Monday 30 June 2014. Stalking the Royal Catchfly, Finding Deer

It was 73 degrees F and cloudy, very humid and calm this morning at 5:35.

Today’s objective was to see whether the Meadowbrook Park population of royal catchfly had started to bloom.

Rode to the Race Street pavilion, locked Rhododendron to the rack, and walked to the little wooden bridge just in front of the “soft” path into the middle of the prairie. The air was very moist and very quiet; thought of the expression “pregnant silence,” as if with rain, which seemed like it would start falling any minute.

Stopped at the bridge to see whether there still were deer bones in the bottom of McCullough Creek here. Though I saw a shin bone and took a photo.

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But looking at it now, seems more like a branch than a bone.

There was common milkweed a-bloom in the prairie,

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also butterflyweed (another milkweed), which I didn’t remember seeing in this part of the prairie before, and remembered again not seeing it this year next to the lead plant. Makes me wonder about what enables it to grow.

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As I walked in to the middle of the prairie saw a deer standing neck-deep in prairie plants on the north side of the path, not going anywhere but watching me intently.

Kept my eyes open for royal catchfly but did not see any red stars of flowers. The prairie was modestly decked with Heliopsis, Baptisia, and the long-blooming but gradually declining spiderwort.

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On the way back saw another deer, across the path from the first one.

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Wondered for a moment whether it would be a problem to come between the two of them, but when I stopped to photograph the second one, it actually came slowly toward me and stopped to look a moment before walking on, like I was dismissed. Do enjoy those moments of interaction with the resident creatures on something of their own terms.

Got a shot of some thimbleweed, which are not the most photogenic of flowers, though fairly distinctive with their long, thin, straight stalks.

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Noticed around the thimbleweed a lot of vigorous foliage of cream gentian, which I now recognize before the flowers appear. Still don’t know what the bloom will be like–exciting to anticipate!

Need to come back and see if and when the royal catchfly flowers will appear.

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Saturday 28 June 2014. Prairie Flowers at Three Non-Meadowbrook Sites

This morning at 5:38 it was 72 degrees and cloudy. The weather ap on the iPhone said it was storming(?) but that it would clear soon. Actually, there were dry patches on the street and sidewalk when I got Rhododendron out if the garage to go out and explore some other places besides Meadowbrook Park to see the burgeoning summer prairie flowers.

First stop was the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard.

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What is there to say but “WOW!” ?

So many species were blooming. Will just give an illustrated, briefly annotated list.
Monarda
Purple coneflower
Yellow coneflower
Ironweed
Black-eyed Susan

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Swamp milkweed
Heliopsis

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Butterfly weed

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Wild quinine
Rattlesnake master (a name that cracks my up, think about it, and it does look like it belongs with the rattlesnakes in the desert)

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Blue vervain
Thimbleweed and Potentilla, of which I didn’t get photos.
And, to my delight, lead plant, with nearby mountain mint. Also noticed more butterfly weed, which reminded me that there didn’t seem to be butterfly weed near the lead plant at Meadowbrook as there had been in previous years.

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And prairie clover!

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There was a legume I didn’t recognize.

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(Looked it up later and found it to be Canada milk vetch, Astrgalus canadensis.) Also there was one I did recognize–prairie tick trefoil, which seemed early, it even had pods already.

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And, still there was a patch of spiderwort tucked into the rising stems and leaves of later-blooming composites like prairie dock, rosinweed, and stiff goldenrod.

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Was delighted by the expansive sky over Windsor Road as I headed on for the City of Champaign Prarie Restoration near Neil Street,

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where there was a thick stand of lead plant!

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Also there were many exotic, invasive non-natives like sweet clover, chicory, and crown vetch. Looked like the prairie stewards hadn’t been there for a while. Odd to think about it, but it takes a lot of work (planting, removing exotics) by humans to keep a mini-prairie “natural.”

Then rode Windsor to Prospect toward Curtis to where I remembered lots of prairie clover around a sunken pond.
There was a surprisingly large number of people out walking and running along Prospect Avenue before 7:00 am.

Was not disappointed about the prairie clover, foiled by black-eyed Susans.

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Though last year there were ducks in the pond, which I didn’t see this time, though they may have been hidden. Wondered whether this pond ever was a buffalo-wallow.

Planned to take Kirby/Florida almost all the way home, but Kirby at the Assembly Hall (State Farm Center, whatever) was blocked for the Corvette Fest.

But wound my way through the all the construction on campus and made it back eventually.

