Sunday 24 March 2013. Morning Encounters in March Snow

At 6:15 this morning, it was cloudy, 32 degrees F, and just barely starting to get light.  Light snow fell and dusted the ground; the

Barely Light, with Snow

pavement was wet as I rolled out on Blue toward Meadowbrook Park. wondered how slippery it would be, but was glad it was early and that the streets were mostly free of traffic.  The predicted storm had not yet arrived, though did take a big flake in the left eye–not unpleasant, actually.

It was a comfortable ride on the usual route to Meadowbrook.

At Meadowbrook, not far from the Race Street parking lot, took a picture of the “wonky Christmas tree,” which looked like it was about

Wonky, Creeping Christmas Tree

to walk about and sneak up on people. Made me laugh to remember searching through so many trees at Moore Farm for a really straight one.

The park was unusually quiet, though there was a set of fresh human/canine tracks going over the rabbit bridge.  The light snow gave a nice definition to where Davis and McCullough creeks came together just upstream from the bridge.

Davis:McCullough w: Snow Accent

Stopped to see the clump of tree trunks just across Davis Creek, and the form of a deer materialized among the branches, not twenty feet in front of me.  It retreated silently as I tried to ready the camera for a photo.  Yes, the deer are common, but it is interesting to get close and observe them in some detail.  Though once again missed having a decent camera zoom.

Loved how the snow clung to the dried, weathering prairie plants.

Old Prairie Plants w:Snow Tops

At the Windsor/Vine bridge looked upstream was surprised to see a drake standing still on the shore, then a duck in the water. This time they stood their ground.  Couldn’t figure whether they’d been especially shy earlier in the year or especially bold now.

Ducks Standing Their Ground

Proceeded downstream to check the status of the chewed alders.  On the way saw more small groups of deer, quite close up (though not

Close Deer 24 March 13

so close to get a good photo without zoom, alas.

There were small mats of filamentous algae floating in the water near the shore at the chewed-alder site.  Wondered what prompted

Chewed Alder Site 24 Mar 13

their appearance.  The chew marks on the alders continue to darken. Was amazed to compare them to photos from January.

Chewed Alders Close 24 Mar 13

Wondered again where the beavers were and what they were doing. Maybe having young ones; I think this is the time if year when it happens.

Didn’t notice any red-winged blackbirds around Davis Creek but heard one near the chewed alders.

Followed the “small loop” downstream near the creek, through the Peg Richardson Wildflower Walk. Spotted the sculpture called “Connectors,” which I still can’t decide whether I like. The “figures” seem alive, alien, and perhaps menacing. Or is it playful?

Connectors Emerging, with Snow

At the Sensory Garden saw a little tree with what looked like an interesting distribution of clumps of snow, but it turned out to be a

Pussy Willows Looking Like Snow

pussy willow beginning to bloom.  Not a native plant, I don’t think, but a nice surprise.

Pussy Willows Close

Headed on Windsor Road westward just to Lincoln. The plowed field at the NW corner of Race and Windsor showed a nice winter view.

Snowy Field, Cloudy Morning

But, man, did my right  hand get cold from taking off the glove to take pictures!

Was glad to see the view of the little “valley” looking west on Windsor; an example of the subtle beauty of the central Illinois landscape.

Subtle Valley, Windsor Rd betw Race, Lincoln

 Also, it was fun to coast downhill.

And then, from the corner of my right eye, noticed a very large, strikingly handsome German Shepherd dog running parallel to me at a good clip, just on the other side of the fence (there was a fence, right???) around the stand of U of I trees. No way was I going to out-speed this dog; just clung to the possibility that the fence kept us apart and even that the whistling sound was its owner calling his or her obedient pet back to his or her side.  But the adrenaline was flowing.  Ah, another measurement of the limits of my bravery!  Oh well. Had the rest of the ride (into a bit of a north wind) to clear it from my system.


Sunday 17 March 2013. Tracking at Weaver Park in Late Winter.

On this solidly cloudy, 32 degree F morning, decided to have a dedicated ride on Blue to Weaver Park.

