amplified cornflakes. An open field covered an infinite number of snowflakes is at once blinding yet also sharpens our vision to previously unknown views among the leafless trees. It is also very beautiful.

 

All that white stuff covering the ground traced with scores of tiny feet, makes it crystal clear that there is more wildlife at Tandy Hills than is usually evident. The brightness illuminates areas between the trees and brush where these creatures take refuge. Little tracks of birds, squirrels, raccoons, meadow mice and rabbits are the most common and they are everywhere. Some areas reveal tracks of multiple species moving in both directions like a busy highway corridor. Cat-like tracks (probably domestic tabby’s) often follow those of rabbits. 

 

Too soon (for some), the snow and it's tiny footprints seep silently into the ground. The perfume of the limestone Earth exhales to announce that spring in all its wild diversity is coming. Very soon.

 

Snow track identification is, understandably, an obscure activity an inexact science, especially in these latitudes. My efforts to confirm a few species is ongoing so, some of the ID’s of the following photos, gathered after our snow days in early February, are educated guesses.

 

 

DY

 


Probably, footprints of an American Crow. Tandy Hills has a big family of them.

 


Fox Squirrel, I think.

 

Unknown smaller bird species. Possibly a Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco.

 


Cottontail Rabbit tracks are ubiquitous at Tandy Hills.

 


How many species can you spot on this snow-covered trail?

 

02) Field Report - February

 

February started out with snow and ice, became unusually warm and dry and ended up with more icy weather. Typical for north Texas, I suppose. On the warm days I observed a few moths and butterflies passing through as though it were mid-April. I'm a bit worried about the Trout Lilies. By late February not a single leaf or flower was to be found, but their bloom times vary over the years. We can only hope the little spring harbringers are up by March 6. (see #07 below) One fine day while searching for Trout Lilies, I crossed paths with a big, healthy Cottontail Rabbit that reminded me that, no matter the weather, spring is hopping our way on March 21. 

 

A bridge to somewhere! First snow for one of the new bridges at Tandy HIlls.

 


A common sight on the winter prairie are windblown piles of the uprooted and faded leaves of Compassplant.

 


One of the Cooper's Hawks that call Tandy Hills home. Seconds after I took this pic, a Crow sent the Hawk packing.

 


Uncommon at Tandy Hills, a Spotted Towhee, scratching the snowy ground for sustenance.

 


Human boot prints in the snow on one of the new sky trails. (photo by Ramon Romero)

 


We interrupt this newsletter to show you a photo of a very cute Fox Squirrel.

 


The very first sign of coming spring was this specimen of Prairie Groundsel (Packera plattensis) with its bi-color leaves.

 


City of FW Park & Rec staff led by Michelle Villafranca, celebrated Valentine’s Day by shredding and treating 2 acres of privet on the west mesa.

 


A winter meadow of Little Bluestem grasses looks inviting in the afterglow on a warmish winter's evening.

 

February 24, 2022

 


Sunset Trail hike on February 24.

 

03) New Species - February

 

Not much to report in the frigid month of February. But the species count did rise to a new total of, 1651, mostly fungi and galls. But as Sam Kieschnick likes to say, "Every single one counts." See them all on the Tandy Hills iNaturalist page, HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 

 

04) New Trails Project Update

 

The crew from S&S Trails completed one more trail re-route section in February. They will be back in March to connect it it up with other new trails on the east and central areas of Tandy Hills. Venture in to see for yourself what big improvements are taking place.

 

 

 


Old trail is now closed and beginning the healing process.

 

05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report - March

 

After a winter break, the star party returns on, Saturday, March 12 with members of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society (FWAS) on hand with their big scopes and years of knowledge to freely share with you. Family friendly but No Dogs allowed. Bring a chair or a blanket and get acquainted with the night sky above Tandy Hills. The new FWAS repesentative, John McRea, describes what's in store:

 

"For our March star party, we will still have the familiar winter constellations. Some of the most familiar are Orion with Canis Major to the east with its brightest star Sirius. Above and to the left are Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini. To the west of Orion is the bright red star Aldebaran of the constellation Taurus with the Pleiades just a little further west. North and west is the lopsided pentagon shaped constellation Auriga with its brightest star Capella (little goat).
 

The sun will set @ 6:32 PM on the 12th and the, almost 10 days old, waxing gibbous moon will be in the Constellation Gemini. The only planet up during the night is the hard-to-find Uranus."

 

 

06) Vandalism report

 

Unexpectedly, February was the mother of all vandalsim months. Frigid days and warm days, we had it all: dirt bikers, 4-wheelers, gender reveal litter-bugs, meadow posing twits and, most alarmingly, a pick-up truck driver who got stuck in a ditch. These vandalism reports are not fun but, I think they serve as a reminder that Tandy Hills is too special to be sacrificed by irresposnsibe human behavior. By documenting these incidents I also hope to discorage similar vandalism in the future. If you see something report it to 911 immediately.

 


These are NOT purple wildflowers but, gender-reveal party litter. The participants just walked away after taking photos.

 


Several 4-wheelers and dirt bikers did this to one of the most beautiful wildflower meadows in Texas.

 


They were witnessed and asked to leave by a Friend of Tandy Hills.

 


I'm all for romance on the prairie but please don't dump your imported flowers on the prairie, even if you get dumped.

 


* SIGH *  At least the perp got it out when FWPD tracked him down after a 2-hour copter search.

 

07) Coming Up: Trout Lily Walk w/Sam Kieschnick

 

The T.L. Walk, previously scheduled for February, had to be rescheduled due to no Trout Lily blooms at the time. As of February 28, there were finally a few sprouts and leaves raising hope for blooms by next Sunday. The NEW date for the in-person event is, Sunday, March 6 @ 10 AM. There is also a virtual hike via Facebook Live. You can access that HERE: https://www.facebook.com/events/541677106903066/

 

 


Trout Lily sprouts are bright red-orange.

 

The first leaves of 2022.

 

08) Other Voices - Michael Smith

 

Local naturalsit and author, Michael Smith, took a mindfulness hike at Tandy Hills in February and penned a compelling new essay titled, Crows and Compass Plants at Tandy Hills. Check it out at his website, Lives in Nature, HERE: https://livesinnature.com/2022/02/14/%EF%BF%BCcrows-and-compass-plants-a...

 

 

09) Your Generous Donations

 

All the good things getting done at Tandy Hills from, new trails, events, habitat restoration, vandalism monitoring, even this newsletter, depend on your generous support. You can demonsrtate your support for these all-volunteer efforts and help pay for our various initiatives with a 2022 Membership donation. Go HERE to become a Friend of Tandy Hills: http://www.tandyhills.org/donate

 

> > > Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Tandy Hills

 

 

10) Prairie Proverb - Henry David Thoreau

 

"In this glade covered with bushes of a year’s growth, see how the silvery dust lies on every seared leaf and twig, deposited in such infinite and luxurious forms as by their very variety atone for the absence of color. Observe the tiny tracks of mice around every stem, and the triangular tracks of the rabbit. A pure elastic heaven hangs over all, as if the impurities of the summer sky, refined and shrunk by the chaste winter’s cold, had been winnowed from the heavens upon the earth."

 


- Henry David Thoreau, from his essay, A Winter Walk, published anonymously in The Dial magazine, 1843.

 

 

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.

 

 

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