Thursday 26 June 2014. Brevity: Fog, New Flowers, and Spider Webs

It was 66 degrees F at 5:20 this morning, under a good layer of fog. Alas, again, not much time, but it was wonderful to have this dramatic weather filling full the little space there was.

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Some linden trees still had fragrant blooms, but many were finished.

Noticed the mighty dark-green corn rising from the fog in the field to the west.

Near the rabbit bridge over high McCullough Creek heard lots of energetic bird song that I couldn’t identify but that seemed unusually sweet.

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Saw the summer prairie’s first Monarda in the fog.

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Knew there would be spiderwebs out there, strung with beads of condensed fog, and sure enough, there they were, though the memory of a beautiful foggy morning last summer kept pushing certain expectations of what I should find. For on thing, it seemed harder this morning than last year to get the webs to stand out.

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But found plenty of webs. Was focusing on one when it broke before my eyes–startling, actually!

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Made me think of spiderwebs, there all the while but usually hidden (especially from unsuspecting prey) and now revealed, so precise and strong in their design yet so easily dismantled, like a Tibetan sand painting.

It was hard not to stay for endless photos of the marvels, but had to keep to the limited time, and remembered how brief the fog would be, and the spider webs, the flowers, each in its turn, this life, really. Reluctant to let go of any of them. All so brief! But reminded myself that every little moment was huge and eternal; it was good to be here at all.

Saw the soft outline of the ears, head, neck, and back of a good-sized deer through the fog back in the prairie.

20140629-170623.jpg Trust me on this one; no zoom. It stayed still and aimed toward me as I came around the southeast corner of the path.

Walked Rhododendron slowly and receptively along the path toward the Freyfogel Overlook, perfect preparation to catch the little patch of my first blooming Meadowbrook purple prairie clover of the year. There is hardly a more photogenic flower!

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Got shots of more dew-heavy spiderwebs, including some among the spiderwort.

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And of course made sure to see the lead plant.

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Saw the first new yellow coneflowers with drops of water clinging to the emerging petals.

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Was amazed at how many species had started to bloom since the previous Saturday!

The trip reminded me of a beautiful postage stamp: a lot of beauty in a small space.

Saturday 21 June 2014. A Trip to the Edge of Sidney

Saw pink in the eastern sky at 5 this morning of the longest day of the year, but didn’t get out the door till almost quarter after, oh well. The phone weather ap said it was 64 degrees F, but it felt warmer, perfectly comfortable, in fact.

The moon, in its last quarter, I guess you would say, was about 10 o’clock to the east and one o’clock to the south. By the time Rhododendron was rolling on Race Street, the sun was rising behind clouds, the disc obscured until it was well over the horizon.

Headed south toward Sidney (my second attempt at one of my summer goals) and resolved to go past Meadowbrook Park but not stop there. And almost made it, but from Race Street, a little before it crossed McCullough Creek, noticed a very localized mist (thought “magical mist”) just inside the park. So how could I not cut across the grass at the southwest corner of the park to check it out?

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The mist was confined to a corner of the park, but its condensation left lots of wonderfully large dewdrops on the abundantly open spiderwort.

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Saw an antlerless deer rather close-up that didn’t seem concerned by my approach.

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Then tried hard just to pedal toward Sidney, though the spiderwort with Baptisia did stop me on the way out.

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Also stopped at the turn onto Yankee Ridge Road because I liked the little bit of curving and topography in the fields.

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Turned east at 1000 E, which became the “Sidney Slab” east of Ill 130. There were a fair number of cars going west, which made me uncomfortable. Only a couple passed me going east. Made myself ride toward the middle of the lane so cars would have to go around me rather than try to squeeze by. Don’t think I would want to bike this road any later in the day.

Stopped to look over the bridge where the Sidney slab crossed a branch of the Salt Fork

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and saw a group of about five dark ducks. Was able to zoom in enough with the dedicated camera to see a white eye ring and identify at least one as a female wood duck.

My slightly cranky right knee-hip felt a lot better with just that short stop.

Reached the first (black letters on white background, a little plain, I thought) sign saying “Sidney,” got a photo,

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and turned back. Fortunately the westbound traffic was less busy on the way home.

Out in the countryside noticed how dark green the tall prepubescent corn was, with broad, arching leaves.

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It’s been a good growing season so far.
Saw the marks of what must have been an interesting, energetic maneuver on the intersection of Philo and Curtis roads.