The form of the sun was completely obscured by clouds, and it didn’t get light out until nearly 7 AM

No Sun to See

on this first Sunday after the “spring forward” to Daylight Savings Time.  It was not a morning for sky color.  That and watering eyes kept me from taking in more of the sights along Main Street, though did get a shot of a clump of oaks of which I’m fond across from the Dart (formerly Solo) plant.

Oaks Across from Dart

Did pine for Meadowbrook Park and wonder what was happening there, but once at Weaver, there was of course plenty to see.

Rode Blue, which is a mountain bike, after all, a ways along the mowed, not paved, trail, but it was kind of hard going after a while and

Bumpy, Muddy Trail with Houses Visible, Weaver Park

got off and walked.  After walking a little way in, the sunken pond was revealed, and it was full of geese.  Even this pond, this hidden former buffalo-wallow (or so I’ve been told), was infested with (wild) geese, who made an impressive rushing sound as they took off to

Geese Heading away from Weaver Pond

  escape my gaze–trapped in this pit, they could not take the chance that I wasn’t a predator.  I did have mixed feelings about seeing them there; would have preferred ducks.  It reminded me of being in the middle of a subdivision.  Such prejudice!  They still are majestic and graceful even if ubiquitous and numerous, but they are so ubiquitous and so numerous!  Like people, I guess.

Also, there were a few red-winged blackbirds perched around the pond and vocalizing.  Mostly the vegetation was from last year, but some green shoots could be seen poking up at the edges of the pond.

Pond with Green Shoots

Saw some of the remains of last summer’s growth of prairie plants: Monarda, I think, yellow coneflower, bush clover, cup plant.

Last Year's Monarda, Weaver Park

Bush Clover Remains, Weaver Park

Saw tracks on the path, dog-like, though the toes seemed more pointed. It wasn’t very easy for me to read the tracks, even in the bare

Paw Track Resembling One from a Hoof

mud. Made me think of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings being able to tell Hobbit tracks and all these things about what they did on a path that seemed covered with moss or rocks, or anyway nothing as form-preserving as mud.  Then saw two scats on the trail containing remains

Furry Coyote Scat
Seems to have been here for a while.

of obviously wild food: fur, plant material. These were almost certainly left by coyotes.  Also saw what might have been raccoon tracks

Coyote Scat with Plant Material?

(and shoe treads: other humans had preceded me).

Coyote, Human, Raccoon (?) Prints
Probably at least some of these are dog prints.

I’ve seen coyote scat at  Meadowbrook Park, also, but Weaver Park is, in a way, wilder than Meadowbrook, if only for having many fewer, shoe prints notwithstanding, human visitors.  Yet, there are a fairly large number of small, closely spaced houses right next to Weaver Park, lacking the spacious grounds around the bordering homes, for example, that separate Meadowbrook from its human neighbors.  Only a line of Osage orange (I think) trees come between human habitation and Weaver Park on the east side.  I wonder what these inhabitants might think of their close coyote neighbors.

As I exited Weaver Park and headed west on to Main Street, saw a vulture flying low overhead and toward the northeast.  Looking back over the park saw three more of them. No pictures, unfortunately; wasn’t fast enough for the close one, and the farther ones would have been too small to distinguish.

Hands and feet were getting cold on the way home. The price of winter photography.

Sunday 10 March 2013. A Wet Spring-Forward

Happy Birthday Sherri!  You know who you are!

Today was the dreaded lose-an-hour (Spring Forward!) Sunday, one down-side of the coming of spring, which was rumbling (not literally) with a 48 F-degree temperature, light rain, and a breeze from the south.  There was plenty of mud but also a few remaining patches of grey snow.

Per the time-change, it was quite dark at 6:45 this morning as I headed to Meadowbrook Park on Blue. Would have been even darker at the beginning of the trip if I hadn’t gone back for a poncho (“better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”).  There was a brief period of actual rain, as opposed to mist, really, (and it, with the wind, was quite dramatically audible through the shaking clinging oak leaves along Race Street just south of Orchard Downs), but not having it would have been ok, as it turned out.

Saw one car in the Race Street parking lot of Meadowbrook but no other humans as I made the counterclockwise “big loop.”  Laughed to myself that I’d fretted a bit about doing the same trip yet again, as if there were nothing new to see.

