Commons Ford Update: July 2012

Hello friends,

Much happening at Commons Ford since our last update:

1. General Prairie Status. Since planting at the end of February (followed by a decent amount of rain), we are seeing a very good initial growth response in the native vegetation. If you have not been to the park lately, you should check it out for yourself. Many of the wildflowers are blooming and the early grasses are coming in as well. You can see the six foot plus Common Sunflower growing throughout the prairie along with Bush Sunflower, Indian Blanket, Mexican Hat, Coreopsis and Black-eyed Susan just to name a few. Green Sprangletop, Side-oats Grama and several species of bristlegrass are also easily visible. Scores of giant stalks of Maxmillian Sunflower are also spread throughout the prairie and are beginning to bloom. This species should begin to really show over the next few weeks.

2. Native American Seed Presentation. We were fortunate to have George Cates from Native American Seed (www.seedsource.com) give two presentations in June – one for Austin Parks and Recreation staff and one for Commons Ford PRO members and the general public. The focus of his presentations was on how to maintain the prairie now that the seeds are sprouting. Over 50 people attending the general presentation at the Westbank Library. Dane Anderson and Westlake Picayune continue to be very supportive of this project. You can read the latest story here http://westlakepicayune.com/2012/06/12/going-native/

3. Vegetation Surveys. We conducted spring vegetation surveys on the prairie in early June with 12 committed volunteers assisting. The weather was hot and not conducive to crawling around on all fours. We want to thank all of our volunteers for their continuous devotion of time and effort to the project. Our great intern, Andrea Julian, is compiling the data. We should be able to provide some details soon. This surveys (along with the bird surveys) are essential in that they help examine the specific impact of the restoration effort. Please think about volunteering in the future when we send out the call.

4. Bird Species Impact. Although we are very early in the restoration process, we can see an immediate impact on bird species and other wildlife. Northern Bobwhite are once again calling in the area surrounding the prairie. We expect that in a matter of time, they will begin to directly inhabit it. Mourning Doves, generally outnumbered by White-winged Doves, are present in higher numbers than in the past. The most dramatic impact at present involves Field Sparrows. We are seeing 5-10 individuals on each visit throughout June and early July. In random surveys conducted over the past 11 years, Field Sparrows have never been found in the tract during June or July. As the grasses and other vegetation begins to produce more seed in the fall, we hope to see other wintering sparrows visit the prairie in good numbers.

Butterflies, dragonflies, rabbits and other wildlife are now present. Please encourage those who have special interest or expertise, particularly with butterflies and dragonflies, to visit the park. We think they will be quite surprised with the activity. We hope that some experts will begin to compile lists of present species for these as well.

5. Other Ways to Stay in Touch. You can visit our blog at www.commonsfordpro.blogspot.com to see photos and read more about the project. You can also visit our Facebook page where you can post comments. Please encourage those who might be interested to “like” us on Facebook (or send us an e-mail to get on the mailing list). Stay tuned for a new Flickr photo feature coming soon.

Thanks for your continuing support.

– Ed Fair

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