Friday 30 May 2014. A Little Crawdad in a Puddle in the Path

It was 66 degrees F at 5:11 am–a pretty good start, at last! In the the sky were widespread but thin clouds.

Many of the neighborhood peonies were bending low–still in bloom but past their peak.

It was another Meadowbrook Park ride with camera and no phone; was eager to follow the next small development of the bloom cycle, and whatever else might appear there.

Crossed the rabbit-statue bridge at a good clip (whee!) but then turned back to stop and see Davis Creek still actively emptying into McCullough Creek.

Right around the southwest corner of the path were Penstemon; they were so uplifting to see, like little towers with little speakers radiating around them, announcing the rebirth of the prairie. 20140604-234203.jpg

The first blue flag irises in the patch away from the path were really starting to bloom but the lone iris right by the path seemed to have vanished.


Saw something swim (?!?) in a puddle on the path. It was a tiny crawdad (or crayfish, which is not a fish)! 20140604-234036.jpg
It got so still after it stopped that I wasn’t sure I actually saw it move. But got really close and it did scoot away.

Two walkers coming the other direction said they saw a huge turtle a little ways up the path! I looked but did not see it. 😦

Saw a strange orange light between the trees that formed the SW edge of Meadowbrook, and it took a moment to realize it was the rising sun!


The sun-disk was orange and mild to look at for quite a way (as these things go) above the horizon.

Saw a nice arrangement of spiderwort among blackberries.

The blackberry blossoms seem more attractive this year than I remember them from the past. Maybe it just took this long to appreciate them.

On the way home noticed a flowering shrub (the identity of which I need to look up) in the process of raining down its old blossoms. Marveled how they were still in such good shape, detached from the plant, lying on the ground, ready for decay. Tried to see it as an example of the sweetness but brevity of this life as we know it.



Thursday 29 May 2014. Abundance: Spiderwort and First Penstemon

It was 64 degrees F this morning at 5:25 under cloudy skies, part of which settled low as a thin, diffuse fog.

Headed on Rhododendron for another trip to Meadowbrook Park, without the iPhone but with the “dedicated” camera that was almost out of battery charge. So at least I wouldn’t be tempted to stop for photos quite so frequently as I would with the phone. [Note: the strange appearance of these photos is the result of photographing the image on the camera’s viewfinder–I had a problem uploading the photos from the camera.]

At Meadowbrook, soon after crossing the rabbit-statue bridge

20140529-170035.jpgand rounding the corner of the path to the east, saw my first Penstemon of the year!

Because of the slight fog, the rising sun was an orange-red disc that was easy to look at directly as it came up over the inside of the prairie.

The fog also created a soft effect over the ground.

The bloom of the lone blue flag iris I saw last time was spent, though there still was a bud on the plant. The patch back through the wet ground a ways from the path was coming into bloom!

Teva sandals were the ticket for braving the slight barrier of water.

And then of course there was the spiderwort, both both it and the Penstemon quite abundant already. Their beauty was so comforting: it exactly fulfilled the achy longing for them before they came as well as ausuaging a bit of other current life discomfort…. What a gift they are!

Did not see any deer today, though I’m sure they were around nearby.

Almost missed the possum remains in the bike lane in the way home. Except for the teeth and a clawed hand, they blended right in with all the piles of spent tree-flower debris.

Stopped to use the last bit of charge in the battery to get a shot of these splendid poppies, in honor of a friend who is crazy about them but unable to see them just now. For you, Nancy.


Sunday 25 May 2014. Spiderwort and More!

It was 54 degrees F this morning under mostly cloudy skies. (Have to either get up earlier or quit trying to squeeze in the few yoga poses that still take time, or just resign myself to a later start.) Could see out the front door that there was a red-orange, sky-blazing sunrise in progress, but by 5:25, when Rhododendron and I finally got on the road, the color had faded, the sun-disc casting golden light down from the layer of clouds above the horizon.

Got a shot of some gorgeous neighborhood peonies in the sunrise, reminding me of yesterday’s summit of floral richness and perfection: peonies, irises, and the namesakes of my bike, Rhododendrons, all full and fresh. Was so grateful to catch what I did of it!

On the way to Meadowbrook Park, saw a little way ahead, the fox crossing Race street from east to west, and heard its distressed (for a dog)-sounding bark.