At the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, it was still pretty dark.

Spring-Forward Morning at Rabbit Bridge

Have to admit that actually was not earnestly hankering for the spring, yet. Seems I’d only just gotten used to the austere demands and pleasures of winter, of which few, (and not until this year including myself), tend to take the trouble to meet and discover.  Wanted this, too, to last.  Another manifestation of the law of inertia, perhaps.

Rode past Davis Creek with attention drawn to the stream-side that soon would be obscured by plant growth.  Stopped to follow a muddy deer path to the stream-side and shoot the collection of tree trunks there.

Deer Path to Cottonwood Trunks Closeup

Saw deer, not in a big herd this time but mostly in twos.

Two Deer 10 Mar 13

Both the paved path and the “soft path” to the middle of the prairie were covered in places with standing water.

Puddle on Path Near Marker

Soft Path w:Puddle

Heard the red-winged blackbirds mostly saying “check…, check,” but also at least one three-part “Star Trek intro” call.  Farther to the east was a fairly dense gathering of them atop a cottonwood tree.

Treetop w:Lots of RWBBs

Looked for and think I saw what must have been mouse (shrew?) holes in the matted dead grass stems next to the path.  Only noticed

Mouse Hole? 10 Mar 13

these one day when I walked the loop (not an official velo).  Even bicycling can be too fast to observe some things.

At the Windsor/Vine bridge caught a pair of mallards that stayed close enough to observe for a little while, though they were too far away to get a good picture.

Got a photo of  the alder below the bridge with old flowers (seeds) and new buds.

Last Year's Alder Flowers

Made a quick trip downstream to the beaver-chewed alders. Heard a lot of the “tea, tea, tea,-t-t-t-t-t-t” of, I think, song sparrows (though I

Chewed Alder Site 10 Mar 13


looked it up, and what I found didn’t quite seem to match), along with more red-winged blackbirds.

Turned back toward Windsor, briefly over an unexpected patch of wet, uneven ice.

Wet Bumpy Ice

And, yes, I did make it all the way to its other end without falling (oh, yeah!).

Sunday 24 February 2013. Ice in Process

Darn, today’s notes got gobbled by that iPhone poltergeist again and so must dig in the rusty old memory banks (and the photos, fortunately) for this account.  Ok, yes, I hear you say, “Backup is important!”  Learning slowly, the hard way.

Another Clear Sunrise

So it was sunny, calm, and 16 degrees F, which stays with me only because I ran unto a couple of friends out walking, and we agreed that it was pretty comfortable, for the temp, as long as you kept moving.
Allowed a little extra time this morning  to do a big loop of Meadowbrook Park as well as check the stream for ice.  Can’t remember why I went clockwise instead of the usual way, but looked at the “Folk Art” (what I think of as “Processing Difficult Emotions”) sculpture

Folk Art Figures Close Up

from a different angle than usual.  Noticed (after how many years?) that the figures had been carved out of, I think, utility poles.

Old Compass Plant and Clear Morning Sky

Couldn’t resist yet another, and another, shot of winter compass plant stalks and curled, frosted leaves.

Curled, Frosted Compass Plant Leaves 24 Feb 13
Going clockwise gave me a better view of Davis Creek, the stream that flows just to the inside of the southern edge of the “big loop” and joins McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.  Walked off of the path toward the stream edge and saw the remains of what I guessed to be a

Davis Creek Bridge Remains

dismantled bridge.  aw the trunks of some large streamside trees (cottonwoods?), only the tops of which are visible during the growing

Clump of Cottonwood Trunks at Davis Creek


Several red-winged blackbirds were distributed among the tree-tops near the creek; they vocalized actively, including at least one clear rendition of the “Theme from Star Trek Call.”

Singing February Red-Winged Blackbird
Riding down toward the rabbit bridge saw a “herd” of deer; must have been at least 20 of them.  I think they are less inclined to be

February Herd of Deer

startled when they’re in a group like that.  One of their number was crossing the path as I looked toward the bridge.