After the trip felt a very satisfying fatigue, the satisfying part of which (especially reaching a summer goal) stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Friday 20 June 2014. Presenting: the 2014 Bloom of the Lead Plant

Already it’s the almost-longest day of the year! It was 72 degrees F and humid. Unfortunately, the sun-disc would not make an appearance; a light rain fell. The phone weather-ap said it was storming and that rain would be 90% likely to fall for the next several hours. But the robins and cardinals were madly tweeting, as if to challenge the forecast, so put on my super-light cycling jacket (and added some air to Rhododendron’s back tire–ahh!) and headed to Meadowbrook Park expecting not to be bothered, like the birds, by the rain.

On the way to Meadowbrook with the usual worries and concerns, my thoughts gathered around the concept of compassion–how soothing it is for self and others, but then does it sometimes become enabling, and how does one know when that starts to happen…?

Sped over the rabbit-statue bridge but then slowly rode through the green prairie without fixing my attention on any particular feature. Noticed the absence of particular excitement. But it was ok.

There was a group of spiderwort that grabbed my attention, with a fingered compass plant leaf in front of it.

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Checked the lead plant in front of the Freyfogel Overlook, and the first little blooms at the base of the flower spikes wet just starting to open!

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Took a few different shots; it has such an attractive flower, and the leaves are lovely, too.

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Also noticed wavy, brown old stalks of bush clover standing among the spiderwort and new bush clover leaves.

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To complete the foil for the lead plant bloom was today’s assortment of older spiderwort and newer purple coneflower and Baptisia.

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Wednesday 18 June 2014. Bee on Spiderwort and a Little More

It was 73 degrees F and humid and clear enough to see the about half-moon overhead but with clouds at the horizon.

Time was limited once again, but that meant another little glimpse of the floral progression at Meadowbrook Park.

Made a really quick “big loop” without stopping much.

The prairie inside the “short loop,” which was beautifully displayed from the path along Windsor Road, still had plenty of spiderwort and also more and more Baptisia and purple coneflower blooms.

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Noticed honeybees on the spiderwort, which seemed unusual somehow. Did get one reasonable shot.

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Nearby, there was a cluster of several “daddy long-legs” on some grass flower-heads.

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Was not familiar with this grass and not sure it’s native. Seems to me the prairie grasses bloom later.

Suspect that the increased arthropod activity at this time of day had to do with the higher than usual temperature.

Also saw a wide-open pasture rose and got a shot.

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Of course there was more but let this be the extent of today’s offering. Really want to work on keeping the posts brief!

Sunday 15 June 2014. Transition: More Green Again

This morning at 5:20 it was 55 degrees F, the sky partly cloudy and a southerly breeze blowing.

The waning moon was still high but well in the southwest.

Felt comfortable enough, though kept thinking about what I might be missing that I’d experienced at this time of year previously. E.g., expected to smell a lot of glorious linden, but though I saw plenty of open flowers, the scent was faint.

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When I was able to accept what was there, what I did perceive, regardless of its pleasantness or lack thereof, felt more peaceful and grateful. But there was a lot of wandering away from that acceptance, maybe more of just touching it occasionally, briefly.

It was another (never too many!) trip to Meadowbrook Park, and this time planned to linger a little (possibly meet up with a friend) and walk the “soft” path.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge to get a shot of Davis Creek flowing into a pretty much still McCullough Creek.

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Walked into the wet place near the blue flag iris patch just to see whether they were completely done blooming and was pleasantly surprised to see a fresh bloom among the spent ones.

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Farther along, noticed lots of green shoots of Baptisia buds.

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After crossing Davis Creek at the little arched bridge, walked Rhododendron down the soft path, all the way from near the Marker statue to near the sensory garden. Right after the soft path forked and I took the left side, saw and heard moving vegetation to the right, and noted that squirrels tend not to venture into the open prairie. Wondered, was it a coyote? Just then, immediately to my left, a male pheasant exploded upward and flew off. It was quite startling! Concluded the previous movement also was pheasant.

Got a shot of milkweed in green bud.

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Made another counterclockwise large loop and stopped at the Freyfogel Overlook to check the lead plant, also still in bud, though its buds were pink.

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Also caught a couple of tree swallows flying over the green prairie with some nice clouds behind them, up high.

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Then noticed pasture rose among the spiderwort and other plants, down low.

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Went out Windsor, on that lovely sidewalk along the fence, toward, yes, Café Zojo, and got a shot of the impressive poison ivy climbing and arching over the fence.

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Was hard not to anticipate the next burst of color, but tried to stay with and appreciate the vitality of this transitional green stage.