The light coming up through the newly (it seemed; just taking such a long time to shake off this past winter) and increasingly green Meadowbrook provoked attention and anticipation. Started to speed down to the rabbit-statue bridge but then stopped for a photo, the illumination was so inviting.

Below the bridge, McCullough Creek was bordered by way too much invasive honeysucke, just like in the Saline Ditch and my back yard. One hates to complain about such a pleasantly fragrant plant, but it crowds out the native ones…an old story, and one not without prejudice, after all, the peonies and irises are not native, either.

Then, just over the bridge, among the invasive, exotic but nicely yellow wild parsnip, was my first view of Meadowbrook spiderwort for the year! Did not succeed in getting a good photo, but there it was!

Later down the path saw another blue flower I expected to be more spiderwort, but in fact it was a blue flag iris, in perfect early bloom and right next to the path!

What else is there to say?

Then, near Davis Creek, with the calls of red-winged blackbirds and some early bass notes of bullfrogs playing, saw a cluster of large, gorgeous spiderwort, among the lichens and old coneflower stalks and Baptisia pods–the new emerging from the old!

Then started down the soft path, wondering if there was any evidence of the shooting stars, and on the way saw some very fresh coyote scat.

Noticed the blackberry blossoms seemed more striking somehow than in past years, when they often didn’t make the final cut to post in Velo du Jour. but today, here they are.

Felt like the prairie was finally really coming back to life.

Saturday 24 May 2014. Some Miles and a Taste of the Woods

This morning at 5:20 it was 54 degrees F, the sky clear but for some scattered wispy clouds. The waning moon was a thin crescent (But can you really call it that when it’s waning? Maybe “decrescent” would be more accurate) in the southeastern sky.

This morning’s velo would be a loop to the east and the north, particularly to the edges of Trelease and Brownfield woods.

Headed east on Washington Street but still didn’t get a good view of the sunrise until got to High Cross Road, and by then the disc had risen quite clear of the horizon.

A little before that made a really quick stop at Weaver Park and got a shot of young cup plants in front of the pond.

The yellow flowers are exotic wild parsnip: invasive but they do lend a little color.

Rode on east on Washington to Cottonwood Road and turned north, along a stretch that always seems to be so quiet. Thought it was for lack of birds, though today the quiet was punctuated by the occasional killdeer call. Also noticed a few smallish black- brown birds I guessed could be brown-headed cowbirds, a species that lays its eggs in the nest of other birds. Don’t have time to go into the anthropomorphic ideas (including adoption) that such a way of life brings to mind, but will mention they made little sound.

The fields on either side of Cottonwood were unplanted, or at least the plants hadn’t yet appeared. The field on the east side was rather full of trash, especially plastic bottles, which I remembered also being abundant there last year.

Near the intersection with US 150 could see a smallish bird of a somewhat rusty color up on a utility line. Thought it might be a bluebird and got a zoomed-in photo with the camera, as well as a video recording, which captured a “witchity-witchity” kind of song. Here is a sketch from one of the photos.

It turned out to be a common yellowthroat (the yellow throat of which was not easily visible from this angle), maybe not quite so flashy as a bluebird, but a handsome bird nonetheless.

Continuing north and crossing the Saline Ditch noticed another place with an overabundance of exotic honeysuckle.

Farther down, on the road between the Philipps Tract and Trelease woods was a group of deer that lingered long enough for me to zoom in on and photograph with the camera; see the sketch below.

Passing Trelease woods and looking into the dark middle of it made me think, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep….”

Knew the woodland Phlox would be past the peak of their bloom,

20140524-082504.jpg so was glad to see some still there as well as some wild geranium.

Rode to Oaks Road and turned west and then south on High Cross. On the edge of Brownfield Woods were clusters of smallish pale blue flowers with hairy stems, which turned out to be great water leaf (Hydrophyllum appendiculatum):

Saw an indigo bunting just inside the woods, which rested long enough for me to get out the camera, but then seemed to startle at the sound effects of turning it on, alas.

Noticed a tallish plant with golden-yellow composite flowers, which I looked up and found to be butterweed (Senecia glabellus), Was happy to finally identify this plant, which I distinctly remember growing along wooded streams back when I was a field biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Stopped before going back over the I -74 bridge to check the old possum bones. For the first time in two years, plants were starting to grow up among them. Two weeks ago they were as exposed as they’d been the whole time and now, suddenly they were almost completely obscured, and likely would be the next time I’d see them.

