Saturday 25 July 2015. Royal Catchfly at Meadowbrook and South First Street

On this basically sunny (though not without a thin haze of cloud) morning at 6:10 it was 66 degrees F, which felt just about perfect for cycling. 

This morning’s goal on Rhododendron  was Meadowbrook Park to check on the royal catchfly and also to check a place on south First Street where I saw them last year. 

Stopped at the spruce grove on Race Street to see whether there were any mushrooms. There were not many, but did see this handsome quartet.  

 
At Meadowbrook headed for the middle of the prairie, now named  the Art and Billee Spomer Prairie, per the signage. 

 
Also it seems like a sculpture is coming. 

Stopped to look over the little wooden bridge, where McCullough Creek still babbled, though more quietly than it has been this wet year. 

  
Noticed that the mosquitoes were thick and aggressive. Fierce, ferocious, you might say, or viscous, as I heard someone put it. Sometimes there is a fine line between fierce and viscous, which may be why I tend to forget that “fierce” can also connote something positive. 

The prairie was spotted with dew, especially lovely lined up like beads on the young grass leaves, with the sun rising through the clouds behind them.  

The yellow coneflowers and Monarda were abundant and fresh-looking. 

   

Kept my eyes open for royal catchfly, not sure that even the single plant I saw last time would still be there. 

But was pleasantly surprised by the generous sprinkling of little red stars, just in the place where they were last year.  

 
Got lots of photos,  

 and, of course, they don’t do the real flowers justice. 

Was glad the plant on the other side of the path also was in glorious bloom this year.  

 Saw leaves of cream gentian, tops apparently cropp off–they must be tasty–but no flowers yet.  

 On the way back to the paved path caught this lovely bouquet of false sunflower, Monarda, and blackberries. 

 Looks like whatever eats them have been getting their fill. 

Then looped back over McCullough Creek on the rabbit-statue bridge  

 and on to Race Street and south. 

Stopped to photograph some corn stalks that were a lot smaller than the glossy dark green giants of this rainy summer but that had apparently full-sized ears.  

 Turned west on Old Church Road and stopped to catch a great blue heron wading in the (very) upper Embarras River.  

 
Did not try to dig for the real camera because it wail have gotten away if I did. At least have a tiny pic. 

At First Street turned south, not sure if it was the right direction to find the little roadside prairie garden where I’d seen royal catchfly last year. But eventually saw all the cup plants  

 
that dominated it and also some compass plants and Monarda.  

 Was just about to decide that these royal catchfly didn’t make it this year when there they were, at almost the end of the planting. 
 
Just loved those assertive red flower-stars!

  
Just love this colorful, burgeoning time of year an am grateful I can ride my bike through it!

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Sunday 19 June 2015. A Homer Lake Birthday Ride!

This morning’s ride got underway at about 6:35, under cloudy skies and at a temperature of 70-some degrees.  The phone weather ap said it wouldn’t rain until 10 or so, but already there were raindrops beginning to fall.   

This was to be my official 60th birthday (the actual date still to come) ride, for which my dear childhood friends Ann and Eileen had come from Chicago late last night, and my neighbor Bill from down the street, to join me!  Originally the plan was to go to Allerton Park, which would have been an age-appropriate 60-mile ride, but as a group of mostly unseasoned riders we decided not to push our luck and opted for a more modest round trip of about 28 miles to Homer Lake. 

Before setting off Ann, Eileen, and I got a “before ” group  selfie.  

 
And, heading east on Washington, off we went!

Saw about a dozen vultures circling above the little woods on Washington near the Brookens soccer fields. Have seen a number of them before in that area but didn’t remember seeing them make such tight circles above the place. 

We weren’t sure that it wasn’t going to storm at any point along the way, but we boldly went on. 

Rode and rode east on Washington and on to Homer Lake Road.  We talked but did not really stop for pictures the way I would have done if I were by myself. It was a different kind of ride.  did share with my friends the line I adapted from a 70’s song by Stealer’s Wheel, “Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, stuck in central Illinois.”

