Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 Solar Eclipse Over Texas

Partial Solar Eclipse 2014 With Migrating Mallard Ducks Moving Across The Texas Evening Sky October 23, 2014
On Oct. 23, 2014 the solar system's geometry aligned very briefly over North America to give much of the United States a brief look at a somewhat rare event, a partial solar eclipse. Autumn and the fresh push of a cold front off the Central Plains brought forth migrating ducks adding to the spectacle over Texas.

Partial Solar Eclipse taken about thirty minutes before the eclipse reached maximum coverage at 5:50pm Central Time October 23, 2014

On average two to five solar eclipses occur each year. The October 23, 2014  solar eclipse is what is called a partial eclipse. It is the second and last solar eclipse we will see in 2014. A partial eclipse means that the moon will take only a small bite out of the sun as opposed to consuming it completely.
Mallard male drake and female Mallard hen on final approach as they begin their flare out for landing

A Red Winged Blackbird flies into the eclipse

The angle of the Moon's trajectory is close but not quite perfect to that of our Sun. Instead of passing directly in front of the Sun, cutting straight across it, the Moon passes the Sun at an angle off-center, so it only partially blocks our star. That’s why this is a partial eclipse, and not a total one. 

In an easier to view lunar eclipse, the Earth gets between the Sun and Moon, and casts its shadow on the Moon. The event happens on the Moon, so everyone on Earth facing the Moon sees it at pretty much the same time.  But a solar eclipse is the Moon casting its shadow on Earth. The Moon is moving, orbiting us, and the Earth is rotating as well, so what you see and when you see it depends on where you are.

Each time a solar eclipse occurs, only a small part of the world gets to see it. This is because a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and sun, casting its shadow across the Earth as it does so. But the shadow is relatively small, meaning only some of us get the chance to see this phenomenon each time it happens. 

Partial Solar Eclipse at maximum coverage over Dallas, Texas October 23, 2014

Here’s how this works. The Moon orbits the Earth once per month, and the Earth orbits the Sun once a year. The Moon’s orbit is tilted to Earth’s orbit by about 5°, so as it goes around the Earth it passes through the Earth’s orbital plane every two weeks or so. If the Moon’s orbit weren’t tilted, we’d get a solar eclipse every month when the Moon passed between the Earth and Sun. Since it is tilted, though, sometimes it’s “above” the Sun at new Moon, and sometimes “below.” We only get eclipses rarely because the Moon has to be crossing the plane of Earth’s orbit at the same time as it’s new Moon, so that it gets exactly between us and the Sun.

The next time a solar eclipse will be visible from across the US will be the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Migrating Monarchs At Big Spring

The migration of the tired and wary, those seeking refuge from the hostile world around them has always been a signature hallmark of the clear and clean waters of Big Spring. Man and beast alike. A shelter from the storms brewing in the outside world.
Big Spring in Pleasant Grove
The Native Americans drank from the cold water here leaving their stone tools and weapons behind as evidence. The original European stock pioneers from the earliest dawning days of the Republic of Texas called it home. On this particular evening in October 2014 the guests are the migrating Monarchs of North America. A sight fewer and fewer see in Texas as the Monarch population dwindles and their habitat disappears.

The nearby Monarch habitat once covered with Milkweed, destroyed Texas prairie and Post Oak Savannah of the Texas Horse Park for surface mining operations to extract soil for the latest golf course project by the City of Dallas
The everflowing Big Spring in October 2014 in Pleasant Grove, Texas. Part of the Historic Republic of Texas Beeman Land Grant, home of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan and later the Edward Case Pemberton Farm
As the sun sets in the cooling autumn air of the Great Trinity Forest, migrating Monarch butterflies begin to seek out a suitable roost for the night. Their instinctive migration route, ingrained by tens of thousands of generations of previous monarchs lands them in the sheltering arms of Big Spring and the bows of the Historic Bur Oak and nearby nut bearing pecans and walnuts.

Roosting Monarch butterflies on the bowed limbs of a Big Spring pecan tree, directly over the water and head of the spring flows in Pleasant Grove, Texas
Monarchs and other butterfly species only travel during the day and need to find a roost at night. Monarchs gather close together during the cool autumn evenings for safety in numbers. These roost sites are important to the monarch migration. Many of these locations despite the fact that the butterflies have never seen the site are used year after year. Often densely spaced oaks and cedar trees are chosen for roosting. These trees have thick canopies that moderate the temperature and humidity at the roost site. As dawn breaks the next day, monarchs bask in the sunlight to warm themselves before taking flight.