Made me think of how nonlinear the processes of life can be: we easily get lulled into thinking things won’t change, then suddenly they do.

Was happy to log 15 miles for this trip.

Friday 23 May 2014. Same and Different.

This morning at 5:20 it was 57 degrees F under mostly clear skies. There were some pink streaks and the waning moon was clearly visible, (though perhaps not so clearly in this sketch) even with a small, thin cloud in front of it.

It was the same trip to Meadowbrook Park this morning as last, but funny how I noticed different things, like not the way the trees on Race street were arranged; e.g., missed the elm altogether.

Arrived at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek just as the sun was coming up. Saw it rise above the the creek and also above the prairie, where there was s slight mist over the ground.

The mist was especially picturesque near the Marker statue.

Looped back through the woods along McCullough Creek and heard a distinctive bird song I didn’t recognize.

Then saw some deer quite close-up, in view of the new buildings at Clark-Lindsey Village.

Stopped at the Meadowbrook sensory garden on the way back; the bearded irises were stunning!

20140528-231518.jpg Couldn’t resist taking some photos with the little non-phone camera and making a sketch of one of them.

Noticed once again the dead possum in the bike path on the way home. You wouldn’t think people would just roll over it, but it kind of looked like that’s what was happening. Maybe it’s so inconspicuous they don’t notice it, or probably they just don’t expect it to be right there. Well, the process proceeds….

Thursday 22 May 2014. Green and More Green

It was 61 degrees F this morning at 5:25, the sky mostly clear after last night’s thunderstorm and generous rain.

Noticed for the first time in all the years I’ve been riding along Race Street what kind of trees there were and where: the wall of spruces, two groups of pines, a grove of maples, the tree that the path curves around is an elm of some kind, a group of crabs, an then the oaks, ginkgoes, and lindens. They formed an ordered collection.

Fast-forward to Meadowbrook Park: saw a very distant deer mid-prairie.
Saw a dark shape thought might be a mink (well I have seen them here), but after a bit recognized it clearly as a male pheasant.

Unusual for it to be visible so far into the middle. Must have been displaying.

Felt a sharp pang of sadness, or something like it, at the turn north on the path because there were no spiderwort blooming yet, only green leaves and exotic wild parsnip and honeysuckle. Made me think of other things I missed….

But moved on through the trees along the “short loop” and the Peg Richardson Hickman Wildflower Walk.
Somehow spotted a Jack-in-the-pulpit among the various other varieties of green leaves near the pavilion at the Race Street parking lot.

Homeward, noticed no one had moved the dead possum out of the bike path between George Huff and Holmes, it turns out. It was decomposing much faster than the one on High Cross Road that I’ve been observing for a couple of years. Might be because it never had the hot sun on it to dry it out. It’s interesting to observe how the process varies and what might affect it. Hoped this observing of decomposition might help me to look with more courage and equanimity at the continuity between life and death….

Monday 19 May 2014. Close-Up With Deer and Birds

It was 45 degrees F at 5:23 am, the sky cloudy but with gaps and some thin places. The slightly more than half moon was high in the sky and fuzzy.

Near the horizon there was color! First noticed pink behind tree silhouettes and when more of the sky was visible, purple, golden peach, and turquoise. Very nice!

Sped across the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek in Meadowbrook Park and proceeded directly to the soft path through the prairie to see if there was anything left of the shooting stars. Stopped before I got there because there were deer in the path. Two small ones (does, I presumed) walked across the path and into the prairie on the east side; a larger third one, also antler-less but likely a buck, stopped in the path and faced me directly. Not a “deer in the headlights,” this one. Took a bunch of photos with my “dedicated” (i.e., not the iPhone) camera, but since I haven’t yet figured out how to send the pics via wireless connection to the phone, just made a sketch from the camera shot.

Could have gotten him to move, I think, if I’d confidently and smoothly advanced, but decided to show him some respect and turned back the other way.

Farther along saw a make red-winged blackbird with mostly white epaulettes on the ground next to the path. He let me get rather close, and I took some photos. He gave the “Star Trek” call and then flew to a dry stalk farther away from the path. (See sketch.)

Wondered if he was ok. Molting, perhaps?

Also got a decent shot of a male goldfinch, one of those bright yellow little vehicles of joy.