Must say the miles melted by!  Seemed like we were going downhill the whole way. 

We stopped at the “Lincoln was here” (former site of Kelly’ Tavern) marker at the Salt Fork crossing for another photo. 

  

And pretty soon we were turning into the Homer Lake Nature Preserve entrance and on to the bridge (causeway?) above the dam across the Salt Fork of the  
 
Vermilion river that created Homer Lake.   

We stayed long enough to find the rest rooms and look around just a bit. 
 

A soft rain fell.  Except for a couple of times when the wind kicked up briefly, the way back was every bit as pleasant as the way there. Because of the warm rain the temperature was perfect, and overall the wind was reasonable. Expected that the return trip would feel uphill but it didn’t seem so. 

After the ride we had a perfect breakfast and caught up on our respective lives. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin to greet my sixth decade in this world!  Thank you, Eileen, Ann, and Bill!

Saturday 18 July 2015. Compass Plants at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

It was 75 degrees F this morning at 6:00. The sky had been tinged with pink closer to sunrise, but now it was more of a neutral gold in the east, where there were thin clouds. 

Had put a new wheel on Rhododendron (the original one, actually; switched to the the other one because it had a quick release) and felt pretty confident I wouldn’t get a flat. 

Headed for the Barnhart Prairie Restoration to see what other versions of July prairie bloom there were about town. 

On the way took a peek under the grove of spruce trees for signs of mushrooms, and what do you know–there were some! 

 
Thought this one was an odd loner, but then  spotted others.  

 
Was sure they were Amanita muscaria, but every one was pale rather than orange and didn’t show the textured spots very prominently as many of them did last fall. It was nice to see them. Wondered whether there would be lots of them later in the season. 

There was another species of mushroom there under the spruces.  

 
Not nearly so flashy, nor so sbundant. 

Rode along Meadowbrook Park on Windsor Road and stopped for some bouquet shots.  

Monarda and yellow coneflower

 False sunflower, purple coneflower, rosinweed, 

   

Rattlesnake master, prairie dock, foliage of tall Coreopsis

  
and even the occasional full-sized compass plant.   

Rode on the sidewalk along Windsor road, next to the high chain link fence where lots of goldfinches (and other birds) hang out, until I reached Philo Road, where I had to cross the construction zone (well, not much of it)  to continue southward. 

Looking to the east could see the sun filtered through thin clouds, surrounded by an arc of halo and a sundog.  Seems like there have been more of these about in the last year or so, though I guess it’s just a matter of noticing them more. 
  

Turned west on Old Church Road. In the field across from the Barnhart Prairie restoration were a couple of a largish shapes that proved to be ring-necked pheasants, one just like the one on the sign for the little prairie. 

  
Pheasants are a curious part of a prairie restoration, as they are not native. But the are handsome and much more adaptable than, say, prairie chickens.  Another example of how we humans impose our ideas on nature. Don’t think its’s necessarily bad; don’t think we can help it. 

 The bloom here was similar to that of Meadowbrook though less profuse. What it did have over Meadowbrook was typically tall compass plants.  

 

And they seemed to be concentrated near the western edge. Makes one wonder about the conditions that allow them to thrive. 

Love those sentinels of the prairie, which look so handsome with the cloud-laced blue sky   behind them. 

Friday 17 July 2015. Royal Catchfly Returns to the Freyfogel Overlook!

This morning at 5:35, just as the sun was rising, it was 72 degrees F, the sky mostly clear but for some wisps of clouds near the horizon. 

Was determined to have a loop around Meadowbrook Park as well as a swim, and got out in a reasonably timely manner. Hooray!

Stopped for the customary shot of McCullough/Davis Creeks from the rabbit-statue bridge after zooming over the bridge (no headwind today) and not even touching the brakes after the turn(!)  

 
Tried not to stray too much into thoughts of the future, but was anticipating the coming of the cardinal flowers below the bridge here within the next few weeks. 

Rode along the path on the southern edge of Meadowbrook, taking in the usual soul-nourishing atmosphere, though was not especially tempted to stop for a photo.  Much of the prairie looked a little “tired,” if I may say so.  