In all the world, no butterflies migrate like the Monarch butterflies of North America. They travel much farther than all other tropical butterflies, up to four thousand miles. They are the only butterfly species to make such a long, two way migration every year. Amazingly, they fly in masses to the same winter roosts, often to the exact same trees.

Overflight of Wood Ducks, another migratory species at Big Spring October 2014. Wood Ducks love the old sloughs, oxbows and beaver impounded wetlands in this area. Sadly, their habitat is shrinking by the day here in Pleasant Grove
The annual Monarch migration is more the type we expect from birds or whales. However, unlike birds and whales, individuals only make the round-trip once. It is their children's grandchildren that return south the following fall. The Monarchs are the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do regularly, but no individual makes the entire round trip, because the migration period spans the life of three to four generations of the butterfly.
As the sun disappears below the horizon, more Monarchs come to roost at Big Spring for the night
The Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. It is easily recognizable by its bright orange-red wings, with black veins and white spots along the edges. The Monarch butterfly is famous for its southward migration from Canada to Mexico and the northward return back through the Great Plains to Canada in summer. Every fall, millions of these butterflies fly west to their wintering grounds in California and Mexico, covering the trees there with their bright shimmering wings.

Their brilliant coloration is mostly for protection from predators like bats who might not see the bright orange and black coloration, the tell tale of the bad-tasting and poisonous Monarch. From the trees beyond the night crew of animals start up their evening calls. Ready to hunt under a rising crescent moon.

Nectar and Food Corridors
Nectar corridors are a series of habitat patches containing plants that flower at the appropriate times during the spring and fall migrations. These patches provide stopping-off points for the migrating butterflies to refuel and continue their journey. Having these islands of nectar sources is particularly important within large areas of urban and agricultural development. The discontinuous patches of nectar sources are “corridors” that monarchs will follow, like stepping-stones across a stream to complete their migration.

The Monarchs seen here are consuming nectar from a blooming shrub in the outfall area of Big Spring where water courses down in a gentle meander towards Bryan's Slough. It is believed that the Monarchs might be following what biologists call a "nectar corridor" for food. Unknown how the butterflies can find these spots year after year since dozens of generations of butterflies lived, bred and died in the year previous to their last visit.

Monarchs and Milkweed

Many butterflies have a single plant required as a food source for their larval form called a host plant. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly. Without milkweed, the larva would not be able to develop into a butterfly.

Bumblebee on a Milkweed plant at Big Spring, late Spring 2014
The larvae and the butterflies retain poisonous glycosides from their larval host plant, the milkweed, so they become distasteful to potential predators. These milkweed butterflies (Monarch, Queen, Soldier) eat only milkweeds as larvae. This highly effective defense strategy shields them against almost all predators that soon learn to avoid these species after attempting to eat them.

Milkweed contains a a variety of chemical compounds that make monarch caterpillars poisonous to potential predators. Milkweeds contain a cardiac poison that is poisonous to most vertebrates but does not damage the monarch caterpillar. Some milkweed species have higher levels of these toxins than others.

North Texans can attract Monarchs to their backyards by planting milkweed as a host for Monarch eggs and larvae. Easy to grow here in Dallas and available as seed or plantings at local native plant sale events.

The Marathon Generation, the special migrators of the Monarch species
As fall approaches non-reproductive monarchs are born. These are the butterflies that will migrate south. They will not reproduce until the following spring in 2015. These late summer monarchs will travel hundreds and even thousands of miles to their winter grounds in Mexico and California. 

They store fat in their abdomens that will help them make the long trip south and will help them survive the winter. During their five months in Mexico from November to May, monarchs remain mostly inactive. They will remain perfectly still hour-after-hour and day-after-day. They live off of the stored fat they gained during their fall migration.

Various food sources
The plant they are feeding from in the photo above is known as Roosevelt Willow or Roosevelt Weed Baccharis neglecta . It's a tall shrub with many willow-like branches covered with very dark green, linear leaves. After warm rains in late summer it produces a profusion of creamy white flower clusters which are followed by silvery plumed seeds that cover the plant with a white cloud. It grows from North Carolina to Arizona, and throughout Texas. Roosevelt Willow/Weed is one of the first plants to invade abandoned fields, roadsides and disturbed habitats. It is extremely drought tolerant, accepting wet or dry sites, and can grow in soils high in salt. The historical references of its common names purportedly come from the fact that after the great Dust Bowl, it was planted as a fast and easy way to revegetate the severely damaged soil.