DeerDown the Path in Sun
Got off of Blue at the bridge to do a little investigating of where the “spring” flowed into McCullough Creek.  (See photo.)  Then rode on

Entrance of "Spring" water

the “small loop” upstream to check on the beaver-chewed alders.  Not much new activity looked evident.  But I never get tired of this spot with

Closeup of Chewed Alders 24 Feb 13

the alder trees lined up along the stream.  Different weather conditions make the colors slightly different at each visit. Today’s most

A Little Closer to the Stream with Dark Blue Water

distinguishing feature was the beginnings of a layer of ice at the stream edges.  It was rough with crystal patterns.

Sunrise, Snow, Ice, Chewed Alder

On the banks, a little away from the water were pieces of ice that had been covering the tree branches and then were shed, broken and

Refrozen Ice Pieces

now refrozen: ice in another process.
Noticed as I approached the Windsor/Vine bridge that the span was covered by a layer of packed snow and rough ice.  Hmm.  Would it be crazy to try to

Icy Challenge

cross it on Blue?  Decided that I wasn’t going to fall to my death if the bike wiped out and that it would be a good skill to practice, so carefully but with abandon to the “danger” went for it, and was pleased with my success!

Sunday 3 March 2013. A Loop to the East, with a Stop at the Bones

The sky was bell-clear and the air calm at 6:10 an this morning, with a temperature of 16 degrees F.  Already, suddenly, it seemed, it was light enough to see easily.  Saw the slightly more than half-full, waning moon over the garage as I got Blue out for a ride to the east.
A Little More Than Half Moon 3 Mar 13
Again, it seemed like a long time since I’d been there.  Funny that cold days should hinder such a trip, especially with warm clothes and no wind.  But today it would happen!  Headed out on Washington Street; didn’t stop except to document the remarkably unremarkable dawn.  Did see the sun-disc–always a reminder of power and life,
Sunrise with Remaining Snow 3 Mar 13
but today without its frequently surrounding cloud-drama.  Passed the south side of Weaver Park and was tempted to stop and check out the pond, but resisted.  A trip for another day.East of High Cross Road, it was good to be moving in the crisp air, between the open, slightly frosted black fields.  It was good to see the

Looking across High Cross Rd 3 Mar 13

occasional frozen puddle in the fields, especially after last summer’s drought.  Took some shots of ice along the characteristically quiet

Frozen Wet Field, East Washington St

stretch on Cottonwood Road.  Now it was mostly solid, but wondered what it looked like through the cycles of thawing-freezing of

Illinois Freeze-Thaw

the central Illinois winter.

Crossed I-74 and immediately turned west on Anthony Drive.  The houses close to the country road brought on that fear of an

I-74 from Cottonwood Rd

unfriendly dog encounter, even though I’d been here several times before with no such problem.  Just really didn’t want to deal with an

Anthony Dr, No Dogs

unfriendly dog on top of the cold.  Though must say, was plenty comfortable at that point;  even fingers and toes were reasonably warm.

Realized then that I’d be passing the possum bones on High Cross, though wouldn’t have stopped (they’re on the other side of the road from the way I was traveling) if the traffic were heavier.  Was glad to notice that although it’s not terribly smart to stop on a road bridge as narrow as that, at least the site was at a high, very visible point.

Stopped, dismounted, and climbed over the guardrail for a close look at the possum remains.   (See posts from 31 May 2021, 11 July 201228 July 2012, 31 July 2012, 4 August 2012, 6 September 2012, 20 January 2013 about how they have looked on previous visits.)   Noted how the bones continued to scatter, more individual pieces laid out separately.  Wondered again what that

Possum Bones 3 Mar 13 1

roughly spherical/volcano  shaped thing among them could have been– a grapefruit?  A coconut?

Possum Bones 3 Mar 13 3

Possum Bones 4 Mar 13 4

Coming back the cold started to catch up with my toes and fingers when I stopped to take photos, like of this old hackberry in the sun on

Large Main St Hackberry

Main Street.  Less than comfortable but not terribly distracting.  It was another great morning to be awake and outside!