 
There were many brown, bloomed out heads of spiderwort, and many of the Monarda and yellow coneflowers looked stressed.  The few compass plants I could find were no taller than the plants around them. Perhaps all the rain we’ve had has allowed pathogens to flourish. 
So did not expect to stay long at the Freyfogel Overlook, though did spot some lovely showy tick trefoil . 

And then, without expecting it, saw a little touch of red out a ways away from the observation deck. 
   

Royal catchfly! This is a place where I’ve seen them in the past, but last year, and I think the year before, as well, my searches for this plant at this spot were negative. 

Tried to get close by using the zoom (sorry, the iPhone 6 still does not zoom so well); really do feel like it’s trespassing (even without the sign that says to stay on the path) to stomp through the greens.  But the red stars screamed like sirens, as it were, and soon I was close to them. 
 

And then immediately back to the path. 

Even amid stress, the glory of the prairie’s graphics and color prevai!

Sunday 12 July 2015. West on Curtis, Featuring the Sunken Pond

On this atypical cloudy 72 degrees F Sunday morning did not get out to ride until 7:42, for crying out loud, because I stayed up quite past my normal bedtime. Well, it may have been worth it: the mess in my surroundings yielded to my efforts to subdue it better than I remember in a long time, got to watch a foreign film on CD the same day it came from the library, and most satisfyingly, had some meaningful communication with my younger son. Also did not skip the ten minutes of sitting meditation and five-minute headstand this morning. Yes, I’d say it was worth the slow start. 

Hadn’t decided yet how far to go but thought at least of visiting the pond at Curtis Road and Prospect Avenue. 

Took Discovery II because once again Rhododendron had a flat front tire. Puzzling and frustrating; one is tempted to suspect sabotage. Though if someone is expressing their anger toward me in this way, I suppose there are worse ways to do that. 

Must admit my mind was not super-focussed, and thought about cutting the ride rather short so I could spend more time writing  about it. Some irony there, I think.
Stopped at the place where the Amanita mushrooms used to be, and there still was no sign of them.   

 Actually felt empty. And who knew if or when they’d be back?  Mysterious after all.  

Passed right by Meadowbrook Park (?!) and headed west on Curtis Road.  

 
Notice the green and the monstrously tall tasseled corn. 

Stopped briefly at the bridge over the upper Embarras River and noticed a veritable cloud of black damselflies.  

 
Which of course are barely visible in this photo. 

And on to Prospect, which came up quickly. At the pond was a lovely variety of prairie plants in bloom,

  
most notably compass plant, which always makes a great anchor for a photographic composition. 

Also, as in years past, found an abundance of purple prairie clover.  

  
Hard not to get carried way taking close ups of the compass plant blooms.  

 
  
Noticed a medium-sized mammal in the water  (near the yellow coneflowers) that I thought at first was a beaver but then decided was a groundhog: it swam so high in the water.  

 Will double check this.  

 I finally stopped at this place. 

Noticed some shore birds moving among the cattails across the pond but couldn’t identify them. 

Glad I finally stopped at this place!

At this point was in the groove and ready to ride.  Noticed as I approached the bridge over interstate 57 the song (“Wood-a-la-heme!”) of the dickcissel.  Time was starting to press, but decided to continue westward until the trip odometer read ten miles, which was at Rising Road.  

 
The clouds were starting to break up but not enough for me to regret not applying sunscreen. 

Saturday 11 July 2015. Back to the Heart of the Prairie

Got out on Rhododendron this morning a little after 6: yesterday’s early departure was not repeated, alas. 

The temperature was 61 degrees F and the sky held plenty of clouds, but the sun made its presence known by the appearance of more color in the landscape than there had been for some days, I think. 

Actually wanted to put on some miles, but my first priority was to check for royal catchfly in the middle of the prairie, on the soft (yes, it is, this year!) path. 

Was lovely to speed toward and over McCullough (with Davis still emptying copiously into it) Creek on the rabbit-statue bridge,  but did apply the brakes before the turn and came back for the photo.  