Monarch Migration South Through Texas

The Monarch migration usually starts around October each year, but can start earlier if the weather turns cold sooner. They travel between 1,500 and 3,800 miles or more from Canada to central Mexican forests where the climate is warm. If the monarch lives in the Eastern states, usually east of the Rocky Mountains, it will migrate to Mexico and hibernate in Oyamel fir trees. If the monarch butterfly lives west of the Rocky Mountains, it will hibernate in and around Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees.

Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each and every year when they migrate, which seems odd because they aren’t the same butterflies that were there last year.  How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of research. Some believe the flight pattern is inherited. Other researches indicate the butterflies navigate using a combination of the position of the sun in the sky and the earth's magnetic field for orientation.

The Monarch butterflies migrating through Texas all seem to focus and funnel into a 50 mile gap between Del Rio and Eagle Pass along the US-Mexico Border. Here they have a clear route through mountain passes to the Mexican Interior and highlands.

When they first arrive at their winter locations in November monarchs gather into clusters in the trees. These butterflies congregate into colonies, clustering onto pine and evergreen trees. In many cases, they are so thick that the trees turn orange in color and branches sag from the weight. It’s a remarkable sight that attracts scores of tourists. 

By December and January, when the weather is at its coldest, the monarchs will be tightly packed into dense clusters of hundreds or even thousands of butterflies. By mid-February these clusters of butterflies begin to break up and the monarchs will begin to gather nectar. In the spring they will reproduce and their offspring will make the return trip to the north.

Saving The Future Of Texas Monarchs
Master Naturalist Richard Grayson at Big Spring

The race is on to save what native Texas plant species can be salvaged from current surface mining activities at the Texas Horse Park. The local chapter of North Texas Master Naturalists has been flagging and removing scores of milkweed plants from this area with the hopes of transplanting them at Big Spring in the Fall of 2015. A great article by Roy Appleton of the Dallas Morning News can be found here that chronicles the events to salvage what can be saved from that area.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Green Herons Hunting The Trinity Riverbottoms

They are some of the most elusive birds to see on the Trinity River. Small in size at only 12-18 inches with the ability to blend into almost any background, the Green Heron is one of the most difficult birds of summer to spot.

The Green Heron haunts many of the places humans would never dare go. The swamps, backwaters and impossible flooded reed lined shorelines of unnamed ponds and wetlands that lie within the river basin. Interwoven with rings of poison ivy, greenbriar and loose sand these marshy pond holes are the hidden lifeblood that drives the mid-summer species of birds that reside in the Great Trinity Forest.

The photos in the post feature a group of three juvenile Green Herons in August 2014 who allowed the rare chance to creep close and observe their hunting and fishing behavior.

Over the course of a few evening visits spanning a couple weeks the young birds go from clumsy young birds trying to catch food on their well honed fishers of water and hunters of mid-air.
The birds seemed to keep a schedule and hunted for food during the time of day when sun's rays turns all it touches into gold. A great time to see one of the all time great hunters stalk its prey by silently standing at the edge of the water with its neck folded back on its shoulders....then quickly lunge into the water and grabs or stabs its prey with its spear-like bill.
Juvenile Green Heron with a sunfish
 Like the intelligent American Crow, the Green Heron it is a wary and venturesome bird, blessed with sufficient intelligence to discriminate between real and imaginary dangers and often making itself quite at home in a wide range of food rich environments.

Those who pay close attention to birds often notice the hardwired traits of many species exhibited as rigid and unbreakable instincts among birds. A rare number of species break that mold where they can adapt to their environment, observe and overcome challenges. Seems that the Green Heron is at the top of that game, going places and doing things other birds lack the brainpower to accomplish.

 Green Heron Butorides virescens

The Green Heron is part of a family of small herons that sometimes are considered one species. When pooled together, they are called Green-Backed Heron. When divided, they are the Green Heron, the Striated Heron, and the Galapagos Heron. The Green Heron Butorides virescens is a small heron of North and Central America. It was long considered identical with its sister species the Striated Heron Butorides striata, and together they were called "Green-Backed Heron".