Sunday 17 February 2013. Sparkling Prairie

It was 12 degrees with a bell-clear sky and calm air at 6:20 thus morning as Blue and I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on the usual route. Took no hand warmers–the gloves I’ve been using, a pair discovered in the depths of our hall closet, have been working quite well.  So was warmly dressed and comfortable.  Pedaled without stopping almost to Windsor Road;  it’s amazing how much heat one can generate and retain when one just keeps going.
Simple Sunrise Meadowbrook 17 Feb 13
Took the counterclockwise big loop to the rabbit bridge and locked Blue to the bridge. Walked (through scattered blackberry brambles) upstream a little way along McCullough Creek just to the “waterfall” over what I’m guessing was a small beaver dam. Cold as it was, the
Still Water, Flowing Water
stream flowed mostly ice-free, except for the edges of the “falls” and the beginnings of a feathery thin layer upstream from the little dam.
Tiny Waterfall
Got a shot of the creek with the sunlight just beginning to touch the dry vegetation above the banks.
First Sunlight on Little Dam
Got back on Blue an intended to ride quickly to Philo Road and out to the hill on Old Church Road, but was greeted by the rising sun over a frost-sprinkled prairie.  The grasses and other remaining dry plants were covered with unusually large ice crystals. The phrase
First Morning Sunlight Dispersed by Frost
“sparkled like diamonds” seemed entirely appropriate. At the tops of the scattered little trees on the Walker Grove were the red-winged
RWBB in Little Treetop and Sparking fFrost
blackbirds again, calling away.  And was worried there wouldn’t be anything much different to see than yesterday!?
A group of at least eight deer were gathered in the middle of the prairie; they let me get close enough for a shot with recognizable deer
Deer in Early Sunlight with Frost on Grass
forms. I miss my zoom.
My right hand suddenly was FREEZING. It’s what happens when you stop several times and take off your gloves in 12 degree air.
Did head south on Philo but didn’t make it quite to Old Church Road. (Turned back at Curtis.)  Too much time shooting the sparkling
Looking West from Philo Road 17 Feb 13
Rode all the way back on Windsor and on Race without stopping for one photo: good aerobic breathing and warmth!

Saturday 16 Febuary 2013. A Bit of Meadowbrook and a Few Winter Miles.

It was 18 degrees F with scattered clouds this morning at 6:30 as I headed on Blue (with its newly installed, grippy pedals and new handlebar grips!) toward Meadowbrook Park for a short visit; the ultimate goal was to get out in the country, any amount.  It seemed so long since I’d ventured into the countryside.
The color of the pre-dawn horizon was rather subdued, mostly shades of blue-grey, though briefly the closer clouds showed edges of pink.

Felt no breeze riding southward so suspected there was some wind from the north.  Was warmly dressed and so quite comfortable (even a bit too warm) as I stopped for a photo of the (ash, I believe, alas) tree with the split trunk in Blair Park.

Split-Trunk Ash Blair Park
Was surprised at the volume of traffic on Vine Street, for the hour.  Saw the water moving as I approached the Windsor/Vine bridge: was able to get a shot of a pair of mallard ducks as they stole away downstream.

Ducks Swimming Away from Windsor Vine Bridge
Took the small-loop paved path a little way down the stream an walked to the side of the creek to see the beaver-gnawed alders. Loved

Rust-Colored Cambium

the color combination of the sky reflected In the water and the rust color of the exposed alder cambium. Noticed several “beaver cheetoes” (chewed pieces of alder twigs, maybe roots) in the water.

Beaver Snacks 16 Feb 13
Heard first then spotted a bunch of red-winged blackbirds in the top of a tree near the creek, the first time I’ve noticed them this season.

Several Red-Winged Blackbirds 16 Feb 13

They vocalized continuously.  It was good to hear their familiar voices again.  Wondered how they’d spent the late fall and earlier winter.
Rode to the edge of the park and south on Race street. It was lovely to see the landscape open up with the sun climbing up past the

South Race Sunrise 16 Feb 13

horizon. Good to be out under the vast Illinois sky, with its few tiny trees and farm buildings repeated even smaller in the far distance.
Took Race street to Curtis Road and then turned east to Philo Road. Could feel the rise in the road, (uphill!) and did enjoy the exertion, though people who live with real topographic relief (i.e., not in central Illinois) would laugh.

On the way back felt that expected north wind coming at me.