 Around the southwest corner of the park, could see the increasing bloom of the yellow coneflowers under the nicely textured post-dawn sky.  

 Noticed a lot of blackberries, red and not quite red, the really ripe ones probably eaten immediately. 

    

Liked the view of the sky edged by walnut leaves. 
  

Then walked Discovery II to the soft (and wet) path into the prairie in search of royal catchfly, which I saw in a lovely flower box outside of the Common Ground Food Coop last week.  

 
Back at the prairie, saw dots of red in the landscape, but they turned out to be not royal catchfly but almost-ripe blackberries. 

  

Noticed incidentally the foliage of cream gentians, which are among my (many) favorite prairie flowers. Anticipating the bloom!
  

Was starting to wonder whether there would be any royal catchfly at Meadowbrook this year, when this lone red star asserted itself!

  

So I guess they don’t do best with lots of rain; remembered how abundant they were during the drought years. But there was no missing this one!

Wondered whether the queen-of-the-prairie still was in bloom at all. It was, at almost the end of the path, with a sun dog behind it! 

  It was another fleeting, eternal  moment of beauty, something I could imagine recalling on my deathbed. 

Got a shot of a post-bloom stalk. Even now it was lovely. I like to think about aging like this!

  

Caught a late spiderwort bloom, the edges just beginning to curl in, still graceful and lovely but not at all long for this world.
  

And crossed the little wooden bridge over babbling McCullough Creek to head back. 

  
Then after stopping to chat with a couple of walkers and crossing Windsor Road I heard a sound from the front tire, which turned out to be flat 😦 alas, alas!!  Did have and employ the wonder-mini-pump, but the the tire did not retain the vigorously pumped air. Really don’t understand this, its third flat this summer! Maybe a new wheel would help. 

Noticed an interesting fungal composition inside a tree hollow while walking home. 

 

Would have preferred to cycle the whole way, but walking also is good. It was a lovely trip, flat tire notwithstanding. 

Friday 10 July 2010.  The Prairie Bloom in a Wet Mid-July. 

Was happy this morning to get out at 5:10 (finally!), when it was 62 degrees F, and, surprise, surprise, cloudy.  

Sunshine or no, a lot of robins were tweeting enthusiastically. 

Still, it was an effort setting out, and the beginning of the ride on Discovery II to Meadowbrook Park was a little foggy, inside and also a bit outside.   Felt a pang of sadness about various examples of human frailty in my life at the moment, but also felt, right then, like there was room for it, which lent an unexpected sense of comfort.  The pedaling was smooth and satisfying and felt better and better as Meadowbrook approached. 

Got a shot of high McCullough Creek with early light and some fog in the background.  

 
And on down the path Later got a view of the eastern sky with a bit of color and   a trace of fog over the prairie.  

 
Noticed that there still was a lot of green and that compass plants, for one example, were not common this year, again. Is it too wet for them to thrive?  Wondered whether if there were such a thing as a “typical” year for a plant. 

At the Freyfogel overlook white (and the pale pink of Culver root) flowers were common–Baptisia, mountain mint–under the clouds and mist. 

  
The flame-like spikes of Culver root were lovely against the green and the fog. 

 
While there, checked on the lead plant, which was mostly past bloom, but there were a few remaining blooms and the foliage still looked characteristically festive. 

     

    A little farther along got some “bouquet” shots: as many species as possible in one frame.  Here are yellow and purple coneflower, false sunflower, Monarda, rosinweed, and blackberry. 

    Rode past the playground to the edge of the park bounded by Windsor Road and noticed for the first time (after how many years?) that one of the small trees near the path was an apple.  

     I’d assumed they were all crabs, which the others are. How wonderful it is to keep looking in the same places and continuing to find new things! 

    Went for a few more “bouquet” shots, here prairie dock, rosinweed, Culver root,   

    Got a shot featuring the rosinweed, another  of the stately yellow-topped species (including compass plant, cup plant, and prairie dock) of the genus Sylphium.  
     
    So was this Friday morning in July. Still cloudy but now mostly out of the fog.