The Green Heron is a spring and summer resident to Texas, itbreeds in most of the Eastern United States from the Canadian border south to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Great Plains, West Texas and Southwestern New Mexico.

Juvenile Green Heron in a mesquite tree
The favored habitat of the Green Heron is small wetlands in low-lying areas. The species is most conspicuous during dusk and dawn, and if anything these birds are really nocturnal rather than diurnal, preferring to retreat to sheltered areas in daytime. Often found in the shade of nearby roosting trees, they only come out when large numbers of dragonflies were upon lilypads.

Green Herons are common in North Texas, but they can be hard to see at first. Where larger herons tend to stand prominently in open parts of wetlands and ponds, Green Herons tend to be at the edges, in shallow water, or concealed in vegetation. A quiet approach to Green Heron habitat and a scan of the brushy banks can often yield a glimpse of a small, hunch-backed bird with a long, straight bill staring intently at the water.

The downy young green heron is scantily covered with "drab" down, thickest on the back and longest on the crown. The color varies to light gray on the underside and to "hair brown" on the crown. The juvenile plumage is acquired in the usual heron sequence and is complete before the young bird reaches the flight stage, when fully grown.

The males and females are distinguishable even in the juvenile plumage. In the young male, in August, the crown is solid, glossy, greenish black, the sides of the head and neck are solid creamy beige, the chin, throat, and neck stripe are yellowish white, spotted with black and the back is solid, glossy, dark green.

The wings are the same color as the back, but the lesser coverts are edged with beige and the median and greater coverts are rounded (not pointed, as in the adult), edged with pale buff and have a triangular buffy white spot at the tip of each feather.

The young female differs from the juvenile male in having chestnut streaks in the crown and having the sides of the head and neck streaked with chestnut, buff, and dusty color.  In both male and female, the juvenile plumage is worn during the fall and early winter, without much change until they partially in late winter.
The lightning quick speed of a Green Heron is no match even for the speedy dragonfly. Shot at 1/2000 of a second the speed of the heron's face and beak is still a slight blur
Green Herons typically stand still on shore or in shallow water or perch upon branches and await prey. Sometimes they drop berries, insects, or other small objects on the water's surface to attract fish, making them one of the few known tool-using species. This feeding method has led some to title the Green Heron and closely related Striated Heron as among the world's most intelligent birds. They are able to hover briefly to catch prey too but seem to be firmly planted on terra firma when hunting.
Green Heron at maximum neck extension capturing the split fraction of a second that it snares a dragonfly in mid-air
The lighting speed at which they can elongate their necks makes for some difficult photography. With such speed catching one grabbing dragonflies from thin air is a difficult proposition. It is all over with in less than a blink of a human eye. Dragonflies themselves are some of the most agile insect fliers and to have both super fast species fight it out makes for some tough shooting.

The most common feeding technique for the Green Heron is to stand in a crouched position, horizontal to the water surface, with neck and head retracted. They stand still for long periods of time before changing sites. Standing is often interspersed with slow walking in a crouched posture in the water or bordering vegetation. Herons use their feet to cause potential prey to move and then capture them. They may also dive from perches head first into deep water, becoming submerged very briefly.

Green Heron dancing across lilypads as it catches yet another dragonfly, this time on the run
Green herons are carnivorous, mainly eating fish and invertebrates. They are opportunistic foragers with a broad prey base, depending on the availability of species present. They exploit superabundant food resources, such as the dragonflies seen here. Their invertebrate diet includes a wide range of things from frogs, tadpoles, earthworms, dragonflies, damselflies, waterbugs, grasshoppers, and crayfish. Some of the many fish eaten are shad, sunfish, catfish and perch.

The birds in the photos here were eating many tadpoles and small frogs at the time but did not photograph well do the smallish size of the prey. The Green Heron's repertoire of hunting down wayward dragonflies is far more interesting and entertaining.

The least employed hunting technique used by the Green Heron is seen below, a flush and herd technique where the heron plops into deeper water then drives bait fish and tadpoles into shallower water for easier hunting. The Green Heron prefers water not more than 3-4 inches deep at most.
Green Heron driving small baitfish and tadpoles from deeper water into the shallow bank area
It becomes readily evident in drier years like 2014 the importance of the permanent wetlands that exist along the Trinity River. These secluded spots afford the establishment of high quality rookery sites with abundant food supplies that can lead to successful nests year after year. Without such places the biodiversity of the Great Trinity Forest is severely hampered and sterilized.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wildfire In Great Trinity Forest Consumes Portion Of Big Spring Conservation Area

Liz Fernandez, Director of Trinity Watershed Management, photographs a portion of the burned fifteen acres of the Great Trinity Forest in the Big Spring Conservation Area, July 25, 2014. Currently under investigation as an act of arson.  Stark contrast to the area as it looked less than two months before during the height of the wildflower bloom.

It was a week many had looked forward to for years. A day when the City of Dallas would formally adopt a formal management plan for one of the Great Trinity Forest's real gems, Big Spring. A week when that same rough draft management plan, the first for the Great Trinity Forest and one of the only urban forest management plans in Texas would be put to use for the first time. Then the fire happened.

A Brief Summary Of The Fire
Word of the fire spread quickly. First noticed by a Dallas Police Department helicopter in the early afternoon of July 23, 2014. The police on the scene relayed that Air One the police helicopter observed four different burning areas. Dallas Fire Rescue was summoned to the scene and fought the fire till sunset.

Station 51 Brush Fire Truck stuck in Bryan's Slough. The truck was headed back to the burning wildfire just beyond the Slough. Photo courtesy Zada Pemberton
Arson investigators arrived late in the day and began an investigation into the cause of the fire. Sitting in one of the most remote parcels of land inside Loop 12, human visits to the area are thought to be rare. Behind a series of locked gates and private property frontage on a nearby road, access to the site is difficult. We all hope that a cause can be determined.

If it was arson, we all hope that the party responsible is brought to justice and prosecuted to the limit of the law. It is quite unsettling to all involved that something like this occurred. Not just the fire itself but that firefighters risked their own lives fighting the fire.
Dallas Fire Rescue Firefighters on the evening of July 23, 2014 in the clasping coneflower field at Big Spring. Photo courtesy Zada Pemberton
Map of July 23, 2014 wildfire in the Great Trinity Forest. 15 acres.
By my estimate, the fire consumed about fifteen acres. Twelve acres in the City of Dallas owned Great Trinity Forest and another three acres to the north owned by Richard and Paula Pemberton Hill.

At right is a map of the extent of the fire damage. It was contained on the north and south by Bryan's Slough. On the north end the fire stopped at the edge of a large swamp area which extends all the way to Bruton Road.
Charred goat head in the wildfire burned section of the Texas Horse Park
Southern limit of the fire on west side of Texas Horse Park Dallas, Texas
To the south, the fire traveled in the Texas Horse Park property moving south through the woods and down an ONCOR ROW.

The fire was stopped at where Bryan's Slough crosses from east to west under the powerline ROW. Dallas Fire Rescue worked this area too, a number of small caliper trees mostly species of ash and cedar elm appear to have been either burned or scorched in this area.

Northern extent of the fire, a firefighter walks the Hill property looking for hotspots. July 25, 2014
Between the northern and southern ends of the fire sits the Big Spring conservation area. A special place tucked into the woods.

The Fire Scene At Big Spring

The disparity of the fire scenes when viewed through photos in before/after makes one cringe. Taken less than sixty days apart the first photo shows members of a Meetup nature photography group at Big Spring. The lower photo taken in almost the same spot shows two firefighters from Station 34 working on the hotspots in the treeline west of the coneflower field.
Firefighters from Dallas Fire Rescue Station 34 work on putting out one of the hotspots in the Great Trinity Forest July 25, 2014
These photos were all taken on July 25th two days after the initial July 23rd fire. Hotspots remained in the woods to the west where the fire seemed to burn much hotter than the open field to the east. Initially, we were all there to observe the first managed mowing of Big Spring's upper buffer zone as part of a newly drafted management plan for the conservation area. As mowing commenced many of us went to look at the fire damage.

By 10am, the wind started kicking up from the south some and inside the treeline the slow smoldering embers in the larger downed trees puffed to life.
Master Naturalist Jim Flood partially obscured by smoke stands at the base of a still smoldering Ash tree, some 48 hours after the start of the wildfire
Above is Master Naturalist Jim Flood discussing the need for another visit by the fire department to hit the hot spots. After heading back up the hill to discuss the ongoing hot spots with city staff,  Trinity Watershed Management dispatched the fire department to work the remaining hot spots.
A Dallas Firefighter leads the way through still smoking hot spots behind him is Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist Brett Johnson who is trained in wildfire management and fires
In the interim between the fire department's arrival, TPWD Biologist Brett Johnson and several others fanned out into the woods identifying all the hotspots ahead of time. This reduced the amount of energy and valuable time on the part of the firefighters once on scene.
Billy Ray Pemberton with two firefighters, a pile of buckets, shovels and rakes in his pickup, Big Spring, July 25, 2014
Applying a truckload of water in the distance to some of the burned areas on Friday July 25, 2014
It's the acrid smell, lack of humidity and lack of shade that makes this area feel like something out of the underworld at the moment. No birds sing. No grasshoppers jumping under foot. No rustling sound of the wind. Inert. On a day when the temperatures were only 90 downtown at the 11am hour, it was 114 degrees in the field.
Burned stalks of wildflowers and sedge grass in the wildflower field, Big Spring, Friday July 25, 2014
It is hard to believe the short term loss is counterbalance by the promised of exact scientific knowledge that this area will recover. On this particular day in the field were a broad collection of folks with science backgrounds who all remarked on how nature tends to recover from criminal acts like this. The smell and wholesale damage temper that line of thought. The damage just appears to look so terrible it is hard to find a silver lining.

What is lost is the groundbreaking work to some extent that was going on in this field by Jim Flood and Tim Dalbey. Earlier in the week it was discussed not to mow this area so that late summer and fall blooming species of plants could be identified. This area had been yielding many plants that had not been documented in Dallas County for decades or were absent from records altogether. It is a great sense of loss that the work going on here will be curtailed till another growing season.

Unknown is the extent of the damage. Poking around under the soil surface it appears that there is good moisture just under the surface and hopefully root systems and dormant seeds were not affected.
Big Spring's clasping coneflower field as it looked July 25, 2014
Paul White, City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management riding the back of a water truck at Big Spring July 25, 2014
Mowing As Part Of A Management Plan
Big Spring's mighty Bur Oak towers high above the first run of a managed mowing plan at Big Spring. Looking south.
A year or more in the making, a rough drafted Big Spring Management Plan saw the light of day for the first time on the morning of July 25, 2014. Attended by employees of the Corps of Engineers,  Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility (LAERF), Texas Parks and Wildlife, City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management as well as a host of citizens who have all worked very hard to see this day.

One man, Billy Ray Pemberton, has mowed this land for many years on his own dime and using his own equipment. For the last ten years it has been a near solo effort by him. The overall management plan should build upon his decades of work here and be used as a touchstone for the future. 

In the winter 2013-2014 the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility was contracted by the City of Dallas to develop a plan with citizen input for the aquatic and outfall aspects of Big Spring. This past week in late July, we learned that LAERF would also work on a mowing plan for Big Spring which surprised a few of us. Citizen input continues into August on that front.
A native hibiscus blooms on the edge of the mowing area at Big Spring. In the background is the historic Bur Oak and the spring itself
Mowing at Big Spring is hoped to create buffer zones along the outfall of the spring water and help smaller tree seedlings repopulate the area back into a native bottomland

The management ideas for Big Spring will be adaptive and flexible inside the framework of what will hopefully become an official Dallas Landmark. The process began a year ago and is working through City Hall. Getting from here to that goal requires lots of planning and restructuring of how forested lands are managed.

One such component of that is mowing. Prescribed at one foot high, the bat wing mower from the City of Dallas made easy work of the wildflower zones and grassy areas above and below Big Spring.  See video below for a sample, mowing in the lower area near the spring outfall and the second part of the clip is mowing up near the lone mesquite tree on the terrace:

The management plan, still in draft form, allows for natural recruitment of self sowing plants like pecans, walnuts and other beneficial native species. Many of these trees are already 3-5 feet and height. They will help fill in existing open areas and spur growth of other species. Mulberry, Ironweed and Hibiscus are just a few of the other species here that will see leaps and bounds of growth in years to come.

Mowing distributes seeds(both good and bad) from plants. This emulates natural processes and often stimulates new growth the following year. It will be interesting to see how this fresh mowed area plays out next year.

The mowed buffer zone wildflower area above Big Spring July 25, 2014
Much more coming in the near future with how this area will be managed, maintained and open on a broader scale to the citizens of Dallas.